Gospel of Thomas Saying 81

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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


(81) Jesus said: He who has become rich, let him become king, and he who has power, let him renounce (it).


(81) Jesus said, "The one who has become rich should reign. And the one who has power should renounce."


85 [81]. Jesus says: "Let him who has become rich reign, and let him who has strength refrain <from using it>!"

Funk's Parallels

GThom 110, Luke 18:24, Matt 19:23, Mark 10:23, 1 Cor 4:8, Dialogue of the Savior 20.

Visitor Comments

He who is rich in the truth and the knowledge of the Word should be as the king or ruler, and he that has power, as power corrupts, should step down so the Truth be shown to others.
- OnceLost

It can be seen in two ways: First, those who have spiritual riches must feel the rapture of the Kingdom while material riches should be renounced. Second, if you are materially wealthy you should first use your riches to gain power. The point here is to taste "being at the top" in the world, see it as illusory and unsatisfactory then renounce it for the True Reality.
- Mystic-Oli

The most credible testimony for the necessity of spiritual re-orientation comes from those who have climbed to the top of the social/material heirarchy and found it wanting.
- Zooie

Scholarly Quotes

F. F. Bruce writes: "This saying either disparages material wealth and power, or commends true wealth and power in the spiritual realm (cf. Saying 2); he who has the latter will renounce the world." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 144)

Funk and Hoover write: "This paradoxical saying is a puzzle to interpreters of the Gospel of Thomas. The first half seems to condone worldly values, the second half to condemn them. Thom 110 is similar, except that the paradox is lacking. The term 'reign' in v. 1 may be a key to understanding the saying. 'Reign' elsewhere in Thomas is a technical term (in Thom 2:4, those who seek will find, they will then be disturbed and marvel, and finally, they will 'reign over all,' a final state that corresponds to salvation), but, even so, the meaning of the saying is far from clear. The use of paradox fits generally into the Thomean pattern, which is also chraacteristic of some of the genuine sayings of Jesus. However, the Fellows could not fit the first part of the saying itno what is known about Jesus from other sayings and parables, so it was designated black. The second half sounded more like something Jesus might have said; this possibility produced a gray vote." (The Five Gospels, p. 517)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "'Become rich' refers in a metaphorical sense to knowledge (cf. 3.5). The one who has knowledge should be king (cf. 2.3)." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 630)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "This verse requires renunciation on the part of the one who has worldly power, so that he enters into the state denoted in v. 1." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 631)

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Gospel of Thomas Saying 81

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