Gospel of Thomas Commentary

174,747 words

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...

Saying 56 - The World Is A Corpse

Nag Hammadi Coptic Text



(56) Jesus said: He who has known the world has found a corpse; and he who has found a corpse, the world is not worthy of him.


(56) Jesus said, "Whoever has become acquainted with the world has found a corpse, and the world is not worthy of the one who has found the corpse."


61 [56]. Jesus says: "He who has known the world has fallen into a corpse; and he who has fallen into a corpse, the world is not worthy of him!"


Funk's Parallels

GThom 80
Jesus said, "Whoever has come to know the world has discovered the body, and whoever has discovered the body, of that person the world is not worthy."

GThom 111
Jesus said, "The heavens and the earth will roll up in your presence, and whoever is living from the living one will not see death." Does not Jesus say, "Whoever has found oneself, of that person the world is not worthy?"

Luke 17:37
And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

Matt 24:28
For wheresoever the carcas is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

Manichaean Kephalaia XLVII 120:31-121:2
The worlds that are [above] are of soul and of spirit, but [the worlds that are] below are of body and [of] carcass [. . .]. For this reason, then, he . . . the powers of heaven; he has sealed them upon their bodies and their carcasses that are in the lands. . . .


Scholarly Quotes

Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write:

"Knowing the world is equivalent to finding a corpse (or, in the parallel Saying 80, a body); this knowledge and this discovery are evidently regarded as good, for the world is not worthy of the discoverer (cf., Hebrews 11:38, and page 77). Knowing the world, then, must be truly knowing it for what it is. But we must also consider one more saying (109). The world is not worthy of the one 'who will find himself.' We conclude that Saying 57 [56], like these variants we have cited, is based on the verse which in Matthew (10:39; cf., Mark 8:34-35) follows the verses cited in Saying 56 [55]. 'He who finds his soul [life] will lose it, and he who loses his soul for my sake will find it.' Either Thomas simply mystifies his readers by speaking of a corpse or he uses 'corpse' as the equivalent for 'body' and hence for 'self.' The Naassenes used 'corpse' of the spiritual man (Hippolytus, Ref., 5, 8, 22)."

(The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 164)

F. F. Bruce writes:

"To say that the world is not worthy of someone (cf. Hebrews 11.38) is to commend him; therefore (strange as it may seem) to find a corpse is praiseworthy. The Naassenes, according to Hippolytus, spoke of the spiritual body as a 'corpse'. [The reason for this strange use of 'corpse' was that the spiritual essence is 'buried' in the body as a corpse is buried in a tomb (Hippolytus, Refutation v.8.22).] But the analogy of Saying 111 ('as for him who finds himself, the world is not worthy of him') suggests that here 'corpse' means 'body' as used in the sense of 'self'. If so, we may have a cryptic parallel to the canonical saying about gaining the world and losing one's own self, or vice versa (Luke 9.24f.; Matthew 16.25f.), which follows a saying about denying self and taking up the cross (cf. Saying 55)."

(Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 135)

Stevan Davies writes:

"Gos. Thom. 56 is a scribal alteration of saying 80, the word ptoma having been substituted for soma."


Kurt Rudolph says of Saying 56:

"in saying 80 the same is said, but instead of 'corpse' the reference is to the 'body' of the world)."

(Gnosis, p. 264)

Funk and Hoover write:

"The fact that there are two versions suggests that some such saying might have circulated previously in an oral form. Yet both sayings deprecate the created world in a way that is typical of Thomas (27:1; 110; 111:3) and atypical of Jesus. Furthermore, the notion that the world is evil, or corrupt, and is to be shunned is common in other gnostic writings. The Fellows therefore concluded that this saying, in both its forms, originated in early Christian circles such as the one that produced the Gospel of Thomas. It represents gnostic tendencies of one branch of the Christian movement."

(The Five Gospels, p. 505)

Gerd Ludemann writes:

"Thomas 80 corrsponds to Thomas 56, the only difference being that there we have 'body' instead of 'corpse'. For Thomas this world is a sphere opposed to God. So the commandment is to abstain from it (21.1). But the Gnostic must first recognize it as an anti-world in order to be able to turn to the true life. Cf. Gospel of Philip 93: 'This world is an eater of life. Because of this, none of those who are nourished on the [truth] will die. Jesus came from that place and brought food from there. And to those who wished he gave [life, so that] they will not die.'"

(Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 618)


Visitor Comments

What's the need for interpretation? When you find that the world is a corpse (dead men) then you will know it is not worthy of you.
- whacky

I think this makes much sense in that the universe as we know it does resemble a corpse. It's a closed system of entropy, meaning that it is in a constant state of decay. Even on our planet, no life is ever created without being paid for constantly by death. People may think that we, as well as other animals on earth create life, but in reality we just create more temporary vacuums of consumption, and death. We live, by eating life, and consuming energy, breaking down structure and order, and then we die, and all that is wasted.
- AnyMe

The carcass is the dead body of learnt self-destructive attitudes.
- Rodney

(56) When you know the world, you do not know me; when you know me, you have no need to know the world.
- Ardele

Actually, life and consciousness reduces entropy. Consider Meister Eckhart who said: "The world order is based upon a lie." Consider this and the original statement to be a reference to the injustice of the world's courts, the repression by societies and their police, the corruption of their governments and bureacracies, the dishonesty of business, the ineptitude of educational institutions and the general corruption of this world by humans corrupted by life and not acting in the light of their true nature as parts of God and equally brothers and sisters who owe each other their best instead of their worst. If you know this and act upon it, the world is not worthy of you.
- active mystic

Description of a process. When the sudent appreciates that things OF the world have scant appeal then he has reached a particular stage [note stage, not state]. And at this juncture then, having "risen above" the world it is apt to say the world is not worthy of him/her. try treating this description of a long process as applying to say a kindergarten
- Thief37

One who "knows the world" understands that the things we truly value aren't out there, but come from inside us.
- Anon

Nothing lasts for even a microsecond as it was the microsecond before. In one instant, what was the world no longer is the world and that previous world has past into non-existence--just as if it never, ever was. This is the "corpse." If one realizes that this is the true state of affairs, one only does so with the mind of God, Himself. He or she in that instance has become the mind of God. The mind of God is the creator of the world (described herein as the corpse). No creation can be worthy of its creator.
- The Monist