Gospel of Thomas Saying 19

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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


(19) Jesus said: Blessed is he who was before he came into being. If you become disciples to me (and) listen to my words, these stones will minister to you. For you have five trees in Paradise which do not change, either in summer or in winter, and their leaves do not fall. He who knows them shall not taste of death.


(19) Jesus said, "Blessed is that which exsted before coming into being. If you exist as my disciples and listen to my sayings, these stones will minister unto you. Indeed, you have five trees in paradise, which do not move in summer or winter, and whose leaves do not fall. Whoever is acquainted with them will not taste death."


20 [19]. Jesus says: "Blessed is the man who existed before he came into being!" 21 [19]. "If you become my disciples and if you hear my words, these stones will serve you." 22 [19]. "For you have there, in Paradise, five trees which change not winter nor summer, whose leaves do not fall: whoever knows them will not taste death!"

Funk's Parallels

POxy 654 1, GThom 1, GThom 85.

Visitor Comments

Blessed is the one who realizes that they were in fact in existence before being incarnated in this life. That they existed from the beginnig as a part of God by God's Will, just as Jesus, our Elder Brother.
- active-mystic

I am also reminded of the passage about stones in Luke 19:40 where Jesus said "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
- San

Blessed is one who came into eternal being before coming into personal being. If you become my disciples and listen for my words, these dead written sayings of my gospel will serve you. As they come alive they will lead you from a perceived existence in a dead world to eternal life.
- Simon Magus

The self comes into being by reintegrating the innate self and then coming into being.
- Rodney

In Islam we have the five pillars of Islam...
- Mustafa

Technical injunctions continued. Of the seven nafs, the lower two [the commanding and the accusing] are the usual stopping point for the unregenerate. But those who have successfully followed the advices of their teacher overcome the lower two, acquire the next five, and so all becomes possible for them and by them. They are imperishable. The pupil has now been reborn [before death of planetary body] and so now does not taste death for physical death is merely now a transition
- Thief37

Scholarly Quotes

Jean Doresse writes: "Cf. the Gospel of Philip (Coptic text of Codex X of Chenoboskion) where this formula also appears; and St Irenaeus, who quotes it under the form: 'Happy is He who was before becoming man.' And in the New Testament, John VIII, 58: 'Before Abraham was, I am.'" (The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, p. 372)

F. F. Bruce writes: "The one who existed before he was born is Jesus himself, who 'came from the Father and entered into the world' (John 16.28). Saying 19a is quoted by other early Christian writers: Irenaeus and Lactantius quote it as a prophetic utterance of Jeremiah. [Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 43; Lactantius, Divine Institutions iv.8. The words may have occurred in an apocryphal work, no longer extant, ascribed to Jeremiah.]" (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 121)

Marvin Meyer writes: "Perhaps compare John 8:58. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 4.8 writes, 'For we especially testify that he (that is, Christ) was born twice, first in the spirit and afterwords in the flesh. Whence it is thus said in Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." And also in the same work, "Fortunate is one who existed before being born," which happened to no one else except Christ.' Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 43, offers the following: 'And again he says, "Fortunate is one who existed before becoming human."' Gospel of Thomas saying 19 may not be referring to Christ at all in this beatitude. Rather, the sense of the saying could be that anyone who existed before being born should be declared fortunate. Compare the saying of Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Philip 64,10-12: 'Fortunate is the one who exists before coming into being. For one who exists has been and will be.'" (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 77)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "The fourth-century apologist Lactantius treats the first sentence of this saying as a prophecy uttered by Jeremiah (Div. inst., 4, 8); in the Epideixis (43) of Irenaeus, however, it is ascribed to Jesus (cf., J. P. Smith, St. Irenaeus: Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, page 182, note 207). Like Jesus, who 'was' (John 1:1-2) before he 'became' incarnate (John 1:14), his disciples, who hear his words because they themselves are 'of God' (John 8:47), remain in him and have his words remaining in them; therefore whatever they ask will take place for them (John 15:8). Stones can become bread (Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:3), or fire can come out of stones (Saying 13). Thomas probably has in mind the creation of food out of stones (cf. also Matthew 7:9: 'What man of you, if his son asks him for bread - will he give him a stone?'), for he goes on to speak of the five never-failing trees in paradise. These trees, mentioned in Pistis Sophia (chapters 1 and elsewhere) and among the Manichees, are probably trees which give spiritual sustenance to the five spiritual senses. They are the trees of life like the single one mentioned in Revelation 22:2 (cf., the Gospel of Eve[?] in Epiphanius, Pan., 26, 5). They must be spiritual, since Thomas says that 'he who will understand them will not taste death.' To understand them is thus equivalent to 'keeping the word' of Jesus (John 8:52)." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 139)

R. McL. Wilson writes: "Grant and Freedman interpret the somewhat cryptic logion 19 by referring to Johannine texts, but while this is certainly illuminating for our understanding of the saying it is doubtful whether we have here genuine allusions or only a similarity of thought. The comparative absence of Johannine elements may indeed be significant, particularly in a Gnostic document. The associations of this saying are, however, with the later Gnostic and Manichaean literature rather than with our Gospels, although part of it was known to Irenaeus." (Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, p. 83)

Helmut Koester writes: "For the Gnostic understanding it is crucial to know that one's own origin lies before the beginning of earthly existence. John [8:58] consciously avoids this application of divine origin to all believers and restricts it to Jesus as the revealer." (Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 118)

On p. 108 of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, MacDonald quotes this passage (Odyssey 7.114-21 [Fagles 132-40]):
"Here luxuriant trees are always in their prime,
pomegranates and pears, and apples growing red,
succulent figs and olives swelling sleek and dark.
And the yield of these trees will never flag or diw,
neither in winter nor in summer, a harvest all year round
for the West Wind always breathing through will bring
some fruits to the bud and others warm to ripeness --
pear mellowing ripe on pear, apple on apple,
cluster of grapes on cluster, fig crowding fig."

Marvin Meyer writes: "The five trees in paradise are mentioned frequently in gnostic texts, ordinarily without explanation or elaboration. In Manichaean Psalm Book 161,17-29, it is said that various features of life and faith are put together in groups of five. This section opens with the statement, 'For [five] are the trees that are in paradise [. . .] in summer and winter.' On the trees in paradise according to Genesis, see Genesis 2:9." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, pp. 77-78)

F. F. Bruce writes: "The reference to the stones in Saying 19b is reminiscent of the turning of stones into bread in the temptation narrative (Matthew 4.3; Luke 4.3). The five trees have the property of the unfailing 'tree of life' in Revelation 22.2; they are five in number perhaps because they are envisaged as spiritual counterparts to the five natural senses. [The Gnostic treatise Pistis Sophia makes repeated mention of the 'five trees' in the 'treasurey of the light'.]" (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 122)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 19

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