Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 078 The goal of coming out to the countryside

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 78

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

(78) Jesus said: Why did you come out into the field? To see a reed shaken by the wind? And to see a man clothed in soft raiment? [Look, your] kings and your great men, these are the ones who wear soft clothing, and they [will] not be able to know the truth.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(78) Jesus said, “Why have you (plur.) come out into the countryside? To see a reed shaken by the wind? And to see a person dressed in fine apparel [like your] governors and your members of court, who wear fine apparel and cannot recognize truth?”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

82 [78]. Jesus says: “Why did you go out into the country-side? <Was it> to see a reed shaken [by] the wind, and to see a m[an with soft] garments clothing him? [But they are in the dwelling-places of] kings and your great ones, those whom [soft garments] clothe, and they do not know the truth!”

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

GThom 46
• Luke 7:24-30 KJV
• Matt 11:7-15 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: “In the canonical tradition similar words are spoken with reference to John the Baptist (Luke 7.24 f.; Matthew 11.7 f.). Here the reference to John is lost (see Saying 46) and the saying serves to point to a contrast between being well-to-do and knowing the truth.”

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 143

Gerd Ludemann writes: “This verse addresses the readers and calls for asceticism. Only those who do not wear soft clothing will recognize the truth.”

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 629

R. McL. Wilson writes: “Kings and MEGISTANES are mentioned together in Revelation vi. 15, one of the three passages only in the New Testament where the latter word is used. The variation in the position of the verb ‘to see,’ which in the Synoptic parallels is included in the question, is easily explained; commentators have often noted that the Greek text here can be punctuated in two different ways.

This brings us to a point which may be of some significance. The Bohairic and Sahidic versions, both in Matthew and in Luke, agree against Thomas in placing the stop after the verb, which shows that at this point at least they and Thomas present independent translations. Such a variation, however, is possible only on the basis of a written ancient document in which, as was usual in ancient manuscripts, there were no marks of punctuation; if the words were spoken the division of the sentences would be made clear.

We have thus two different interpretations of the same Greek text. It may be that the ambiguitiy can be traced still further back, but this is a question to be decided by specialists in another field. If the ambiguity exists only in the Greek, Thomas in this saying must have drawn either on our Gospels or on a parallel Greek text. In the latter case we may have an extract from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, but this document is something of an unknown quantity.”

Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 63-64


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

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