Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 081 The rich should reign and renounce

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 81

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

(81) Jesus said: He who has become rich, let him become king, and he who has power, let him renounce (it).

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(81) Jesus said, “The one who has become rich should reign. And the one who has power should renounce.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

85 [81]. Jesus says: “Let him who has become rich reign, and let him who has strength refrain <from using it>!”

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

GThom 110
• Luke 18:24 KJV
• Matt 19:23 KJV
• Mark 10:23 KJV
• 1 Cor 4:8 KJV
Dialogue of the Savior 20

Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: “This saying either disparages material wealth and power, or commends true wealth and power in the spiritual realm (cf. Saying 2); he who has the latter will renounce the world.”

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 144

Funk and Hoover write: “This paradoxical saying is a puzzle to interpreters of the Gospel of Thomas. The first half seems to condone worldly values, the second half to condemn them. Thom 110 is similar, except that the paradox is lacking. The term ‘reign’ in v. 1 may be a key to understanding the saying. ‘Reign’ elsewhere in Thomas is a technical term (in Thom 2:4, those who seek will find, they will then be disturbed and marvel, and finally, they will ‘reign over all,’ a final state that corresponds to salvation), but, even so, the meaning of the saying is far from clear.

The use of paradox fits generally into the Thomean pattern, which is also characteristic of some of the genuine sayings of Jesus. However, the Fellows could not fit the first part of the saying it no what is known about Jesus from other sayings and parables, so it was designated black. The second half sounded more like something Jesus might have said; this possibility produced a gray vote.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 517

Gerd Ludemann writes: “‘Become rich’ refers in a metaphorical sense to knowledge (cf. 3.5). The one who has knowledge should be king (cf. 2.3).” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 630

Gerd Ludemann writes: “This verse requires renunciation on the part of the one who has worldly power, so that he enters into the state denoted in v. 1.”

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 631


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

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