Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 038 Jesus’ sayings have long been awaited

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 38

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

(38) Jesus said: Many times have you desired to hear these words which I speak to you, and you have no other from whom to hear them. Days will come when you will seek me (and) you will not find me.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(38) Jesus said, “On many occasions you (plur.) have wanted to hear these sayings that I am saying unto you. And you have no one else to hear them from. Days will come when you will seek me, and you will not find me.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

43 [38]. Jesus says: “You have desired many times to hear these words which I say to you, but you could not find anyone else from whom to hear them. The days will come when you will seek me, and when you will not find me.”

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

POxy655 38
• Luke 10:23-24 KJV
• Luke 17:22 KJV
• Matt 13:10-17 KJV
• John 7:32-36 KJV
Iren. Adv. Haer. 1.20.2 (irenaeus adversus haereses)

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

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

“(only a few letters of this passage remain).”

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

(38) [Jesus] said, “[Many times have you desired to hear these words of mine], and [you have no one else to hear (them) from. There will be] days [when you will look for me and will not find me].”

Scholarly Quotes

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The second-century Marcosians, according to Irenaeus (Adv. haer., 1, 20, 2), quoted this saying in a slightly different form. ‘Many times they desired to hear on of these words, and they had no one to tell them.’ The saying may be based on Luke 17:22: ‘The days will come when you desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see.’

As usual, Thomas – or a predecessor – changes what is future in the gospels to present and past. ‘The days will come’ (Luke) when ‘you will seek me and will not find me’ (John 7:34). Here the gospel picture of something future is retained, perhaps because to Gnosticism the eschatological emphasis of Christianity could not be entirely dropped.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 153-154

Manichaean Psalm Book 187:28-29 states: “I have something to say, I have no one to whom to say it.”

Acts of John 98 states: “John, there must be one person to hear these things from me, for I need one who is going to hear.”

Cyprian in Three Books of Testimonies to Quirinus 3.29 states: “For a time will come and you will seek me, both you and those who will come after, to hear a word of wisdom and understanding, and you will not find (me).”

Funk and Hoover write: “In v. 1, Jesus speaks as the redeemer who has descended to earth and ascended to heaven, a scenario central to gnostic myth and speculative wisdom theology. This saying indicates that at a very early date followers of Jesus began to think of him in higly developed mythological terms. The judgment of the Fellows about Thom 38:1 was a unanimous black designation.”

The Five Gospels, p. 494

Gerd Ludemann writes: “Verse 1 has an approximate parallel in Matt. 13.16-17/Luke 10.23-24 (=Q). For v. 2 cf. John 7.34. The logion triest to cope with the absence of Jesus (v. 2) and the disciples’ wish to hear the words of the living Jesus (cf. Prologue; 2; 92.1). It fits the situation of the Thomas community well.”

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 609


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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