“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the blog that is more interested in what Jesus said than in what Paul said about him. The early Jesus tradition, before any ekklesia or church even existed, consisted of both Paul’s theology of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection AND the sophia tou logou or “word wisdom”. This is Paul’s term for the wisdom that came in the words or sayings of Jesus. This was the part of the Jesus tradition that Paul only rarely touched. He never met Jesus and never read the gospels as they hadn’t yet been written. (After all, the first book of the Greek scriptures (New Testament) to be written was Paul’s own First Epistle to the Thessalonians.)
Paul’s work is a prism or distorting mirror through which we can only see a corrupted form of Jesus and his wisdom. Zingcreed has always been more interested in Jesus’ words than in what some misogynist tent maker said about him years after his death. This post takes a look at 2 lost documents that counterbalance Paul’s blurring influence and take us back to the original wisdom of Yeshua, as he was then known (just Yeshu to his mates.)
I hope you find this interesting,
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”
Luckily we have 2 texts that come from this lost and submerged side of Christian origins: Q and the Gospel of Thomas. They predate the canonical gospels and were the handiwork of sages and disciples who revered the words of Jesus as words of wisdom. They reveal a reality where there was as yet no church, no bible and no single version of ‘the gospel’. The path these Jesus people followed was called The Way (he hodos) and it is only mentioned a few times in the Greek Scriptures (NT).
There is immense contemporary significance in The Way, because it rejects those 3 great illusory divisions of mankind: ethnicity, gender and class. In it everyone can become a “child of God.” I shall be quoting from Professor Stephen Patterson’s breath-taking new book ‘The Lost Way’.
“This wisdom was profoundly spiritual. Its prophets, like John the Baptist and Jesus, were prophets of Sophia, the divine embodiment of God’s wisdom in the world.” (p. 245)
Here is a list of the, mostly familiar, pearls of Jesus’s wisdom:
- Love your enemies
- Turn the other cheek
- Make bad loans
- Forgive debts
- Knock on a door and care for the sick inside
- Dine with a stranger
- Take leave of home and family, and become ‘passers by’
- A new ’empire’ of God was dawning in the lives of those who followed The Way
- – In it the hungry were to be fed
- – the sad made happy
- – and the persecuted prophets honoured
- Those who embraced the Spirit in baptism became ‘Children of God’
- Mankind’s divisions were to be swept away:
- – no more Jew or Greek
- – no more slave or free
- – no more male and female.
A list just as relevant today as it was then! Add in a few more issues like gay rights and the environment and you’ve got a 21st century Way! Good old Comrade Jesus!
However, Patterson seems a bit bemused by Jesus’s exuberance – perhaps he’s not as young as he was – and comments wryly: “It seems to lack a basic ingredient of wisdom: prudence.”
Prudence, eh? The one virtue that Jesus lacked! I prefer the term ‘uncompromising’ myself. Food for thought there!
Patterson, S. “The lost way. How 2 forgotten gospels are rewriting the story of Christian origins” HarperOne (2014)
[More London wall art]