Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 105 Acquaintance with the father and the mother
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 105
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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Marvin Meyer writes: “This saying may be interpreted as a recommendation that one despise one’s physical parents; compare sayings 55; 101. Book of Thomas 144,8-10 declares, ‘Damn you who love intercourse and filthy association with womankind.’ In Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23.2, evidence may be provided for another interpretation of the saying.
There Irenaeus explains that Simon the Magician’s associate Helena, a prostitute from Tyre, was understood to be the divine thought that was incarnated in body after body and that even became a whore, though she is actually ‘the mother of all.’ In a similar vein, the myth of the soul as presented in the Nag Hammadi text Exegesis on the Soul explains how the soul is raped and abused in the body and how the soul falls into prostitution. Origen may give reason to consider yet another interpretation of the saying.
In Against Celsus 1.28; 32 Origen cites the tradition that Jesus was the illegitimate child of Mary, who ‘bore a child from a certain soldier named Panthera.’ It is known from a gravestone that a Sidonian archer named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera was in fact stationed in Palestine around the time of the birth of Jesus. In this regard perhaps compare John 8:41.”
F. F. Bruce writes: “The point of this saying may be quite problematical. It may imply the denial that Jesus entered the world by such a supposedly unworthy manner as being born of woman. On the other hand, Jesus may be complaining that he himself, who konws his true Father and to be God (cf. John 8.18 ff.) – and possibly his true mother to be the Holy Spirit, as in the Gospel according to Hebrews – is nevertheless stigmatised as being ‘born of fornication’ (according to a probably mistaken interpretation of John 8.41). [The Jews’ protest in John 8.41 (‘we were not born of fornication’) arises from their suspicion that Jesus was repeating Samaritan calumnies about the origin of the Jewish people (cf. verse 48, ‘you are a Samaritan’).]”
Funk and Hoover write: “Parentage played a more important role in individual identity in antiquity than it does in modern Western societies. In Jewish-Christian disputes over Jesus, the charge was often made that Jesus was the illegitimate child of Mary and a Roman soldier. Most of the Fellows took Thomas 105 to refer to that charge and dispute.
If this is indeed the allusion, then Jesus is made to speak here about himself and the special relation that he has to the Father (Thom 61:3) and the Mother (101:3), in both the literal and metaphorical senses. The saying then expresses early Christian reflection on the parentage of Jesus in the context of disputes with rival Judean groups.”