The Book of Thomas the Doubter- George Tyrell   Leave a comment

I requested this book from NetGalley expecting it to be an exposition of the contents of the gnostic Gospel of Thomas. In fact, it is a novelisation of Saint Thomas, his life and his beliefs (treating the views of the non-canonical gospel of Thomas as his writing). I thought this a very interesting idea, indeed taking this approach simplified a lot of things for the author.
The novel begins as Thomas is drawn to Jesus’ group of disciples and finds that his questioning attitude is well received by The Master and they often talk long into the night, Thomas thereby receiving a deeper understanding of many of Jesus’ teachings than the other members of the group. This is the primary claim of the Gospel of Thomas.
Some of the other disciples are also sketched, this too matches the information provided in the gospel. As Thomas begins to understand the essence of Jesus’ teachings, he is challenged to try out this faith in healing. In the novel Thomas explains his own understanding of these deep concepts and of his experiences in healing alongside Jesus.
The death and crucifixion are hurried over, but Thomas does talk of his experience with the risen saviour, where he answers his challenge to touch the places of wounding. Here he talks of touching a body which is throbbing with spirit energy. His understanding is of a resurrected body which has been changed. This again accords to Gnostic belief.
The remainder of the book covers Thomas’ travels to Egypt and eventually to India always spreading the news of Jesus until his martyrdom in India. At the close of the novel, the author supplies information regarding the deaths of the other disciples, as far as we know it.
The novel is a light read, not too dense of deep that anyone would enjoy reading it. I was impressed by the way Tyrell had attempted to write this as if Thomas was truly a Gnostic and author of the spurious gospel, sharing gnostic ideas throughout, along with many of the sayings contained in the gospel. It certainly brought the gospel to life.
The actual gospel of Thomas is merely a collection of sayings and is only 15 pages long. It is really not a very inspiring read. It contains no storyline, nor does it refer to Jesus’ death or resurrection. It does however contain a strong gnostic flavour. These beliefs and those of the sayings contained in the gospel were strongly reflected in the novel.
It is important to remember when reading this novel, that Saint Thomas is not thought to have written the gospel at all, it may have been by another person named Thomas, but from the 2nd Century AD.
Another point worth making is that the novel should not be read as reflecting true Christianity, it has been deliberately twisted slightly to reflect the gnostic views of the gospel it is named for.
I would gladly recommend this book, particularly to anyone studying Gnosticism, as it quite brought the theories to life for me. However, it should not be reserved for research, it is suitable just as a light read for any interested reader.

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Posted March 29, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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