Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 103 A parable of a landowner and brigands
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 103
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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• GThom 21:3
• Luke 12:39-40 KJV
• Matt 24:37-44 KJV
• 1 Thess 5:2 KJV
• 2 Pet 3:10 KJV
• Rev 3:3 KJV
• Rev 16:15 KJV
Gerd Ludemann writes: “The beatitude picks up the woe from the previous logion. The logion is a free version of 21.5-7; Matt. 24.43-44/Luke 12.39-40 (=Q). It puts a new emphasis on the Q parallel by indicating the place (and not the time) of the attack. Perhaps Thomas could interpret this logion in a Gnostic way, starting from ‘know’.”
J. D. Crossan writes: “There are five major differences betwewen this version  and the preceding one .
(a) The form of 21c was metaphor succeeded by application, that of 103 is beatitude, beginning with the Greek loan-word makarios. (b) In 21c the protagonist is a householder, but in 103 he is simply a man, and there is no mention at all of a house. (c) In 21c the metaphor mentions a singular thief, but the application mentions the plural brigands or robbers. In 103 there is only mention of brigands or robbers, using the same Greek loan-word as earlier in 21c. (d) In 21c it is a question of knowing the time of attack, but in 103 it is the place of attack that is in question. There is, however, a textual problem here. The Coptic reads literally: ‘Blessed is the man who knows in what part the robbers are coming’ (Wilson, 1973:521). The problem is whether ‘part,’ using the Greek loan-word meros, is to be taken as ‘part (of the property),’ that is, ‘where’ (so Lambdin: 129), or ‘part (of the night),’ that is, ‘when’ (so Guillaumont, 1959:52-53). I am accepting the Lambdin interpretation because there are enough other differences between Thomas and Q on this saying to render intrusions from Q into Thomas on this point at least doubtful. (e) This is also an important point but it depends on an even greater textual problem, one of restoration rather than interpretation. In 21c the phrase ‘his house of his domain’ (tefmentero) appears, as was seen earlier. In 103 the protagonist sets out to ‘muster his menet [. . .].’ That is, the object of that action is uncertain because of a bad tear in the manuscripts outside top corner. Most translators attempt no reconstruction after ‘his.’ They simply leave a gap. But Lambdin proposes reading ‘muster his domain,’ presuming menter (domain, kingdom) as the missing word. If that reconstruction is correct, it is an important connection between 21c and 103, and it would indicate that 103 has infiltrated the application not only by the plural ‘robbers’ or ‘brigands,’ but also by the term ‘domain’ or ‘kingdom.’ I find this reconstruction very appealing, but there is a major problem in that the manuscript’s photographic copy evidences a fourth letter after that opening triad (mnt), a fourth letter that is mostly lost in the lacuna but which could not be e or r. Accordingly, although I accept Lambdin’s ‘muster his domain,’ I do so with some doubts.”
J. D. Crossan continues: “But even apart from that reconstruction, it is now clear that there are important content differences between Gos. Thom. 21c and 103.
(a) That latter text concerns a man knowing the place where brigands will invade his property. Place, not time, is what is important. The former text concerns a householder knowing that a thief is going to attack his house. One could presume here that time (when) rather than place (where) is the significant point. But I would emphasize that time is not explicitly mentioned within the metaphor itself and that place would seem even more indicated in the application (‘find a way to come to you’). (b) That application in 21c links even more closely with the distant image in 103 than with the proximate and preceding one in 21c itself. One sees, in other words, a slight movement from explicit place in 103 to implicit time in 21c’s metaphor, but with 21c’s application still capable of moving in either direction.”