Gospel of Thomas Commentary
Saying 104 - Do Not Pray Or Fast While The Bridegroom Is Present
Nag Hammadi Coptic Text
His disciples asked him and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet shall we observe?"
Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves..."
Jesus says, "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom of God. And if you do not keep the sabbath a sabbath, you will not see the Father."
"If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom. If you do not keep the sabbath a sabbath, you will not see the Father."
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write:
"Jesus is asked to pray and fast (see Sayings 5 and 14). Since he has committed no sin, he refuses, just as in the Gospel of the Hebrews (see page 33) he does not wish to be baptized, and in John 7:3-9 Jesus does not wish to go to the Feast of Tabernacles. However, fasting and prayer are permissible 'when the bridegroom comes out of the bridechamber' (cf., Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35). Since no Gnostic leaves the bridechamber (see Saying 75), this means that the Gnostic will never fast or pray."
(The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 191)
R. McL. Wilson writes:
"Prayer and fasting are more or less emphatically condemned in logia 6 and 14. The obvious canonical parallel is the saying in Mark ii. 18-20, spoken in reply to a criticism that the disciples of Jesus, unlike the Pharisees and the followers of John, were not engaged in fasting. The introduction has been re-written, and indeed we can see the beginnings of such re-writing in Matthew and Luke as compared with Mark; all that has survived is a modified form of the prophecy that the day will come when the bridegroom is no longer present, and then will be the time for fasting. The first sentence of Jesus' reply here, however, is quoted by Jerome as occurring in 'the Gospel according to the Hebrews . . . which the Nazarenes use,' which gives further support to the view that there is some connection between the two documents. The passage in the Gospel of the Hebrews, however, refers to the baptism of John: Jesus declines to go because He has no consciousness of sin, and therefore no need of baptism for remission of sins. Moreover, some scholars attribute the quotation to the Gospel of the Nazarenes. In the present state of our knowledge the relation between these two documents is by no means clear. Bauer notes that at one point, where we can check Thomas against both the Gospel of the Nazarenes and that of Matthew (logion 39), Thomas by reading 'wise as serpents' instead of 'wiser than serpents' agrees with Matthew."
(Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, pp. 84-85)
F. F. Bruce writes:
"The saying expresses the same negative attitude to external acts of piety as Sayings 6, 14 and 27. It is similar to Jesus's reply to the criticism of his disciples for not fasting in Mark 2.18-20, but prayer is here added to fasting. The canonical mention of the bridegroom, which is purely parabolic, is amplified here by reference to the bridal chamber, which (as we have said in the comment on Saying 75) played an important part in the special vocabulary of some Gnostic groups. The opening words of Jesus's reply ('What sin have I committed . . . ?') resemble his reply in the Gospel according to the Hebrews that he should join his family in seeking baptism at John's hands."
(Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 150)
J. D. Crossan writes:
"I distinguish between dialogue and story even though the latter may easily contain the former. What is significant, however, is that the former need not contain the latter. And this becomes especially important for the gnostic transmission of the Jesus tradition. Compare, for example, how the dialectical dialogue of Gos. Thom. 104 appears as a dialectical story in Mark 2:18-20 and is heightened there by the presence of Mark 2:18, which is omitted in Matt. 9:14 = Luke 5:33."
(In Fragments, p. 205)
Helmut Koester writes:
"The first part of Jesus' answer in Gos. Thom. 104 is evidently a later expansion. The second part corresponds to the last sentence of this pericope in Mark, albeit without the explicit reference to 'that day' with which Mark points to the day of Jesus' death. There is no reference in Thomas to the disciples of John and the Pharisees. At least with respect to the latter, there would have been no reason for Thomas to delete it, had it been a part of his text or tradition."
(Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 110)
Stephen Patterson writes:
"Initially the saying seems to be in agreement with Thom. 14:1-2 in rejecting fasting and prayer. One is reminded here of the tradition in which Jesus is accused of being 'a glutton and a drunkard' (see Luke 7:34; Matt. 11:19 [Q]). But then 104:3 seems to shift the position of the text: at some point fasting will be appropriate. But when? Does the "bridal chamber" refer to that ritual of initiation known from Syrian and later Gnostic Christianity? Could it be that although Jesus did not fast, here initiates into Thomas Christianity are encouraged to do so? Or does Thom. 104:3 refer in some enigmatic way to the death of Jesus (cf. the parallel tradition in Mark 2:20), so that one may fast after Jesus' death? Perhaps. Still, fasting is not uncommon as a pious practice; even if it is somehow encouraged in 104:3, this is hardly indicative of a full-scale asceticism among Thomas Christians."
(The Fifth Gospel, pp. 61-62)
Fasting, praying are exercises for people who have not yet attained unity with God (our conscious minds not joined with, reunited with, the Mind of God). Jesus was joined with God and did not need this, and while he was with his followers their benefit was far greater from his direct teaching than from any fasting or praying they might do. But after he left them fasting and praying was very beneficial for their progress.
- A Brother
I see this as an insult to Jesus. Why would you need to pray and fast in His presence? Could you be thirsty or wish for food if you had the opportunity to ask Him questions directly? He did say however, when He is not present you should do this, but not while you had the opportunity to speak to Him directly. Silly people.