Monday, January 1, 2024

Saying 3


Jesus said, ‘If those who lead you say to you, “Look, the kingdom is in the sky,” then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say, “It is [under the earth | in the sea],” then the fish of the sea will precede you [and enter it]. But the kingdom [of the sky] is inside you and is outside you.’

‘[Whoever knows himself will find it. And] when you know yourselves, [then you will become known and] you will [know | understand] that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you are impoverished and you are poverty.’


Ancient Judeans—in common with their neighbors throughout Southwest Asia—believed in a three-tiered universe. In the middle was the earth/land, a flat world situated within a turbulent cosmic ocean, order within chaos. Mortal life dwelled on the earth/land. Below was the underworld, Sheol, whose deepest chambers reached to the waters below. Shades of the dead resided here. Overhead was the sky/heaven, a solid, crystalline dome, which held back the cosmic waters above. In some traditions, the sky/heaven had multiple levels (cf. 2 Cor 12.2). While the lowest levels were populated by flying animals, the various levels were also populated by demons, angels, archangels, cherubs, seraphs, stars, etc. God dwelled in the uppermost level. Heaven being ‘up’ was not a metaphor. Moses ascended a mountain to receive God’s law and share a meal with him (Exo 24.9–13). Elijah was taken into the sky (2 Kings 2.11). Jesus was taken into the sky, from which he will return (Acts 1.9–11). What has commonly been translated as the ‘kingdom of heaven’ should be also understood as the ‘kingdom of the sky’.

Mark 13 conveys that the end of the world is imminent, but the devout should not be misled by fraudulent leaders beforehand. In the decades after Mark was written, Matt 24 and Luke 21 each expanded and altered it. Matthew did so with apocalyptic material taken from other sources. While the parallel chapter Luke 21 lacks an equivalent to Saying 3, a similar saying is found in Luke 17 alongside material found in Matt 24 but not Mark 13. It may be that our version of Luke also used Matthew, and the author relocated the extra material from Matt 24, placing it with yet other material concerning the eschaton. Perhaps it represented a later divergence of the same original saying. Another version of this saying—closer in form to that in Luke than in Mark or Matthew—arrived the Gospel of Thomas at a later stage in its literary development, coming from a community in the process of spiritualizing their eschatology in the face of failed expectations. They were no longer waiting for God’s governance to be imposed on the world in a climactic way. They now believed it manifested internally for each individual.



13.21–22 ‘And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Anointed One,” or “Look! There he is,” do not believe it. False anointed ones and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.’


24.23–27 Then if anyone says to you, “Look! Here is the Anointed One,” or “There he is,” do not believe it. For false anointed ones and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Take note, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness,” do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the son of man.’


17.20–24 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’ Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the son of man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the son of man be in his day.’

Gospel of Mary

‘Beware that no one leads you astray, saying, “See here!” or “See there!” For the son of man is within you.’

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