Gospel of Thomas Saying 12

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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


(12) The disciples said to Jesus: We know that you will depart from us; who is it who will be great over us? Jesus said to them: Wherever you have come, you will go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.


(12) The disciples said to Jesus, "We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to him, "No matter where you come it is to James the Just that you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist."


13 [12]. The disciples say to Jesus, "We know that Thou wilt leave us: who will <then> be the great<est> over us?" Jesus says to them: "Wherever you go, you will turn to James the Just, for whose sake heaven as well as earth was produced."

Funk's Parallels

Luke 9:46-48, Luke 22:24-27, Matt 18:1-4, Mark 9:33-35.

Visitor Comments

I would agree with Jack Kilmon that this probably represents a part of the earliest recension of Thomas (40 CE or thereabouts). It reflects the way the church was organized during the earliest Nazarene movement, the Judaic proto Christians (although this name would not be used in Jerusalem).
- John Moon

Not necessarily a saying with a meaning fixed in only one time. Rather a statement that we should always be turning to a man of ultimate just nature who in facts resides within each of us. And that heaven and earth were in fact created for the sake of each of us individually. (There is only One of Us!)
- active-mystic

The last phrase is the mystery here because our we become conscious by use of the paralax view of polarity and then literalize the poles. We see "existence" as being and not being; we see being as "heaven" and "earth". What Jesus the Nazarene Essene is saying here is that James is the highest in the levels of awareness and at that level the mind is at one with "I am that I am" and thus it appears from that perspective that heaven and earth have come into existence for that one's sake. The term "for who's sake" does not mean James ordered heaven and earth at the Universal take-out counter; it means, as with Buddha's birth phrase "I alone am the world honored one." James has rached the level of enlightenment that he appreciates that the birth of consciousness in the individual is co-equivalent with the creation of heaven and earth.
- Gregory Wonderwheel

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer refers to the quote of Hegesippus on James the Just in Ecclesiastical History 2.23.4-7 and quotes from Secret James 16:5-11 on his authority: "So, not wishing to give them offense, I sent each one of them to a different place. But I myself went up to Jerusalem, praying that I might acquire a share with the beloved ones who will appear." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 74)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "The answer which Jesus gives is again related to the conversation in the Gospel of John, where Jesus tells the disciples that he is going away to prepare a 'place' for them (John 14:2-3). In Thomas, however, the 'place' is apparently earthly rather than heavenly; it is a place in which they are to go to James the Just, 'for whose sake the heaven and the earth came into existence.' This exaltation of James is characteristic of Jewish-Christian and Naassene tradition . . . it may be derived from the Gospel of the Hebrews. Doresse suggests (page 140) that James may here be regarded as a supernatural power, but there is nothing in Thomas which could favor such an interpretation." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 131)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "The logion recalls the disciples' conversations about status which we know from Mark 9.33-34. To be precise, the saying regulates the succession to Jesus (cf. the Paraclete in John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7 and Peter as the follower of Jesus in John 21.15-17). James is not only given the predicate 'righteous' (cf. Acts 7.52), but is also assigned a role in creation. All these sayings came into being in Jewish-Christian circles where James later became 'the pope of Ebionite fantasy' (H. J. Schoeps)." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 596)

F. F. Bruce writes: "This saying originated in a Jewish-Christian setting where James the Just, Jesus' brother, was regarded as the natural leader of Jesus's disciples after Jesus's departure. James was actually leader of the Jerusalem church for fifteen to twenty years, until his death in A.D. 62; his memory was revered and enhanced by legendary embellishments. Here a high estimate is placed on his person: in Jewish thought the world was created for the sake of the Torah, [Assumption of Moses 1.2; Genesis Rabbah 1.25.] although in one rabbinical utterance 'every single person is obliged to say: "The world was created for my sake."' [TB Sanhedrin 37b]" (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, pp. 117-118)

Robert Price writes: "So to be called the Pillars indicated quite an exalted status. We can see the same sort of godlike veneration reflected in Thomas, saying 12 . . . 'Wherever you come from' refers to the obligation of missionary apostles to check in with a report to James in Jerusalem, another measure of his importance." (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 53)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 12

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