Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 085 Adam was not worthy of us

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 85

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

(85) Adam came into being out of a great power and a great wealth, and he was not worthy of you; for if he had been worthy, [he would] not [have tasted] of death.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(85) Jesus said, “It is from a great power and a great wealth that Adam came into being: and he did not become worthy of you (plur.). For, had he been worthy [he would] not [have tasted] death.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

89 [85]. Adam was produced by a great power and a great wealth; but he did not receive (?) [. . .] worthy (?) of you, for he was not worthy [to (?)] be preserved from [being subject (?)] to death.”

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

• Gen 1:26-28 KJV
• Gen 3:17-19 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer writes: “On ‘great power’ compare Acts 8:9-10, which refers to Simon the Magician, who was said to be ‘the power of God that is called great.’ The Nag Hammadi tractate Concept of Our Great Power also discusses the ‘great power,’ the Secret Book of John alleges that Yaldabaoth took ‘great power’ from his mother, Wisdom, and magical texts likewise employ the phrase ‘great power’ to refer to a supernatural force.

In the tractate On the Creation of the World 148, Philo uses the same Greek word for ‘power’ (dynamis) that is used in the Coptic text of Gospel of Thomas saying 85 when he suggests that ‘there was probably a surpassing power about that first human.'”

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, pp. 100-101

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Doresse (pages 192-93) treats his equivalent of Sayings 83 and 84 together, but it would be better to treat 83, 84, and 85 as a unit. We begin with Saying 85. We know that Adam originated from a great power and great wealth because he was a copy of the ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ of god; he was both male and female (Genesis 1:26-27).

He was not worthy of Gnostic believers, however, for he sinned – by increasing and multiplying, by being divided into male and female when Eve was taken from his rib. (Eve mus trutrn to Adam, as in Saying 112 [114].) Apparently (Saying 84), men in general can see the ‘likeness,’ which they still retain. Not all can see the ‘images,’ for to see the image is to see Christ, which means to see the kingdom and, indeed, the inner man.

This true image neither dies nor is openly manifest. At this time the image cannot be seen openly or perfectly; it is fully seen only after death (1 Corinthians 13:12, quoted by Doresse). Saying 83 explains why the image cannot be fully seen now. The image contains light (see Saying 51), but this light is overshadowed by th eimage of the light of the Father (cf., 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6). Later, however, ‘If he is manifest we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2). If this is what these sayings mean, Thomas has expressed it rather obscurely, using image terminology perhaps like that of the Naassenes (Hippolytus, Ref., 5, 8, 10).”

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 181-182

Funk and Hoover write: “In developing the significance of Jesus, early Christians often used the mythic figure of Adam as a point of comparison. One finds this especially in Paul (Rom 5:12-14; 1 Cor 15:21-22, 42-50): in contrast to Adam, whose sin led to death, stands Jesus, whose obedience leads to life. The fate of Adam, according to Thom 85:2, was death; the fate of those who find the meaning of Jesus’ words will be not to taste death, according to Thomas 1. The phrase ‘not taste death’ is a favorite of Thomas (Thom 1; 18:3; 19:4; 111:2), although it was also known to the Gospel of John (8:51-52).” 

The Five Gospels, p. 518

Stevan Davies writes: “Death occurs to Adam, not to the image of God (Gos. Thom. 85; Gen 3:19). The compiler of the Gospel of Thomas understands the first chapters of Genesis in their plain sense, that there are two creations of primordial humanity: the image of God brought forth in Gen 1:1-2:4, Adam created in Gen 2:5-3:24.

For the first, the image of God, there is neither law nor sin, nothing that would require prayer or fasting or giving of alms (Gos. Thom. 14, 104). The image of God has dominion over the perfect kingdom of God, living through the light of creation (Gen 1:3-4) in a condition of rest and immortality.”


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

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