Gospel of Thomas saying 77b.
Jesus said: "Split wood, I am there. Lift up a rock, you will find me there."

This saying, or rather, one based on it, gained a considerable amount of fame when a version of it was prominently used in the Hollywood film Stigmata. The Stigmata version combines the thought of the Gospel of Thomas' saying 3a

"Jesus said: If your leaders say to you 'Look! The Kingdom is in the heavens!" Then the birds will be there before you are. If they say that the Kingdom is in the sea, then the fish will be there before you are. Rather, the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you."

with words from saying 77b (quoted above) and shows the influence of a phrase attributed to Stephen in Acts 7:48:

"the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands."

When I tried to track down the exact wording of Stigmata's version of saying 77b from reviews available on the internet I found a whole host of variations, for example: "The Kingdom of God is within you and it surrounds you and God does not live in temples of wood and stone." and "the kingdom of god is inside you and all around you. Not in palaces of wood and stone. Split a wooden stick and I am there and lift a stone and you shall find me." In fact I found no two that were identical. This kind of variability is, of course, inevitably and invariably part of any line of tradition where one person tries to recall and restate the words of another.

So I rented the movie and noted down the actual wording every time the saying was used. Interestingly, it changes from one usage to another, again showing the variations that occur when sayings are transmitted, but it comes down to this:

"The Kingdom of God is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me."

One suspects that the Thomasine community would have approved of this saying wholeheartedly.

The movie Stigmata raises the question of whether the church, the Roman Catholic Church specifically, has an interest in suppressing knowledge of the Gospel of Thomas. The idea that the church would do so seems to come from the tale told in The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. There we hear about an ancient Aramaic manuscript found in some Mayan ruins deep in the jungle of Peru. The narrator systematically finds out the nine mystical messages of the manuscript, but is opposed thoroughly and violently by the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Peru acting on behalf of the Catholic Church. This book, The Celestine Prophecy, is one of the most popular and best-selling books in history. It is a religious phenomenon all of its own. And its creation was probably stimulated in part by the Gospel of Thomas which does, after all, in some way track back to original Aramaic sayings of Jesus. In turn, Stigmata gives us an ancient Thomas manuscript (the real manuscript of Thomas, at least the principal and best preserved manuscript, is a Coptic translation of a Greek translation of Jesus' oral Aramaic sayings). Stigmata changes the setting of the Celestine Prophecy to Brazil and specifies the Gospel of Thomas as the new discovery. But, as in the Celestine Prophecy, the Roman Catholic church tries to suppress the discovery.

So far as I know, in real life the Roman Catholic Church has no official stand regarding the Gospel of Thomas. It has other more pressing problems. Nevertheless, conservative Roman Catholic scholars join their conservative Protesant brothers in trying to keep Christians on the textually straight and narrow path, to encourage historians to rely, for their information about Jesus, upon no other sources than those in the Bible (see, for example, Father John Meier's book on the Historical Jesus entitled A Marginal Jew. He tries to justify his decision to ignore all sources of information about Jesus that are not found in the Christian Canon, especially the Gospel of Thomas). But this is scholarly canon-defending and nothing like any outright violence! No, the Catholic Church is quite happy to have the Gospel of Thomas read and considered in light of scholarly investigations of the origins and early history of Christianity. It is not going to add Thomas to the Bible or use Thomas in churches, but if people want to read it the Catholic Church will do, and has done, nothing to stop them. If you want to read The Gospel of Thomas and other ancient Christian books that are not in the Bible, this list will help you.

If you would like a translation and commentary on the Gospel of Thomas, click here.

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