Gospel of Thomas Saying 47

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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


(47) Jesus said: It is not possible for a man to ride two horses or stretch two bows; and it is not possible for a servant to serve two masters, unless he honours the one and insults the other. No one drinks old wine and immediately desires to drink new wine. And new wine is not poured into old wineskins, lest they burst; nor is old wine poured into a new wineskin, lest it spoil. An old patch is not sewn on a new garment, for a rent would result.


(47) Jesus said, "A person cannot (at the same time) mount two horses or draw two bows. And a slave cannot serve two masters, but truly will honor the one and scoff at the other. No person drinks vintage wine and immediately desires to drink new wine. And new wine is not put into old wineskins lest they burst. And vintage wine is not put into new wineskins lest it go bad. And old patches are not sewed to new garments, for a rip will develop."


52 [47]. Jesus says: "It is not possible for a man to ride two horses, nor to draw two bows. And it is not possible for a servant to serve two masters: otherwise he will honour the one and the other will treat him harshly! Never does a man drink old wine and desire at the same instant to drink new wine; new wine is not poured into old wine-skins, in case they should burst, and old wine is not poured into new wine-skins, in case it should be spoiled. An old piece of cloth is not sown onto a new garment, for a tear would result."

Funk's Parallels

Luke 16:10-13, Luke 5:33-39, Matt 6:24, Matt 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, 2 Clem 6:1-6.

Visitor Comments

Jesus talks of knowledge. It is hard to change one's thinking after years of teaching of the wrong path. You cannot pour new knowledge into cemented thoughts. For new thoughts will be insulted while the old thoughts will be honored. You cannot follow them both. You can only follow one or the other. Growth or stagnation.
- anonymous

One cannot simultaneously live in accord with one's innate self and with one's self-destructive learnt attitudes.
- Rodney

Advice for would-be aspirants for enrollment in an esoteric school. For you, your teacher must be as God himself. You adopt the ways of your teacher and no other. If your teacher teaches through the medium of shoeing horses and ironwork, then you become a blacksmith! For this is the way for you and no other way. If you are not prepared to serve your teacher absolutely, forsaking all others no matter their validity, then you cannot enter into pupilhood. "Your wish is my command" is to become your motto and you are to ignore all other projections of the teaching
- Thief37

On logia 47, 48, & 49: You cannot honor two separate masters equally. You must therefore make the two one. If you make the two one, then you will not be double, but will be single and solitary.
- DivisionTheory

This saying is about the truth of a divine life and the illusions of a sensory life. We cannot live a life of duplicity and compromise and hope to gain the kingdom of heaven. We need to serve god with all our hearts, minds and bodies every moment of every day and night.
- unknown

Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: "The canonical saying about the impossibility of serving two masters (Matthew 6.24; Luke 16.13) is here amplified by two illustrations from life, and followed by sayings contrasting the old order and the new, sufficiently similar to Luke 5.36-39 (cf. Mark 2.21 f.; Matthew 9.16 f.), but with secondary deviations. The canonical counterparts do not speak of pouring old wine into new wine skins, or of patching a new garment with an old piece of cloth. These deviations are probably deliberate: the true Gnostic will not allow his new doctrine to be encumbered with relics from the past." (Jesus and Christian Origens Outside the New Testament, p. 132)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "An old patch is not put on a new garment; here Thomas changes the thought from that of the new patch and the old garment (Luke 5:36; Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21), presumably because he is thinking of life in the new world (Saying 52)." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 159)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "As v. 3 certainly came about from the use of Luke [5.39], the same conclusion follows for vv. 4-5. Thomas has reversed the order of Luke, which he has in front of him, as he had placed v. 3 with the key word 'wine' after vv. 1-2, and now Luke 5.37 automatically presented itself as the next sentence with the same key word." (Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 613-614)

R. McL. Wilson writes: "Quispel argues that the first part of this saying is not dependent on Q, but offers an independent translation from Aramaic. Bartsch, however, points out that the Coptic preserves a hint, obscured in the English translation, that the statement about the servant originally contained two members; either he will honour the one . . . (cf. Luke xvi. 13). Moreover, the words 'honour' and 'offend,' which Quispel takes as 'elegant translations' of the Aramaic underlying Matthew and Luke, could be regarded as summaries of the two words used in each case by the Synoptists. The claim that here we may have independent tradition is therefore in this case open to question." (Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, p. 78)

Comparing Thomas to Matthew and Luke, Koester finds that the Thomas form is more original: "Most scholars would argue that 'servant' in Luke 16:13 is a later addition, while Matthew's 'no one' is an accurate reproduction of the text of Q. However, the version of Gos. Thom. 47a-b stays completely within the limits of natural expansion of a popular proverb by prefixing the analogous examples of mounting two horses or stretching two bows. Thomas's version, at the same time, shows no sign of the unnecessary duplication 'hate the one and love the other' and of the secondary application of the proverb (serving God and mammon). Both of these appear already in Q; thus Gos. Thom. 47b presents the form that this proverb would have had before it was incorporated into Q. Had Thomas read the final phrase in his text, he would certainly have incorporated it (cf. the rejection of worldly possessions in Gos. Thom. 110)." (Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 90)

Funk and Hoover write: "The order of sayings about patch and garment and wine wineskins is reversed in Thomas from the way they appear in the synoptic gospels. According to the saying in Thom 47:3-4, one does not pour young wine into old wineskins, since the old skins might burst, and one does not trust mature wine to young wineskins, since new skins tend to make the wine spoil. The synoptic version has undergone a Christian transformation, because the new has now been equated with the new Jesus movement. The version found in Mark 2:22 exhibits that transformation: 'And nobody pours young wine into old wineskins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and destroy both the wine and the skins. Instead, young wine is for new wineskins.' Concern for mature wine, such as we find in Luke 5:39 ('nobody wants young wine after drinking aged wine'), has disappeared; attention is riveted on the fate of the new. The old wineskins represent the Judean religion, new wine the spirit-filled headiness of the Christian movement. The Thomas version was given the highest weighted average because there is no hint of a Christian revision of the saying." (The Five Gospels, pp. 499-500)

J. D. Crossan writes of 47b: "From the combination of Mark and Thomas there arises the strong possibility that this double aphorism was originally a double-diptych or quadruple-stich aphorism with each diptych in reversed parallelism (abb'a'). This must be considered not only for Gos. Thom. 47b(2) on wine (Turner and Montefiore: 65; and see especially Nagel), but for both Gos. Thom. 47b(2 and 3) on wine and on cloth (Quispel, 1957:194-195). Thus the double diptych involved (a) a combination of two metaphors: cloth-patching and wine-storing; (b) with a different set of categories for each; (c) in chiastic arrangement: unshrunk/shrunk//shrunk/unschrunk and new/old//old/new. Two processes worked upon the original structure: (d) an internal process whereby the new/old categories eventually prevailed over the unshrunk/shrunk, and (e) an external process that found it appropriate to retain the new/old aspect but not the old/new side of each diptych. Finally, (f) the internal process has changed Thomas even more than Mark (where 'unshrunk' is still present), but the external process, with its concern for Jesus as the new, has changed Mark and Luke mcuh more than Thomas (where 'old/new' is twice present). The only vestiges of old/new still visible in Mark or Luke is its residue within that concluding and unnecessary comment about 'new win/new wineskins.' But here, of course, old/new has become new/new." (In Fragments, pp. 125-126)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 47

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