Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 055 We should hate our family
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 55
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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(55) Jesus said, “Those who do not hate their fathers and their mothers cannot be disciples of me, and those who do not hate their brothers and their sisters and take up their cross like me will not become worthy of me.”
60 . Jesus says: “He who does not hate his father and mother cannot be my disciple; and if he does not hate his brother and sister and does not take up his cross like me, he will not become worthy of me!”
• GThom 101
• Luke 14:25-33 KJV
• Luke 9:23-24 KJV
• Matt 10:34-39 KJV
• Matt 16:24-25 KJV
• Mark 8:34-35 KJV
Marvin Meyer quotes Manichaean Psalm Book 175:25-30 as saying: “I have left father and mother and brother and sister. I have come a stranger for the sake of your name. I have taken up my cross, and I have followed you. I have left the things of the body for the sake of the things of the spirit. I have disregarded the glory of the world for the sake of your glory that does not pass away.”
J. D. Crossan writes:Matt. 10:37-38 had retained three stichs, but Luke 14:26 had reduced the former double-stich saying into one. Gos. Thom. 55 also reduces the three stichs to two, but he does so by incorporating the cross saying within the second stich of the family saying:
Whoever does not hate his father and mother cannot become a disciple to Me, And whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters [cannot become a disciple to Me,] And [whoever does not] take up his cross in My way will not be worthy of Me.
Those lines in parentheses and italicised have dropped from Thomas’s version in a different mode of amalgamation from either Matthew’s or Luke’s.
Gerd Ludemann writes: “The logion is a mixed quotation made up of Matt. 10.37(-38) and Luke 14.26(-27). Thomas has woven the saying about taking up the cross (cf. Mark 8.34 parr.) into the parallelism.”
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “This saying is a combination of Luke 14:26-27 (hating father and mother, brothers and sisters, carrying cross, becoming disciple) with Matthew 10:37-38 (being worthy of me). From Luke, Thomas omits mention of wife and children, perhaps because the Gnostic will have neither; he adds to carrying the cross ‘as I do’ (or ‘like me,’ Doresse, page 177), perhaps because as in John 19:17, Jesus bears his own cross (Simon of Cyrene carries it in the synoptic gospels).”
J. P. Meier writes: “A mixed text resulting from the conflation of Matt 10:37-38 and Luke 14:26-27 is found in the Coptic Gos. Thom. saying 55: ‘Whoever will not hate his father and his mother cannot become a disciple to me; and whoever will not hate his brothers and his sisters and will not carry his cross as I have will not be worthy of me.’
Here we have a parade example of how the Gospel of Thomas melds various phrases from various Synoptic Gospels to create its own form of a Gospel saying. On the whole, the saying is closer to Luke than to Matthew. The phrases ‘will not hate’ [as opposed to Matthew’s ‘love’], ‘his father and his mother’ [with possessive pronouns, reflecting Luke’s heautou, which is not in Matthew], ‘brothers and sisters’ [Matthew has ‘son or daughter’], and ‘cannot become a disciple to me’ comes from Luke.
Yet at the end of the saying we see a clear trace of the redactional tendency of Matthew or his M tradition: ‘will not be worthy of me.’ The key words mathetes (disciple), stauros (cross), and axios(worthy) appear in Greek in the Coptic text. The theme of imitating Jesus carrying his cross, which is implicit in the passages of the Synoptic Gospels, is made explicit by the addition in the Gospel of Thomas: ‘.. . carry his cross as I have.’
On the whole saying, see Fieger, Das Thomasevangelium, 165-67. A similar saying, with a similar conflation of Matt 10:37 and Luke 14:26 and a similar addition of ‘as I,’ is found in Gos. Thom. saying 101. The text, however, is fragmentary, and there is no mention of carrying one’s cross; see Fieger, ibid., 256-57. Fieger’s analysis of the parallels in Gos. Thom. to Mark 8:34-35 parr. shows that it is highly unlikely that Thomas’versions of these sayings are independent of the Synoptics.”
R. McL. Wilson writes: “The wording is certainly nearer to Luke, who alone speaks of ‘hate.’ The differences lie in the omission of any reference to wife and children, and in the substitution of ‘in My way’ (or ‘like Me’) for ‘and come after Me.’ Matthew and Luke evidently give variant translations of the same original saying, and it is therefore possible that what seems at first sight to be a conflation is, in fact, another rendering.
If this be so, the substitution noted is not difficult to explain. Moreover, as Creed has observed, Luke has added ‘and his own soul’ from the sequel in his source. It is therefore possible that the references to wife and children do not derive from the source, but are due to the intensification of the Evangelists; it should be noted that they differ on this point. According to Bartsch the differences compel the assumption of a special tradition independent of the Synoptics, a statement the more remarkable in that he is critical of some of Quispel’s other examples.”