Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 069 The internally persecuted and the compassionate are blessed
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 69
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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(69) Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted in their hearts. It is they who have truly come to be acquainted with the father. Blessed are they who hunger for the belly of the needy to be satisfied.”
73 . Jesus says: “Blessed are those who are persecuted in their hearts. They are those who have known (?) the Father in truth! Blessed are those who are hungry, because they will satisfy their bellies to <their> content!”
• Luke 6:22-23 KJV
• Luke 6:21a KJV
• Matt 5:10-12 KJV
• Matt 5:6 KJV
Marvin Meyer writes: “In Who Is the Rich Man? 25, Clement of Alexandria asserts that ‘the most difficult persecution is from within,’ from pleasures and passions: ‘The one being persecuted cannot escape it, for he carries the enemy around within himself everywhere.'”
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Like Saying 69 , this one is based on gospel Beatitudes. From the blessing on those who are persecuted (Matthew 5:10), Thomas turns to add materials taken from Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’; for him the vision of God is equivalent to knowing ‘the Father in truth’ (knowing and worshipping the Father in truth, John 4:22-23). Then he goes back to Matthew 5:6 (hungering for righteousness, being filled), though with the parallel verse in Luke (6:21) he omits ‘for righteousness.'”
R. McL. Wilson writes: “In both cases [68 and 69] Grant and Freedman see only development from our Gospels; if they are right it is interesting, in view of the Naassene tendency to reversal of order, to note that we have in logion 69 elements from Matthew v. 10, 8 and 6 in that sequence. Bartsch sees in logion 68 a type of expansion which has already begun in Matthew, and notes further development in 1 Peter iv. 14-16. Quispel, however, finds parallels in the Clementines and in Polycarp, which may point to a common tradition, but these must be closely scrutinized.”
Funk and Hoover write: “There were probably at least four beatitudes in Jesus’ repertoire (poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted: Luke 6:20-22). The formulation of the fourth in Q, which has been preserved here in Thomas in slightly different forms (Thom 68, 69:1), has been influenced by the persecution of the members of the Christian community after Jesus’ death.
In both its Thomean versions, the saying has been modified to suit the perspectives of Thomas. Scholars have not determined what ‘and no place will be found, wherever you have been persecuted’ means, and so cannot determine whether it could have originated with Jesus.
The term ‘place,’ however, appears elsewhere in Thomas with special significance (for example, Thom 4:1; 24:1; 60:6; and 64:12, where Jesus is made to say, ‘Buyers and merchants will not enter the places of my Father’). The wording in 69:1 is clearly Thomean, since knowing the Father is the goal of Christians for Thomas.”
Gerd Ludemann writes: “The statement about persecution in the heart is unclear; perhaps the Coptic translator has mistranslated the text ‘Blessed are the persecuted who are of a pure heart’ (cf. Matt 5.8). Thomas has here introduced the key word ‘persecute’ from Logion 68. The second part of v. 1 certainly comes from him since to attain the ‘knowledge of the Father’ is one of the goals of Thomas (cf. 50.2-3).”