Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 048 The power of unity
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 48
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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• GThom 106
• Luke 17:5-6 KJV
• Matt 17:19-20 KJV
• Matt 21:18-22 KJV
• Mark 11:20-25 KJV
• 1 Cor 13:2 KJV
• Ign Eph 5.2
(Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians)
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “In form this saying is quite similar to Saying 103, where two, becoming one, become sons of men; they say, ‘Mountain, be removed!’ and it moves. We should infer that making peace with one another is the same thing as becoming one, and it also means becoming ‘sons of men.’ Doresse (page 175) notes that the combination then resembles Matthew 5:9; ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ (Thomas as usual removes a mention of God.)
There is another way of viewing Saying 49 by itself. It clearly begins with something like Matthew 18:19 (‘if two of you agree on earth’), and this verse is parallel to Mark 11:24; but the second part of the saying is parallel to the preceding verse in Mark. One must suppose that the author of Thomas gave close study to gospel parallels, or that he relied on an earlier document in which the parallels had been combined – such as the Diatessaron of Tatian, probably written between 150 and 170.”
R. McL. Wilson writes: “In point of fact, Matthew xviii. 19 is not parallel to Mark xi. 24, and Quispel has claimed that neither Thomas nor the Diatessaron is dependent on the other; both rather go back to a common tradition. A pre-Tatianic harmony, if one existed, might have been used by Thomas, but the Diatessaron itself would in fact appear to be too late, considering the general character of the sayings in this gospel.
Moreover, account must be taken of the point made by Puech, that this saying might appear to be no more than a combination of Matthew xviii. 19 and xxi. 21, but for the fact that it occurs also in the Syriac Didascalia, and therefore seems to belong to a distinct tradition. Quispel ascribes this form of the saying to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and a variant form which appears in logion 106 to the Gospel of the Egyptians: ‘When you make the two one, you shall become sons of man, and when you say: “Mountain, be moved,” it will be moved.'”
F. F. Bruce writes: “This is reminiscent of the promise of an affirmative answer to the prayer of any two who ‘agree on earth about anything they ask’ (Matthew 18.19). A similar promise in Mark 11.24, which does not specify ‘two’, is preceded by the words: ‘whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea”, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him’ (Mark 11.23). The Gospel of Thomas either conflates the two passages, or depends on an earlier compilation or Gospel harmony which conflated them.”
J. D. Crossan writes: “Both Gos. Thom. 48 and 106 retain the apodosis concerning moving the mountain, but each has changed the protasis in different ways. My hypothesis is that the original protasis was about combined (double) prayer but
(a) in 48 it now concerns peaceful coexistence and (b) in 106 it now concerns primordial undifferentiation, both of which are hermeneutical variations on that original theme.
Neither text has any mention of the mountain being cast into the sea, which was also omitted from Matthew’s conflation of Aphorism 122 (Q/Matt. 17:20b = Luke 17:5-6) and Aphorism 23 (Mark 11:23 = Matt. 21:21) in Matt. 17:20. I do not see any direct contact between Matt. 17:20 and Gos. Thom. 48 or 106, but simply a common tendency to mute just a little the startling hyperbole of the aphorism’s promise.”