Gospel of Thomas Saying 13

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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


(13) Jesus said to his disciples: Compare me, tell me whom I am like. Simon Peter said to him: You are like a righteous angel. Matthew said to him: You are like a wise philosopher. Thomas said to him: Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like. Jesus said: I am not your master, for you have drunk, and have become drunk from the bubbling spring which I have caused to gush forth (?). And he took him, withdrew, (and) spoke to him three words. Now when Thomas came (back) to his companions, they asked him: What did Jesus say to you? Thomas said to them: If I tell you one of the words which he said to me, you will take up stones (and) throw them at me; and a fire will come out of the stones (and) burn you up.


(13) Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I resemble." Simon Peter said to him, "A just angel is what you resemble." Matthew said to him, "An intelligent philosopher is what you resemble." Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth utterly will not let me say what you resemble." Jesus said, "I am not your (sing.) teacher, for you have drunk and become intoxicated from the bubbling wellspring that I have personally measured out. And he took him, withdrew, and said three sayings to him. Now, when Thomas came to his companions they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them, "If I say to you (plur.) one of the sayings that he said to me, you will take stones and stone me, and fire will come out of the stones and burn you up."


14 [13]. Jesus says to his disciples: "Compare me, and tell me whom I am like." Simon Peter says to him: "Thou art like a just angel!" Matthew says to him: "Thou art like a wise man and a philosopher!" Thomas says to him: "Master, my tongue cannot find words to say whom thou art like." Jesus says: "I am no longer thy master; for thou hast drunk, thou art inebriated from the bubbling spring which is mine and which I sent forth." Then he took him aside; he said three words to him. And when Thomas came back to his companions, they asked him: "What did Jesus say to thee?" And Thomas answered them: "If I tell you <a single> one of the words he said to me, you will take up stones and throw them at me, and fire will come out of the stones and consume you!"

Funk's Parallels

GThom 28, Luke 9:18-22, Luke 21:34-36, Matt 16:13-20, John 4:13-15, John 7:38, Mark 8:27-30.

Visitor Comments

Compare this to the descriptions of the acknowledging of the enlightenment of Zen students by the Master. They are received into the brotherhood of equals. They too now speak in ways which are not comprehensible to the as yet unenlightened (and which might be resented by former fellow students). They also now know the secret words of a revolutionary understanding of Reality. Thomas is being acknowledged as having caught on to Jesus message.
- active-mystic

All Christologies are false. Spiritual truth is ineffable. One speaks to the ignorant in the terms with which they are familiar, precept upon precept and line by line. But they are scandalized at the first word of truth.
- Simon Magus

It's easy to see that Jesus spoke three words in Hebrew to Thomas, in English this is the meaning of these words: "I am who I am."
- Dark Soul

The teacher is of God, who has no attributes being above them as the creator of all attributes. He cannot therefore be resembled to anything. Thomas had learnt this. He was now ready for secret [confidential or private] wisdom to be imparted. But that wisdom would, and always will be, misinterpreted by those who have not developed thus far. It is an issue of readiness
- Thief37

Jesus told Thomas that he, along with everyone and everything comprise God and therefore he was the son of God and a part of God. Thomas is making some fun out of this while relating it to the other disciples. Thomas does not believe what Jesus told him and he knows the other disciples will turn against him because they will think he is lying to them.
- iag

3 words: I AM ALL
- newbie

I too noticed the similarity of this saying to the Zen master who asked his three disciples how they would teach after he was gone. He said one was his skin, one his muscle, and one his marrow. The Essenes had several levels of esoteric teaching and this story clearly shows Jesus the Nazorean Essene testing his disciples if they are ready for the next level of teaching. Thomas passes and receives the three sayings which, being esoteric, would get him stoned for blasphamy. The last phrase is also quite Zen. A Samurai asked Hakuin is there really heaven and hell. Hakuin insulted the Samurai who drew his sword whereupon Hakuin said "Thus opens the gate of Hell." Thomas here is saying if the disciples did succumb to throwing rocks, either in envy or in righteousness of the law, that they would be opening up hell for themselves and they would burn in it.
- Gregory Wonderwheel

Jesus asked, Describe your thoughts about me. Simon Peter spoke of a righteous (just) angel. Matthew spoke of a wise philosopher. Thomas said, "there are no words or concepts that my mouth can frame." Jesus said that they were drunk on the joy, truth and honor of being his students. He took Thomas aside and spoke three "words/sayings" (concepts beyond the teachings that the disciples understood) to him. On being asked about the private communication with their teacher, Thomas replied, "a single one of them would make you want to stone me, but the desire to do so would burn you to the core." Thomas understood somethings that none of the others could conceive, and knowing this, he could not see his righteous brethren hurt by revealing the depth of these concepts, that Jesus was no more or less than any of them, that he had learned that God had given his Word to all the World and anyone could learn their place as the Child of God if the mind and heart were open enough. Any of these concepts would seem blasphemy to those of simpler minds, who were already swimming with the greatness of Jesus' teaching.
- StarChaser

Has it ever occured to anyone that the three words or sayings spoken to Thomas are the things that Jesus then told the disciples in saying 14? It would have been heresy if Thomas had said such things to pious Jews like Peter and Matthew, and their outrage would have been like stones bursting into flames. But Jesus can speak them and they must listen even if they don't understand.
- Griffin

Jesus, the Master, has accepted Thomas as his Chela (disciple) because he clearly understood what Jesus represented. The others didn't. The Master provides a personal mantra at intiation, here three words...but I suspect more words. The words are personal, absolutely, and have the power of Jesus (Master, Guru) behind them. The words are for the personal growth of the Chela, and not for the others. They are the key to his further enlightenment, and the connection to the Holy Ghost.
- Petrus

All things imply their negation. This is not that. The One has no negations. It is All. Can you describe what All is like? Neither could Thomas.
- nothing

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer writes: "These three sayings or words are unknown, but presumably they are powerful and provocative sayings, since stoning (mentioned by Thomas) was the Jewish punishment for blasphemy. Worth noting are the following examples of three words or sayings: Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 5.8.4, cites the three words Kaulakau, Saulasau, Zeesar, derived from the Hebrew of Isaiah 28:10, 13; Pistis Sophia 136 mentions Yao Yao Yao, the Greek version (with three letters, given three times) of the ineffable name of God; the Gospel of Bartholomew and the Secret Book of John provide statements of identification with the father, the mother (or the holy spirit), and the son. Acts of Thomas 47 and Manichaean Kephalaia I 5,26-34 also refer to the three sayings or words but do not disclose precisely what they were." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, pp. 74-75)

Robert Price writes: "In Thomas' version (saying 13), the false estimates of Jesus are even more interesting. Jesus spurns the opinion of those self-styled believers who consider him 'a wise philosopher.' Bingo! A wandering Cynic. (Thomas also has Jesus reject the idea, widely held by many early Christians, that he was an angel in human form.)" (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 51)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "the Old Testament and its eschatology have been eliminated; Jesus is no Messiah but 'like a righteous angel,' 'like a wise philosopher,' or simply incomparable." (Gnosticism & Early Christianity, p. 186)

R. McL. Wilson writes: "As Grant and Freedman note, the idea is similar to that of John xv. 15, while the reference to 'bubbling spring' also recalls Johannine texts. It may be, however, that we have also some connection here with the Philonic idea of a 'sober intoxication.' Thereafter Jesus takes Thomas aside and speaks to him three words. When the other disciples ask what Jesus said, Thomas replies, 'If I tell you one of the words which He said to me, you will take up stones and throw them at me; and a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.' It may be significant that while there are several references in the New Testament to stoning or casting stones it is only John who speaks of taking up stones to throw (viii. 59, x. 31). About the three words we can only speculate, but they were evidently blasphemous to Jewish ears. Puech suggests that they were the names 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,' Grant and Freedman the three secret words of the Naassenes (Hippol., Ref. 5.8.5). The whole passage is at any rate a substitute for the canonical narrative of Peter's confession, designed to give to Thomas the pre-eminence." (Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 111-112)

F. F. Bruce writes: "This conversation begins like that at Caesarea Philippi, recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels, where Jesus asks his disciples 'Who do men say that I am?' and then: 'But who do you say that I am?' (Mark 8.27-29). But the answers given here are quite different from what we find in the canonical tradition, which is consistent with the historical circumstances of Jesus's ministry. Here the answers are attempts to depict Jesus as the Gnostic Revealer. Those who have imbibed the gnosis which he imparts (the 'bubbling spring' which he has spread abroad) are not his servants but his friends, [Cf. John 15.14] and therefore 'Master' is an unsuitable title for them to give him. As for the three words spoken secretly to Thomas, conveying Jesus's hidden identity, they are probably the three secret words on which, according to the Naassenes, the existence of the world depended: Kaulakau, Saulasau, Zeesar. [Hippolytus, Refutation v.8.4. Kaulakau, they said, was Adamas, primal man, 'the being who is on high' . . . Saulasau, mortal man here below; Zeesar, the Jordan which flows upward.] (In fact, these three words are corruptions of the Hebrew phrases in Isaiah 28.10, 13, translated 'Line upon line, precept upon precept, there a little' - but their origin was probably forgotten.) The followers of the Gnostic Basilides are said to have taught that Jesus descended 'in the name of Kaulakau'. [Irenaeus, Heresies i.24.6.] The fire that would come out of the stones is perhaps the fire of Saying 10. There is in any case ample attestation of the belief that the untimely divulging of a holy mystery can be as destructive as fire." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, pp. 118-119)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "In the synoptics, various erroneous interpretations precede the correct one. Jesus is John the Baptist, or Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet risen again. So in Thomas, Simon Peter wrongly compares Jesus with an angel (a belief widespread in early Jewish Christianity) and Matthew wrongly compares him with a wise philosopher. Thomas rightly says that to compare Jesus with anything is impossible; but as he does so, he addresses him as 'Master.' Thomas, like the man in Mark 10:17 (cf., Luke 18:18) who calls Jesus 'Good Master,' is rebuked because of the title he uses. Because he is a disciple of Jesus, he is not a slave but a friend, for Jesus has made known everything which he heard from his Father (John 15:15). The idea expressed in Thomas is quite similar to that found in John. Jesus is not Thomas's master because Thomas has drunk from the bubbling spring which Jesus has distributed. This thought too is Johannine in origin. 'The water which I will give him will become in him a spring of water bubbling up to eternal life' (John 4:14; cf., 7:37-38)." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, pp. 132-133)

J. P. Meier writes: "An intriguing point here is that in the one work of 'the school of St. Thomas' that clearly dates from the 2d century, namely, the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Thomas is actually a peripheral figure who hardly belongs to the traditional material in the book. He is introduced as the author of the work in the clearly redactional opening sentence, but figures prominently in only one other logion, the lengthy saying 13, where Simon Peter and Matthew are also mentioned but Thomas is exalted as the possessor of the secret knowledge of Jesus' nature. This logion stands in tension with the rival logion just before it, saying 12, where James the Just (the brother of Jesus) is exalted as the leader of the disciples after Jesus departs. On this tension, see Gilles Quispel, '"The Gospel of Thomas" and the "Gospel of the Hebrews,"' NTS 12 (1965-66) 371-82, esp. 380. Hence the Gospel of Thomas, the earliest apocryphal and gnosticizing work that was put under the name of Thomas, does not present a tradition really rooted in that person and does not clearly inculcate the idea that Thomas is Jesus' twin brother." (A Marginal Jew, v. 3, pp. 255-256, n. 17)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 13

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