Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 035 No one robs the strong without subduing them

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 35

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

(35) Jesus said: It is not possible for anyone to go into the strong man’s house (and) take it by force, unless he binds his hands; then will he plunder his house.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(35) Jesus said, “No one can enter the house of the strong man and wreck it without first tying that person’s hands. Thereafter, one can ransack the person’s house.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

40 [35]. Jesus says: “It is not possible for someone to enter the house of a strong man and do him violence if he has not tied his hands: <only> then will he plunder his house.”

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

GThom 21:3
GThom 103
• Luke 11:14-23 KJV
• Matt 12:22-30 KJV
• Mark 3:23-27 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

Gerd Ludemann writes: “At the level of redaction the logion recalls 21.5-8, and at the level of tradition it strongly recalls both Mark 3.27 and Matt. 12.29/Luke 11.21-22 (= Q). It has a genetic connection with these passages. However, in contrast to the parallels mentioned it does not indicate the context, which there consists in the overcoming of Satan by Jesus.” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 607

Crossan writes: “This version is extremely close to Mark 3:27, much more than to Matt. 12:29 (against Schrage: 87). With regard to form, the external format is assertion rather than question in Mark and Thomas, against Matthew;

(b) the internal format has three sections: general negation (‘not’/’no one’), specific exception (‘unless’), direct result (‘then’), in Mark and Thomas, but only the last two in Matthew. With regard to content, and allowing for the syntactical and transnational differences between Greek and Coptic, the main differences are that Thomas lacks ‘his goods’ and ‘first’ but contains ‘his hands,’ as against Mark.

The Coptic text is ambiguous on the object of the intruder’s force: ‘him (or: it)’ in Guillaumont (1959:23), ‘it (or: him)’ in Wilson (Hennecke and Schneemelcher:1.515). But the meaning seems to demand the translation ‘take it by force,’ as in Lambdin (122), and this is again close to Mark. In summary, then, the differences between Mark and Thomas are performancial variations in content within a remarkably similar format.” 

In Fragments, p. 190

Funk and Hoover write: “Thomas preserves this saying, like many others, without any context. In Mark 3:27, the saying is related to the exorcism of demons. However, that may not have been its original reference. The Fellows gave the saying a pink rating because it is not likely to have been attributed to Jesus by the Christian community inasmuch as it is an image of violence. Further, it is attested in three independent sources, Mark, Q, and here in Thomas.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 493


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

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