Ezekiel, John the Baptist, and the Five Trees of Paradise
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." Thomas
19 and it's Five Trees is Gnostic like Genesis, Psalms, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Philo
and the historical Jesus are Gnostic. The only thing missing is explicit
statement of the number of trees being five in number. That shows up well after
Thomas in the third century. But the Mandaean followers of John the Baptist's
religion is centered on those trees in paradise from Genesis-Ezekiel,
particularly Ezekiel 47:12, which is a dead parallel to the tree part of Thomas
19, except the number five. However, in the Canonical Prayer Book, the Mandaeans
mention five trees exactly, (like Philo does), and we can list their names, and
even show a picture of them.
Rivers, Trees that Don't Fade, & Immortality in Paradise, From Genesis to
There's an unbroken chain from Genesis 2 to Ezekiel 47:12, to 19:2 of the Gospel
of Thomas. Always magical trees, that never fade, by the side of a magical
river, that gives immortality/healing. In Genesis it's the Garden of Eden, in
Ezekiel, it's become an explicit parable of the Second Temple. True, rivers with
trees by the side, with fruit, and it being a good thing, was an important part
of the actual ancient world, independent of the Hebrews/Jews/Samaritans, and
they wrote about it, such as Homer in the Odyssey. But virtually never with that
complete list. That the leaves don't fade, and immortality/healing are implicit
in Genesis, but by Psalms, it's explicit.
8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put
the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of
the groundtrees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle
of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil. 10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden...15 The LORD God took the
man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the
LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in
season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers...6 For the
LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will
7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8
He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the
stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no
worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves
will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because
the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and
their leaves for healing."
Coptic Thomas 19
Jesus says: "Blessed is he who was, before he came into being. If you become
disciples of mine (and) listen to my words, these stones will serve you. For you
have five trees in Paradise that do not change during summer (and) winter, and
their leaves do not fall. Whoever comes to know them will not taste death." ©
It's universally assumed Ezekiel gets his parable of the Second Temple from
Genesis and the Garden of Eden, at least indirectly, why wouldn't it also be
universally assumed Jesus got his version from Ezekiel? It's closer to Thomas
than it is to Genesis. One reason is that Thomas says five trees, gives an
actual number. The only number up until then is the two mentioned in Genesis.
The rest of the Hebrew Bible gives no number. But by the time of Thomas, it
seems everyone that mentions it had a list of trees by name, and it was usually
around five, including, apparantly, John the Baptist...
Ezekiel, Q, and the Followers of 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 that stones and trees are central to the Mandaeans, and points out Ezekiel
47 with it's spring of water and trees is where John the Baptiser got it and how
it seems to match the Mandaean writings...
"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...
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."
Ezekiel, John the Baptiser and the Mustard Seed of Thomas 20
And that other theme from Ezekiel, the birds finding shelter in the great branch
of the Universe/Kingdom, also fundamental to the Mandaean religion. It's the
next saying in Thomas. The two big tree motifs in the Mandaean religion,
accepted as a given, long before Thomas was discovered, and they are side by
side in Thomas, buried in a sealed jar for 1600 years.
"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
shelter 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
A story in itself, for brevity we'll omit, but as deep as this one, and worth
Philo, John the Baptiser, Jesus, and the Five Trees of Paradise
By the time of Jesus, many centuries after Ezekiel, giving names to those Trees
in Paradise, so honored through the centuries in Jewish/Samaritan writings, was
apparantly common. And strangely enough, the number is almost always Five. Philo
often mentions those Trees in Paradise, with names, in more than one place, and
it's always listed as five, although one could argue six. DeConick lists five. A
Philo, Noah's Work as a Planter IX
"We must therefore have recourse to allegory, which is a favourite with men
capable of seeing through it; for the sacred oracles most evidently conduct us
towards and instigate us to the pursuit of it. For they say that in the Paradise
there were plants in no respect similar to those which exist among us; but they
speak of trees of life, trees of immortality, trees of knowledge, of
comprehension, of understanding; trees of the knowledge of good and evil. (37)
Now these cannot have been trees of the land, but must indisputably have been
plants of a rational soil, which was a road to travel along, leading to virtue,
and having for its end life and immortality; and another road leading to vice,
having for its end the loss of life and immortality, that is to say, death.
Therefore, we must suppose that the bounteous God plants in the soul, as it
were, a paradise of virtues and of the actions in accordance with them, which
lead it to perfect happiness"
Philo's Five Trees in Paradise from Ezekiel, and an explicit parable like
Ezekiel, with specific names for trees, from "sacred oracles"...
1. trees of life,
2. trees of immortality,
3. trees of knowledge,
4. of comprehension/understanding
5. trees of the knowledge of good and evil.
Another source, from the approximate time of Jesus, (apparantly), are the
Mandaean followers of John the Baptist, demonstrated to be obsessed with those
trees from Ezekiel, and the Stones and Trees of John the Baptiser in Q, and
Thomas 19. They also have exactly five trees mentioned in their Canonical Prayer
Book, the Ginza Rba. (See excerpts in the Appendix.)
The Mandaean Five Trees in Paradise...
1. Vine which is all life
2. The Great Tree which is All Healings
3. The Tree of Radiance
4. The First Great Palm Tree
5. The Great Tree Which is All Things
1, 2, and 3 match if radiance is enlightenment/knowledge, which it is to the
Mandaeans and the Jesus of Thomas.
The Mandaeans have many drawings of those special Five Trees, among the other
trees, who's leafs don't fade, by the side of Ezekiel's river, that are the key
to eternal life. Here's one of them. The Tree of Radiance is easy to spot, using
the Mandaean radiance motif. As is The First Great Palm Tree and Vine Which is
All Things. The other two are a tough call. Perhaps the two to the left of the
First Great Palm Tree.
Yes, the Mandaean writings have been damaged over the centuries, being copied
and re-copied, not sealed in a jar like Thomas, but it gives Thomas context.
Stones and trees were associated with John the Baptist of Christianity and the
Mandaeans by the experts before Thomas 19 was found in a jar, partly with the
support of Q. Those trees in Paradise, who's leaves don't fade, and give eternal
life, were also thought to come from Ezekiel, who got it from Jewish/Hebrew
tradition, starting in Genesis 2. And unbroken chain from Genesis 2, through
Ezekiel, to John the Baptist and the Mandaeans, who list Five Trees in Paradise.
Why is it surprising that Jesus would mention those five trees, since at one
time, according to the Christians and Mandaean, at one time he was a Mandaean
Thomas 19 joins the growing list of sayings in Thomas paralleled in the Mandaean
literature. An inconvenient truth is, despite the curt dismissal of the Jesus
Seminar of it being "Gnostic", is that there are no clear parallels to the
second century Gnostics, like there are to the Christians and Mandaeans. None.
The five trees only shows up in the third century, and could have gotten it from
Jesus, the Mandaeans, Philo or a host of other sources.
It seems the historical Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas was influenced by John the
Baptist and the Christians edited most of it out, for obvious reasons. Such as
the competition with followers of John the Baptist, and more fundamentally, not
their dogma. Perhaps those gaps in Thomas, with no clear Synoptic parallels,
are, to a large extent, the John the Baptist part.
So, how can this be? Why haven't Biblical scholars noticed? Perhaps 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.
Particularly condemning is how the next saying in Thomas, is also fundamental to
the Mandaeans, and also from Ezekiel, and also about those Trees in Paradise,
and it's universally condisered as likely to be genuine as anything reported to
be said by Jesus. Voted Red by the Jesus Seminar. And what's the difference?
Both are in the Hebrew Bible, in Ezekiel. Could the difference be that Thomas 20
is in the Christian Bible and Thomas 19 isn't?
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 for Thomas 19's Five Trees, John the Baptist, 2000 years ago,
(who got it from Ezekiel 12 and Genesis 2), not some second century Gnostics.
Appendix (Mandaean Ginza Rba, Trees in Paradise excerpts):
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 shall they
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 healings
the name of the great First Palmtree be pronounced on thee
the guardian 'uthras of the jordan will curse him and the Wellspring and
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 baptised. Praised
be all jordans of living water: praised be the fruits, grapes and trees which
stand by them.
Well is it for him Who hath looked on that Tree! Bihram , who saw it, lived,
shone, was cured and established And his name hath not died.
Praised be the First Great Radiance and praised the Great First Light! Praised
be the Wellspring and the great first Palm-Tree Praised be the mystic Tan(n)a
which dwelleth in the great mystic First Wellspring. Praised be the great
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 healings.
The name of the great mystic Wellspring is pronounced upon thee. The name of 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
A complete list of the parallels, with links is at...