Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 023 Few are chosen

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 23

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

(23) Jesus said: I shall choose you, one out of a thousand and two out of ten thousand, and they shall stand as a single one.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(23) Jesus said, “I shall choose you (plur.) – one out of a thousand and two out of ten thousand. And they will stand at rest by being one and the same.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

28 [23]. Jesus says: “I will choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand, and those <whom I have chosen> will be lifted up, being one!”

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

GThom 49
GThom 75
GThom 106
Pistis Sophia 134
• Ecclesiastes 7:28 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

Funk quotes Pistis Sophia 134: “‘There shall be found one among a thousand and two among ten thousand . . .’ (Gartner: 229)” 

New Gospel Parallels, v. 2, p. 123

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The Gnostic community is very small. It consists of those chosen by Jesus, ‘one out of a thousand and two out of ten thousand’ (23/24) – a saying quoted by the Gnostic followers of Basilides [Adv. haer. I. 24. 6] and in Pistis Sophia.

To be sure, this element of exclusiveness is not absent from early Christianity (‘many are called, but few are chosen’), but in Christianity it is balanced by the call to mission and discipleship, omitted in Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas thus offers no hope, eschatological or other, to mankind as a whole, or to any considerable numbers of men.” 

Gnosticism & Early Christianity, p. 189

Funk and Hoover write: “The use of the phrase ‘one from a thousand’ may indicate that the Gnotsics thought of themselves as an elite, relatively rare species among humankind. The phrase ‘single one’ (v. 2) points to undifferentiated existence prior to creation.”

The Five Gospels, p. 487


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

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