Gospel of Thomas Saying 7

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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


(7) Jesus said: Blessed is the lion which the man eats, and the lion will become man; and cursed is the man whom the lion eats, and the lion will become man.


(7) Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion that the human being will devour so that the lion becomes human. And cursed is the human being that the lion devours; and the lion will become human."


7 [7]. Jesus says: "Blessed is the lion which a man eats so that the lion becomes a man. But cursed is the man whom a lion eats so that the man becomes a lion!"

Funk's Parallels

POxy654 7.

Visitor Comments

The sense of 7 becomes clear from H.M.Jackson, The Lion Becomes Man, SBL:DS 81, 1985. There ia also a quotation of 7b in Didymus of Alexandria.
- Dieter Lührmann

You are what you eat!
- Nutinliket

The wicked world or the prince of this world is the lion. The man is oneself. The man has his own choice to choose whether win over the world just as Jesus showed us as example, but if the man kneel down to serve this world (lion), then this man become a lion, which is the same as this world.
- laijon

Animals are closer to God than humans(therefore blessed)because they have no egos (free-will) or minds to interfere with that relationship. They respond as created. But at some point in the future when the spiritual dimension prevails, animals and humans (dualities) will be one.
- iver

Not all knowledge is benificial. It depends on the type of knowledge (Lion-power, passionate, art / Human-rational/science) and how the knowledge is used (again lion/human goals).

Blessed is the Godless world, which Jesus will consume. For in being consumed by Jesus the Godless world will become humanized. Cursed is Judas, which the Godless world will consume. And the Godless world will become humanized.
- Simon Magus

Can something be good and bad at the same time - it depends on your vantage point - very oriental as is much of Thomas as I believe was the outlook that the Christ offered.
- Tao

If you conquer your inner evil thoughts and deeds (eating the lion) then you'll become a better person--a person of God. If you give in to the evil ways then it will comsume you and you will be evil.
- Holly

"Lion" means "instinct" in this saying, and you know that our primary instinct is the fear. So the lion who eats the man is the man who has been defeated by his own fears. Man must to dominate (eat) that fear and use it wisely for his own benefit and that fear will be part of him, it will help him in the future. Don´t be eaten by your fears.
- Dark Soul

As far as the comment of animals being blessed it seems almost a negative viewpoint of animals is taken here. Where humans are more than animals and that we are above them, almost in a reincarnation viewpoint where humans are above animals in the path to nirvana or heaven. This is also seen in some of the other sayings as well.
- wondering

I agree with holly about eating the lion. It seems to me when you look at what the lion must have represented to someone then, it would likely represent aggression or fear or both. So, it could be said "You are holy when you consume your aggression/fear, but not holy when you are consumed by your aggression/fear".
- Christopher

Just who the hell eats lions anyway? This saying ain't about food! And who gets eaten by lions? Let's say... Ignatuis of Antioch? Maybe this saying is a commentary on the value (or non value) of martyrdom. Ignatius speaks in his letter to the Romans about wanting the lions to eat him so that he can become a sacrifice like Christ did, ensuring his passage to heaven. But this saying takes the value away from such thinking. If a lion eats you as in 7B, then the lion becomes human. And what happens to you? According to this saying you are cursed. What a put down for Iggy.

On the other hand there is that odd language in the gospel of John where Jesus talks about his disciples eating him and drinking his blood. If Jesus were the lion in 7a then eating him would make him become a part of you. So for salvation's sake, it is much better to eat the Lion then being eaten by just any old lion. Therefore prying open a lion's mouth and jumping inside like Ignatius did is of no value for becoming one with Christ.
- sophias_child@hotmail.com

Perhaps the Lion is mind and the human is the soul or that which (we hope) makes us more than human. For the soul to devour (or dominate) the mind is blessed. For the reverse to happen is cursed. But either way it is the soul that will in the end endure.
- Jamey

Whatever the lion is - passion, power, kingship, domination - it is better to assimilate this into human consciousness rather than be driven by it. However, either way, the two (lion and man) become one. There is a compassionate and nonjudgmental wisdom in this that sounds like Jesus to me.
- Arizona

Conquer your ego (the lion or animal instincts) through feeding the real you (the Soul or Spirit). Feeding the Soul is done by meditation. If you indulge your animal passions then they will dominate your Soul (Consciousness)and you will have to reincarnate to try again.
- Condor

A thought came to mind. Believing the lion to be passions (good and evil passions) blessed is a righteous passion and a man eats (feeds) and that man becomes the passion. Cursed is the man who allows his passions or desires to consume him for he is now driven by them. The soul's struggle between selfishness and righteousness.
- losttraveler

This is most likely a clue about the falsehood of death. Death is but an illusion perceived by humanity, and when we die we must realize that we live on in whatever we are "consumed" by. We have the same matter inside of us that existed from the dawn of the universe, we are the continuation of all creation that has never ended. Just as we are the continuation of all that lived before us that we have "consumed" into us, we will be continued in all others that "consume" us. The curse mentioned seems to be humorous, as it states that we are to perceive our unfortunate death, but yet we continue, unbeknownst to our illusioned selves, in the lion!
- One

There are things that can be beneficial to us if consumed in wise amounts and directed toward that purpose. However, when we become fascinated by them for their own sake, we become gluttons to the world and enslaved by general lusts...consumed by the lion and fallen into degradation.
- Spirit Song

I believe the lion may be a symbol of evil things or the evil in the world and if your faith is weak that evil can devour you and then you become the evil.
- Meg

Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: "The point of this seems to be that a lion, if eaten by a man, is ennobled by rising in the scale of being, whereas a man, if eaten by a lion, is degraded to a lower status than was originally his and may even risk missing the goal of immortality. It is not that we become what we eat but that what we eat becomes part of us (as in Walter de la Mare's poem 'Little Miss T-'). Whether, in addition, there is any special symbolism in the lion, as in 1 Peter 5.8 ('Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour'), is exceedingly difficult to determine." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 115)

Funk and Hoover write: "This saying is obscure. In antiquity the lion was known to be powerful and ferocious. Hunting lions was the sport of kings. The lion was often the symbol of royalty. The winged lion figures in apocalyptic visions, sometimes as the consort of God, at other times as a symbol of evil. In Rev 4:7, the four figures that surround the throne are the lion, the young bull, the human figure, and the eagle. These images were later adopted as symbols of the four canonical evangelists; the winged lion specifically became the symbol for the Gospel of Mark." (The Five Gospels, p. 477)

Funk and Hoover continue: "The lion was also used to symbolize human passions. Consuming the lion or being eaten by the lion may therefore have had to do with the relation to one's passions. Understood this way, the saying embodies an ascetic motif. At any rate, Jesus, who was reputed to be a glutton and a drunkard, probably did not coin this saying." (The Five Gospels, p. 477)

Marvin Meyer writes: "This riddle-like saying remains somewhat obscure. In ancient literature the lion could symbolize what is passionate and bestial. Hence this saying could suggest that although a human being may consume what is bestial or be consumed by it, there is hope for the human being - and the lion. In gnostic literature the ruler of this world (Yaldabaoth in the Secret Book of John) is sometimes said to look like a lion. This saying may ultimately be based upon statements in Plato, for instance his comparison (in Republic 588E-589B) of the soul to a being of three parts: a many-headed beast, a lion, and a human being. Plato recommends that the human part of the soul (that is, reason) tame and nourish the leonine part (that is, the passion of the heart)." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, pp. 71-72)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "Verse 1 is about the humanization of bestial forces in human beings, v. 2 about human beings lapsing into a bestial nature. Because of the parallelism, I have emended the text in v. 2b, 'and the lion will become man', to the text above ['and the man will become lion']. The logion fits well with the ascetic-Gnostic circles which are interested in taming or humanization of bestial passions. They are often concerned with taming bestial natures, of which that of the lion is the strongest." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 593)

Jean Doresse writes: "No doubt the lion here represents human passions, or more precisely, the lying spirit of evil. This is suggested by a passage from a Coptic Manichaean Psalm (CCLVII): 'This lion which is within me, which defiles me at every moment, I have strangled it and cast it out of my soul. . . .'" (The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, p. 371)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "This saying, as Doresse notes (page 134), is extremely obscure. From other sayings in Thomas we may infer that the lion can be eaten only if it is killed and becomes a corpse (60), and that knowing the world is equivalent to finding a corpse (57) - the world is not worthy of those who find such a corpse. The Gnostic who has eaten what is dead has made it living (Saying 10). Therefore, by eating the dead lion, which may be the hostile world (cf., 1 Peter 5:8: 'Your adversary the devil, like a raging lion . . .'), you can overcome the world by assimilating it to yourself. If the true inner man is consumed by the lion, and the lion becomes the man, the world has overcome the Gnostic (cf., Clement, Excerpta ex Theodoto, 84)." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 126)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 7

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