Monday, January 1, 2024

Saying 16


Jesus said, ‘Maybe people think that I have come to throw peace on the world. But they do not know that I have come to throw divisions on the earth: fire, sword, war. Because there will be five people in a house, and three will be against two, and two against three, father against son, and son against father. And they will stand as a single one.’


Saying 16 comprises two teachings. The first part refers to the divisive nature of Jesus’ teachings, which suggests they may belong to the oldest version of the book. They do not connect to each other directly. They were placed in this sequence simply because of their similar subject matter. The division within families was lifted from Micah, which described the situation that had risen in Jerusalem and wider Judah. This decay in social unity, right down to the family level, would ultimately result in the Judean kingdom facing punishment from God in the form of an invasion. Within the apocalyptic theology found in Jesus’ teachings throughout the earlier versions of Thomas, it corresponds to the animosity which will grow prior to the eschaton.

The second part of Saying 16 alludes to the primordial non-binary Adam. The Coptic word ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ literally translates as ‘solitary one’, and seems to be essentially synonymous with a phrase used in other sayings, ⲟⲩⲁ ⲟⲩⲱⲧ, ‘a single one’. But ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ also carries the connotation of an ascetic, someone who abstains from worldly desires.



10.34–36 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.’


12.51–53 ‘Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

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