S.P. Laurie

Research into Christian Origins

The Thomas Code is now available

I am delighted to introduce my new book, The Thomas Code which is now available in both print and ebook from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. Or for other formats and options see here.

The subject of the book is given by the subtitle, “Solving the mystery of the Gospel of Thomas”. The book suggests that there is indeed a mystery hiding at the heart of the Gospel and that this mystery is, surprisingly, a mathematical one. It proposes that Thomas is not the random and weird accumulation of sayings that most people, including myself, have previously believed. Instead, it is precisely organised according to a mathematical formula, which I call the Thomas Code.

I realise that this will seem an absurd statement to many scholars. In the accepted view, Thomas is an unstructured collection of sayings assembled in an ad hoc manner. Many scholars see it as a gospel that circulated in oral form and was only put into writing comparatively late. Others, such as April DeConick have gone as far as suggesting that different layers of the gospel were accreted at different times. There has also been controversy over the dating of the Gospel. Some argue that some at least of the sayings may be very early; others, such as Mark Goodacre and Simon Gathercole, place it well into the second century.

The picture of the Gospel that emerges from the Thomas Code could not be more different than the consensus academic view. Rather than a disorganised assembly of sayings, we have an exquisitely organised structure based on mathematical principles. Rather than sayings transmitted mouth to mouth like Chinese whispers, we have carefully crafted and sophisticated riddles. And instead of a verbally transmitted gospel that has grown in stages, we have a written Gospel that was created as a unified whole at one time. read more…

Was the Gospel of Thomas attributed to Didymus Thomas?

The Coptic version of Thomas (dating to the 300s) records that it was written down by “Didymus Judas Thomas”. This is an odd name. In fact, neither Didymus nor Thomas is a real name at all as they both mean “twin”. Thomas is “twin” in Aramaic and Didymus “twin” in Greek. So the author is described as “twin Judas the twin”.

The incipit to the Gospel is also found on the Greek papyrus fragment P.Oxy 654 dating from the 200s. Translations of this fragment invariably give the name as “Judas Thomas”. This would make more sense. Judas or Jude was a brother of Jesus. So “Judas Thomas” would mean that this brother was given the nickname of the “twin”. However, the name “Judas” does not actually appear on the papyrus because the sheet is missing a wide strip along the right-hand side. The only name on the surviving portion is “Thomas”. We know that the name is “ X called Thomas” but the X is entirely missing. It is simply assumed that X is “Judas” but could it not be “Didymus”? read more…

A gothic encounter

Stephansdom Tower

I have always loved the Gothic. My favourite Gothic cathedral, for both patriotic and personal reasons, is York Minster. Yet I think even that gothic masterpiece has to bow to the Stephansdom in Vienna. The magnificent tower of the Stephansdom is outrageously high. It assaults heaven in a riot of imagination frozen into stone. read more…

The Gnostic New Age: Wot, no Thomas!

In the story, The Adventure of Silver Blaze, Sherlock Holmes confronts a mystery of a horse that has been stolen and its trainer murdered. He solves the mystery by what he calls “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”. When it is pointed out to him that the dog did nothing in the night-time, Sherlock replies: “That was the curious incident”. In The Gnostic New Age, there is also a dog that does not bark, the curious omission of the Gospel of Thomas. read more…

The Easter Egg

To the believer, the gospels are far more than historical documents. They act as a catalyst that transforms a person, like water into wine. Software engineers have a term for a secret code written in a piece of software; they call it an “Easter Egg”. When a certain sequence of keystrokes is entered, the program will suddenly reveal a function that until then has been hidden. We can think of the human mind as also having, buried deep within it, an Easter Egg. The brain, in its normal operation, is a biological survival machine optimised to pass on the individual’s genes to future generations. But when the Egg is triggered, it activates a quite different function, access to a different, spiritually experienced world.

We can regard the Easter Egg in two ways. To the atheist, it is a bug in the code, an irrational deviation from the proper purpose of the brain. To them, religion is like a computer virus to which the human mind is susceptible, and the spiritual is a type of delusion to which their own intellect is impervious. But another explanation is possible, although it requires a belief in a more complex reality than the normal scientific viewpoint would admit. Perhaps the purpose of humanity is to carry the virus, and the survival coding of the brain is the vehicle that transmits, preserves, and propagates the Easter Egg. read more…

What came first, the metaphor or the miracle?

It is easy to see when two texts are linked. It is much harder to determine which of the two came first. However, if one source is a metaphor and the other a literal miracle story, I think we can be confident that the metaphor came first. Recently, while working on my new book, I came across an example in which the Gospel of Thomas uses a metaphor which seems to have been converted into a literal miracle story in Matthew and Luke. read more…

The virgin and the four whores

The genealogy in Matthew, like that in Luke, is really a genealogy of Joseph who, according to Matthew, is not even the real father of Jesus. Moreover, there is nothing about this Joseph in Mark. Even if Joseph is only Jesus’ father-in-law through his marriage to Jesus’ mother it is still an extraordinary state of affairs that (i) the Gospel of Mark makes no mention of him and (ii) the Gospel of Matthew traces the descent of Jesus through him. Was he known as Jesus’ father or was he not?

Linked to this odd role of Joseph is something even odder. The genealogy says that Jesus was born to Mary:

… and Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was begotten Jesus, who is named Christ. (Matthew 1:16)

The Greek is quite explicit that Jesus is born of Mary rather than Joseph. It is hard to overstate how odd this would have appeared to a Jew of the time when descent was always given through the male line. The sceptic regards this as further evidence that Jesus was illegitimate. In this view, the virgin birth story was developed to cover this illegitimacy. But looking at the circumstances around illegitimacy we will see that the virgin birth could not have fulfilled this function. read more…

The Gnostic New Age and Simon Magus

My plan was to produce a series of posts on April DeConick’s new book, but I have fallen a little behind! The Gnostic New Age covers some fascinating ground, so I need to buck up and get on. In this post, I aim to cover the ground from the emergence of Gnosticism to Simon Magnus who plays an important role in her theory. read more…

Fascinating image of Mary from Nazi loot

Some time ago, while browsing the lootbusters.com site, I came across an image of Mary, Peter and Paul in a section of Nazi loot. It is a Roman roundel dated to the fourth century. I have no further information about it at all, and I do not know its original location or where it is now. Presumably, it has been lost since the war. (I no longer seem to be able to access the lootbusters site.) read more…

CNN – ‘Scholars argue if Jesus existed’

As we enter Lent and the run-up to Easter, the thoughts of the media turn to Jesus. On CNN there is a second series of ‘Finding Jesus’ – Mark Goodacre has a post about it here. Associated with this series is an article on CNN online about the possibility that Jesus did not exist:

Scholars argue if Jesus existed

Although it is pleasing that this issue is being aired in mainstream media, the article itself is rather depressing. First, we have the usual suspects on the mythical Jesus side, Freke, Price and Carrier. None of these three gentlemen can offer a joined-up account of Christian origins. We also have the customary mention of Josephus and Tacitus’ accounts of Jesus as if these relatively late sources dating from no earlier than the 90s AD could somehow resolve the issue. read more…

The revolutionary new book

The story of Jesus and the shaman

Link below goes to amazon.com.