Gospel of Thomas Saying 1

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This Gospel of Thomas Commentary is part of the Gospel of Thomas page at Early Christian Writings.

Nag Hammadi Coptic Text

Gospel of Thomas Coptic Text


(1) And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of these words shall not taste of death.


(1) And he said, "Whoever finds the meaning of these sayings will not taste death."


[1.] And he said: "Whoever penetrates the meaning of these words will not taste death!"

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

DORESSE - Oxyrhynchus

And he said: ["Whoever penetrates the mea]ning of these words will not taste [death!"]

ATTRIDGE - Oxyrhynchus

(1) And he said, "[Whoever finds the interpretation] of these sayings will not experience [death]."

Funk's Parallels

POxy654 1, GThom 111, John 8:48-59.

Visitor Comments

These sayings are fasinating! Some are difficult to understand, but if you are truly interested in the words of Jesus, then I believe we may have found them.
- Emily Jackson

It seems that this opening statement says it all. If these are the accurate, and only historical, sayings of Jesus then the mode in which we percieve them is lost to history. Because it stands to reason that if Jesus only taught for a few years before he was killed, then it is unlikly that those around him understood the subtlety of his awareness, hence the current state of christendom. However one might defer to an investigation of the Buddha Dharma in which to gain access and the ability to decode this text.
- Whoda Buddha

Funk and Hoover note to the right that "he" could refer either to Jesus or to the writer of the gospel. The ambiguity dissolves if Jesus was the writer. The rather subtle literary suggestion is that Jesus was the writer. He was, in fact, an excellent writer, which I hope students of this gospel will soon appreciate.
- Simon Magus

The statement is made with the authority of a Knower, not a mere scribe. Jesus is saying that to truly understand what he is showing will shatter the illusion of separation and death.
- A Brother

Death is not to be taken literally, but simply a typical gnostic way of showing spiritual stagnation or degradation. Appealing as it may appear, this verse does not promise immortality.
- pilgrim

Understanding the biblical interpretation of Jesus' words supports the notion of subtlety in his choise of language. The dynamic nature of his simplistic teachings is thus implicit. Why then, do so many scholars and sheep take his words at face face value and not consider that there is more in his teaching than is presented in his words. It is important then, to consider what Brother and Pilgrim have to say. "Death" is not to be considered the physical separation of bady and soul, but the spiritual deterioration. Therefore, those who discover the interpretation of this passage will not find themselves lacking in spirituality. Jesus' words, if considered in this light, gives power to the individual. If that is so, then the structure of The Church then begins to decay. it is no wonder why the Vatican has branded this gospel as heretical. We have been shown that we do not need an interpreter, so cut out the middle-man.
- taurus

Hoo do we ever need a middle man. The best scholars are hard pressed to properly interpret this stuff, and the amateurs don't stand a chance. To suppose that the sayings of Jesus evolved from mystical to pragmatic is pretty far fetched; the synoptic gospels generally portray a Jesus who is practical to perfection. These "heretical" gospels depict an esoteric mystic who would have found it pretty difficult to gather a following in the real world; i.e., these are the words of an invented Jesus, not the real one--not entirely without value for studying the history of the teachings of Jesus, but definitely of inferior quality to that of the canonized gospels, which were selected by much better thinkers than the gnostics.
- BW

Jesus is saying that the word must not be taken at face value, but that the inner meaning must be found through implied deep questioning, and that those who find the inner meaning will not taste death. There is no mention of a middle man.
- devaram

I disagree with BW. The gospels are straight forward and easy to understand--no middle man needed. They are no more enigmatic than the words of Frost or Keller, and in fact much easier to decipher than most modern poets. By your line of thinking, we must assume the gospels were meant for only those who were highly educated, but in fact the gospels were intended for the relatively uneducated masses, as evidenced by their simplistic linguistics.
- intheknow

Jesus did not mean that you or I would not suffer physical death. He meant that through study and practice (meditation, fasting, prayer) you can discover your spiritual essence. Further searching, study, and practice would lead to discovery of joining with that spiritual essence. The discovery and learning how to join with that essence means that you and I do not suffer spiritual death, but are aware of how our spiritual essence continues on past physical death.
- AG

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer quotes Sirach 39:1-3 as a parallel: "But one who devotes one's soul and studies the law of the Most High will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients and will be concerned with prophecies. That person will keep in mind the discourse of reputable men and will go into the subtleties of parables. That person will seek out the hidden things of proverbs and will be occupied with the enigmas of parables." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 68)

F. F. Bruce writes: "This confirms the impression made by the preamble, that the deeper interpretation of the sayings, not their surface meaning, pointed the way of salvation to initiates. The saying is quite similar to John 8.51, where Jesus says, 'If any one keeps my word, he will never see death' - a statement which is taken up and repeated by his interlocutors in the form: 'If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death' (verse 52). But 'keep my word' means basically 'obey my commandment', not 'find its interpretation' - the intention of the Fourth Gospel is essentially ethical, whereas that in the Gospel of Thomas is mainly intellectual." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 113)

Funk and Hoover write: "It is not altogether clear that this saying should be considered a saying of Jesus. The pronoun 'he' could refer either to Jesus or the ostensible compiler of the sayings, Didymos Judas Thomas. At any rate, it refers to the collection of sayings comprising this gospel, and this gospel could not have been known to Jesus. Furthermore, the final line ('not taste death') is a recurring theme in Thomas (18:3; 19:4; 85:2; 111:2) and therefore probably reflects the editorial interest of the compiler." (The Five Gospels, p. 471)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 1

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