Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 028 The world is intoxicated


Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 28

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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By:
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

BLATZ1)4CM Translator ID: T87

(28) Jesus said: I stood in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in the flesh. I found them all drunk; I found none of them thirsting, and my soul was afflicted for the sons of men; for they are blind in their heart, and they do not see that they came empty into the world, (and) empty they seek to leave the world again. But now they are drunk. When they have thrown off their wine, they will repent.

LAYTON2)4CM Translator ID: T68

(28) Jesus said, “I stood at rest in the midst of the world. And unto them I was shown forth incarnate; I found them all intoxicated. And I found none of them thirsty. And my soul was pained for the children of humankind, for they are blind in their hearts and cannot see. For, empty did they enter the world, and again empty they seek to leave the world. But now they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine then they will have a change of heart.”

DORESSE3)4CM Translator ID: T81

33 [28]. Jesus says: “I stood in the midst of the world, and in the flesh I manifested myself to them. I found them all drunk; I found none athirst among them. And my soul was afflicted for the children of men. Because they are blind in their heart and do not see, because they have come into the world empty, <that is why> they seek still to go out from the world empty. But let someone come who will correct them! Then, when they have slept off their wine, they will repent.”

Funk’s Parallels4)4CM Translator ID: T71

POxy1 28
• Luke 21:34-36 KJV
• John 1:14 KJV

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

DORESSE – Oxyrhynchus5)4CM Translator ID: T81

[Not included in Doresse.]

ATTRIDGE – Oxyrhynchus6)4CM Translator ID: T34

(28) Jesus said, “I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do [not] have sight [. . .]

Scholarly Quotes

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “In the synoptic gospels Jesus expresses appeals not unlike this one; cf., Matthew 11:25-30; 23; 37; Luke 13:34. Drunkenness is likened to ignorance of God in 1 Corinthians 15:34. In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read that ‘he was manifested in flesh.’ But as a whole this saying is closer to the description of the revealer given in the Hermetica, semi-Gnostic theosophical literature of the second or third century.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, pp. 147-148

F. F. Bruce quotes a parallel saying from the Corpus Hermeticum 1.27, attributed to Hermes the prophet of God: “I have begun to proclaim to men the beauty of piety and knowledge: ‘O ye peoples, earth-born men who have given yourselves over to drunkenness and sleep and ignorance of God, sober up and cease to be intoxicated and bewitched by irrational sleep.'” 

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 126

John Dart writes: “The Jewish Wisdom of Proverbs, too, came down to the world and attempted to present truth and knowledge to a largely unmindful mankind.”

The Laughing Savior, p. 96

Stevan Davies writes: “Thomas is replete with sayings contrasting the condition of people who do and who do not apprehend the world through the primordial light of the beginning. Those who do are full; those who do not are empty (Gos. Thom. 28).” 

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: “Though there is no direct parallel to this saying in the canonical Gospels there is nothing in it that prevents it from being regarded at least as substantially authentic.” 

Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament, p. 396

Funk and Hoover write: “In this miniature discourse, Jesus speaks in highly theological terms about himself. He depicts himself as the redeemer who descends to earth and ascends to heaven, in terms very similar to those in the old hymn recorded in Phil 2:5-11 or in the prologue to the Gospel of John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18.

However, here there are specifically Gnostic twists: the spiritual state of humanity, according to numerous Gnostic texts, is stupefied with passion and drunkenness, blind to any spiritual understanding. The saviour comes to awaken such persons to their true origins. This complex, accordingly, is a summary version of Gnostic redeemer myths that depict the human condition and the possibility for salvation.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 489

R. McL. Wilson writes: “At most, it may be a development in a Gnostic direction on the basis of an authentic saying. The exposition provided by Jeremias must give pause to any who would claim it as entirely spurious. The striking feature is, however, the statement in this gospel that Jesus ‘appeared in flesh,’ since as Doresse observes the Coptic version elsewhere absolutely rejects the flesh.

This must be held to support the theory of Puech, that the document was not originally Gnostic, although he himself has noted other possibilities, such as a Docetic interpretation of the words in question, or an orthodox revision of an originally Gnostic work.” 

Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, p. 42

References   [ + ]

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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