Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 015 One not born of woman
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 15
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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Marvin Meyer says that “Manichaean Psalm Book 121,25-33 also declares an identity between the father and the one not of human birth” and quotes: “[I] hear that you are in your father (and) your father hidden in [you]. My Master. [When I say], ‘The son was [begotten],’ I [shall] find [the] father also beside him. My master. Shall I destroy a kingdom that I may provide a womb of a woman? My master. Your holy womb is the luminaries that conceive you. In the trees and the fruit is your holy body. My master Jesus.”
Funk and Hoover write: “There are no parallels to this saying in early Christian or Gnostic tradition. Among some Gnostic groups, the highest god is referred to as the ‘unbegotten’ (one not born), since birth would imply that the god was finite. This may be the background of the saying. Another possibility is this: Jesus may here be equating himself with the Father, as he sometimes does in the Gospel of John (10:30; 14:9). In either case, the Fellows took this to reflect later Christian or Gnostic tradition.”
Robert M. Grant: “Man who is born of woman is subject to sin, according to Job 14:1, as Doresse notes (page 143). The greatest of those born of women was John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). Therefore, for our Gnostic (as for other Gnostics), Jesus cannot have been born of a woman (in spite of the fact that Paul says he was – Galatians 4:4).
Of course it is possible that like some Gnostic teachers he held that while Jesus was born of a woman, the spiritual Christ descended upon him at the time of his baptism; the Naassenes believed that the threefold being descended upon Jesus. In any event, the one not born of woman is to be worshipped, since he is the (heavenly) Father. This conclusion seems to reflect the words of John 14:9: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father’ (cf., John 10:30: ‘I and the Father are one’).”
F. F. Bruce writes: “But for the last clause, we might have interpreted this saying to mean that Jesus – unlike John the Baptist (cf. Saying 46) – was not born of woman. But whatever the compiler or editor believed about the mode of Jesus’s coming into the world (see Saying 19a), this is probably not in view here, since Jesus and the Father are distinguished (cf. Saying 3). Even so, he would no doubt have drawn his own conclusions from such a saying of Jesus as that of John 10.30: ‘I and the Father are one.’ The Father is in any case the unbegotten One.”