Gospel of Thomas Saying 16

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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


(16) Jesus said: Perhaps men think that I am come to cast peace upon the world; and they do not know that I am come to cast dissensions upon the earth, fire, sword, war. For there will be five who are in a house; three shall be against two and two against three, the father against the son and the son against the father, and they shall stand as solitaries.


(16) Jesus said, "People probably think that it is peace that I have come to impose upon the world. And they do not recognize that it is divisions that I have come to impose upon the earth - fire, sword, battle. Indeed, there will be five in a house. There will be three over two and two over three, parent over child and child over parent. And they will stand at rest by being solitaries."


17 [16]. Jesus says: "Men indeed think I have come to bring peace to the world. But they do not know that I have come to bring the world discord, fire, sword, war. Indeed, if there are five <people> in a house, they will become three against two and two against three - father against son and son against father - and they will be lifted up, being solitaries."

Funk's Parallels

GThom 10, Mic 7:5-6, Luke 12:49-53, Matt 10:34-39, Mark 13:12.

Visitor Comments

Jesus' revolutionary message of our true nature and relationship to God is only slowly being realized and spread. The message will in fact create strife until it is recognized by a sufficient number who then realize their true nature and place in the world and Reality.
- active-mystic

active-mystic, you are reading your own opinions in this text. It is stated: "and they will be lifted up, being solitaries," meaning that there is an "ascending" as individuals.
- Puam

I think it means, however much the religious choose not to agree, that Jesus was saying: I'm not here for peace for everyone. I know that me being here means that people are going to kill one another. That's my purpose. It sounds awful but that's what it sounds like.
- Five_crowss

IMHO what Jesus is saying here is that he is not come to cast peace upon the world, but upon individuals. There is a dichotomy in the gospels between the peace in the individual which Jesus promises and the peace in the world which he knows (prophetically) he cannot bring.
- Ed

Reminds me of the buddha's declaration "seek thy own salvation with diligence." "They will stand at rest as solitaries," i.e., take care of your own relationship with god don't worry whether your brother has it right.
- pup

When one contacts one's repressed emotions, strife and dissension break out within one. One's various attitudes are at war among themselves and the grownup self is at war with the learned attitudes of the child.
- Rodney

To rebel is to Question. There is a dichotomy- between inner peace and outer struggle. Jesus can Help bring peace to individuals, but it is up to individuals to make peace with eace other. Einstein wrote, "Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved through understanding."
- Taurus

Mankind as a whole (one) had all been separated from God. He has come to separate us from that fallen state, not to give us peace with it. This carries us back to the question in saying 11 "But when you become two, what will you do?"
- seeking

In order that any Saint can take his disciples back to their spiritual home, He has to cut their attachments to all people, places, ideas and feelings of this earthly world. If there are any attachments remaining in your mind at the time of death, these will be the cause of another rebirth into this world. When all attachments have gone then each aspirant becomes solitary and is pure enough to rise to higher planes of consciousness and become one with the One.
- Condor

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer writes: "The theme of standing, or stability, is found in Gospel of Thomas sayings 16, 18, 23, 28, and 50. According to accounts concerning the famous gnostic teacher Simon the Magician, he referred to himself as the standing one. The Nag Hammadi tractate entitled Three Steles of Seth applies this epithet to the divine, and adds that God 'was first to stand' (119,17-18)." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 76)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "This saying is surprising when compared with the others which speak of peace and unity, for here Jesus plainly speaks of himself as a 'divider.' The two ideas can be reconciled, however, for peace and unity are characteristic of believers, Gnostic or Christian, while the division is that which comes into existence between them and outsiders. The saying is based on Luke 12:51-53 (Matthew 10:34); Luke 12:49 has already been paraphrased in Saying 9. 'Perhaps men think' is derived from Luke's question, 'Do you suppose . . . ?' 'I came to cast peace' comes from Matthew, while 'I came to case division' is composed by the author of Thomas as a parallel to the preceding line, and to Luke 12:49, from which he derives the mention of 'fire' ('sword' comes from Matthew). The next sentence is an almost exact quotation of Luke 12:52-53, though references to divisions among women are omitted because 'women are not worthy of life' (Saying 112). Those who 'stand' (and will not taste death, cf., Saying 18 and Commentary) are those who have broken their ties with earthly families and are 'single ones' (cf., Sayings 50 and 75). They must hate father, mother, brothers, and sisters (Sayings 56 and 98)." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, pp. 136-137)

Helmut Koester writes: "Thomas's version of these sayings [10 and 16] lacks Luke 12:50, certainly an addition by the author of the Gospel. Also missing in the Gospel of Thomas is the pedantic, and certainly secondary, enlargement of the family relationships at the end of Luke 12:53. Instead of Luke's "division" (vs. 51), Gos. Thom. has 'fire, sword, and war,' probably an expansion of the original reading of Q, 'sword,' which is preserved in Matt 10:14." (Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 94)

Funk and Hoover write: "The saying has been varied in the three sources: Luke appears to be the middle term between Matthew and Thomas. All three versions are 'I have come' sayings, which, in the judgment of most Fellows, is a Christian formulation: Jesus is represented as sent from God to fulfill a specific mission ('I have come to . . .'). The Fellows doubt that Jesu spoke of himself in this way, because they doubt that he thought of himself as having been assigned a messianic role. Further, part of this passage is based on Mic 7:5-6. Thomas has considerably revised this group of sayings from its Q form, which the Fellows took to be the more original. It is the form, not the content, of this complex that Fellows could not attribute to Jesus." (The Five Gospels, p. 482)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 16

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