Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 036 What we wear is unimportant

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 36

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

(36) Jesus said: Be not anxious from morning to evening and from evening to morning about what you shall put on.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(36) Jesus said, “Do not worry from dawn to dusk and from dusk to dawn about what you (plur.) will wear.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

41 [36]. Jesus says: “Have no care, from morning to evening and from evening to morning, about what you shall put on.”

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

POxy655 36
• Luke 12:22-34 KJV
• Matt 6:25-34 KJV
DialSav 51-52 (Dialogus Saluatoris)

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

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

[“…] from morning to [evening and] from evening [to mor]ning, nor for [yo]ur [food] that you shall ea[t, nor for your] cloth[ing] that you shall put on. [You are mu]ch super[ior] to the lilies which gor and do [not sp]in. If you have a garment, what do you la[ck?] Who can add to your height? He himself will give you your clothing!”

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

(36) [Jesus said, “Do not be concerned] from morning [until evening and] from evening [until] morning, neither [about] your [food] and what [you will] eat, [nor] about [your clothing] and what you [will] wear. [You are far] better than the [lilies] which [neither] card nor [spin]. As for you, when you have no garment, what [will you put on]? Who might add to your stature? He it is who will give you your cloak.”

Scholarly Quotes

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: “The thirty-sixth Coptic saying, which corresponds to this Oxyrhynchus fragmentary text, is much shorter than the Greek. It may represent a different Greek recension of the Gospel or a deliberate shortening of the text in the Coptic. At any rate, we can only use the Coptic as a control for the restoration of the first few lines of the Greek text.”

Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament, p. 406

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Do not worry about what you will wear (Matthew 6:25; Luke 12:22). ‘Morning and evening’ are presumably Thomas’s substitutes for ‘the morrow’ of Matthew 6:34. In the Greek version more quotations from the gospels are provided (Matthew 6:25, 28, 27; Luke 12:22, 27, 25). This fact may suggest that the editor of Coptic Thomas wanted to remove such obvious traces of his sources.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 152

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: “There is no reason why this form of the saying should not be given the same degree of authenticity that is accorded the canonical versions. E. Jacquier (RB 15 [1918] 116) regarded it as authentic, but J. Jeremias (Unknown Sayings, 86) would consider only the last three lines as authentic. He rejects the rest because he makes of this and the following saying but one unit.

Since the following saying is marked with Gnostic ideas on sexual asceticism, it is not to be regarded as authentic (ibid., 17). However, I do not believe that these two sayings should be treated as one. The change of subject in line 17 is the beginning of a new saying, as is now evident from several similar cases in the Coptic version.

See note on Oxy P 654:32. This saying deals only with excessive solicitude for food and clothing and the correct dependence that the Christian should have on the Father.” 

Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament, p. 407

Funk and Hoover write: “Verses 3-4 are Gnostic additions. Thomas 37 is actually an expansion on these remarks, although 36:3-4 are preserved only in Greek Thomas. The notion that humans will return to the primordial state of sexual non-differentiation when they put off the body (their clothes) is congenial to the developing Gnostic trend. These additions provide a peculiar setting for the sayings in vv. 1-2, but they seem not to have led to the revision of the primary sayings.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 493

Gerd Ludemann writes: “The key to the history of the tradition is provided by that part of the Greek version which goes beyond the Coptic translation. It contains, first, a modification of the Coptic version (underlined); secondly, at the end (= vv. 3-4), a Gnostic interpretation (the symbol of the garment); and thirdly, before that, a part (= v. 2) which recalls Matt. 6.25-31/Luke 12.22-29). As the Gnostic part is certainly secondary, the same conclusion may be drawn about the other pieces. The Coptic translation is probably an abbreviation of a Greek version.” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 608


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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