Monday, January 1, 2024

Saying 6


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

Jesus said, ‘Do not lie and what you hate, do not do.’

‘Because everything [is brought to light when faced with truth | is uncovered in the face of the sky]. Because there is nothing hidden that will not be manifested, [and there is nothing covered that will not be revealed].’


Saying 6 comprises three teachings. The second part, depicted here as Jesus’ response to the disciples’ questions, probably belongs to the earliest stage of the book. The core saying is essentially a variant form of the ‘golden rule’. A negatively-phrased version was widely known in Judaism; the phrasing ‘do not do’ is implied to mean ‘do not do to anyone’, as in Tob 4.15.

The first part of Saying 6 originally belonged with the first part of Saying 14. Together, they read:

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.

The questions were prefixed to Saying 6, so that Jesus’ response is tantamount to telling his disciples to fast, pray, give alms, and eat however they prefer as long as it does not violate their own conscience. The third part of Saying 6 is a duplication of Saying 5.



31.15 Judge your neighbor’s feelings by your own, and in every matter be thoughtful.


4.15 ‘And what you hate, do not do to anyone.’


1.2 whatever you want people to refrain from doing to you, you must not do to them.


7.12 ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.’


6.31 ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

Shabbat 31a.6

‘That which is hateful to you do not do to another. That is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.’

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