Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 001 Importance of interpreting the obscure sayings

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 1

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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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

BLATZ[1]4CM Translator ID: T87

(1) And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of these words shall not taste of death..

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(1) And he said, “Whoever finds the meaning of these sayings will not taste death.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

[1.] And he said: “Whoever penetrates the meaning of these words will not taste death!”

Funk’s Parallels[4]4CM Translator ID: T71

POxy654 1
GThom 111
• John 8:48-59 KJV

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

DORESSE – – Oxyrhynchus[5]4CM Translator ID: T81

And he said: [“Whoever penetrates the mea]ning of these words will not taste [death!”].

ATTRIDGE – – Oxyrhynchus[6]4CM Translator ID: T34

(1) And he said, “[Whoever finds the interpretation] of these sayings will not experience [death].”

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer quotes Sirach 39:1-3 as a parallel: “But one who devotes one’s soul and studies the law of the Most High will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients and will be concerned with prophecies. That person will keep in mind the discourse of reputable men and will go into the subtleties of parables. That person will seek out the hidden things of proverbs and will be occupied with the enigmas of parables.”

The Gospel of Thomas -The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 68

F. F. Bruce writes: “This confirms the impression made by the preamble, that the deeper interpretation of the sayings, not their surface meaning, pointed the way of salvation to initiates. The saying is quite similar to John 8.51, where Jesus says, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never see death’ – a statement which is taken up and repeated by his interlocutors in the form: ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death’ (verse 52). But ‘keep my word’ means basically ‘obey my commandment’, not ‘find its interpretation’ – the intention of the Fourth Gospel is essentially ethical, whereas that in the Gospel of Thomas is mainly intellectual.” 

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 113

Funk and Hoover write: “It is not altogether clear that this saying should be considered a saying of Jesus. The pronoun ‘he’ could refer either to Jesus or the ostensible compiler of the sayings, Didymos Judas Thomas. At any rate, it refers to the collection of sayings comprising this gospel, and this gospel could not have been known to Jesus. Furthermore, the final line (‘not taste death’) is a recurring theme in Thomas (18:3; 19:4; 85:2; 111:2) and therefore probably reflects the editorial interest of the compiler.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 471


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

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