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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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

(93) <Jesus said:> Do not give what is holy to the dogs, lest they cast it on the dung-heap. Do not cast the pearls to the swine, lest they make it [ . . . ].

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(93) <JESUS said>, ‘Do not give holy things to dogs, lest they throw them upon the dunghill. Do not throw pearls to swine lest they [. . .].”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

97 [93]. “Give not that which is holy to dogs, in case they throw it onto the dunghill; and cast not pearls to swine, for fear that they should make it [. . .]

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

• Matt 7:6 KJV
Did 9:5 (Didache)

Scholarly Quotes

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].'”

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 103

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.” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 186

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.”

Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, p. 67

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.”

The Five Gospels, p. 522


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

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