Thursday, January 4, 2024

Saying 89


Jesus said, ‘Why do you wash the cup’s outside? Do you not understand that the one who made the inside also made the outside?’


In contrast to some parts of the Gospel of Thomas which were added in a somewhat later time, when the growing gentile demographic within the Christian community led to debates about whether the Torah should be observed at all, Saying 89 does not represent a criticism of Torah observances. Instead, the saying falls within a larger debate among Judean legal experts over how to apply the Torah’s ritual purity laws to dinnerware. In this case, it concerned how a cup or plate should be washed to prevent contamination, spreading ritual impurity between anyone who touched the object. Some argued that each side of the dish, and even its handle, were separate components. This would mean that people could pass around the same dish without spreading ritual purity, as long as each person touched a different part. An impure person could hold a cup by its exterior, leaving the interior ritually clean, which meant only the outside needed to be washed. Jesus challenges such interpretations by arguing that because the entire cup was made by the same person, there can be no firm boundary between its different sides or components to prevent the spread of ritual impurity. Hence, if a person is sincerely dedicated to obeying the Torah’s laws on ritual purity, the entire cup needs to be thoroughly washed if any part of it is contaminated. Such a teaching would come from the earliest versions of the Gospel of Thomas.



7.1–5 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Judeans, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders, and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it. And there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’


23.25–28 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’


11.39–41 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within, and see, everything will be clean for you.’

Mishnah Kelim

25.1, 7–8 All vessels have [different laws] for outer and inner sides; as for instance, cushions, coverings, sacks, and packing-bags, in the words of Rabbi Judah. […] All vessels have outer and inner sides and have a part by which they are held. Rabbi Tarfon says this applies only to a large wooden trough. Rabbi Akiva says it applies to cups. Rabbi Meir says it applies to unclean and clean hands. Rabbi Yose says they said this only concerning clean hands. How so? If one's hands were clean and the outer side of a cup was unclean, one may hold it by its holding-place and need not be concerned lest his hands have contracted uncleanness from the outer side of the cup. If one was drinking from a cup whose outer side was unclean he need not be concerned lest the liquid in his mouth contracted uncleanness from the outer side of the cup and that it then conveyed uncleanness to the cup.

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