Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 033 No one hides a lamp
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 33
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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(33) Jesus said: What you hear with your ear (and) with the other ear, proclaim it on your roof-tops. For no one lights a lamp to set it under a bushel, or to put it in a hidden place; but he sets it on the lamp-stand, that all who go in and come out may see its light.
(33) Jesus said, “Whatever you (sing.) hear with your ear, proclaim upon your (plur.) rooftops into the other ear. Indeed, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a vessel, nor puts it in a hidden place. Rather it is put on a lampstand so that each who enters and leaves might see its light.”
38 . Jesus says: “What thou hearest with thine ear, and the other ear, proclaim from the roof-tops! For no-one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel or in a hidden place: but he puts it on the lamp-stand so that all who come in or go out should see the light.”
(33) Jesus said, “<That which> you (sg.) hear in one of your (sg.) ears, [preach…]”
Marvin Meyer quotes Clement of Alexandria in Miscellanies 18.104.22.168-6 for an esoteric interpretation of a similar saying: “‘And what you hear in the ear’ – that is, in a hidden manner and in a mystery, for such things are said, figuratively, to be spoken in the ear – ‘proclaim,’ he says, ‘upon the rooftops,’ receiving nobly and delivering loftily and explaining the scriptures according to the canons of truth.
For neither prophecy nor the saviour himself declared the divine mysteries in a simple manner, so as to be easily comprehended by ordinary people, but rather he spoke in parables.”
Funk and Hoover write: “This saying is probably a corruption of the saying found in Q and incorporated into Luke 12:3//Matt 10:27. The Q saying was judged to be a Christian formulation (further, consult the notes on the verses in Luke and Matthew). The saying in Thomas makes no sense as it stands.”
Jack Finegan writes: “Here the completion of the saying [compared to the Greek fragment] enables us to see that the entire text combined the materials of Mt 10:27 = Lk 12:3 in the first part, with the materials of Mt 5:15 = Lk 11:33 and Lk 8:16 in the second part, with additional variations of a minor character.
Not only are two separate Synoptic sayings, one about hearing and one about lighting a lamp, brought together but the respective versions of Mt and Lk are interwoven to provide a specially good example of the phenomenon which is frequent enough not only in these texts but also in the church fathers of this period, the phenomenon which has been called that of the ‘compound text.’ Whether this means that the materials were quoted from memory, or that there was a deliberate attempt at harmonization of the NT text, is difficult to say.”
Joachim Jeremias writes: “According to the context (4.22) Mark and Thomas relate it to the Gospel, Matthew to the disciples (cf. 5.16), Luke to the inner light (cf. 11.34-36, see below, pp. 162 f.). From the exegesis a conjecture may be hazarded as to what was the original meaning. What is the meaning of, ‘neither do they place the lamp under a bushel’?
If a bushel-measure were placed over the small clay lamp, it would extinguish it. In the little, windowless, one-roomed pasants’ houses which have no chimney, this might well have been the customary method of putting out the lamp; since blowing it out might cause unpleasant smoke and smell, as well as the risk of fire through sparks (cf. Shab. 3.6).”
Gerd Ludemann writes: “The simile of the lamp often occurs in the New Testament: Matt. 4.21/Matt 5.15; Luke 8.16; 11.33. ‘Hidden place’ takes up ‘hidden’ from Logion 32. This is likely to have been conditioned by the Matthaean sequence, for there we have the same word from Thomas 32 in Matt. 5.14, whereas it does not occur in the verse (Matt. 5.15) which corresponds to Thomas 33.2.”
R. McL. Wilson writes: “Grant and Freedman see here nothing but a combination of sayings from our Gospels, and note that the Naassenes used the same combination in the reverse order. It should be observed, however, that the second part occurs definitely in the Lucan form.
If Thomas drew logion 32 from Matthew, why did he switch to Luke for his version of a saying contained in the next verse? Quispel has noted parallels to the Diatessaron here, and suggests that it is simpler to assume that Titian knew either logion 33 or something like it than that he borrowed bits and pieces here and there from all three Synoptics.”