Monday, January 1, 2024

Saying 14


Jesus said to them, ‘If you fast, you give birth to sin in yourselves. And if you pray, you will be condemned. And if you give alms, you will harm your spirits.’

‘When you enter any district and walk travel the countryside, if they receive you, eat whatever they put in front of you. Heal whoever is sick among them.’

‘For whatever goes into your mouth will not make you unclean. Instead, whatever comes out of your mouth, that is what will make you unclean.’


Saying 14 comprises three teachings. The second part probably belongs to the earliest stage of the book. This instructions served as instructions for Jesus’ disciples as they became itinerent teachers and healers. The New Testament parallels situate the instructions amid an expressly urgent mission to carry Jesus’ message throughout the full Israelite community before the arrival of the end times. Within its context of the core book, this second part of Saying 14 likely had a similar implication. Other instructions for itinerants are found in the Didache, another document with material from the early Jesus Movement. The first part of Saying 14 originally belonged with the first part of Saying 6.

His disciples questioned him and said, ‘How should we fast? How should we pray? How should we give alms? What diet should we observe?’

Jesus said to them, ‘If you fast, you give birth in yourselves to sin. And if you pray, you will be condemned. And if you give alms, you will harm yourselves.’

The questions concern hot-button topics in the early Jesus Movement, especially as communities wondered if and how gentile converts—which were becoming more common—were supposed to keep typically Judean practices and rituals. The thrust of the restored dialogue represents a general opposition to Judean practices of piety: fasting, praying, almsgiving, and ritual cleanliness (especially as represented by observance of the Torah’s dietary restrictions) were all seen as purifying a person before God when sacrificial offerings were not an available option (cf. Hos 6.6; Prov 21.3; Tob 12.8). The specific saying on food may have passed on independently (Matt 12.34; 15.18; Luke 6.45), but the editor’s perspective may have been influenced in particular by Matt 15.1–20 (cf. Mark 7.1–15), which has commonly been interpreted as Jesus abrogating the laws of the Torah.

However, the first part of Saying 14 evidently lacked an answer to the question about diet in the form extant when it was brought into the Gospel of Thomas. The questions-and-answers were appended with an unrelated teaching that ritual purity could not be passed through food, and in fact was irrelevant next to impurity coming from within one’s self. The connection was made solely because of the allusion to food in this other teaching, the third part of Saying 14. Whether by accident or design, the questions were separated from the answers. The answers were placed around the instructions for itinerant teachers and healers in Saying 14.



6.6–13 Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two,and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except astaff, no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


15.10–11 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand. It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’

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