Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 096 A parable of a woman baking bread

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 96

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

(96) Jesus [said:] The kingdom of the Father is like a woman. She took a little leaven, [hid] it in dough, (and) made large loaves of it. He who has ears, let him hear.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(96) Jesus [said], “What the kingdom of the father resembles is [a] woman who took a small amount of leaven, [hid] it in some dough, and produced huge loaves of bread. Whoever has ears should listen!”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

100 [96]. Jesus says: “The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman who put a little yeast [into three] measures of flour and made some big loaves with it. He who has ears let him hear!”

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

• Luke 13:20-21 KJV
• Matt 13:35 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “This parable about the kingdom of the Father, like the one which follows it (Saying 94), compares the kingdom with a woman. The original version, in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21, compared the kingdom of heaven or of God with the leaven which she used. Thomas’s emphasis, as usual, is on the action of the Gnostic, not on the work of God.”

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 187

R. McL. Wilson writes: “Here the kingdom is likened not to the leaven, as in the Synoptics, but to the woman. Grant and Freedman see here a change of emphasis, from the work of God to the action of the Gnostic, but it may be no more than a transmission-variant. More important is the pointing of the contrast between the little leaven and the large loaves; here it is possible that, as Cerfaux suggests, we have an echo of the Synoptic twin parable of the Mustard Seed, but this presupposes that Thomas made use of our Gospels.”

Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 96-97

Joachim Jeremias writes: “Again we are shown a tiny morsel of leaven (cf. 1 Cor. 5.6; Gal. 5.9), absurdly small in comparison with the great mass of more than a bushel of meal. The housewife mixes it, covers it with a cloth, and leaves the mass to stand overnight, and when she returns to it in the morning the whole mass of dough is leavened.” 

The Parables of Jesus, p. 148

Funk and Hoover write: “This is a one-sentence parable in its Q version (Matt 13:33//Luke 13:20-21): ‘God’s imperial rule is like leaven which a woman took and concealed in fifty pounds of flour until it was all leavened.’ Matthew and Luke agree word-for-word in taking the parable over from Q. Thomas, on the other hand, seems to have edited it slightly: the explicit contrast between a little leaven and large loaves has been introduced into the parable. This contrast, found also in Thomas’ version of the parable of the lost sheep (107:1-3) and the parable of the fishnet (8:1-3), is alien to the genuine parables of Jesus.”

The Five Gospels, p. 523

Gerd Ludemann writes: “These verses have a parallel in Matt. 13.33/Luke 13.20-21 (=Q). Their dependence on the Q parable emerges from the abnormal expression that the woman hid (one would have expected the verb ‘knead’) the leaven in the flour. Moreover in the parable in Thomas the woman and her activity are at the centre, and she is meant to be the model for the readers. Finally, at the end the size of the loaves is emphasized (cf. 8.1-3; 107.1-3).”

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 636


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

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