Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 074 The cistern is empty


Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 74

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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By:
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

BLATZ1)4CM Translator ID: T87

(74) He said: Lord, there are many about the well, but no one in the well.

LAYTON2)4CM Translator ID: T68

(74) He said, “O lord, there are many around the drinking trough but nothing in the cistern.”

DORESSE3)4CM Translator ID: T81

78 [74]. He said: “Lord, many are round the opening but nobody in the well!”

Funk’s Parallels4)4CM Translator ID: T71

Heavenly Dialogue in Origen Against Celsus 8.15


Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: “This appears to be said by one of the disciples to Jesus. The well is the well of truth: many approach it without getting into it. Celsus, the anti-Christian writer of the second century, quotes the saying (in Greek) from the Heavenly Dialogue of the Ophite Gnostics. [As quoted by Origen, Against Celsus viii. 16. For the general idea compare Saying 23 (p. 124). The form is simiar to that of a Greek mystery-saying quoted by Plato: ‘The wand-bearers are many, but the initiates are few’ (Phaedo 69c).]” 

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 141

Gerd Ludemann writes: “This remarkable aphorism, which Thomas probably attributes to Jesus (or is Jesus the Lord who is addressed?), has an equivalent in the anti-Christian philosopher Celsus (c. 180 CE), who read it in a writing with the title ‘Heavenly Dialogue’. It was in circulation among the Gnostic group of the Ophites (serpent worshippers). There it runs, ‘Why are there many around the well and no one in the well?’ Evidently the aphorism is meant to encourage the Gnostic to stop being a bystander and enter, in order also to be able to drink the water of knowledge.”

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 627

References   [ + ]

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

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