Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 060 A parable of a Samaritan and a lamb

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 60

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

(60) <They saw> a Samaritan carrying a lamb, who was going to Judaea. He said to his disciples: (What will) this man (do) with the lamb? They said to him: Kill it and eat it. He said to them: While it is alive he will not eat it, but (only) when he kills it (and) it becomes a corpse. They said to him: Otherwise he cannot do it. He said to them: You also, seek a place for yourselves in rest, that you may not become a corpse and be eaten.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(60) <THEY SAW> a Samaritan carrying a lamb as he went into Judaea. He said to his disciples, “This <. . .> . . . the lamb.” They said to him, “So that he might slaughter it and have it to eat. He said to them, “He will not eat it while it (or he) is alive, but rather when he has slaughtered it so it becomes a carcass.” They said, “Otherwise, he cannot do it?” He said to them, “You (plur.), too, seek for yourselves a place of repose, lest you become a carcass and be devoured.

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

[60. Doresse 64 continued.] Just then a Samaritan was going into Judea carrying a lamb. He <=Jesus> said to His disciples: “What <will> this man <do> with the lamb?” They answered: “He will kill it and eat it!” But he said to them: “He will not eat it as long as it is still alive, but only if he kills it and it becomes a corpse.” They said to him: “In no other way will he hurt it!” <Then> he said to them: “You yourselves, then, seek a place of rest so that you do not become corpses and are eaten!”

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

GThom 11:1
POxy654 7
GThom 7

Scholarly Quotes

Jean Doresse writes: “This dialogue recalls a notion found in the apocryphal II Epistle of Clement: ‘The Lord said indeed: You shall be as lambs in the midst of wolves! Peter replied: And if the wolves rend the lambs? And Jesus said to Peter: After their death, the lambs have nothing further to fear from the wolves.

You also, fear not those who kill you and cannot then make you suffer anything further. But fear him who after your death has power to cast your soul and your body into the Gehenna of fire! Know then . . . that the promise of Christ is great . . . as also the Repose of the Kingdom . . .!'” 

The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, p. 375

Helmut Koester writes: “But at least one correction in the translation of the parable of the Samaritan Carrying a Lamb, suggested by Hans-Martin Schenke, needs to be emphasized: Gos. Thom. 60 is usually translated ‘They saw a Samaritan carrying a lamb on his (i.e., the Samaritan’s) way to Judea.’ But the text should certainly be restored to provide the following translation: ‘He (i.e., Jesus) saw a Samaritan carrying a lamb, when he (i.e., Jesus) was on his way to Judea.'” 

Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 106

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “It may be that Jesus is the lamb, but the details of the saying remain incomprehensible. More probably, the lamb is the world (see Saying 6 and Commentary). Note that the ‘place’ of rest is ‘within,’ as in Saying 25.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, pp. 166-167

Funk and Hoover write: “This is a complex dialogue culminating in the obscure saying in v. 6. The words attributed to Jesus in vv. 2 and 4 are probably incidental dialogue (holes in the manuscript make the text difficult to interpret) and so are the creation of the storyteller. The meaning of the pronouncement in v. 6 is unknown.

The term ‘rest’ is a special Thomean or gnostic category, meaning ‘salvation’ (the term is discussed more fully in the comments on Thom 51:1-2). The saying as a whole is reminiscent of Thomas 7, which is also probably the invention of Thomas or his community.

For the Thomean use of the term ‘carcass’ compare Thomas 58. All of these are reasons for thinking Thomas 60 is the special language of Thomas and not Jesus. In addition, there is no trace of this kind of language elsewhere in the words attributed to Jesus.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 506

Gerd Ludemann writes: “The meaning of this logion consisting of a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples is obscure. Nevertheless it is certain that ‘alive’ (v. 4) is a key word linking it to Logion 59 and Logion 58. The Gnostics are to seek a place of rest (= salvation) for themselves (v. 6), so that they are not consumed by the world, like the lamb, and become a corpse. As the living beigns that they are they cannot be eaten and become corpses (v. 4).” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 620

Stevan Davies writes: “This theme is peculiar to Thomas in early Christian writing. It stems from the observation that people do not eat living animals but dead ones (saying 60), an observation contrasted with the possibility of eating that which is living, which would entail living from the living one rather than from dead animals (saying 111).” 


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

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