Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 006 True fasting, prayer, and charity
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 6
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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(6) His disciples asked him (and) said to him: Do you want us to fast? And how shall we pray (and) give alms? What diet should we observe? Jesus said: Do not lie, and what you abhor, do not do; for all things are manifest in the sight of heaven; for there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered which will remain without being uncovered.
(6) His disciples questioned him and said to him, “Do you want us to fast? And how shall we pray? Shall we give alms? And what kind of diet shall we follow?” Jesus said, “Do not lie, and do not do what you hate. For all things are disclosed before heaven. For there is nothing obscure that will not be shown forth, and there is nothing covered that will remain without being disclosed.”
6 . His disciples asked and said to him: “Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray, how shall we give alms, what rules concerning eating shall we follow?” Jesus says: “Tell no lie, and whatever you hate, do not do: for all these things are manifest to the face of heaven; nothing hidden will fail to be revealed and nothing disguised will fail before long to be made public!”
[His disciples] asked [and] say to him: “How shall we fa[st and how shall we pr]ay, and how [. . .], and what rules shall [we] follow [concerning eating”] Jesus says: [“. . .] do not [. . .] of truth [. . .] hidden [. . .”].
(6) [His disciples] questioned him [and said], “How [shall we] fast? [How shall we pray]? How [shall we give alms]? What [diet] shall [we] observe?” Jesus said, “[Do not tell lies, and] do not do what you [hate, for all things are plain in the sight] of truth. [For nothing] hidden [will not become manifest].”.
Funk and Hoover write: “The answers Jesus is represented as giving in 6:2-6 appear to be unrelated to the questions about fasting, praying, and giving posed by the disciples in v. 1. Jesus does answer these three questions directly in 14:1-3. The discrepancy between Thom 6:1 and 2-6 has led some scholars to speculate that the texts of Thomas 6 and 14 have somehow been confused.”
Fitzmyer reconstructs the lines appended to saying six in the Greek fragment as follows: “[Ha]ppy is [he who does not do these things. For all] will be mani[fest before the Father who] is [in heaven.]” Fitzmyer writes: “Is this part of the same saying? If so, then we have a different ending in the Greek that is not found in the Coptic. J. Doresse (Thomas, p. 91) treats this as part of a distinct saying.
He has in his favour the fact that makarios is preserved in the Coptic of the following saying. But it would then seem that we must either shorten our restoration of l. 39 and the beginning of l. 40 or suppose that the usual introduciton, ‘Jesus says’, has been omitted. Neither seems possible. Moreover, the letters that remain on the following lines do not seem to agree with any possible reconstruction of the Greek of the following Coptic saying. For an attempt to reconstruct it as a separate saying, see M. Marcovich, JTS 20 (1969) 66-7.”
Other scholars consider this part of P. Oxy. 654 simply to represent the saying concerning the lion who is fortunate to be eaten by man.
Gerd Ludemann writes: “The disciples’ question is about fasting, prayer, almsgiving and the food laws. The first three also appear in the regulations about piety in Matt. 6.1-18 (cf. Tobit 12.8) and are discussed once again later (Thomas 14; cf. 104). In the present verse the question about food completes the sphere of the Jewish law.”
Jean Doresse writes: “‘nothing hidden will fail to be revealed’ no doubt refers to hidden virtues such as those mentioned by Jesus: they are preferable to ostentatious practices of piety, and will one day be made public.”
Jack Finegan writes: “The reply of Jesus in Line 19, ‘and what you hate, do not do,’ is evidently derived from Tob 4:15, ‘And what you hate, do not do to any one,’ with omission of the words, ‘to any one,’ which reduces the saying from a form of the ‘Golden Rule’ to a self-centered saying.”
F. F. Bruce writes: “In this and other sayings (cf. Sayings 14, 27, 104) it is insisted that true fasting is abstinence from evil words and actions, not from indifferent things like food. The negative form of the golden rule, ‘Do not [to others] what is hateful to yourselves’, appears repeatedly in early Jewish ethics, e.g. Tobit 4.15 (‘What you hate, do not to any one’) and Hillel’s words in TB Shabbath 31a (‘What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow; this is the whole law; everything else is commentary’).”
J. D. Crossan writes: “This somewhat truncated version of the rule’s negative formulation [‘do not do what you hate’, compared to Mt 7:12, Lk 6:31, Did 1:2b] has the following context. ‘His disciples questioned Him and said to Him, “Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms?
What diet shall we observe?” Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of Heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered.'”
J. D. Crossan writes: “The text is found not only in the Coptic translation of Thomas, but also among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri fragments of the Greek Thomas in Oxy P 654. The badly mutilated Greek text has been restored from the Coptic version as follows: [ha mis]eite me poiet[e] or ‘[what] you [ha]te do not do’ (Hofius: 41; see also Fitzmyer, 1974:385; Marcovich: 65).
The Coptic version is a close translation of that sequence: ‘that which you hate, do not do’ (with Wilson, 1973:511; rather than Guillaumont, 1959:5; or Lambdin: 118). Thus the sequence here is as in Tob. 4:15, ho miseis, medeni poieses, although the former is plural ‘you’ while this latter is singular ‘you.’
Those differences are dictated primarily by context. It is, of course, quite unlikely that Thomas is in any way quoting directly from Tobit (Menard, 1975:87). But his negative version says: What you hate (done to you) do not do (to others).”