Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 098 A parable of an assassination

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 98

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

(98) Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a man who wanted to kill a powerful man. He drew the sword in his house and drove it into the wall, that he might know his hand would be strong (enough). Then he slew the powerful man.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(98) Jesus said, “What the kingdom of the father resembles is a man who wanted to assassinate a member of court. At home, he drew the dagger and stabbed it into the wall in order to know whether his hand would be firm. Next, he murdered the member of court.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

102 [98]. “The Kingdom of the Father is like a man who wants to kill an important person. In his house he unsheathed the sword and stuck it in the wall to assure himself that his hand would be firm. Then he killed the person.”

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

• Luke 14:31 KJV

Scholarly Quotes

Joachim Jeremias writes: “Just as this political assassin first makes a trial of his strength before he embarks on his dangerous venture, so should you test yourselves to see whether you have strength to carry the adventure through.”

The Parables of Jesus, p. 197

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “It is better to compare the kingdom of the Father with a man (as here) than with a woman (as in the two sayings preceding this one); see Saying 112 [114]. The parable vaguely reminds us of Saul’s throwing his spear at David, in the Old Testament, but Thomas is not interested in Old Testament allusions. It is more like the parable of the king going into battle who first makes an estimate concerning his prospects (Luke 14:31). He who would find the kingdom must first count the cost. If he is strong enough, he can slay the ‘great man’ (probably the world; see Saying 78).” 

The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 188

F. F. Bruce writes: “This parable, also unparalleled in the canonical tradition, may have come from a period when Zealot activity gave it contemporary relevance. The point seems to be that any one who embarks on a costly or dangerous enterprise must first make sure that he has the necessary resources to carry it out. There may be a link with the strong man whose house is ransacked in Saying 35.”

Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 148

Gerd Ludemann writes: “The parable appears only at this point in the early Christian Jesus tradition. It has a high degree of offensiveness, since as in Luke 16.1-7; Matt. 13.44; Matt. 24.43-44/Luke 12.39 Jesus uses an immoral hero to make a statement about the kingdom of God. Cf. in addition the original version of the saying about ‘men of violence’ in Matt. 11.12/Luke 16.16 (= Q) as a further example of Jesus being deliberately offensive in what he says. . . . The parable is authentic. Because of its offensiveness it probably fell victim to moral censorship at an early stage and therefore does not appear in any other text.” 

Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 637

Funk and Hoover write: “It appeared to some of the Fellows that the story line of the parable originally had to do with reversal: the little guy beats the big guy by taking the precautions a prudent person would take before encountering the village bully. This, together with the scandalous nature of the image, prompted a majority of the Seminar to vote red or pink on the third ballot.” 

The Five Gospels, p. 525


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

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