Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 003 The kingdom is within us


Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 3

Subheading:  This page explores modern interpretations of the Gospel according to Thomas, an ancient text preserved in a Coptic translation at Nag Hammadi and Greek fragments at Oxyrhynchus. With no particular slant, this commentary gathers together quotations from various scholars in order to elucidate the meaning of the sayings, many of which are rightly described as “obscure.”

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FromEarly Christian Writings 

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By:
Horst Balz. (T87)
Bentley Layton. (T68)
Harold W Attridge. (T34)
Jean Doresse. (T81)
Robert Funk. (T71)

Our Ref:
ECST: 014.10.000.T34
ECST: 014.10.000.T68
ECST: 014.10.000.T71
ECST: 014.10.000.T81
ECST: 014.10.000.T87


Nag Hammadi Coptic Text

Gospel of Thomas Coptic Text

BLATZ1)4CM Translator ID: T87

(3) Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you: See, the kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: It is in the sea, then the fish will go before you. But the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.

LAYTON2)4CM Translator ID: T68

(3) Jesus said, “If those who lead you (plur.) say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in heaven,’ then the birds of heaven will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. But the kingdom is inside of you. And it is outside of you. “When you become acquainted with yourselves, then you will be recognized. And you will understand that it is you who are children of the living father. But if you do not become acquainted with yourselves, then you are in poverty, and it is you who are the poverty.”

DORESSE3)4CM Translator ID: T81

2 [3]. Jesus says: “If those who seek to attract you say to you: ‘See, the Kingdom is in heaven!’ then the birds of heaven will be there before you. If they say to you: ‘It is in the sea!’ then the fish will be there before you. But the kingdom is within you and it is outside of you!” 3 [3]. “When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you will be in a state of poverty, and it is you <you will be> the poverty!”

Funk’s Parallels4)4CM Translator ID: T71

POxy654 3
GThom 113
GThom 51
• Luke 17:20-21 KJV
• Luke 17:22-25 KJV
• Matt 24:23-38 KJV
• Mark 13:21-23 KJV
DialSav 16 (Dialogus Saluatoris)
DialSav 30 (Dialogus Saluatoris)

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

DORESSE – Oxyrhynchus5)4CM Translator ID: T81

Je[sus] says: [“If those] who seek to attract you [say to you: ‘See,] the Kingdom [is] in hea[ven, then] the birds of hea[ven will be there before you. If they say: ‘It] is under the earth!’ [then] the fishes of the sea [will be there be]fore you. And the Kingd[om of heaven] is within you! [He who? . . .] knows this will find [. . .] [When] you know yourselves, [then you will know that] it is you who are [the sons] of the [living] Father. [But if you do not] know yourselves, then [. . .] and it is you <who will be> the poverty!”

ATTRIDGE – Oxyrhynchus6)4CM Translator ID: T34

(3) Jesus said, “[If] those who lead you [say to you, ‘See], the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky [will precede you. If they say that] it is under the earth, then the fish of the sea [will enter it, preceding] you. And, the [kingdom of God] is inside of you, [and it is outside of you. Whoever] knows [himself] will discover this. [And when you] come to know yourselves, [you will realize that] you are [sons] of the [living] father. [But if you] will [not] know yourselves, [you dwell] in [poverty] and it is you who are that poverty.”

Scholarly Quotes

Funk and Hoover point out a similar text in Baruch 3:29-30: “Has anyone climbed up to heaven and found wisdom? Has anyone returned with her from the clouds? Has anyone crossed the sea and discovered her? Has anyone purchased her with gold coin?” 

The Five Gospels, p. 472

Marvin Meyer quotes a similar expression from the Manichaean Psalm Book 160,20-21: “Heaven’s kingdom, look, it is inside us, look, it is outside us. If we believe in it, we shall live in it for ever.” 

The Gospel of Thomas - The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 69

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The Greek version of Thomas says that the kingdom is within; the Coptic adds that it is also outside, perhaps because the Naassenes spoke of the kingdom as ‘hidden and manifest at the same time.’ According to Saying 111, the kingdom ‘is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.’ It should be noted that Thomas does not speak of ‘the kingdom of God.’ Indeed, ‘God’ is mentioned only in Saying 97, where he is evidently subordinated to Jesus (‘gods’ occurs in Saying 31). Wherever the synoptic parallels speak of God, Thomas deletes the word or substitutes ‘heaven’ or ‘the Father’ or ‘my Father.’ Like other Gnostics, he prefers not to use the ordinary term ‘God’; he may be reserving it for use as the name of an inferior power.”

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 121

J. D. Crossan writes: “most likely, the correct restoration for the fragmented line 15 of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 654 is ‘king[dom of God],’ the same phrase that appears in lines 7-8 of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1. Both those expressions from the Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas met with, according to Harold Attridge, ‘deliberate deletion’ in their respective Coptic translations at Gospel of Thomas 3 and 27″

The Historical Jesus, p. 284

Stevan Davies writes: “When people actualize their inherent ability to perceive through primordial light, they perceive the world to be the kingdom of God.”7)see misericordia.edu

Gos. Thom. 3, 113

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The Kingdom of God is no longer an eschatological reality. It has become a present, ‘spiritual’ phenomenon. It is ‘spread out upon the earth and men do not see it’ (113/111). It is not in the heaven or in the sea (3/2; cf. Rom. 10:6-7) but ‘within you and outside you.’ The inwardness of the Kingdom is derived, in Gnostic exegesis, from Luke 17:21; the outwardness probably refers to its heavenly or incomprehensible nature. In any event, it is not future, but present.” 

Gnosticism & Early Christianity, p. 187

Funk and Hoover write: “This phrase [‘know yourselves’] is a secular proverb often attributed to Socrates. It is used here to refer to the self as an entity that has descended from God – a central Gnostic concept. ‘Children of the living Father’ (v. 4) is also a Gnostic phrase (compare Thomas 49-50), which refers to people who, by virtue of their special knowledge, are able to reascend to the heavenly domain of their Father. Parallels in more orthodox Christian texts indicate that followers of Jesus are also called ‘children.’ The use of the term ‘poverty’ for life outside true knowledge (v. 5) is typical of Gnostic writings.”

The Five Gospels, pp. 472-473

Bruce Chilton writes: “In fact, the closest analogy in the Synoptic Gospels to the rhetoric of the argument in Thomas 3 is attributed not to Jesus but to his Sadducean opponents (Matt. 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40). They set up a hypothetical question of a woman who marries a man, who then dies childless. Following the practice commanded in Deut. 23:5-6, his brother marries her to continue the deceased’s name, but then he dies childless as well, as do his five remaining brothers. The point of this complicated scenario is to ridicule the idea of the resurrection of the dead by asking whose wife the woman will be in the resurrection. As in Thomas3, the syllogism is designed to provoke mockery of the position that is attacked, and it depends on the prior acceptance of what it is reasonable to say and of how logic should be used. In short, both the Sadducees’ argument and the argument of the ‘living Jesus’ commend themselves to schoolmen and seem as far from the ethos of Jesus himself as the concern for what the leaders of churches might say. Those who would attribute the form of Thomas 3 to Jesus reveal only their own uncritical attachment to a source that is fashionable in certain circles simply because it is not canonical.” 

Pure Kingdom, p. 72

References   [ + ]

1. 4CM Translator ID: T87
2. 4CM Translator ID: T68
3, 5. 4CM Translator ID: T81
4. 4CM Translator ID: T71
6. 4CM Translator ID: T34
7. see misericordia.edu

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