Gospel of Thomas Saying 76

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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


(76) Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a merchant who had a load (of goods) and found a pearl. That merchant was wise. He sold the load and bought for himself the pearl alone. You also, seek after his treasure which does not fail (but) endures, where moth does not come near to devour nor worm to destroy.


(76) Jesus said, "What the kingdom of the father resembles is a merchant who owned some merchandise, and then learned about the existence of a certain pearl. That merchant was shrewd, sold the merchandise, and bought the single pearl. You (plur.), too, seek the ceaseless and enduring treasure, where moth does not approach to eat nor worm to destroy."


80 [76]. Jesus says: "The Kingdom of the Father is like a man, a merchant, who has a burden and found a pearl. This merchant is a wise man: he sold the bundle and bought the pearl alone. You also seek his treasure which does not perish, which lasts, into which the moth does not enter to consume and <where> the worm does not destroy."

Funk's Parallels

Luke 12:33-34, Matt 13:45-46, Matt 6:19-21.

Visitor Comments

The merchandise is the repressed self; the pearl the innate child self within this. Seek the pearl!
- Rodney

Be not OF the world [though you are indeed IN it] but instead seek the one indestructible thing that will gain you salvation. Knowledge!
- Thief37

No way, the pearl is knowledge! Seek knowledge, which no moth or worm can destroy.
- Kryptik

Seek the knowledge that is beyond intellectual knowledge.
- Zooie

Seek the rewards of the spirit, that nothing can change or take away from you.
- Unknown

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer writes: "Perhaps read p{ef}eho, 'the treasure.' Antoine Guillaumont and the other editors of The Gospel According to Thomas, p. 42, note that the scribe initially wrote pefho, 'his face,' then added a supralinear e, but neglected to delete ef." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 98)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "This saying is a revised version of the parable of the pearl in Matthew 13:45-48. Since in Matthew the parable is preceded by the parable of the hidden treasure, Thomas adds a statement about treasure, derived from Matthew 6:20 (Luke 12:33). Matthew mentions moth and brosis, which means 'rust'; Thomas takes brosis very literally to mean 'eating,' and therefore adds a word about worms. The treasure is the inner man; what worms eat is the body." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 177)

R. McL. Wilson writes: "The situation, however, is not quite so simple [as Grant and Freedman suggest], since the words are not an exact parallel to Matthew vi. 19 f., but, as Cerfaux pointed out, introduce an element derived from John (vi. 27), while the 'worm' seems to come from Mark (ix. 48). Doresse suggests that we may have the beginnings of a synthesis already in Luke (xii. 33 f.). The most obvious explanation here is free quotation by an author familiar with all four Gospels, but as already noted this does not seem to account for the phenomena presented by the gospel as a whole. It may be that we must reckon with the possibility that the several sayings are of diverse origin: some perhaps from genuine early tradition, others based on our Gospels directly, others again the result of free quotation and harmonization, and still others merely tendentious inventions. It is, however, interesting to note that Jeremias brings Matthew vi. 19 ff. and Luke xii. 33 f. into his discussion of these two parables. For Gnostic use of the concept we need only recall the famous 'Hymn of the Pearl' in the Acts of Thomas." (Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 92-93)

J. D. Crossan writes: "Luke 12:33 and Gos. Thom. 76b. Both Luke and Thomas are totally positive and lack Matthew's antithetical parallelism. . . . I prefer to consider Luke as the Q version, a tradition reflected more brokenly by Thomas." (In Fragments, p. 130)

Funk and Hoover write: "This parable appears also in Matt 13:45-46, where it takes the form: 'Heaven's imperial rule is like some trader looking for beautiful pearls. When that merchant finds one priceless pearl, he sells everything he owns and buys it.' Thomas has edited the parable slightly to accommodate his disapproval of mercantilism. So the merchant sells the merchandise and buys the one peral he has found. The small differences in the two versions do not affect the basic point: God's imperial rule is worth a priceless pearl, which one will do well to acquire no matter what the cost. The Fellows thought that Jesus probably told a parable of this type." (The Five Gospels, p. 515)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "This verse [3] contains an interpretation of the parable in vv. 1-2. It is similar to Matt. 6.19f./Luke 12.33 (=Q) and calls on the reader to preserve the inner treasure which in the context of the Gospel of Thomas can mean only the self (= Jesus as light; cf. 50.1). In this Gnostic interpretation I presuppose that v. 3 is dependent on the Synoptic parallels mentioned (for 'treasure' cf. further Matt. 13.44)." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 628)

Ron Cameron writes: "This imperative [seek the treasure] is virtually identical with that which prefaces the application of the Ear of Grain (ApJas 12.27-28). However, whereas the similarities of language and style in the secondary frames which conclude each parable in the Apocryphon of James suggests that those frames have been composed by the same circle, one which is closely related to the final stages of editing the entire text, the application in GThom 76.2 constitutes a traditional piece of aphoristic wisdom, 'appended interpretatively' [Crossan] to The Pearl, that has no vestige of a distinctive language or style attributable to the author of this gospel. Instead, the aphorism about the treasure which Thomas has preserved as the application (76.2) of The Pearl (76.1) is a version of an independent unit of tradition. A similar thematic - but not formal - juxtaposition is attested in the Gospel of Matthew, whose author seems to have assembled The Treasure (13:44//GThom 109) and The Pearl (13:45-46) from two separate sources. Although that arrangement may be attributed to the editorial activity of Matthew himself, the secondary collocation of 'pearl' and 'treasure' in GThom 76 betrays no earmarks of the author's own redaction. Since this marks the only instance in the Gospel of Thomas in which such a saying is used to interpret the parable, the addition of this application is to be regarded as the product not of the author himself but of an earlier stage of the tradition." ("Parable and Interpretation in the Gospel of Thomas," Forum 2.2 [1986])

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 76

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