Gospel of Thomas Saying 11

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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


(11) Jesus said: This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away; and those who are dead are not alive, and those who are living will not die. In the days when you ate of what is dead, you made of it what is living. When you come to be light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?


(11) Jesus said, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. And the dead (elements) are not alive, and the living (elements) will not die. In the days when you (plur.) used to ingest dead (elements), you made them alive. When you are in the light, what will you do? On the day that you were one, you made two. And when you are two, what will you do?"


11 [11]. Jesus says: "This heaven will pass away, and the hevaen which is above it will pass: but those who are dead will not live, and those who live will not die!" 12 [11]. "Today you eat dead things and make them into something living: <but> when you will be in Light, what will you do then? For then you will become two instead of one; and when you become two, what will you do then?"

Funk's Parallels

GThom 111:1, Ps 102:25-27, Isa 34:4, Luke 16:16-17, Luke 21:32-33, Matt 5:18, Matt 24:34-35, Mark 13:30-31, DialSav 56-57, Hippolytus Refutatio 5.8.32, Heb 1:10-12, Rev 6:12-14.

Visitor Comments

All of reality as you believe it to be is illusion and will pass. Even the illuison of birth and death will be realized as such. You pass through periods of incarnation. Then you return to the spirit world of light. God (One) chose to become (create) two and thus the ten thousand things of illusion. We are all on a mission of understanding and exploring of the nature of the 10,000 things in order to return to the One. Part of the understanding to be achieved is to realize that the One has never ceased to be the One.
- active-mystic

The marvel of this moment will pass into history and die, as will the contemplator of the marvel of this moment. What the intellect creates is dead, and what lives cannot die. During the days that you ate what is dead you made it come alive. When truth is manifest, what will you do? On the day of enlightenment you become an enlightened person. But one cannot be two.
- Simon Magus

1. This appears to be advice as to how, once enlightened, to remain so. It is not easy to still the intellect. It requires determination to do so. Once stilled, the intellect returns and we are again confused as our apprehension of truth is impaired and unity vanishes. It takes practice to bring the intellect to heel.
- Simon Magus

2. Note that there appears to be a literary flaw in the above interpretation because of the disconnect between "Sentence A", which is "During the days that you ate what is dead, you made it come alive" and "Sentence B", which is "When truth is manifest, what will you do?" Note that the most obvious interpretation of "A" is the sacrament of communion. But this is a real-world event which is accessible to historians. This is inconsistent with the spirituality of the rest of the interpretation. But there is a way out of all difficulties. We can read "A" and "B" together as what I'll call "C": During the days when you were traditional Christians, before you knew that this is my gospel, you knew in your heart that there was a deeper spiritual meaning to what you were doing in the sacrament of communion. I, Jesus, now give you that meaning, for which you are now prepared. All truth is now made manifest. A spiritual interpretation of "C" (but applied to the future) is: Henceforth you will understand the meaning of the dead sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, as they come alive to you. In brief, Jesus is recommending to traditional Christians that they henceforth celebrate true communion by studying and trying to understand his gospel.
- Simon Magus

3. Note finally that the interpretation of "C" above again raises the question of how Jesus could have spoken of the Gospel of Thomas. It is clear, I think, that he is "requiring" Christians to believe that he wrote the Gospel of Thomas, not by shaking the finger of authority at them, but by making it impossible for them, or for anybody else who studies the matter, to believe that he didn't write it! Absolutely mind-boggling! Move over, Nicene Creed. The Master has arrived!
- Simon Magus

On the Path one's world view is continually replaced by new ones. When, as a child one learns the dead ways of one's parents, one makes the "dead" alive. When faced with the knowledge of one's innate self, what will one do? As an infant one is one but becomes divided against onesself in trying to please ones parents. As a grownup divided against onesself, what will you do?
- Rodney

There are seven nafs. The two lowest [the commanding nafs] will pass away. If the student has overcome them instead of being ruled by them, he will "live" --- otherwise he dies. BTW, this technical process is the source of the twisted reincarnation notion. You are indeed "reborn" before you [physically] die
- Thief37

This is the Edenic Arcane. Death is the Fruit of the Tree of Life. Eating this fruit is eating what is dead. This is how we brought death to life, and life to death. Those who do not eat this fruit either stay dead (ignorantly happy) or stay alive (knowingly happy). When we were one (Adam) we become two (Adam & Eve), and now we must understand that we must become one before this Heaven (physical body, because Heaven is within), and the one above it (Soul) die (in the Second Death).
- Arrogant

This gospel talks about you becoming two, I believe this is when your body and soul separate and then you are one and your body dies then you go to another heaven where you no longer need to eat what is dead anymore.
- Meg

The enlightened cannot die as they know they are the universe and the universe is one (god). The cycle of life, organic life being eating to fuel organic life, life being one, with the universe which too is alive (god). Coming to the light what will "you" do, you being the false ego; when the enlightened comes into being, where does "you" go (the imaginary you)? "You" can neither go to the light nor escape death. When you were one, the coming into human form, birth, whole and integral but then conditioned in society to and the ego develops (my thoughts, my memories, my desires and wants, seperation from the whole) what will you do when you are two? The confusion and conflict of a divided human, the efforts of "you" (ego) being futile to attain wholeness, will being the enemy of enlightment.
- spacebaby

On the day you were one you became two. This reminds me of how pure in spirit a newborn child is (we are one); then, once we are taught the worldly ways (eat of the dead), we become divided in our obligations to our spiritual life and our material life (we are two). We have to then turn (or abandon) our "dead" ways back into living for purely for our spirit.
- scott

Scholarly Quotes

Jean Doresse writes: "The first part of this paragraph is quoted and commented on by the Philosophumena (V, 8, 31). According to this work, the Naassenes explained it as follows: 'If you have eaten dead things and made them living things, what then will you do when you eat living things? These living things are rational beings, intelligences, men - pearls which the great Being without form has cast into the work of here below!'" (The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, p. 371)

Marvin Meyer writes: "The two heavens will pass away. Presumably the third heaven (the realm of God; compare 2 Corinthians 12:2-4) will not. On the heavens passing away, compare Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; Matthew 5:18 (Q); Luke 16:17 (Q)." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 73)

F. F. Bruce writes: "The first part of the saying reminds us of Matthew 24.35 (cf. Matthew 5.18; Luke 16.17): 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away' - but it is not a close parallel. As for eating dead things, this probably means that when the flesh of dead animals is eaten by human beings it becomes part of a living body (cf. Saying 7). [A similar Naassene saying is quoted by Hippolytus, Refutation v.8.32.] The eating of flesh was probably discouraged, as making it more difficult to attain the light of immortality; the views of a vegetarian Syrian sect called the Encratites may have influenced the tradition in this and some other regards. The words about being one and becoming two refer to the dividing of man into male and female (cf. Saying 4). If sex was to be transcended in the life to come, it was felt best that it should play no part in the present life (this may be a further Encratite trait)." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 117)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "The third part of the saying describes the condition of the Gnostic believer. Those who were formerly divided have been united; they have worked together (Saying 59); they are at peace (49); they have become one (103). Unfortunately, it looks as if becoming 'two' were regarded as the believer's goal. Perhaps it would be best to hold that the present unity of the believers represents their goal, and - in spite of the parallelism of the saying - that the becoming 'two' is something they should avoid. Jesus is not a divider (Saying 72), except in the sense that he divides families into Gnostics and non-Gnostics (Saying 16)." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 130)

Stevan Davies writes: "Those who achieve the excellence Thomas commends are people who live from the living one immortally (sayings 11, 111), while those who do not do so live from the dead and will die (sayings 7, 11, 60, 87)." (http://www.misericordia.edu/users/davies/thomas/jblprot.htm)

Funk and Hoover write: "A number of themes in this complex led the Fellows to conclude that these sayings derive from a form of Christianity exhibiting mild gnostic tendencies. This appears to be the form of Christianity Thomas espoused. The speculative cosmology in 11:1 has parallels in other gnostic texts. The obscure statements regarding life and death in 11:2-3a seem typical of Thomas (Thom 4:1; 58; 101:3; 7; 60), as does the theme of light (11:3b; compare with 24:3; 50:1; 61:5; 83:1-2). 11:4 may refer to a common gnostic idea that humanity has fallen from an original, perfect state of undifferentiated unity (22:4-7). All these considerations suggest that the Thomas tradition is the origin of this complex rather than Jesus." (The Five Gospels, p. 479)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 11

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