In a largely mythical treatise involving esoteric matters of Gnostic theology, this book does purport to open with a historical incident. We are told: It happened [one day]when Jo[hn, the brother] of James,—who are the sons of Ze[bed]ee—went up and came to the temple, that a [Ph]arisee named Arimanius approached him and said to him, “[Where] is your master whom you followed?” And he [said] to him, “He has gone to the place from which he came.” The Pharisee said to him, “[This Nazarene] deceived you (pl.) with deception and filled [your ears with lies] and closed [your hearts and turned you] from the traditions [of your fathers].”^61 This passage relates (1)that John the disciple, in response to a question from Arimanius the Pharisee, stated that Jesus had returned to heaven, a possible reference to the Ascension. (2)The Pharisee responded by telling John that Jesus had deceived his followers with his teachings, which is reminiscent of the Talmud’s statements about Jesus. Whether such an encounter between John and Arimanius actually occurred or not, such is apparently a typical view of Jesus’ teachings from the standpoint of the Jewish leaders.
58 Ibid., 20:11–14, 25–34.
59 Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, p. 109.
60 Ibid., pp. 109–112; Jonas, Gnostic Religion40, 199–205; Frederick Wisse, “Introduction” in James Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library, p. 98; Walter Baur, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, p. 49.
61 The Apocryphon of John1:5–17.
The Gospel of Thomas
This book describes itself in the opening statement as “the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke.”^62 Grant notes that this collection of teachings thereby purports to be the words of the risen Jesus, thus accounting for the almost complete absence of statements concerning his birth, life and death.^63