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Daily Catholic Question

What is the Gospel of Thomas?

The Gospel of Thomas is one of 300 Gnostic writings discovered in December 1945, at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. This writing exists completely only in the Coptic language; there are three fragments of it in Greek.

According to Anthony Saldarini in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, of the 114 sayings of this gospel (division made by modern scholars), 79 of them have some parallel in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke which, with the Gospel of John, are called canonical. They belong to the canon or list of New Testament writings.

The Gospel of Thomas is called apocryphal because it is not in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is also in this category.

Gnostics were people who relied on secret knowledge; gnosis is the Greek word for "knowledge." Special teachers enabled Gnostics to hand on secret information not intended for everyone. In that general sense, Gnostics could be pagan, Jewish, or Christian.

Christian Gnostics claimed that Jesus wanted only a few of his followers to have the teachings they possessed. This knowledge was handed on by Gnostic teachers.

The mainstream Christian community answered the Gnostic challenge by saying that Jesus intended bishops, successors of the apostles, as reliable teachers about him. They also said that the Christian community considered as inspired only the canonical books in the New Testament and the Old Testament.

The Scriptures were given to a faith community (Old Testament to the Jews, New Testament to Christians). They should be read with that in mind. If we trust those faith communities enough to tell us which writings are inspired by God, should we not also trust them to interpret them?

These Gnostic gospel texts, as well as more background, are probably available at your public library.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013
Daily Catholic Question for 4/20/2013 Daily Catholic Question for 4/22/2013


Athanasius: Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church. 
<p>Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism. </p><p>When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of St. Paul. </p><p>After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters. </p><p>Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism. </p><p>Among his ascetical writings, his<i> Life of St. Anthony</i> (January 17) achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.</p> American Catholic Blog Suffering is redemptive in part because it definitively reveals to man that he is not in fact God, and it thereby opens the human person to receive the divine.

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