Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 087 Soul should be independent of body

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 87

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

(87) Jesus said: Wretched is the body which depends on a body, and wretched is the soul which depends on these two.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(87) Jesus said, “Wretched is the body that depends upon a body. And wretched is the soul that depends upon these two.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

91 [87]. He said, he, Jesus: “The body which depends on a body is unfortunate, and the soul which depends on these two is unfortunate!”

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

• GThom 112
• GThom 29

Scholarly Quotes

Funk and Hoover point out that speculation about the relation of body and soul is presented in…

Gal 5:16-18, Rom 8:3-11, and John 3:6.

Marvin Meyer quotes Macarius of Syria, Homily 1.11: “Damn (or, Shame on) the body whenever it remains fixed in its own nature, because it becomes corrupt and dies. And damn (or, shame on) the soul if it remains fixed only in its own nature and relies only upon its own works, not having communion with the divine spirit, because it dies, not having been considered worthy of the eternal life of divinity.” 

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 101

Jean Doresse writes: “No doubt this is to be explained by Luke IX, 57-60 and Matt. VIII, 21-2: ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’ In this case, ‘the body which depends on a body’ is a living person who, through care for earthly obligations, wishes to bury his dead person. ‘The soul which depends on these two’ is the soul of such a person, a living body depending on a dead body.” 

The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, p. 377

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Since Saying 86 is a quotation from Matthew and Luke, we may expect that the present saying is related to something in the context those gospels provide (cf., Sayings 69-70). Indeed, it may well be a Gnosticizing interpretation of the mysterious words reported in Matthew 8:22 (Luke 9:60): ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead.’ All earthly ties must be broken, as in Sayings 80 and 110. So Doresse, page 194. To know the world is to find a corpse (Saying 57).” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 183

F. F. Bruce writes: “This cryptic saying (cf. Saying 112) disparages the mortal body, which is given birth from another body. It is best for the soul to be as independent as possible of bodily life.” 

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 145


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

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