Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 099 Jesus’ true family

Early Christian Writings Commentary

Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 99

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

(99) The disciples said to him: Your brothers and your mother are standing outside. He said to them: Those here who do the will of my Father, these are my brothers and my mother; they are the ones who will enter into the kingdom of my Father.

LAYTON[2]4CM Translator ID: T68

(99) The disciples said to him, “Your brothers and your mother are standing outside.” He said to them, “It is those who are here and who do the will of my father that are my siblings and my mother. It is they who will enter the kingdom of my father.”

DORESSE[3]4CM Translator ID: T81

103 [99]. The disciples said to him: “Thy brethren and thy mother are there outside.” He said to them: “You and (?) those (?) who do the will of my Father, they are my brethren and my mother; it is they who will enter the Kingdom of my Father.”

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

• Luke 8:19-21 KJV
• Matt 12:46-50 KJV
• Mark 3:20-22 KJV
• Mark 3:31-35 KJV
GEbion 5 (Gospel of the Ebionites)

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer quotes from Gospel of the Ebionites 5: “Furthermore, they (that is, the Ebionites) deny that he (that is, Christ) was a human being, apparently from the saying that the savior spoke when it was reported to him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside’: ‘Who are my mother and brothers?’ And extending his hand toward the followers, he said, ‘These are my brothers and mothers and sisters, who do the will of my father.'”

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 99

R. McL. Wilson writes: “Quispel claims a parallel in the Gospel of the Ebionites, but to this Bauer objects. Comparing the whole saying, he concludes that there is nothing which could not have come from the canonical Gospels.

Nevertheless there are differences: Jesus’ informants, anonymous in the Synoptics, are here the disciples; the saying as a whole is shortened, a process already begun in Luke; there is no reference to sisters, again as in Luke, and ‘brethren’ are mentioned first, against all our Gospels; finally Thomas reads the plural with Luke (‘those who do the will’), but retains the order of Matthew and Mark; the closing words may be no more than explanatory expansion.

Here, as elsewhere, it would probably be wrong to think of direct literary dependence; for an author to piece together the Synoptic material in this way, for no apparent purpose, would be a monumental waste of time and trouble. The most probable explanations once again are either the use of a Gospel harmony of some kind, free quotation from memory, or independent tradition.”

Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 115-116

Helmut Koester writes: “As in the previous example, Thomas’s text is a brief chria, lacking any of Mark’s elaborate introductory setting of the stage and discourse. Thomas also does not share Mark’s peculiarity of stating the answer in the form of a rhetorical question. Thus Thomas’s version of this pericope, except for the secondary conclusion, corresponds to its more original form.” 

Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 110

Funk and Hoover write: “‘Mother and brothers’ may refer to the gentiles, who became Jesus’ true relatives, in contrast to the Judeans, who rejected him and thus became outsiders. Or, Jesus’ true relatives may reflect the competition in the early movement between Jesus’ blood relatives, such as his brother James, who became leaders of the group, and those who were not blood relatives, who claimed direct commission from the risen Jesus.

The apostle Paul would be an example of the latter. Finally, the contrast may point to an actual incident during Jesus’ life. On one occasion his family may have attempted to take him away because they thought he had lost his mind (in Mark 3:20 we are told that his family thought he was demented). The Fellows were divided on which of these three scenarios should be used to interpret the saying. A healthy majority chose the third, which produced a pink vote here, as in the corresponding version in Matthew (12:46-50).”

Matthew 12:46-50 KJV


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

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