Thomas 19, Q, Ezekiel, & The Mandaean Followers of John The Baptist
Thomas 19, Q, Ezekiel, and The Mandaean Followers of John The Baptist
There are ten Gospel of Thomas sayings that have no
parallels in the famous "Funk's Parallels". One of them is Thomas 19.
The Five Gospels is also dismissive... "Five trees. This saying exhibits
two themes familiar from later gnostic works...The fellows voted this
cluster black by common consent." But, Thomas 19 is paralleled in Q in
the speech of John the Baptist, Ezekiel 47 of the Hebrew Bible, and the
writings of the Mandaeans followers of John the Baptist, to whom
Ezekiel, and #47 in particular, is very important. A tight loop of the
Gospel of Thomas, Q, and John the Baptist (from two sources). The only
thing missing in the non-Thomas sources is explicit statement of the
number of trees being five in number. But, in the Mandaean Ginza Rba, if
you count them, there are precisely Five trees in Paradise. We can name
them, and probably show a picture of them. The trees by the living
water of Ezekiel in paradise, important to John the Baptist, and passed
down to Jesus of Nazareth to be recorded in the apparantly grossly
underestimated Gospel of Thomas.
Q, Ezekiel, John the Baptiser...:
In the famous Gnostic John the Baptizer by G.R.S. Mead, Chapter 1, he
points out how John the Baptist, in Q, discusses stones and trees (just
like Thomas 19), and points out Ezekiel 47 with it's spring of water and
trees is where John got it and how it seems to match the Mandaean
thinking... "Let us now turn to the first part of the short but
powerful address of the Baptizer handed on by Mt. (3:7-10) and Lk.
(3:7-9), a most interesting example of those stirring utterances or
'sayings' of his referred to by Josephus.
Ye out-births of vipers, who hath given you a glimpse of fleeing
from the Wrath to come? Make fruit, therefore, worthy of (or
sufficient for) your repentance. And think not (Lk. begin not) to say
within (or among) yourselves: We have Abraham [for] father. For I say
unto you that God is able of these stones (Aram. 'abenayya) to raise
(or wake) up children (Aram. benayya) for Abraham. But even now the axe
is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree, therefore, which
beareth not good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.
This graphic discourse, contained in Q, begins with the same
terrible phrase 'generation' or 'out-births of vipers' which Jesus
also uses on several occasions. It may possibly go back to Micah 7:17,
where we read, referring to the heathen: "They shall lick the dust
like serpents, like those creeping on the earth." And if 'licking the
dust' can be taken in the sense of the allegorists of the time, who
interpret it as eating excrement, a fate allotted to the
serpent-shaped souls of the damned in Sheôl, it becomes all the more
strikingly graphic. In vain do they think they will escape because
they are of kinship with Abraham, or that God cannot repeat the wonder
he once wrought, of raising up children out of the barren rock of
their forefather. God is able to make a new Israel out of the very
stones, just as he had of old hewn, like stones (Heb. 'abanîm), a
line of sons (Heb. bânîm) from the once barren rock of Abraham,
as Isaiah says (51:1-2): "Look unto the rock whence ye were hewn . . .
look unto Abraham your father."
This for the 'stones'; but what of the 'trees'? There are other
passages in the O.T. (e.g. Ps. 1:1, Jer. 17:5-8) which liken the man
who delights in the Law and has faith in Yahveh to fruit-bearing
trees; but the most arresting verse in this connection is to be found
in the continuation of the same vision in Ezekiel (47:1-8) which so
graphically depicted the Messianic Source. This reads (v. 12):
"By the river upon the banks thereof, on this side and on that
side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade; they
shall bring forth new fruit month after month, because their waters
issue from the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat and
the leaf thereof for medicine."
The mystical application of this prophetical utterance to the
righteous of Israel as the fruit-bearing trees of the longed-for days
of the Messiah, would surely strike the imagination of so intuitive a
mind as John's; it is indeed all of a piece with his general
conception and expectation and fits in most deftly."
And what other few Mandaean scholars used to exist also commented on the
Mandaeans and trees, (shades of Thomas and a certain mustard seed)...
"The Tree is a common religous symbol in Mandaean books for Divine Life,
and the souls of Mandaeans are not seldom represented as birds, taking
refuge in the shlter of a Vine, or Tree, against the tempests of the
world. Here, to translate the word "mandia" by "dwellings" or "Shelters"
would make sense." The Mandaeans of Iran and Iraq, p. 11, E.S. Drower
...Gospel of Thomas, the Ginza Rba, and the Five Trees:
So, we have the interesting coincidence, that John the Baptist, in Q,
talks about stones and trees just like Thomas 19, and that a top expert
ties that in with the Mandaean version of John the Baptist and
considered the tree part, a common motif in the Mandaean religion, being
from Ezekiel 47, which is an exact parallel to the Five Trees part of
Thomas 19, except for the number five...
"By the river upon the banks thereof, on this side and on that side,
grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade; they shall bring
fruit month after month, because their waters issue from the
sanctuary: and the
fruit thereof shall be for meat and the leaf thereof for medicine."
For you have five trees in Paradise that do not change during summer
and their leaves do not fall. Whoever comes to know them will not
Both have trees in paradise who's leaves don't fall/fade all year round
that are good for your health. The main difference is GThomas spelling
out the number five. But there are precisely five in the Mandaean Ginza
Vine which is all life
The Tree of Radiance
The Great Tree which is All Healings
The First Great Palm Tree
The Great Tree Which is All Things
(See the Appendix for a list of Ginza Rba Tree statements)
And, from the branches, there are geometrically five trees in the
Mandaean art. The Great Palm Tree, the Vine which is all life, and Tree
of Radience are easy to spot...
Stones and trees is mentioned by John the Baptist in Q, just like Thomas
19. The trees in paradise are also all important to the followers of
John the Baptist, and both tree outlooks from both independent versions
of John the Baptist, are tied to Ezekiel 47, which is exactly the same
as the Five Trees part of Thomas 19, except for the number five, which
is the number of trees in the Mandaean Ginza Rba.
Thomas 19 joins the majority of sayings in Thomas, not paralleled in the
Christian Bible, that are paralleled in the Mandaean literature. An
inconvenient truth is that there are no parallels to the second century
Gnostics, and dozens to the Mandaeans. The Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas
was influenced by John the Baptist and the Christians edited most of it
out, for obvious reasons.
So, how can this be? Why haven't Biblical scholars noticed? Because they
can't read it. You can't publish about something you can't read.
"A few European scholars have studied Mandaeism during the past few
hundred years. Today, almost nobody does. Apart from the works of the
English Lady Ethel S. Drower (1879-1972), the primary field worker
among the Mandaeans in Iraq (and still fondly remembered by many older
Mandaeans), most of the scholarship is in the German language. Many
Mandaean texts still remain to be translated, and some are unknown to
the West." The Mandaeans: An Unknown Religious Minority in the Near
East, By Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley
There haven't been any recent translations of any Mandaean literature.
No one is qualified. And it's far from clear anyone ever was.
Considering Mandaean hostility to Jesus for blabbing their secrets, and
never ever under any circumstances whatsoever accepting converts, not
like they are eager to help. Plenty of professional well educated
Mandaeans, and none have translated anything. It's far from clear the
few translations of the few documents we know of, almost all purchased
before the Mandaeans knew what we were up to, were translated correctly
at all or nearly complete. And, due to the persecutions over the
centuries, particularly the last few centuries, the Mandaean priesthood,
with all the knowledge has been decimated.
Not that all kinds of corruptions hasn't been introduced into even the
oldest Mandaean writings like the Ginza Rba over two thousand years. Not
that the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas agreed 100% with John the Baptist
anyway. But it gives context to most of the obscure non-Christian
sayings in Thomas, and demonstrates a common source, John the Baptist,
2000 years ago.
Appendix (Mandaean followers of John the Baptist, Ginza Rba, Trees in
In a building which life buildeth,
good trees flourish.
fragrant is the perfume of the trees
with the perfume of manda-d-hiia
which pervadeth them.
Except for six or seven nations,
Fruit is set up on the Tree
On the Tree fruit is set up
And (other) trees gather together toward it.
Toward it do the trees assemble,
And a throne is set up for the Lord of Radiance
For the Lord of Radiance a throne is set up
And the Lord of Radiance sitteth thereon.
To what shall they dedicate the wreath upon their heads and upon what
hang it? They dedicate it to the Tree of Radiance and hang it (thereon).
and the Vine which is all Life and the great Tree which is all
the name of the great First Palmtree be pronounced on thee
the guardian 'uthras of the jordan will curse him and the Wellspring
Palmtree will curse him.
Thou art the father of all the 'uthras, the Support which is all
light, the Vine
which is all Life and the great Tree which is all things.
Praised be that great first Jordan in which the First Life was
be all jordans of living water: praised be the fruits, grapes and
stand by them.
Well is it for him Who hath looked on that Tree! Bihram , who saw it,
shone, was cured and established And his name hath not died.
Praised be the First Great Radiance and praised the Great First Light!
be the Wellspring and the great first Palm-Tree Praised be the mystic
which dwelleth in the great mystic First Wellspring. Praised be the
S'is'lam who sitteth on the bank of the Wellspring and Palm-tree;
and the Vine which is all Life and the great Tree which is all
The name of the great mystic Wellspring is pronounced upon thee. The
the great mystic First Palmtree is pronounced upon thee.
And the strength of Light increased greatly,
Was increased and established.
A wreath they twisted into crowns
(Of) myrtle leaves. And trees bore their burden (fruit)