Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 061 Jesus on Salome’s couch
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 61
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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(61) Jesus said: Two will rest upon a bed; one will die, the other live. Salome said: Who are you, man, whose son? You have mounted my bed and eaten from my table. Jesus said to her: I am he who comes forth from the one who is equal; I was given of the things of my Father. <Salome said:> I am your disciple. <Jesus said to her:> Therefore I say: If he is equal, he is full of light, but if he is divided, he will be full of darkness.
(61) Jesus said, “Two will repose on a couch: one will die, one will live. Salome said, “Who are you, O man? Like a stranger (?) you have gotten upon my couch and you have eaten from my table.” Jesus said to her, “It is I who come from that which is integrated. I was given (some) of the things of my father.” <. . .> “I am your female disciple.” <. . .> “Therefore I say that such a person, once integrated, will become full of light; but such a person, once divided will become full of darkness.
65 . Jesus says: “Two will lie down there on one bed: one will die, the other will live.” Salome says: “Who art thou, man; from whom hast thou <come forth,> that thou shouldst lie on my couch and eat at my table?” Jesus says to her: “I am he who has been brought into being by Him who is equal <to me:> I have been given what belongs to my Father!”—”I am thy disciple!” Because of that, I say this: When <a person> finds himself solitary, he will be full of light; but when he finds himself divided, he will be full of darkness.
Excerpts from Theodotus 36:1-2 state: “Indeed, our angels were put forth in unity, they say, being one, because they came forth from one. Now since we were divided, for this reason Jesus was baptized, that the undivided might be divided, until he unites us with them in the Fullness, so that we, the many who have become one, may all be mingled with the One that was divided for us.”
Marvin Meyer writes: “‘as if you are from someone’: literally, ‘as from one.’ The meaning of the Coptic is unclear. It may possibly be understood to mean ‘as if you are from someone special’ (so Harold W. Attridge, ‘Greek Equivalents of Two Coptic Phrases,’ pp. 30-32). Bentley Layton, Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7, 1.74, notes two additional possibilities: The Greek for ‘as a stranger’ may have been mistranslated ‘as from one,’ or the Greek fr ‘as from whom’ may have been mistranslated ‘as from someone.'”
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Unfortunately we do not know what Salome, prominent in the Gospel of the Egyptians, meant by her question, or what Jesus meant by his answer, though it may contain reminiscences of John 5:18 (‘He called God his own Father, making himself equal to God’; cf., Philippians 2:6) and Matthew 11:27 (‘All things have been delivered to me by my Father’ cf., Luke 10:22). If it is the deserted bed which is full of light, we may have a reflection of the Naassene rejection of sexual intercourse (Hippolytus, Ref., 5, 7, 13); see Saying 23 and Commentary.”
Jean Doresse writes: “The main part of this paragraph is taken from some apocryphal gospel (perhaps the Gospel of the Egyptians?). It centres on Salome’s question to Jesus: ‘Who art thou? Where have you come from, to sit on my couch and eat my table?’ (the couch of course being the place where they reclined at table).
Then, this reference to the couch probably led to the artificial addition at the beginning of the sentence, of the passage: ‘Two will lie down on one bed . . .’ The next step was an addition by the editor (another example of such a commentary introduced by the editor is found in 115): from the association of these two texts, he tried to bring out the idea that duality is the source of death and darkness, while unity – isolation, solitariness – leads to light and life.
Thus the phrase: ‘Because of that . . .’ no doubt introduces the editor’s comment: ‘Because of those two sayings (“Two will lie down . . .” and “Salome says . . .”), I will give you the following teaching. . . .'”
Funk and Hoover write of 61:1, “Live or die”: “Most of the Fellows were of the opinion that the version in Thomas was older than the Q version because it is simpler. However, in its Thomean form it was probably a piece of common wisdom: death strikes when we least expect it and rather arbitrarily. Two on a couch probably refers to a dinner party or symposium – a place one is least likely to anticipate death.
This context is confirmed by the remark of Salome in v. 2: ‘Who are you, mister? You have climbed onto my couch and eaten from my table as if you are from someone.’ Jesus is here represented as an intruder at a dinner party.”
Gerd Ludemann writes of 61:3: “Jesus comes from the One, who is equal. Jesus has a divine origin and is equal to God (cf. John 5.18).”
F. F. Bruce writes: “The translation of Jesus’s conversation with her [Salome] is uncertain, but the main point seems to be that the perfect state involves a return to the pristine unity of male and female (cf. Saying 4). ‘He who is the Same’ (others render ‘who is my equal’) is synonymous with the Father of Jesus, who is unchanging perhaps in the sense of being undifferentiated.”
Funk and Hoover write: “Thom 61:5 has no parallels. It picks up themes that are important elsewhere in Thomas, especially the theme of ‘light’ (Thom 11:3; 24:3; 50:1; 83:1-2) and the concept of unity as opposed to division (Thom 11:4; 22:4; 106:1).
The remark here is reminiscent of the claim, in 24:3, that ‘there is light within a person of light.’ Persons of light come from the light, that is, they come from the Father who is light (83:1-2). These themes are characteristic of Thomean Christianity; since they do not have echoes elsewhere in the gospels, they are foreign to Jesus.”
Gerd Ludemann writes: “This verse presents two possibilities: either one is – like God – equal (cf. v. 3) and is filled with light or one is separated from God. Then one is filled with darkness. On the concept of light cf. 11.3; 24.3; 50.1; 83.1-2. The theme of division is mentioned in 72.1-3.”