Gospel of Thomas Saying 31

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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


(31) Jesus said: No prophet is accepted in his own village, no doctor heals those who know him.


(31) Jesus said, "A prophet is not acceptable in that prophet's own native town. A physician does not heal people who are acquainted with that physician."


36 [31]. Jesus says: "A prophet is not accepted in his <own> city, and a doctor does not heal those who know him."

Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment

Gospel of Thomas Greek Text

DORESSE - Oxyrhynchus

Jesus says: "A prophet is not acceptable in his own country, and a doctor does not heal those who know him!"

ATTRIDGE - Oxyrhynchus

(31) Jesus said, "No prophet is accepted in his own country; no physician heals those who know him."

Funk's Parallels

POxy1 31, Luke 4:16-30, Matt 13:53-58, John 4:43-45, Mark 6:1-6.

Visitor Comments

It is amazing that so much academic and theological hair splitting can arise from a simple observation on human nature. People who "knew you when", who watched you grow up from a child and saw your actions and perhaps indiscretions in immaturity will not put any credence in you as a prophet or physician. Only someone to whom you are somewhat of a mystery can believe you really know what you are doing. They never saw you pick your nose and smear the results under your desk top so they can believe you carry a message from God.
- active-mystic

A popularisation of a technical explanation. The re-generate man will not be perceived by those whose eyes have not been opened [in an evolutionary sense]. The stricture is also literally true
- Thief37

This saying moves both ways. All of the commentary here moves but one way. Itís known that it is easier for a hypnotist to take a stranger into a deep trance than a family member. To know the prophet, or the physician, or the hypnotist, is to distrust. To not know the prophet, or the physician, or the hypnotist, is to distrust. The prophet, the physician and the hypnotist are but symbols of the world. To trust or to distrust the prophet, or the physician, or the hypnotist, is irrelevant. To know the Self is to know the prophet, or the physician, or the hypnotist, for what they are.
- g

Scholarly Quotes

Funk and Hoover write: "The earliest form of the saying is probably the aphorism consisting of a single line found in Thom 31:1; Luke 4:24; and John 4:44 (the simpler form is usually the earlier). This adage is characteristic of the short, easily remembered, and, in this case, ironical remark that lent itself to oral transmission, and was typical of Jesus as a sage and prophet." (The Five Gospels, p. 491)

F. F. Bruce writes: "The saying about the prophet is found in the Synoptic and Johannine traditions alike (Mark 6.4; John 4.44). The saying about the physician resembles 'Physician, heal yourself', a proverb quoted in Luke 4.23 immediately before the Lukan occurrence of the saying about the prophet; Luke 4.23 f. may therefore be the source of this composite formulation." (Jesus and Christian Origens Outside the New Testament, p. 127)

Joseph A. Fitzmyer writes: "The first part of this saying should be considered as authentic as the canonical parallels. The second may be authentic, or may be merely a saying constructed as an answer to the retort, 'Physician, heal thyself'." (Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament, p. 402)

R. McL. Wilson writes: "Logion 31 has long been known from its appearance in the Oxyrhynchus fragments: A prophet is not accepted in his own village; a physician does not cure those who know him. This is regarded by Jeremias and others as simply an expansion of Luke iv. 24, and indeed a clue to the formation of the saying might be found in the preceding verse in Luke, which contains the 'proverb': Physician, heal thyself. On the other hand, Jesus odes elsewhere (Mark ii. 17 and par.) make use of the figure of the physician with reference to His own ministry, and it would certainly seem to produce an effective parallelism. Leipoldt has justly expressed his doubts as to some of the 'parallelisms' which occur in Thomas, particularly those which merely reverse the first member, sometimes with almost unintelligible results; but this is in a different category. This saying would appear to have some claim to be considered as authentic." (Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 60-61)

Funk and Hoover write: "The two [doctor and prophet sayings] are connected in Thomas 31 as a proverb consisting of two lines. It is interesting to note that Luke seems to connect the two ideas also: the crowd asks Jesus to do in his hometown what he had done in Capernaum: namely, to cure people, which follows from the secular proverb they quote him, 'Doctor, cure yourself.' It is possible that Luke was aware of the two-line proverb preserved in Thomas but decided to revamp it to suit the story he was developing." (The Five Gospels, p. 491)

Helmut Koester writes: "This is a particularly instructive parallel. When the Greek text of Gos. Thom. 31 (Pap. Oxy. 1.6) was discovered, Emil Wendling demosntrated that Mark 6:4-5 was constructed on the basis of this saying. While Mark quoted the first part of the saying at the end of his apophthegma about Jesus' rejection in Nazareth, he changed the second part into narrative. Rudolf Bultmann confirmed this observation through form-critical analysis. This saying, in the form in which it is preserved by Thomas, was the nucleus of the later development of the apophthegma that appears now in Mark's text." (Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 111)

Gerd Theissen writes: "Form criticizm shows that this logion is more original than the apophthegmatic garb which Mark 6.1-6 gives to the first half in the framework of Jesus' visit to Nazareth; it cannot in any way be a secondary derivation from Mark 6.1-6 par." (The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, p. 39)

J. D. Crossan writes: "In comparing the twin versions [Coptic and Greek] of Gos. Thom. 31 with one another, three points may be noted. (a) 'No prophet is' and 'a prophet is not' in Greek may be translated by the same impersonal negative verb preceding the word 'prophet' in Coptic - that is, by (em)men, 'there is no. . . .' Both Mark 6:4 ('a prophet is not') and Luke 4:24 ('no prophet is') are so translated in the Coptic New Testament. (b) Similarly, there is probably no difference between 'village' and 'homeland,' since the Greek word patris (homeland) is translated time (village) in the Coptic versions of Mark 6:4, Matt. 13:54, 57, Luke 4:24, and John 4:44. In effect, at least originally, whatever term was used, it was 'village' that was intended. (c) Finally, there is the difference between 'heals' and 'works cures.' But, once again, the difference is inconsequential since the Coptic has the Greek loan-word therapeuein ('to cure, heal') in Coptic format as eptherapeue while the Greek version has poiei therapeias ('work cures'). In other words the two versions are probably as identical as texts in totally different languages can be." (In Fragments, p. 283)

J. D. Crossan writes: "When one compares the different versions of the prophet saying in Joh, Mark, Luke, and Thomas, it seems evident that we are dealing with performancial variations that do not allow or need any further decision concerning the oral original. Thus, for example, the use of 'honor' in Mark and Luke and of 'acceptable' in Luke and Thomas are free performancial variations that allow of no further direct choice between them. I tend, however, to prefer the Luke-Thomas term because of a major indirect consideration. This has to do with the far more interesting question of whether we are dealing with a single-stich aphorism about a prophet or a double-stich aphorism concerning a prophet/physician parallelism. If one accepts the double-stich saying as the more original, one tends also to prefer its wording as well." (In Fragments, pp. 283-284)

J. D. Crossan writes: "But, in everything seen so far, the main difference is the prophet/physician parallelism, which appears only in Thomas. Even before the 1945 discovery of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Bultmann had followed Emil Wndling's 1908 thesis that the aphorism in Oxy P 1 was more original than that in Mark 6:4 (Bultmann: 31; see also Robinson and Koester: 129-131). His argument was that 'it is hardly likely that the double proverb has grown out of Mk 6:1-6, the reverse is on the other hand probable: the second half of the twin proverb is transposed in the story, and the ginoskontes auton becomes the syggeneis of Mk 6:4" (31). This is more probable than Jeremias's suggestion that Gos. Thom. 31a 'is expanded by the addition of the parallel saying' in 31b (1964: 36; see also Menard: 127). The reason for the greater probability was already noted by Bultmann, and it can be strengthened since the discovery of the Coptic version. Both Mark 6:5 (etherapeusen) and Luke 4:23 (therapeuson) mention 'curing' in either the succeeding or preceding verse to their prophet aphorism. And Luke cites another proverb in 4:23 that invites a counter-proverb such as that in Gos. Thom. 31b. In other words both the Markan and Lukan tradition, and here independently of each other, (a) kept the prophet saying (b) removed the physician saying, but (c) let its earlier presence be seen residually in Mark 6:5 and Luke 4:23. It could even be suggested, against Bultmann but following his basic intuition, that the ginoskontes auton of Thomas reappears in Mark's 'in his house' (en te oikia autou)." (In Fragments, p. 284)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 31

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