Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 018 The end is where the beginning is

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 18

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

(18) The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end will be. Jesus said: Since you have discovered the beginning, why do you seek the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand at the beginning (in the beginning), and he shall know the end, and shall not taste death.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(18) The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us how our end will come to pass.” Jesus said, “Then have you laid bare the beginning, so that you are seeking the end? For the end will be where the beginning is. Blessed is the person who stands at rest in the beginning. And that person will be acquainted with the end and will not taste death.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

19 [18]. The disciples say to Jesus: “Tell us what our end will be.” Jesus says: “Have you then deciphered the beginning, that you ask about the end? For where the beginning is, there shall be the end. Blessed is the man who reaches the beginning; he will know the end, and will not taste death!”

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

POxy 654 1
GThom 1
GThom 85

Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: “This saying is reminiscent of 2 Esdras 7.30 (‘the world shall be as it was at the first beginnings’), but perhaps it is to be understood in the sense of Revelation 22.13, where Jesus says: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.'” 

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 121

Marvin Meyer writes: “To return to the beginning is to attain the end; compare Gospel of Thomas saying 49. Also compare Manichaean Psalm Book 155,9-12: ‘Holy ones, rejoice with me, for I have returned again to my beginning. I [have] received my clean garments, my robes that do not become old. I have rejoiced in their joy, I have been glad in their gladness, [I have rested] in their rest from everlasting to everlasting.’ Secret Book of John II 9,5-8 makes a similar point: ‘And he spoke, and glorified and praised the invisible spirit, saying, “Because of you everything has come into being, and everything will return to you.”‘” 

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 77

Gerd Ludemann writes: “The beginning and the end correspond (cf. Logion 4). Brought back to the beginning, the Gnostic will not taste death. The latter is meant in a metaphorical sense. The non-Gnostic does not live at all (cf. 11.2).” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 599

Funk and Hoover write: “Thomas consistently opposes speculation about the end (compare Thomas 3; 51; and 113). The idea that one returns in the end to one’s beginning has parallels in Gnostic texts: the goal of the Gnostic’s existence is to escape the created world of evil and return to the state of primordial perfection that existed at the beginning. Aspects of this concept are also reflected in Thomas 49. The final phrase in 18:3 is particularly Thomean (compare Thom 1; 91:4; 85:2; 111:2). All these factors led the Fellows to designate the saying black.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 483

Stevan Davies writes: “The light that is within people and outside of them exists now. As a result, those who search for the end are told that the end (i.e., the kingdom of God) is present already (Gos. Thom. 51, 113). When asked about the end, Jesus responds in terms of the beginning (Gos. Thom. 18); when asked about the kingdom to come, Jesus responds in terms of the kingdom which is already here (Gos. Thom. 113).” 


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

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