This compilation explores modern interpretations of the Gospel according to Thomas, an ancient text preserved in a Coptic translation at Nag Hammadi and Greek fragments at Oxyrhynchus. With no particular slant, this commentary gathers together quotations from various scholars in order to elucidate the meaning of the sayings, many of which are right...
Nag Hammadi Coptic Text
(29) Jesus said: If the flesh came into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel. But if the spirit (came into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I wonder at this, how this great wealth made its home in this poverty.
(29) Jesus said, "It is amazing if it was for the spirit that flesh came into existence. And it is amazing indeed if spirit (came into existence) for the sake of the body. But as for me, I am amazed at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty."
34 . Jesus says: "If the flesh was produced for the sake of the spirit, it is a miracle. But if the spirit <was produced> for the sake of the body, it is a miracle of a miracle." But for myself (?), I marvel at that because the [ . . . of] this (?) great wealth has dwelt in this poverty."
Oxyrhynchus Greek Fragment
DORESSE - Oxyrhynchus
[". . .] the poverty."
ATTRIDGE - Oxyrhynchus
(29) [. . . makes its home in this] poverty.
"[... comes to dwell in this] poverty."
Jesus said, "Wretched is the body that depends on a body, and wretched is the soul that depends on these two."
Jesus said, "Woe to the flesh that depends on the soul. Woe to the soul that depends on the flesh."
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christs have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Gerd Ludemann writes:
"'Flesh' is a link by key word to 28.1. The whole is a praise of the spirit which has taken up its abode in human bodies or in the flesh. For 'spirit' as an element of light in human beings cf. 24.3."
(Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 605)
F. F. Bruce writes:
"Flesh and spirit are antithetical: spirit does not need flesh as its vehicle, and it is unthinkable that spirit exists to aid flesh. In the conditions of earthly life, spirit is the 'great wealth' that resides in the 'poverty' of a mortal body (cf. Sayings 85, 87, 112)."
(Jesus and Christian Origens Outside the New Testament, p. 126)
Helmut Koester writes:
"Jesus even marvels over how it is that something so glorious as the spirit has become mired in the flesh"
(Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 126).
Funk and Hoover write:
"This group of sayings has a strongly ascetic tone. The depreciation of the body is a frequent theme in Thomas (note especially sayings 87 and 112, but also see the remarks on Thom 28:1-4). Such ideas are not confined to Thomas, but appear elsewhere in early Christian literature (John 3:6; Gal 5:16-18; Rom 8:3-11). However, the profile of Jesus as one who willingly associates with outsiders and the unclean and is remembered as a drunkard and a glutton (Matt 11:19//Luke 7:34) does not square with these remarks that belittle the body and recommend asceticism."
(The Five Gospels, p. 489)
Marvin Meyer writes:
"This saying expresses surprise at the close relationship between the spirit, the immortal dimension of human beings, and the flesh or body. Inasmuch as the saying intimates that the spirit within may actually exist for the benefit and salvation of the body, it resembles saying 7."
(The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 82)
Jesus expresses amazement at the fact that our true nature, our soul, is enhanced by its attachment to and association with a physical body. And even greater amazement that this was not a one way street and souls are just as readily viewed as created to benefit physical bodies. This is a true symbiosis with the existence of both necessary to the expression of the Glory of God as it is unfolding in the Universe.
Here Jesus approaches the limits of his cognitive understanding. There is nothing to marvel at. As Zen Buddhists say it is "nothing special".
Jesus might have been alluding to the fact that Man exists above other animals in creation in that he has a soul; he was not simply granted a body and grew a soul to fit it, the soul was a gift from the Creator.
- Captain Munky
Others have said the same [e.g. Silver Birch]. Matter is inferior, spirit is superior. Quantum thoery agrees. See Ibn el-Arabi's statement on this in his 700-year-old book Bezel of Wisdom
We have been born into this corrupt flesh. Blessed is he who wins the war with this flesh and gains understanding.
Doresse is correct. Your soul is perfect and godly. The mind and physical bodies (gross, astral, causal) can be likened to layers over a shining light bulb. The outer layers block the brilliance of the soul's true light. Jesus is amazed that such depravity covers such a wealth of God.