Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Saying 30


Jesus said, ‘Where there are three, [there are gods | they are gods]. [And] where there is [one alone | two or one], [I say] I am with him.’

[‘Lift the stone and you will find me there. Split the wood and I am there.’]


The extant Greek version of this saying says ‘where there are three, gods are there’, while the Coptic version says ‘where there are three gods, they are gods’. Each translation (or one, dependent on the other) seems to have misinterpreted the Hebrew term אלוהים (elohim). This is the plural form of אלוה (elóah, god), but is used throughout the Hebrew Bible and ancient Judean literature as an intensive plural in reference to Yhwh. When used this way, it is usually translated capitalized as ‘God’. The Greek and Coptic translators took the Hebrew plural form at face value, resulting in multiple ‘gods’ being present ‘where there are three’. The Coptic version, trying to make sense of the statement, reworded it, identifying the ‘three’ as these multiple ‘gods’. This demonstrates that a Hebrew version of Saying 30 existed before being translated into either Greek or Coptic. When Saying 30 is reconstructed to its likely original wording, the resulting statement—that God is present when his followers gather together—is found to be a common idea in ancient Judaism.

The second part is found in both Greek and Coptic, but the order and location differs. In Greek (stone, wood) it is found with Saying 30, but in Coptic (wood, stone) it is found with Saying 77. It seems to reflect a panentheistic theology regarding Jesus.



18.18–20 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’


6a.10–11 From where is it derived that three who sit in judgment, the Presence is with them? It is derived from this same verse, as it is stated: ‘In the midst of the judges he judges.’ And the minimum number of judges that comprises a court is three. From where is it derived that two who sit and engage in Torah study, the Presence is with them? As it is stated: ‘Then they that feared the Lord spoke one with the other, and the Lord listened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that fear the Lord, and that think upon his name.’ The Presence listens to any two God-fearing individuals who speak with each other.

Pirkei Avot

3.2 Rabbi Hananiah son of Teradion said […] if two sit together and there are words of Torah spoken between them, then the Presence abides among them.

Lucian of Samosata

Hermotimus 81 And he tells us God is not in heaven, but goes about in everything: wood and stone and animals, even the most ordinary of them.

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