Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 113 The kingdom is already spread over the earth
Early Christian Writings Commentary
Title: Gospel of Thomas Commentary: Saying 113
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.”
FAIR USE NOTICE:
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material; the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. For purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
(113) His disciples said to him: On what day will the kingdom come? <Jesus said:> It will not come while people watch for it; they will not say: Look, here it is, or: Look, there it is; but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it.
(113) His disciples said to him, “When is the kingdom going to come?” <Jesus said>, “It is not by being waited for that it is going to come. They are not going to say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is.’ Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and people do not see it.”
117 . His disciples said to him: “On what day will the kingdom come?” “It will not come when it is expected. No one will say: ‘See, it is here!’ or: ‘Look, it is there!’ but the Kingdom of the Father is spread over the earth and men do not see it.”
Marvin Meyer quotes Gospel of Mary 8,11-22 for comparison: “When the blessed one had said these things, he greeted them all, saying, ‘Peace be with you. Acquire my peace for yourselves. Watch that no one mislead you, saying, “Look, here,” or “Look, there,” for the child of humankind is within you. Follow him. Those who seek him will find him. Go, then, and preach the gospel of the kingdom.'”
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: “Once more, as in Sayings 2 and 52, Thomas turns to the favorite text of the Naassenes, Luke 17:20-21 (cf. Hippolytus, Ref., 5, 7, 20-21; 5, 8, 8). This time, however, his emphasis is not on the inwardness of the kingdom but on its presence among men. It is ‘spread out upon the earth,’ just as in Saying 2 it is both within men and outside them (Coptic; Greek has ‘within’ only).
It may be that Thomas has in mind the mysterious ‘sign of extension’ mentioned in the second-century Didache (16, 6) as destined to come in the sky before the end of the world. Other second-century writers (e.g., Justin) find the ‘sign of extension’ (the shape of the cross) present in nature. Perhaps this is what Thomas has in view.”
J. D. Crossan writes: “The first unit  is an implicit dialogue but an explicit antagonism. Jesus and his unspecified hearers are on one side, and ‘your leaders’ are on the other side. Those hearers can hear from their leaders incorrectly but from Jesus correctly. The second unit is an explicit dialogue but an implicit antagonism. Presumably those who ‘do not see’ the kingdom’s presence fail because they are ‘watching/looking’ for its advent. But 113:1-4 taken even by itself implies that ‘the disciples’ are among those ‘people’ who cannot see the kingdom’s presence; otherwise, they would not have asked that question.”
J. D. Crossan writes: “In 113:1-4 there is a double ‘behold/here’ and ‘behold/there,’ followed by a contrasting alternative ‘rather [or: but].’ In 3:1-3 that structure appears as a single but unablanced ‘behold/heaven’ and ‘-/sea’ followed by ‘rather [or: but].’ Is that common construction just coincidence, or are both those sayings diversified versions of the same basic unit?
I answer tentatively in the affirmative because of the delicate parallels in form and structure just mentioned. Furthermore, the move seems to be from 113:1-4 toward 3:1-4 – that is, from criticism of ‘people’ to criticism of ‘leaders’ and from the somewhat clearer ‘the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth’ to the somewhat more enigmatic ‘the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.'”
J. D. Crossan concludes: “In terms of content, it is possible that 3:1-3 and 113:1-4 are two totally separate sayings making, each in its own way, a similar point. But I think it is more probably that they are two versions of the same structural unit: the kingdom of God is not here or there in the future but here and now in the persent. But some, be they ‘people’ or ‘leaders,’ do not accept that position.”
Funk and Hoover write: “There are other echoes [besides Thom 113 and Luke 17:20-21] of this way of putting the arrival of God’s imperial rule. In Thom 3:3, Jesus says, ‘The <Father’s> imperial rule is within you and it is outside you.’ Thom 51:2 is closer to Thom 113:4, ‘What you are looking forward to has come, but you don’t know it.’ In the Gospel of Mary, there is this admonition: ‘Be on guard so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here!’ or ‘Look over there!’
For the seed of true humanity exists within you.’ All these echoes reinforce the conclusion that a cluster of sayings that departed from the customary apocalyptic view was known to emanate from Jesus. It is fortunate for the quest of the historical Jesus that the gospel tradition vacuumed up a great many items that were not entirely congenial to the evangelists and communities that preserved these traditions. The contradictions and disagreements provide the historian with the elementary means of sorting the gospels out.”
Gerd Ludemann writes: “Like 3.1-3, this logion, which echoes Luke 17.20-21, is concerned with the coming of the kingdom of God. It rejects all speculation about the date of its arrival, giving the reason that the kingdom of God is already spread out over the earth, but is not seen by people. Other passages in which Thomas speaks of the presence of the kingdom of God are 46.2; 51, etc.”