The Infancy Gospel of Thomas tells some of the stories of the boy Jesus, long before he became the Christ. And, well, there’s no easy way to say this; Jesus wasn’t a good boy. I’ll do my best to keep the language nice, those baddie search engines don’t like articles that slag off religions so let’s keep this one as objective as possible. If child murderers can be spoken about objectively that is? And obviously they can’t.
Recently, the Oracle of Woo Wisdom Tommie Kelly and I had one of our usual podcasts. In it we were talking about a Yogananda, the first Indian Hindu guru to really make a mark on America. Seemed like a sound lad, he became pretty popular at the time, used the fledging Post Office to spread his teachings and he taught about things like non-daulity, self-acceptance and so on. Ladies in bubble baths were a thing too. One of the things he did that was pretty smart when starting out his career in American was to adopt the teachings of Jesus. America at the time was WASP-central so it made sense to incorporate the teachings of Jesus instead of trying to hit people over the head with the arms of Vishnu or the trunk of Ganesha. Know your audience and all that.
Jesus Christ the Child
Of course, Yogananda wasn’t new to teaching, he had set up schools in India but there had been a prophecy prior to his birth that he would spread Hindu teachings to the West. During a vision while meditating Herself came knocking and told him to go to America and, yea, when she comes and tells you what to do you don’t get much of a choice. But enough about that. Anyway, this brought up something that’s become quite an obsession of mine of late, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which is all about Jesus as a boy and the bizarre high jinx he was involved with. Mostly though it involved either killing people or bringing people back to life, if he liked them. Here’s a segment from the podcast:
We’ll get to the bits about the Irish poetry mentioned in the podcast later but let’s get a wee bit of context out of the way first.
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (IGT) comes from some time in the second century. Kind of. It’s a little complicated. The earliest written version is only from the 13th century but in AD 180 , the Greek bishop Irenaeus writes about it. Scholars are fairly sure though that it’s not from the same Thomas as the (other) Gospel of Thomas, which is believed, by some anyway, to be the only record of the actual words of Jesus Christ. It’s well worth a gander too, it’s very, perennial; we are one, power of now, love is the creative force, Alan Watts has a nice voice etc. etc. The earliest of the Gospel of Thomas fragments date to around 130 AD so, while they come from more or less the same time it’s generally believed they don’t come from the same source as they are so very, very different. The proper Thomas Gospel has verses like this:
The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us how our end will be.”
Jesus said, “Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For
where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the
beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death.”
Y’know the standard, end is the beginning, transcendence is immortality, run-of-the-mill spirituality stuff. The IGT has one story where Jesus made some birds in some mud from a pool, made them come to life and then when some other child wrecked his pools (after his father Joseph gave him an earful for doing stuff on the Sabbath), Jesus loses his temper and kills him stone dead. Yes. Jesus, kills him. Jesus. Jesus kills a boy. This is a Christian text and it says Jesus killed a boy. Check it out:
This little child Jesus when he was five years old was playing at the ford of a brook: and he gathered together the waters that flowed there into pools, and made them straightway clean, and commanded them by his word alone. And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things. And there were also many other little children playing with him.
And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and hath polluted the Sabbath day. And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping. And when the Jews saw it they were amazed, and departed and told their chief men that which they had seen Jesus do.
But the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph; and he took a branch of a willow and dispersed the waters which Jesus had gathered together. And when Jesus saw what was done, he was wroth and said unto him: O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools and the waters do thee? Behold, now also thou shalt be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root, nor fruit. And straightway that lad withered up wholly, but Jesus departed and went unto Joseph’s house.
So there you have. Can we forgive him one murder…can we? Maybe we should for fear that he’d lose the rag and call time on our earthly adventure as well. Well, in literally the next verse he kills someone else.
After that again he went through the village, and a child ran and dashed against his shoulder. And Jesus was provoked and said unto him: Thou shalt not finish thy course. And immediately he fell down and died. But certain when they saw what was done said: Whence was this young child born, for that every word of his is an accomplished work? And the parents of him that was dead came unto Joseph, and blamed him, saying: Thou that hast such a child canst not dwell with us in the village: or do thou teach him to bless and not to curse: for he slayeth our children.
I cannot stress the importance of this, the Saviour of Man is said to have killed people. Of course it’s not true. Or is it not true? God knows at this stage but at the very least there were Christian teachings knocking about not too long after the real Jesus’ death where they told stories about him killing children. There are stories of him making an eejit of his teachers and elders and the one mentioned in the podcast above where he brings a kid back to life to prove he didn’t kill him and instead of doing the decent thing and keeping him alive he just lets him die again. I must admit here though that in some versions of this one he does keep him alive, in the first one I came across he just let him die again and even blinded the poor chap’s parents for having the audacity of accusing him of murder, as if he’d ever do such a thing.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are miracles: making mud into birds is pretty miraculous, he restores the sight of the blinded parents, he makes dried fish come alive, he carries a load of water in his clothes for his Mammy, produced a huge yield of grain from one seed, he helps out Joseph with some carpentry work, he cures his brother James of a snakebite, helps a man who had a nasty accident with an axe and another chap on a building site. All in all, the good probably outweigh the bad. No, it’s doesn’t. He killed people. This blows my mind, the one sent here to save us, killed people who upset him for pretty trifle things in the grand scheme of things; the first kid boke up his pools of water, the second knocked into him when he was running.
The Gnostic Gospels
The Gnostic Gospels are, well, a bit strange. A bizarre mix of cosmology, different teachings and hierarchies. Some of them couldn’t even agree on whether Jesus had been human or had been a supernatural being on earth. The Demiurge is a goodie, then a baddie, then a goodie. Sophia has more issues that the cast of Sex and the City. People were even told not to procreate in some texts because this traps God’s light.
Strangest of all though, personally anyway, is that modern occultists seem to hold the Gnostic Gospels in a kind of lofty position of being
‘truer’ than the actual Gospels. Why they should be treated as any ‘truer’ than the others is pretty pointless, they both came from an oral traditions where embellishments were the order of the day. This isn’t to say nothing is true in them but the modern occultist who takes the Gnostic Gospels as, well, gospel, have the wrong end of the sally branch. Gnosticism as an idea, that we all contain a spark of the Devine within us is something I’d wholeheartedly want to be true at the very least, but, the Gnostic Gospels, at least what I’ve read of them, are just as trustworthy as the actual Bible. Not to say we should be cynical of everything but that we should be wary of just believing someone or something based on their word that something is true.
Before I leave you with the Irish poems though, the translations of them anyway, let’s finish on this. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas really just shows the different attitudes we have now towards life and death regarding young people. Think of your parent’s or grandparent’s generation, it was normal for women to bear five, six, seven children and maybe four would survive past the age of two. Life and death were cheaper and it wasn’t so long ago that attitudes changed. While it’s good craic to make fun of these verses and explore hidden meanings that’s really what this text is saying; death comes fast, be aware and be a good person because judgement is doled out just as quickly.
Jesus the Child, Irish Poetry
The Irish poems mentioned earlier date back to around 700 AD, according to Tony Burke’s research this makes them one of the oldest ‘witnesses’ of the IGT. These are the translated poems in full, as translated by M. Herbert contained in M. McNamara et al, Apocrypha Hiberniae, t. 1: Evangelia infantiae (CCSA 13 and 14; Turnhout: Brepols, 2001–2002), p. 443-483.
The Pools and the Sparrows
1 When Jesus, Son of the living God,
was a lad of five years
he blessed twelve little pools of water.
He had enclosed then with clay.
2 He shaped twelve little birds,
on the Sabbath day
He made them firmly from clay.
3 A certain Jew complained about
Jesus, son of the great God.
He brought him by the hand
to his foster-father, Joseph.
4 “Rebuke your son, Joseph.
What he is doing is not right.
On the Sabbath Day he has fashioned
Images of birds out of clay.”
5 Jesus clapped his two hands.
His small voice resounded.
Before their eyes – a wonder of sudden movement –
He scared away the birds.
6 There was heard a gentle, endearing little speech
from the mouth of faultless Jesus:
“Let you find out who created you!
Go to your home!”
7 Someone reported to the people
– it was a extraordinary tale –
that the cries of the birds
were heard as they flew.
Jesus curses the son of Annas
8 The son of Annas the scribe
approached him at his play
and released each single stream.
He destroyed the construction.
9 “What you have done”, said Jesus,
“has not been to our benefit.
May you be like a little branch
Which falls before its fruit.”
10 The boy fell over
like a withered twig.
It would have been better for him not to have ruined
the game of the King’s son.
Jesus curses the boy who caused him annoyance and Joseph rebukes Jesus
11 On a further occasion when Jesus
was at home with Joseph,
another boy who came to him
caused him annoyance.
12 “May the journey which you have made
be one of no return”, said Jesus.
The boy collapsed
and died straight away.
13 It infuriated the lowly kindred of the boy
to whom he had dealt doom.
“He is declared as your son, Joseph.
Go! Depart from us, indeed!
14 “Unless you reprove your son,
you are to go away somewhere.
Whichever way you go from here,
It would not be too quickly.”
15 “Why, son, have you offended
the people?” asked Joseph.
“Anyone on whom you pronounce your judgement
is taken away from you dead.”
16 “Whomever is innocent”, said Jesus,“
does not die as a result of judgements.
It is only to the accursed
that the malediction adheres.
17 “Sufficient that my ear be offered to them,
and that I be met with hostility,
that strong men should not tear off
my two ears from my head.”
18 “There is great terror”, said the people,
“that your son does this.
We have not heard, up to now
of any boy acting thus.
19 “Quicker than a glance, what he says
is done forthwith.
We have not heard tell of the like
of that boy in the world.”
20 Joseph said: “He is not like
everyone else’s sons.
Whatever the outcome, even cross or death,
he would not attain at all.
21 “Everyone who threatened
to accuse him he punished.
Deafness seized their ears,
Blindness their eyes”
Jesus and Zacharias. The riddle of the alphabet
22 The scholar Zacharias said:
“This is an extraordinary boy.
If he were instructed, he would be
outstanding in that respect
23 Zacharias takes him with him
to his school,
so that he might undertake learning with him
like everyone else.
24 When he had written an alphabet for him,
he said: “Say A.”
Though the son of the King did not answer him,
He knew a greater amount.
25 The master grew angry
and struck him over the head,
[using] whichever he happened on,
either fist or rod.
26 “It is usual”, said Jesus,
“for an anvil when struck
that it teaches whoever strikes it,
[and] that it is not it [the anvil] which is taught.
27 “For what you have taught to all,
what you have written for me,
the letters which you record,
I know their sound.”
28 Jesus recounted his letters
for them before their eyes
each of them with its constituent
and with its hidden design.
Zacharias, confounded, says that Jesus is no mere mortal
29 The scholar Zacharias said:
“Take the boy away from me.
I do not have the means of answering you.
Lad, do not provoke me.
30 “I thought it was a pupil
whom I brought with me to my school.
I saw that it is a master
whom I had taken in charge.
31 “I do not know in any way whether
he be and angel of god.
It seems to me that until today
I did not proceed in confusion.
32 “Who is the mother who conceived
this infant in the womb?
What foster-mother was able
to nurse the suckling?
33 “His proper place will not be on earth.
What is surer
is that he is the child for the cross
who existed before the Deluge.”
Jesus replies to Zacharias as a heavenly Redeemer.
34 The boy Jesus replied:
“Scholar of divine law,
you think that Joseph is
my father. He is not.
35 I existed before your birth.
I am the scholar.
I know every thought
that has been in your heart.
36 “You have certainty of all knowledge.
You have read all.
I have instruction for you
which is not known to anyone.
37 “I have a wonderful tale for you,
absolutely without falsehood.
I have seen Abraham
at the time when he lived.
38 “Likewise, I have seen yourself a long time ago,
through the mystery of the Holy Spirit.
O scholar in the Law, I have existed
constantly before you were born.
39 “That across which you speak of,
he who has come to it for the sake of all,
to redeem every living person,
will encounter it.”
Jesus’ playmate Zeno dies from a fall and is raised by Jesus
40 The sinless son of Mary
played a game with boys.
The extent of his age, which I know,
was then seven year.
41 One of the boys fell over a cliff.
He died forthwith.
They all fled expect Jesus.
He remained, awaiting a crowd.
42 He was accused of a calculated act,
That it was he who had knocked him down.
“Wait a while for me”, said Jesus,
“until I reach him.
43 “I am accused, O Zeno,
of knocking you down. Is it true?”
“It is not true, Lord, not true.
Let him go. It is not to be attributed to him.”
44 He was dead before, he was dead after,
save that he said this.
When the crowd saw it,
they released him [Jesus].
Jesus takes water home in his cloak.
45 His mother sent him for water –
a great and wonderful boy.
He filled his lap with the water,
And it did not go through his garment.
Jesus sows a field with leeks.
46 He sowed a little field with leeks –
the amount was not great.
Later, after harvesting, there were
a hundred basketfuls of produce.
Jesus miraculously stretches a beam.
47 A piece of craftwork was brought
to the house to Joseph to be adjusted,
for its corner was lopsided,
one side exceeding another.
48 Jesus said: “You take hold of your position,
and I myself will take mine.”
He stretched the shorter side until
it was equivalent to the other.