Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 090 Jesus’ yoke is easy

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 90

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

(90) Jesus said: Come to me, for my yoke is easy and my lordship is gentle, and you will find rest for yourselves.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(90) Jesus said, “Come (plur.) to me, for my yoke is easy (to use) and my lordship is mild, and you will find repose for yourselves.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

94 [90]. Jesus says: “Come to me, for my yoke is excellent and my authority is sweet, and you will find rest for yourselves!”

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

• Matt 11:25-30 KJV
DialSav 65-68 (Dialogus Saluatoris)

Scholarly Quotes

Funk and Hoover quote Sir 51:26-27 as the basis of this saying: “You should put your neck into the yoke, and you should accept instruction, which you will find near at hand. See for yourself how little I have laboured; rather, I have found a great deal of rest for myself.”

The Five Gospels, p. 520

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Matthew 11:28-30, has a different order and some different implications. ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened [Thomas omits the italicised words], and I will give you rest [Thomas changes this to ‘you will find rest for yourselves’]. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart[omitted], and you will find rest for your souls [selves]; for my yoke is easy and my burden [Thomas substitutes ‘rule’] is light.’ Thomas wants the invitation to be addressed to Gnostics, not to those burdened by the world (he twice omits ‘burden’) and he wants the emphasis to be placed on the reward of rest, not on the yoke of Christ.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 184

J. D. Crossan writes:Thomas’s version is not dependent on that of Matthew (Sieber:139, as against Schrage, 1964:173). Instead, ‘both go back to wisdom traditions which have been subjected to gnosticizing transformations’ (Betz, 1967:20). Koester has suggested that ‘except for “lordship” instead of “burden” (Matt. 11:30) this shorter version could be more original than Matthew’s’ (1980b:246).

Bauer would agree and even consider that ‘lordship’ could be more original (1961:105). I prefer to follow Koester rather than Bauer primarily because ‘burden’ reappears in Pist. Soph. 95 and Dial. Sav. 141:3-6. Indeed, the force of the aphorism seems intensified if there is some comparison made between heavy or difficult burdens (from elsewhere) and light or easy burdens (from Jesus). I propose, therefore, that, while Thomas’s version is more original than that of Matt. 11:28-30, it is not more original than Matt. 11:28 + 30 since Thomas lacks any equivalent to Q’s ‘all who labor and are heavy laden (burdened).'” 

In Fragments, pp. 257-258


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

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