The Doubting Thomas is an adaptation of the ancient Gospel of Thomas, probably written before the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. It was condemned by the early organized Catholic Church, the reasons being quite apparent in the text’s anti-establishment and anti-authority statements. The text stresses understanding rather than believing. Also, salvation is the responsibility of the individual and not a church or God.
Truth and Light in the Doubting Thomas
The sayings in the Doubting Thomas were a product of the early Gnostic Christian thinking about the concept of Jesus. The Gnostics considered Jesus to be a universal source of knowledge or truth rather than a physical being. Therefore, in adapting the text to the modern reader, we replaced the term “Jesus” with “Truth” or “Light” where applicable. The analogies and symbols have been replaced with modern counterparts. Hopefully, there will be little loss in correlation.
Feminine and Masculine Natures
The early Christian writers assumed that their readers would be aware of the prevailing teachings and thinking of the time. For instance, there was no confusion in the original verse 13 if the reader was familiar with the contemporary Book of Thomas the Contender. The distinctions between men and women in the parables were symbolic and related to the Eastern male and female (Yang and Yin) principles. The statement in the original verse 114, “Women are not worthy of life,” could be understood in context of the Eastern viewpoint. This was that the two (Yang and Yin) must become One to find Life. This meant that neither the male principle nor the female principle could be fully alive without the other.
The female nature had to do with Mother Earth, vitality, and nurturing of life. The masculine nature was that from heaven and was the creative evolutionary force in the cosmos. To the Gnostics, one had to first be disciplined to survive in the female world. Then, after mastering the female forces, one could reach for the evolutionary and transcendent forces from heaven. “Let the women be quiet in churches,” can be viewed as a statement that the materialistic aspect of life should not be present during worship service. It did not mean (as literal male chauvinists later argued and added to) that women should not participate. In fact, the Gnostics were very nonsexist.
Left and Right Hands
The references to left and right hands are analogies for the female and masculine aspects. Much of the world at the time of Jesus believed the left side was the dark, sinister, and female side. The right side was the open, creative, and male side. Not letting the right hand know what the left hand does is a statement of the separation of these two forces or of becoming “two.” Similarly, when the masculine and female forces become one, the unity of these two also becomes one with a higher power of “Truth” or the “Light.” In other words, the three become one, which is what the Doubting Thomas is all about.