Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 093 Do not give the holy to dogs
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 93
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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Marvin Meyer writes: “Several possible restorations of this passage have been suggested, but none has proven to be convincing. Bentley Layton, Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7, 1.86-87, notes the following suggestions: ‘or they might make [mud] of it’; ‘or they might bring it [to naught’; ‘or they might grind it [to bits].'”
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “The disciples are to seek and to find; but they are not to make public what they have found. The holy is not to be given to dogs; pearls are not to be cast to swine (outsiders are dogs and swine, as the Basilidians taught: Epiphanius, Pan., 24, 5, 2). Gnostics and Christians alike were fond of this mysterious saying (Matthew 7:6).
Both Gnostics (Basilidians; Elchasaites in Hippolytus, Ref., 9, 17, 1) and Christians (Clement of Alexandria, Strom., 1, 55, 3; 2, 7, 4; Origen, Homily on Joshua, 21, 2; Tertullian, De praescriptione, 26 and 41) applied it to secret doctrines, while in the second-century Didache (9, 5) it is referred to the Eucharist, in Tertullian (De baptismo, 18, 1) to baptism. The Naassenes took it to refer to sexual intercourse (Hippolytus, Ref., 5, 8, 33), but Thomas probably does not have this interpretation in mind, at least not here.”
R. McL. Wilson writes: “As Grant and Freedman note, Gnostics and Christians alike were fond of this saying, and it was applied to secret doctrines, to Baptism, and to the Eucharist. For present purposes, however, Bartsch’s comment is perhaps more to the point, that the interpretation of the saying is no longer determined by the lesson it was meant to convey.
It has become a proverb, and the explanator additions are suggested by the saying itself, whereas in the Synoptic parables it is the lesson that is dominant, even to the point of producing such ‘impossible’ illustrations as those of the beam in the eye or the camel passing through the eye of a needle.”
Funk and Hoover write: “The version recorded in Thomas differs both in substance and in form from the Matthean version. First, the lines are not arranged chiastically. Second, the dogs ‘throw them on the manure pile,’ which appears to fit better with what pigs were said to do; the saying may have become garbled in transmission. Unfortunately, the fourth line in Thomas is defective, so we can’t reconstruct what pigs do.”