Gospel of Thomas, Saying 61
- This is a saying attributed to Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas, a new
translation of Saying 61:
Therefore I say: If someone becomes like God, he will become full
of light. But if he becomes one, separated from God, he will be
full of darkness. ("The Fifth Gospel," Patterson, Robinson, Bethge,
Trinity Press International)
What kind of "Light" is this Saying talking about? In my view the Gospel
of Thomas is in the tradition of contemplative or mystical Christianity
and the "Light" of Thomas referred to here is not metaphor but mystical.
Other teachings from the middle east about Light and God as Light.
The Egyptian mystic Evagrius described that, for him, often his time
of prayer was "interrupted" by the manifestation of "the Holy Light of
the Trinity." He spoke of reaching a mystical level where it was no
longer necessary to pray, because the Light of God engulfed his vision.
In a stage of contemplative prayer that he called "Pure Prayer," Evagrius
says, "Prayer ceases, and one becomes astonished, is caught up in wonder
at the Light of God." "The person who has entered the Place of the Mysteries
remains in wonder at them, and this is the true prayer which opens the
Door to the Treasures of God." ("The Syriac Fathers On Prayer and the
A Syrian Orthodox mystic once said:
All the chambers of the heart are filled by that blessed Light,
and there are no shapes or forms or anything material, or number
or color; rather that Light Who cannot be separated out into
shapes and forms is Single owing to the simpleness of the Faculty
of Sight. ("The Syriac Fathers")
In the New Testament is a parallel saying of Jesus to Thomas 61:
If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of
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- --- James Bean <santmat@...> wrote:
>Interesting that Grondin's Interlinear Translation
> This is a saying attributed to Jesus from the Gospel
> of Thomas, a new
> translation of Saying 61:
> Therefore I say: If someone becomes like God, he
> will become full
> of light. But if he becomes one, separated from
> God, he will be
> full of darkness. ("The Fifth Gospel," Patterson,
> Robinson, Bethge,
> Trinity Press International)
> What kind of "Light" is this Saying talking about?
> In my view the Gospel
> of Thomas is in the tradition of contemplative or
> mystical Christianity
> and the "Light" of Thomas referred to here is not
> metaphor but mystical.
shows # 61, "when he should come to be destroyed, he
will be full of light. When, however, he should come
to be divided, he will be full of darkness." The
Scholar's Translation shows, "if one is whole, one
will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one
will be filled with darkness." How does one reconcile
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- -----Original Message-----
From: James Bean <santmat@...>
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 12:27 AM
Subject: [gthomas] Gospel of Thomas, Saying 61
>In _The Cult of the Seer_, a massive study of the Desert Fathers of ancient
>This is a saying attributed to Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas, a new
>translation of Saying 61:
> Therefore I say: If someone becomes like God, he will become full
> of light. But if he becomes one, separated from God, he will be
> full of darkness. ("The Fifth Gospel," Patterson, Robinson, Bethge,
> Trinity Press International)
>What kind of "Light" is this Saying talking about? In my view the Gospel
>of Thomas is in the tradition of contemplative or mystical Christianity
>and the "Light" of Thomas referred to here is not metaphor but mystical.
>Other teachings from the middle east about Light and God as Light.
Egypt, Violett McDermott maintains that these trance-forming states have a
material basis in altered states of consciousness. The desert fathers, like
many mystics, used food & sleep deprivation & self-inflicted pain to create
visions. If it fit the orthodox system, it was selected for; if not, it was
Indeed, even accepting your mystical ideation, "Light" can still be
"metaphorical"; it is possible to perceive metaphors as literal statements
while in altered states. I'm not saying faith is totally meaningless as I
believe it is hard-wired into the human brain by evolution but the selection
processes that led to this may simply have been a response to a complex
environment. If one perceives oneself as immortal it can lead to higher
levels of altruism & this in turn can be transmitted thru inclusive fitness.
The latter term simply means the genes shared with kin. Kin altruism exists
in animals (including man) as it indirectly passes one's genes along.
In any case I'm not sure if Thomas does belong in "the contemplative
mystical tradition" of X-ianity. Such schools are usually more organized
than the almost random enumerations of Thomas.
- Victor Goldini wrote:
>Interesting that Grondin's Interlinear TranslationAs I wrote to James offlist:
>shows # 61, "when he should come to be destroyed, he
>will be full of light. When, however, he should come
>to be divided, he will be full of darkness." The
>Scholar's Translation shows, "if one is whole, one
>will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one
>will be filled with darkness." How does one reconcile
Although your interest lies with the "divine light" aspect, a few
corrections to your citation are in order. In the first place, this
is not the entirety of #61, but rather only the last part (61.5 in
standard numbering). More importantly, you've left out the very
important symbols in the original that indicate translator
insertions. Th61.5 actually appears as follows:
"Therefore, I say: If someone becomes <like>* (God), he will become
full of light. But if he becomes one, separated (from God), he will
become full of darkness."
*The manuscript reads, "If someone is destroyed..."
The insertion by the translators of the phrases '(God)' and '(from
God)' is unjustified, IMO. In any case, it's interpretation, and not
part of the translation proper. ...
The following exchange then occurred:
> It sounds like you might not care for the Fifth GospelsUnfortunately for me, what I care for doesn't always prevail. The
> translation, what they've done with certain sayings.
Patterson/Robinson/Bethge translation is a modification of that of
the Berlin Working Group for Coptic Studies, which appears in the
highly-respected SQE (Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum). The SQE
contains translations of the gospels, and is sponsored by a religious
organization, so my guess is that there would be a bias toward making
Thomas sound orthodox wherever possible. Like Paterson Brown's
translation, I like it because it generally adheres very closely to
the literal meaning, but where it deviates, it does so rather badly.
One has to pay close attention to the material in parentheses (not
only in this translation, but others as well), cuz that's where the
translator has inserted his own material. In most cases I've looked
at in various translations, the inserted material reveals translator
bias more than anything else. I guess we should count our blessings
that the scholars are at least conscientious enough to use some
device to indicate where strict translation ends and interpretation
comes into play (altho there is still, of course, some element of
interpretation involved in the choice of words, e.g., 'suffered' in
#58 instead of 'troubled').
As to your (Vic's) question about the word 'whole' in the "Scholar's
Translation", instead of 'destroyed', note that the word 'whole' is
enclosed in pointed brackets, i.e. '<whole>'. This device is sometimes used
when the translator feels that the copyist has made an error, or when some
material is, or appears to be, missing. The explanation in "The Five
Gospels" is this:
"Pointed brackets enclose a subject, object, or other element implied by
the original language and supplied by the translator." (pg.XX)
The Coptic word in question looks rather like this: 'WHy'. At 61.3, J is
made to say (in the SVT): "I am the one who comes from what is whole",
where the Coptic word for 'whole' looks something like this: 'WHW'.
Apparently, the SVT translators felt that the copyist made a mistake in
61.5. The very next letter is 'y' and the copyist may have been thinking
ahead and inadvertantly wrote that letter after 'WH' at that point in the
manuscript instead of properly completing the word as 'WHW'. Personally, I
hold out the possibility that the mistake was intentional, and that the
reader may have been intended to "destroy him" by changing the 'y' (which
is the prototypical masculine grammatical element in Coptic) to 'W'. But
whether regarded as intentional or not, the assumption that a mistake was
made favors the SVT reading. <whole> The sense and symmetry of the saying
seems to be lost otherwise.
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
- LLW rely to James questions on light in GT (61):
My studies to GT are limited so ... I assume GT influenced by 4G and wisdom
literature..if so, I would like to make the following observations regarding
use of "light" in 61.
Compare Jn. 1:4, "in him was life and the life was the light of men" and
Prov. 20:27, "the human spirit is the lamp of the Lord."
These two vv. establish a link between "life and light", light in 4G implies
the revelation which reveals the "life" that is in Jesus.