if you want to experience what he meant
saying- 25; universal compassion.
Love your brother like your soul,
guard him like the pupil of your eye.
Thomas uses the word brother instead of neighbor as the canonical gospels do, who
likely quote Lev 19:18 ( Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD),
in which case a member of one's own people or clan
was meant (Plisch, 2008. Plisch also remarks that the saying's final sentence is also in Deut 32:10,
and in Ps 17:8). Brother in that case could refer to someone even more closely
related, which however, is unlikely because of the way, and quite contrary to
Hebrew scripture, Jesus associated with everyone as equal. So, this is unlikely an OT
quotation with an OT message Jesus uses here. He says that one should love
one's brother like one's own soul which is more than just like oneself as a person in this world.
It is just as important as caring for one's own eternal wellfare! Jesus might have said this while
actually mocking at the way people were always so busy with their eternal wellbeing,
especially the religious leaders, while totally neglecting the material wellbeing of others, which was
even justified by invoking their religious laws. Flüsser (2001) states that in Jewish
religion righteousness was a central issue, which allowed the people to be
seen as either good or wicked, the righteous and the sinners, whereas God was hold to
reward the first and punish the latter - a sign of God's perseverance of righteousness.
From there it was a small step to regard those well-to-do as the ones
rewarded by God for their righteousness, and those who were poor as sinful as God obviously
had stricken them with poverty or illness. It is obvious that Jesus' teaching went straight
against the grain of common religious conviction as taught from the Torah, by introducing a totally
new concept of righteousness.
From this saying it is fully clear that caring for others, without preference or selection
whatsoever, is one of the primary important themes, if not the most important, in Jesus ministry!
Just as Taoist scripture tell us (Wong E,1992):
Help all sentient beings. This is attaining the TAO!
We all know the story where someone in the crowd asked: "who is my neighbor?'
So let us take a side track to a parable (the good Sameritan) not in Thomas,
but regarded nevertheless as an authentic Jesus parable.
For the parable's text, see Luke 10:30-35.
Scott (1990) says about this parable: in some profound way this parable has to do with
breaking down barriers, and I take it to be barriers in the customary way how people,
based on religious rules and regulations, discriminate between we and they, the
ones within and the those outside. Those in the first category deserved respect, and their rights
were regulated by "divine law", whereas those in the second category were allowed to be
treated like animals by the same law; in the first category were neighbors and
brothers, whereas the one's in the second were less than cattle.
The men held in high esteem, both by God and men, the priest and the Levite, refused to help
the poor victim, whereas they cannot invoke defilement as a reason not to stop and offer aid
(Scott, 1990). One might conclude that such people do in fact not deserve such popular esteem,
and neither does He in whose system they obediently so operate. The Galilean peasants as
listeners to this story would likely have agreed whole-heartedly with at least the first part
of this conclusion, being themselves victims of the reigning Temple elite and being heavily
despised by them not only as impure and uneducated peasants, but also because as
Galileans they were not considered as "neighbors" by people from Judea. But now they are
caught in a trap: they themselves treat the Samaritans likewise as the Judeans treat them!
They may have felt rather uneasy between the ease by which they just condemned the
Temple cult servants, and their hesitantly forced sympathy towards the other one, which they
actually despised likewise. They might even have felt that they had actually fooled themselves
all the time! Now, who is whose neighbor? But that is not the question this
parable is addressing! At least we may conclude that a neighbor is someone totally
unexpected, which cannot be said of our family or clan members, and even not of "one
of our own people". However, the parable does not aim to answer any questions, but lifts us
towards something of a more complex nature.
In Jesus' teachings there is no separation between people, based on whatever characteristic;
there is no distinction, no discrimination by being pure or impure, Judean or Galilean, Galilean
or Samaritan, Gentile or Jew, Muslim, man or woman, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Jana,....
black or white .......
Out of deep compassion with all his neighbors, which he considered as his brothers
and my mother (saying- 90), Jesus could not have but abhorred the religious system that so
fundamentally divided people into opposite fractions, hating and despising each other and in
fact being continuously in a state of war with each other. "Jesus ministry was about
compassion" (Meyers, 2009), a thing The Buddha also made to the kernel of his teachings.
I cannot imaging Jesus' message to be congruent with the idea of Jesus seeing himself as
a servant of the Hebrew God whose traditional righteousness he was preaching as
part of the realization of a heavenly, "Mosaic" kingdom on earth.
Jesus' righteousness was of a totally different kind:
man should not act righteously towards selected categories of people
by following religion ordained rules,
but man should be compassionate at heart towards everyone;
he should not act piously according to religious law,
but should be pious at heart,
which fulfills such law and makes it redundant.
What the kingdom means?
without whatever discrimination,
take care of all your fellowmen,
out of deep compassion with them!