Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 102 Pharisees impede nourishment
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 102
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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J. D. Crossan writes: “Strictly speaking this is not, of course, a definite variation of Gos. Thom. 39a. But Quispel has said that ‘these words have the sensuousness of good tradition’ (1957:204). And Wilson described it as ‘a similar saying agaisnt the Pharisees’ to Gos. Thom. 39a. He even goes on to say that ‘the fact that it is a proverbial saying need create no difficulty: the originality lies not in the saying, but in its application, in the rapier-like thrust of the attack. These would seem to be grounds for including this among those apocrypha with some claim to authority’ (1960a:76-77).”
J. D. Crossan writes: “The ‘dog in the manger’ is apparently a Greek proverb going back to ‘very ancient times’ (Moravcsik: 85).
(1) It is included among the Greek proverbs attributed to Aesop: ‘a dog lying in the manger who does not eat himself but hinders the donkey from doing so’ (Perry, 1952:276). (2) It is also among the Latin fables as follows: ‘A dog without conscience lay in the manger full of hay. When the cattle came to eat of the hay he would not let them, but showed his teeth in ugly mood. The oxen protested: “It is not right for you to begrudge us the satisfaction of indulging our natural appetite when you yourself have no such appetite. It is not your nature to eat hay, and yet you prevent us from eating it”‘ (Perry, 1952:696; 1965:597). (3) Lucian of Samosata (c. A.D. 125-180) gives the following version in ‘Timon, or The Misanthrope’: ‘Not that they were able to enjoy you themselves, but that they were shutting out everyone else from a share in the enjoyment, like the dog in the manger that neither ate the barley (ton kithon) herself nor permitted the hungry horse to eat it’ (Harmon: 2.342-343). (4) Again, in ‘The Ignorant Book-Collector,’ he says: ‘But you never lent a book to anyone; you act like the dog in the manger, who neither eats the grain (ton kithon) herself nor lets the horse eat it, who can’ (Harmon: 3.210-211). One notes, of course, the inevitable oral variations on dog (male or female), the fodder (hay or grain), and the hindered animals (donkey, cattle, horse).”
R. McL. Wilson writes: “This is of course a familiar fable, and Grant and Freedman give references which show that it was proverbial in the second century. As they say, however, its occurrence in literary or semi-literary sources does not mean that it was otherwise unknown. Thomas might have picked it up anywhere. More important is the question raised by Bauer, as to whether it may not be an authentic saying of Jesus.
As Bauer says, Jesus often made use of popular proverbs, and a possible context in which this saying might have been uttered can be found in Luke xvii. 1 ff. The fact that it is a proverbial saying need create no difficulty; the originality lies not in the saying, but in its application, in the rapier-like thrust of the attack. There would seem to be grounds for including this among those Agrapha with some claim to authenticity.”