Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Saying 52


His disciples said to him, ‘Twenty four prophets spoke in Israel. Did all of them speak about you?’

He said to them, ‘You have left out the Living One who is in front of you and have spoken about the dead.’


It is ambiguous who the ‘Living One’ is meant to be. This saying is framed as a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in certain later additions to the book (similar to Saying 37, where the ‘Living One’ is God), while identification of disciples by name comes from the final additions (as the Beginning does, where the ‘Living One’ is Jesus). This suggests the ‘Living One’ here is God rather than Jesus. Saying 52 disparages the prophets of Judaism as mere ‘dead’ men (contrast Mark 12.26–27). Their count as twenty four may refer to the number of books in the Hebrew Bible, which had emerged as the authoritative scriptures by the first century. The prophets being regarded as ‘dead’ does not mean this Christian community had broken away from the Hebrew Bible altogether. It may be they merely thought of the ‘prophets’ as insufficient (compare John 5.39–40).



24.27, 44 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. […] Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’


5.39–40 ‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’

4 Ezra

14.45–47 And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, ‘Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them, but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge.’

Acts of the Apostles

10.43 ‘All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

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