Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 026 The speck and the beam

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 26

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

(26) Jesus said: You see the mote which is in your brother’s eye; but you do not see the beam which is in your own eye. When you cast out the beam from your own eye, then you will see (clearly) to cast out the mote from your brother’s eye.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(26) Jesus said, “You (sing.) see the speck in your sibling’s eye, but you do not see the beam in your own eye. When you expel the beam from your own eye then you will be able to see to expel the speck from the eye of your sibling.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

31 [26]. Jesus says: “The straw that is in thy brother’s eye, though seest; but the beam that is in thine own eye, thou seest not! When thou hast cast out the beam that is in thine own eye, then thou wilt see to cast out the straw from thy brother’s eye.”

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

POxy1 26
• Luke 6:37-42 KJV
• Matt 7:1-5 KJV

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

DORESSE – Oxyrhynchus[5]4CM Translator ID: T81

[“. . .] then thou wilt see to cast out the straw that is thy brother’s eye.”

ATTRIDGE – Oxyrhynchus[6]4CM Translator ID: T34

(26) [. . .] and then you (sg.) will see clearly to cast the mote from your (sg.) brother’s eye.

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer quotes ‘Arakin 16b in the Babylonian Talmud for a comparable story: “It was taught: Rabbi Tarfon said, ‘I wonder whether there is a person of this generation who accepts admonition? If someone says to him, “Remove the chip from between your eyes (or, eye teeth),” he would say to him, “Remove the beam from between your eyes (or, eye teeth).”‘” 

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 81

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The saying is very slightly modified from a saying related in Matthew 7:3, 5 and in Luke 6:41-42. In the Coptic version it leads without a break into Saying 28, and thus seems to imply that the beam in the Gnostic’s eye is his absolute rejection of fasting and Sabbath observance. He ought to explain the spiritual meaning of these actions to his Jewish, or Jewish-Christian, brothers, or potential brothers.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 146

R. McL. Wilson writes: “Fitzmyer notes some differences between the Greek and the Coptic, but thinks what is preserved of the Greek is nearer Luke (vi. 42) than Matthew. This passage poses a somewhat delicate problem for the investigator: Is this merely an abbreviation of the Synoptic saying or has elaboration taken place in the Synoptic tradition as early as the hypothetical Q?

Both Matthew and Luke put the first sentence in the form of a question, and both add a further question before the final ‘Thou hypocrite! first cast out the beam. . . .’ The Coptic here has a temporal clause instead of the imperative, but as Fitzmyer notes the Greek appears to have corresponded to that of the canonical Gospels.

This raises once against the question of the relation between the Coptic Thomas and the Oxyrhynchus fragments, and in this case it is difficult to see why the change should have been made. As it is, the version in Thomas is terse and to the point, and a case might be made out for expansion in the canonical tradition. But a decision here is extremely difficult.” 

Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, p. 58

Funk and Hoover write: “Thomas’ version of this humorous comparison is simpler than the form found in Q, which suggests that the latter has been expanded. . . . Thomas does not use the word ‘phoney’ – someone who pretends to be someone he or she isn’t – so this element may be secondary. The Q version is also redundant (lines 4-5 in the Q version repeat lines 1-2).” 

The Five Gospels, p. 488

Gerd Ludemann writes: “The key words ‘brother’ and ‘eye’ link Logia 26 and 25. Logion 26 corresponds to Q (Matt. 7.3-5/Luke 6.41-42) and as the simpler construction may also represent the earliest stage. But it is also conceivable that Thomas has simplified an earlier saying, the centre of which was reproof of the brother, and put self-correction at the centre.” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 603


1 4CM Translator ID: T87
2 4CM Translator ID: T68
3, 5 4CM Translator ID: T81
4 4CM Translator ID: T71
6 4CM Translator ID: T34

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