I am unaccustomed to reviewing books about Christian theology and many of this blog’s regular readers will be justified in thinking I’ve jumped in here way over my head.** But I became intrigued, not only by the subject but by the author’s name.
So I read this novel, thinking that not only was the apostle St Thomas the Doubter endowed with a healthy dose of Jewish scepticism, but that the modern George A Tyrrell, a retired Jungian psychologist, may, like his namesake, have experienced more than a few religious reservations of his own!
It is therefore unsurprising that the idea and material for his book - written in literary picaresque mode - was sparked by the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts discovered in Egypt in 1945 and whose significance were largely championed by Jung.
The story, described as a biblical historical novel based on the Gospel of Thomas and Acts of Thomas uncovered in the Nag Hammadi texts, traces the apostle’s evangelical travels from ancient Israel, through the Middle East and on to India, where he was martyred.
In modern India, says Tyrrell, there are memorials to Thomas and a sect named the Thomas Christians (the Syrian Nasrani), affirm him as their founder.
Tyrrell may in turn be intrigued to learn that I live barely an hour’s drive from many of the places associated with Christ’s life and have visited the ancient towns of Korazin, Bet Tzaida and Kfar Nahum (‘Chorazim’, ‘Bethsaida’ and ‘Capernaum’) whose citizens were condemned by him for their lack of faith and so, I fear, where universal antisemitism was born.
While Tyrrell has a sympathetic understanding of much Jewish tradition and practice, he makes some mistakes. Christ and the apostles, for example, would not have broken a loaf of bread at the Passover meal. This is when Jews eat matza (unleavened bread)!
** The Book of Thomas the Doubter: Uncovering the Hidden Teachings is available from Amazon (Kindle, $4.99; Hardback, $26.95; Paperback, $15.95).
© Natalie Wood (15 January 2017)