Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 029 Independence of spirit and body

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 29

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.”

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material; the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. For purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

FromEarly Christian Writings 

Related Link:   

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

(29) Jesus said: If the flesh came into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel. But if the spirit (came into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I wonder at this, how this great wealth made its home in this poverty.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(29) Jesus said, “It is amazing if it was for the spirit that flesh came into existence. And it is amazing indeed if spirit (came into existence) for the sake of the body. But as for me, I am amazed at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

34 [29]. Jesus says: “If the flesh was produced for the sake of the spirit, it is a miracle. But if the spirit <was produced> for the sake of the body, it is a miracle of a miracle.” But for myself (?), I marvel at that because the [ . . . of] this (?) great wealth has dwelt in this poverty.”

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

POxy1 29
GThom 87
GThom 112
• Rom 8:1-8 KJV
• Gal 5:16-26 KJV

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

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

[“. . .] the poverty.”

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

(29) [. . . makes its home in this] poverty.

Scholarly Quotes

Gerd Ludemann writes: “‘Flesh’ is a link by key word to 28.1. The whole is a praise of the spirit which has taken up its abode in human bodies or in the flesh. For ‘spirit’ as an element of light in human beings cf. 24.3.” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 605

F. F. Bruce writes: “Flesh and spirit are antithetical: spirit does not need flesh as its vehicle, and it is unthinkable that spirit exists to aid flesh. In the conditions of earthly life, spirit is the ‘great wealth’ that resides in the ‘poverty’ of a mortal body (cf. Sayings 85, 87, 112).” 

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

Helmut Koester writes: “Jesus even marvels over how it is that something so glorious as the spirit has become mired in the flesh” 

Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 126

Funk and Hoover write: “This group of sayings has a strongly ascetic tone. The depreciation of the body is a frequent theme in Thomas (note especially sayings 87 and 112, but also see the remarks on Thom 28:1-4). Such ideas are not confined to Thomas, but appear elsewhere in early Christian literature (John 3:6; Gal 5:16-18; Rom 8:3-11).

However, the profile of Jesus as one who willingly associates with outsiders and the unclean and is remembered as a drunkard and a glutton (Matt 11:19//Luke 7:34) does not square with these remarks that belittle the body and recommend asceticism.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 489

Marvin Meyer writes: “This saying expresses surprise at the close relationship between the spirit, the immortal dimension of human beings, and the flesh or body. Inasmuch as the saying intimates that the spirit within may actually exist for the benefit and salvation of the body, it resembles saying 7.” 

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 82


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *