Gospel of Thomas Saying 97

Previous - Gospel of Thomas Home - Next

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


(97) Jesus said: The kingdom of the [Father] is like a woman carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking [on a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke (and) the meal poured out behind her on the road. She was unaware, she had not noticed the misfortune. When she came to her house, she put the jar down (and) found it empty.


(97) Jesus said, "[What] the kingdom of the [father] resembles [is] a woman who was conveying a [jar] full of meal. When she had traveled far [along] the road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled out after her [along] the road. She was not aware of the fact; she had not understood how to toil. When she reached home she put down the jar and found it empty."


101 [97]. Jesus says: "The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman who takes a vessel of flour and sets out on a long road. The handle of the vessel broke: the flour spilled out on the road behind her without her knowing it and stopping it. When she arrived at the house she put the vessel down and found it was empty."

Funk's Parallels

Thom 96.

Visitor Comments

This parable shows that the whole gospel can best be understood from the spiritual traditions. The kingdom of heaven is that state of felt awareness of the presence of God within us--enlightenment. In meditation we seek the void, the emptiness where that state of grace can be felt. Vs.3, "the kingdom is inside you..." Christians may be puzzled by this verse (perhaps the whole book), but a Buddhist would say, "aha!"
- iver

The Kingdom of God or enlightenment or whatever you wish to call it is always with you wherever you go and sometimes you can lose it without knowing it. Don't just carry your load in life, stop and look at it sometimes to make sure it's still there.
- Five_crowss

The Kingdom of God is not meant to be hoarded by one, but dispersed, poured out, upon the ground to nourish and sustain the lowest of creatures (sinners). The spilling of the Kingdom of God may have seemed like a "misfortune" to the woman, but not to God.
- 1of2

I think that Amundsen must be right: At the end of your journey you are left with nothing material, a paradoxical journey for in a sense you have made no progress. You are only left with yourself, and your self must be in good condition. You are a passser-by whether your like it or not or even whether you know it or not.
- just passing by

She was unaware. Was however God? Like the Story of the Indian WaterCarrier, intended to be instrumental, this is intended to have a particular effect on a particular person at a particular time. It is not dedicated to a general usage
- Thief37

When puberty is reached no one notices that they have been emotionally bankrupted during childhood.
- Rodney

Maybe the point is that we should end up where we started (like being a naked baby again), completely emptying ourselves of everything that weighs us down.
- newbie

The woman holds her kingdom in her hands if she would have paid more attention she wouldn't have let it go to waste.
- King

It is wrong to expect a meal (entering the kingdom) at the end of the road, when we reach home (when we die). Rather the kingdom is already here and we should try to enter it now, before the possibility to do so pours away.
- stef

The jar of flour on the long road might be our thoughts of who we are and what life is all about. But we are so involved with our role that we do not realize that as we go along life empties out our idea of who we are. And when we get to the end and look back we see the jar, our role, is empty. But we, our real selves, are there to witness the empty jar. That this is actually a good thing is why it is likened to the kingdom of heaven. I love the surprise ending.
- meanoldmommy

Clearly this lesson is parallel with the parable of the lilies. Do not worry about your own good. What you most care about, you shall lose. In emptiness is only God. What you save will be only for others. Jesus says that over and over again. This is what spiritual economics is all about. Giving and receiving is one. Also, it shows us that carring the burden of trying to care for ourselves is not rewarding. Also, this is a lesson in learning not to plan for our good in the future. God is here and now. Carrying the burden of wellness or fullfilment in the future is futile.
- rexdxiv

The kingdom of God is not visible. It is not of the earth or the material but of the unseen and spiritual. On the path "home" we lose that which is material; we must loose all earthly and material attachments.
- specofclarity

Personally, I believe that "handle" is mis-translated. The proper translation may be "that which holds" referring to a lid or door. In any event. The parable may mean something subtle like: A person is born with all that is required to enter the Kingdom whole. However, on taking a road to "enlightenment" the individual neglects that which he had all along, namely his spirit. "She had not understood how to toil." She did not know how to engage her own spirituality, and wound up empty-handed. By going down a "distant road" may refer to going down a spiritual path far from oneself.
- Corpus Shtev

Scholarly Quotes

Marvin Meyer writes: "This parable is known only here in early Christian literature, although 'Macarius' of Syria tells a somewhat similar story of a bag full of sand that is leaking out through a tiny hole in the bag." (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 103)

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write: "This parable also compares the kingdom with a woman; it is not found in the gospels. Perhaps its meaning is given in the parable of the secretly growing seed in Mark 4:26-29. Doresse (page 198) cannot decide whether it refers to the imperceptible loss of the kingdom or to the contrast between its coming and the woman's failure to notice her loss; neither can we." (The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 187)

F. F. Bruce writes: "Here is a parable of the kingdom which has no canonical parallel. The point seems to be a warning against self-confidence, against thinking that one possesses the saving knowledge when in fact it has trickled away." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 148)

Gerd Ludemann writes: "The parable is preserved only here in the early Christian tradition. But its images do not match. Why should all the flour pour out of a jar if only a handle breaks? How is it that the woman did not observe this? So the parable must be interpreted in the light of these contradictions. In that case Thomas wants to say that knowledge (v. 3) is important at any point in time. The reader should always be on guard. . . . The parable is inauthentic, as it is an admonition to the individual Gnostic." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 637)

Jack Finegan writes: "This is a relatively simple, direct parable, introduced much as are parables in the Synoptic tradition, e.g., Mt 13:31, 'The kingdom of heaven is like . . .' The peril of inattention and unnoticed loss is stressed, a teaching well enough in harmony with the teaching of Jesus otherwise in the Synoptic Gospels about the value and the possible loss of the kingdom." (Hidden Records of the Life of Jesus, p. 260)

Funk and Hoover write: "The structure of this parable, recorded only by Thomas, is similar to that of the parable of the leaven (Thom 96:1-2//Matt 13:33//Luke 13:20-21). It has a surprising and provocative ending: the woman comes home with an empty, rather than a full, jar. A full jar would be the expected metaphor for God's imperial rule, so this ending is startling. The symbolism may fit with Jesus' tendency to portray the kingdom as having to do with the unnoticed or unexpected or modest (this is true also of the parable of the mustard seed, Thom 20:2//Mark 4:31-32//Matt 13:31-32//Luke 13:19)." (The Five Gospels, p. 524)

Christan Amundsen writes: "Like people who are unaware that they are leaking the stuff of their being, they walk along a road mindless until they find themselves empty. . . . Our lives, Jesus is saying, are lived by accident. We become 'broken jars,' with nothing inside. Finding ourselves empty is a devastating affair. . . . This story, like any good parable, leads us up to a question. What does the woman do when she finds her jar broken and empty? It is like seeing that one's life is meaningless and without true substance. What now? This is where the true drama unfolds, and so we are left to fill in the blank. The meal that was contained in the jar is the important thing. Perhaps the spirit cannot escape its bondage until the jar is broken, until all our avenues of material reality are discovered to be simply a 'broken jar.' Many responses and interpretations are possible and necessary." (Insights from the Secret Teachings of Jesus, pp. 274-275)

If you like the site, please buy the CD to support its work and get bonus stuff!
Copyright 2012 Peter Kirby <E-Mail>. See the Gospel of Thomas Bibliography & Credits.

Gospel of Thomas Saying 97

Previous - Gospel of Thomas Home - Next