Irenaeus liked the Gospel of John. Quite a bit.
John’s Gospel spoke of the divinity of Jesus. Equated him to God. Taught that Jesus was the only way to God and that all had to go through Jesus to get there.
Another little bit about John’s Gospel. Whoever wrote it did not like Thomas. Elaine Pagels in Beyond Belief demonstrates how Gospel of John seems like a rebuttal to those in the Thomas Christian community.
Thomas’s Jesus teaches that we can all find our way to God. God is within us and the kingdom is all around us. Much like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when the good witch says to Dorothy “Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along.”
Gospel of Thomas is thought to be at least as old as Gospel of John (and some scholars say that it is as old as Mark and that Mark may have used the Gospel of Thomas ) but it was not included.
Thomas’ Gospel shows Jesus as our Twin – repeats the theme that we are similar to him and can find God also by recognizing what is within us. John’s gospel tells us that Jesus is above us, we are lower and fully incapable of reaching God on our own. Gospel of John even goes on to ridicule Thomas (unlike Mark, Matthew and Luke) .
John was used by those who wanted to silence those who interpreted the various available sacred writings differently. If one knows about early church history, then one realized how diverse and varied were the ideas and practices of early Christians. John was used because it’s language was very specific about the ‘right beliefs’ one needed to have to be a ‘real’ Christian. (more on this and other things regarding Gospel of John here )
The words finally chosen at Nicaea in the 4th century as the Creed, were not chosen because they were biblical – they in fact had little to do with the overarching theme within the texts chosen as canon – they were chosen because they effectively excluded all the other Christian churches and individuals who had other understandings of Jesus’ teachings. Uniformity was sought and from that point onward it has been a battle to push the ‘right belief’ on everyone.
My own issue with the current majority of Christian Statements of Faith/Creeds
I’m not a Trinitarian. God is one. The source of all. God is manifest within us, effectively making us all Children of God. The only way I see ‘threeness’ is:
God as creator, called Father
The ‘Holy Spirit’ as God in Action, is much like the Shekinah or Holy Wisdom.
Jesus as the ‘son’ is what it looks like when the Holy Spirit is actively functioning within us.
Jesus to me is not the ‘only’ begotten son of God. Sure, he really understood God in a way that makes sense to many of us. But we are all ‘sons of God’ . Jesus was not born of a virgin. This is commonly known now. (mistranslations go a LONG way) We are also told in the bible that the body that resurrects is not a physical body. It is a spiritual one. Mark, likely the oldest Gospel in the bible did not even include a resurrected Jesus in his original version. Jesus did not die ‘for our sins’. Maybe BECAUSE of them – meaning he died because people made ‘sinful’ choices and killed him.
It’s odd to think that there were once so many writings and the ability to understand the writings in different ways. Then certain writings that best fit those in the center of the movement were chosen. No more room for individual understanding. John’s Gospel came to be one of the most used and loved Gospels even though it known to be the LEAST likely to contain any authentic teachings of Jesus. And Paul’s writings became part of scripture even though he himself had never met Jesus.
Thomas sits on the sidelines. A writing that offers teachings that liberate us and encourage us to begin seeking.
Gospel of Thomas will always be my first choice.