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Paper Chase: Thomas & The Hymn of the Pearl

From  the abstract of Thomas & The Hymn of the Pearl by The Rev. Albert R. Dreisbach:

The Acts of Thomas, which contains the Hymn of the Soul/Pearl and may well be an
adaptation of an older work redesigned to provide “spy clues” pointing to the Shroud and its image(s). The Hymn of the Pearl is one of the earliest documents we have on Edessan Christianity Possibly dating from as early as the first century A.D., this hymn is described by Ewa Kuryluk as a work which:

…assimilates into an ancient tradition the new theology of Jesus’ incarnation, resurrection and transfiguration by transforming Christ into a soul. His dual nature rendered by his splitting into a humanlike anima – a son clothed in skin – and into a divine soul, an iconic dress of paradise. In the Syrian poem the essence of divinity resides in God’s clothing – a heavenly double of the mortal human skin [Emphases added.]

Gregory Riley offers a variant interpretation:

The Acts of Thomas, while containing many “orthodox” interpolations and 
revisions, nevertheless presents a like picture, and closes with a scene similar to 
that in the Gospel Easter stories; yet in the scene of the Acts, the body of the twin 
brother of Jesus remains in the grave, while his soul ascends to heaven. This is 
supported, among other passages, by one of the most famous poems in Gnostic Christian literature, the Hi’inn of the Pearl, which describes the archetypical journey of the soul for the Thomas disciple: the soul descends into a body, and abandons it upon return to the heavenly realms. (Riley, 178-79.)

The first half of this monograph which is devoted to the significance of Thomas and the school bearing his name and their respective influence on the thought modes and writings from Edessa. Although a case can be made to support the traditional view that Thaddaeus/Addai was the original apostle who evangelized Edessa, this paper will consider the hypothesis that it was really Thomas who did so. Later, certain Docetic elements in the literature from the school associated with his name his name may have caused Thomas’ initial role to be remanded to the more obscure Jude Thaddaeus/Addai.

The second half of this paper will explore the interrelationship of the biblical Thomas, that disciple’s connection with the Shroud and the city of Edessa, the school in that region bearing his name, and a suggested interpretation of key passages in the Hymn of the Soul/Pearl which reveal both their potential dependence upon the Shroud and the latter’s significance at an early date.

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