Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 012 The disciples will come to James

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 12

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

(12) The disciples said to Jesus: We know that you will depart from us; who is it who will be great over us? Jesus said to them: Wherever you have come, you will go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(12) The disciples said to Jesus, “We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?” Jesus said to him, “No matter where you come it is to James the Just that you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

13 [12]. The disciples say to Jesus, “We know that Thou wilt leave us: who will <then> be the great<est> over us?” Jesus says to them: “Wherever you go, you will turn to James the Just, for whose sake heaven as well as earth was produced.”

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

• Luke 9:46-48 KJV
• Luke 22:24-27 KJV
• Matt 18:1-4 KJV
• Mark 9:33-35 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer refers to the quote of Hegesippus on James the Just in Ecclesiastical History 2.23.4-7 and quotes from Secret James 16:5-11 on his authority: “So, not wishing to give them offense, I sent each one of them to a different place. But I myself went up to Jerusalem, praying that I might acquire a share with the beloved ones who will appear.”

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 74

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The answer which Jesus gives is again related to the conversation in the Gospel of John, where Jesus tells the disciples that he is going away to prepare a ‘place’ for them (John 14:2-3). In Thomas, however, the ‘place’ is apparently earthly rather than heavenly; it is a place in which they are to go to James the Just, ‘for whose sake the heaven and the earth came into existence.’ This exaltation of James is characteristic of Jewish-Christian and Naassene tradition . . . it may be derived from the Gospel of the Hebrews. Doresse suggests (page 140) that James may here be regarded as a supernatural power, but there is nothing in Thomas which could favor such an interpretation.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 131

Gerd Ludemann writes: “The logion recalls the disciples’ conversations about status which we know from Mark 9.33-34. To be precise, the saying regulates the succession to Jesus (cf. the Paraclete in John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7 and Peter as the follower of Jesus in John 21.15-17). James is not only given the predicate ‘righteous’ (cf. Acts 7.52), but is also assigned a role in creation. All these sayings came into being in Jewish-Christian circles where James later became ‘the pope of Ebionite fantasy’ (H. J. Schoeps).”

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 596

F. F. Bruce writes: “This saying originated in a Jewish-Christian setting where James the Just, Jesus’ brother, was regarded as the natural leader of Jesus’s disciples after Jesus’s departure. James was actually leader of the Jerusalem church for fifteen to twenty years, until his death in A.D. 62; his memory was revered and enhanced by legendary embellishments. Here a high estimate is placed on his person: in Jewish thought the world was created for the sake of the Torah, [Assumption of Moses 1.2; Genesis Rabbah 1.25.] although in one rabbinical utterance ‘every single person is obliged to say: “The world was created for my sake.”‘ [TB Sanhedrin 37b]” 

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, pp. 117-118

Robert Price writes: “So to be called the Pillars indicated quite an exalted status. We can see the same sort of godlike veneration reflected in Thomas, saying 12 . . . ‘Wherever you come from’ refers to the obligation of missionary apostles to check in with a report to James in Jerusalem, another measure of his importance.”

Deconstructing Jesus, p. 53


1 4CM Translator ID: T87
2 4CM Translator ID: T68
3 4CM Translator ID: T81
4 4CM Translator ID: T71

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