The purpose of this article is to examine some of the sayings of Jesus in
the Synoptic tradition, and to try to identify their earlier versions.
Canonical Matthean sayings will be compared with their versions as found in
the Gospel of Thomas (GOT), the Liege Diatessaron (L), and the Hebrew Mt as
contained in Shem-Tob's Even Bohan (HMT).
It is accepted by many commentators that GOT often preserves some very
early pre-canonical traditions. But, although not as well known, the Middle
Dutch Liege harmonistic gospel, found in medieval manuscripts, is also
believed to preserve some important pre-canonical traditions, in so far it
is a textual tradition based on Tatian's Diatessaron. This view is argued
by William L. Petersen, among other scholars.
Also, the purpose of the following analysis is to test Petersen's theory
that HMT is based in part on the textual tradition represented by L. If HMT
is influenced by L, then surely this view should be testable.
In his book, HEBREW GOSPEL OF MATTEW, Mercer UP, 1995, p. 204, Howard lists
22 textual parallels between HMT and GOT. For his part, in his article for
Petersen examines 7 of those briefly, and notes that some parallels seem to
exist between HMT and L in these sayings. The purpose of this article is to
go one step further, and to examine these 7 sayings, as well as others from
Howard's list, with the view of establishing which way does the textual
dependence seem to go. I will be using the English translation of L by
Bruin (C. C. De Bruin, HET LUIKSE DIATESSARON, Leiden, Brill, 1970).
First, let's look at the seven sayings that Petersen commented upon.
1. Matt 19:30
39. Shem-Tob and Thomas logion 4 omit "and
the last first." But the Liège Harmony (Plooij
1929-1970: 353) omits the whole verse. Thus,
the Liège Harmony and Shem-Tob deviate in the
same direction: both have omissions at this point,
and the words "and the last first" are missing from
Obviously no firm conclusion can be drawn from this example. But it seems
to me that the author of HMT did not derive his/her abridged version of
this saying from L. This HMT saying does not seem to be based on L, but on
a separate tradition.
2. Matt 13:47-48
40. Shem-Tob and Thomas logion 8 interpolate
the word "fisherman (so Thomas)/fishermen (so
Shem-Tob)." But the Liège Harmony (Plooij
1929-1970: 180) also interpolates the word
"fishermen." (Note that, against the singular
"fisherman" in Thomas, both Shem-Tob and the
Liège Harmony interpolate the plural
3. Matt 13:48 [Another agreement in this saying]
41. Shem-Tob and Thomas logion 8 substitute
the word "choose" for the Greek "harvest." But
the Liège Harmony (Plooij 1929-1970: 180)
also makes the identical substitution.
(Canonical - RSV:)
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was
thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind;
when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and
sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.
And he said, The person is like a wise fisherman who cast his net
into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of little fish. Among
them the wise fisherman discovered a fine large fish. He threw all
the little fish back into the sea, and easily chose the large fish.
Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!
(Liege; Bruin:93-95:) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto the net
which is cast into the sea and that gathers all sorts of fish. And when the
net is full, the fishermen come and pull it out, and go and sit by the side
of the beach, and select the good fishes and lay them in their vessels, and
the bad ones they throw away.
(HMT:) The kingdom of heaven is like a net in the midst of the sea in which
are gathered all kinds of fish. When it is full, they draw it out, and the
fishermen go forth and choose the good for their vessels and the bad they
This HMT saying does not seem to derive from L. HMT does not have "sit
down" of the canonical and L. L version seems to be more developed compared
to Greek and HMT.
GOT version seems the most serene and non-judgmental, and the whole meaning
appears to be quite different from others. It seems to have been developed
into a different direction altogether.
Greek and HMT seem to be pretty close and perhaps more original than GOT.
4. Matt 7:3-5
42. Shem-Tob and Thomas logion 26 substitute
the word "see" for the Greek "notice" (thus
Shem-Tob and Thomas read "see" twice in this
verse: Shem-Tob: "Why do you see the straw in
the eye of the other person but not see the . . .").
But the Liège Harmony (Plooij 1929-1970:
82-83) also makes the identical substitution, and
thus also reads "see" twice.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the
speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of
your brother's eye.
(GOT 26) Jesus said, "You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you
don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out
of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver
from your friend's eye."
(Liege; Bruin:51,6) Why seest thou, then, a husk in thy fellow-Christian's
eye, when thou seest not the beam that is in thine own eye? And how canst
thou say to thy fellow-Christian: Wait, let me get that husk out of thine
eye, while thou hast the beam in thine own eye? Hypocrite, take first the
beam out of thine eye, and then thou canst remove the husk out of thy
(HMT) Why do you see the straw in the eye of the other person but not see
the beam in your own eyes? How is it that you say to the other person: Wait
for me a while and I will cast the straw out of your eyes, (and) behold the
beam is in your own eyes? Hypocrite, first cast the beam out of your eyes
and afterwards you will cast the straw out of the eye of your fellowman.
This HMT saying does not seem to derive from L, which is clearly more
developed, having "fellow-Christian". Also, HMT has "behold", where L has
"while thou hast". HMT version seems earlier, but GOT the earliest.
5. Matt 5:14
43. Shem-Tob and Thomas logion 32 substitute
"being built on" for "set on." But the Liège
Harmony (Plooij 1929-1970: 67) also makes a
substitution here: "that stands on" for the Greek
"set on." Thus, both Shem-Tob and the Liège
Harmony make similar (albeit not identical)
substitutions at the same point in the text.
(Canonical) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill/mountain
(Gr: horous) cannot be hid.
(Thomas 32) Jesus said: A city that is built on a high mountain and
fortified cannot fall, nor can it remain hidden.
(Liege; Bruin:41,29) Ye are the light of the earth. The city that stands on
the mountain can not be hid.
(HMT) You are the light of the world. A city built upon a hill cannot be
In this case, HMT version seems the earliest. GOT is more developed with
"fortified cannot fall". Greek: hill/mountain; GOT: high mountain; HMT:
This HMT saying does not seem to derive from L.
6. Matt 5:15
44. Shem-Tob and Thomas logion 33
interpolate "in a hidden place." But the Liège
Harmony (Plooij 1929-1970: 67) also
interpolates "in a hidden place" in this verse.
(Canonical) Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a
stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
(Thomas 33) Jesus said: .. For no man lights a lamp and sets it
under a bushel, nor does he put it in a hidden place; but he sets it
upon the lamp-stand, that all who go in and come out may see its
(HMT) They do not light a lamp to place it in a hidden place where it
cannot shine; but they place it upon a lamp stand so that it might shine
for all in the house.
(Liege; Bruin:41,2) No one sets the light, when it is kindled, under the
corn vat, nor under the bed, nor in a hidden place, but one sets it on the
candlestick, that it may light all those that are in the house.
In this case, HMT version seems the simplest and perhaps the earliest.
Unlike HMT, both Greek and GOT feature "bushel basket" and "bushel". But
Liege is the most developed with "when it is kindled", and "under the corn
vat", and "under the bed".
This HMT saying does not derive from L.
7. Matt 5:15 [Second agreement in this saying]
45. Shem-Tob and Thomas 33 interpolate "he
puts (so Thomas)/they place (so Shem-Tob)."
But the Liège Harmony (Plooij 1929-1970: 67)
also gives an interpolation here: "one sets." Thus,
both Shem-Tob and the Liège Harmony make
very similar--albeit, not identical--interpolations
at the same point in the text.
In my view, in this case the difference with the Greek is not so
significant to merit special notice, so I will not draw conclusions on the
basis of this agreement.
Petersen stops his analysis here. But let's look at some more examples from
the same list of 22 agreements between GOT and HMT as supplied by Howard.
8. Matt 23:13
In his table on p. 204 Howard gives the following agreement:
Mt 23:13 "wish" Thomas 39 Shem-Tob
(Canonical) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut
up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves,
neither allow them who are entering to go in.
(Thomas 39) Jesus said: The Pharisees and the scribes have received the
of knowledge; they have hidden them. They did not go in, and those
who wanted to go in they did not allow.
(Liege, Bruin, 209,22) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, who teach the
law, hypocrites, who have taken the key of knowledge and have closed the
kingdom of heaven to the people, and neither do ye enter into it nor do ye
let others enter therein.
(HMT) Woe to you Pharisees and sages, hypocrites (because you close up) the
kingdom of heaven before men; (you yourselves do not enter) and those who
wish to enter you do not permit to enter.
In this case both L and GOT, but not others, have "keys of knowledge". Only
HMT and GOT have "wish". L has the longest version, since it has both "keys
of knowledge", and "closed the kingdom" of the other versions except GOT.
Also L uniquely expands "who teach the law".
HMT certainly doesn't look like it derives from L. HMT has a unique
parallel with GOT. Perhaps GOT has the earliest version.
9. Matt 12:32
Howard: "the Father" Thomas 44 Shem-Tob (comment only following 12:37)
[Howard means by this that Shem-Tob's comment seems to preserve the earlier
version of the saying compared to the preceding Mt quote which may have
been altered/harmonized during transmission.]
And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven;
but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven,
either in this age or in the age to come.
(Thomas 44) Jesus said, "Whoever blasphemes against the Father will be
forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven,
but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven,
either on earth or in heaven."
(Liege; Bruin:77,31) And he that does amiss against the Son of man, it may
be forgiven him; but he that speaks blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, it
shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the other.
(HMT) Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven
him. But everyone who says a word against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be
forgiven him either in this world or in the world to come. [Presumably "the
Father", as reflected by Shem-Tob's comment, belongs to the earlier version
It is interesting that GOT here speaks of two worlds as if they exist at
the same time, the heavenly and the earthly. Liege seems to be close to
this same understanding. But the Greek and HMT both speak about salvation
"in the world to come". So delayed eschatology seems to be presupposed in
Greek and HMT, while GOT and Liege presuppose realized eschatology.
GOT seems to preserve the earliest version, an echo of which also remains
in the eschatological understanding of L. But the earliest version of HMT,
as reflected in the comment of Shem-Tob, may have followed GOT very
closely. This HMT saying does not seem to derive from L.
10. Matt 12:35
Howard: "which is in his heart" Thomas 45 Shem-Tob
The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good,
and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
(Thomas 45) Good persons produce good from what they've stored up; bad
produce evil from the wickedness they've stored up in their hearts,
and say evil things. For from the overflow of the heart they produce
(Liege; Bruin:53,6) A good man brings forth that which is good out of the
good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings forth that which is
evil out of the evil treasure of his heart: for out of the fullness of the
heart the mouth speaks.
(HMT) A good man from the treasure of a good heart brings forth good; an
evil man from the treasure of an evil heart brings forth evil.
GOT, L, and HMT all have "treasure of the heart", which is lacking in the
Greek. The earliest version seems to be preserved by HMT. GOT version is
This HMT saying does not seem to derive from L.
11. Matt 6:24
Howard: "honour" Thomas 47 Shem-Tob
(Canonical) No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one
and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise
the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
(Thomas 47) Jesus said, "A person cannot mount two horses or bend two bows.
And a slave cannot serve two masters, otherwise that slave will honor the
one and offend the other.
(Liege; Bruin:49,14) No one can serve two masters; either he must hate the
one and love the other, or he must love the one and despise the other. Ye
can not serve God and wicked wealth.
(HMT) At that time Jesus said to his disciples: No one is able to serve two
masters except he hates the one and loves the other, or he honors the one
and despises the other; you cannot serve God and the world.
According to Quispel, 1975, p. 182, the Western DT tradition is lacking
"honour" completely. Yet this parallels exists in Persian and Armenian DT,
and also in Syr p ms. Thus this parallel is shared in our sample uniquely
by HMT and GOT.
This HMT saying does not derive from L or from any other Western version of
12. Matt 9:17
Howard: "lest" Thomas 47 Shem-Tob
(Canonical) Neither is new wine put into old wineskins [askous]; if it is,
the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins
are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins,
and so both are preserved.
Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or [lest] they might
break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might
(Liege; Bruin:71,13) And no one shall pour new wine into old vessels
[Dutch: uate], and if any one did that, the new wine would burst the old
vessels and the wine would be spilled. But one must put new wine into new
vessels, and both vessels and wine will be preserved.
(HMT) Nor do they put new wine into old vessels lest the vessels break, and
the wine spills out, and the vessels perish. But new (wine) is for new
vessels and both of them are preserved.
L is somewhat expanded compared to the canonical version, except that it
lacks "and the skins are destroyed" of the canonical. HMT has " the vessels
perish" similar to the canonical.
GOT version seems to be the earliest. GOT and HMT have a unique parallel in
"lest". It seems unlikely that HMT is derived from L in this case.
Not once in the12 cases that we've examined HMT sayings can be seen to
derive from the harmonistic Diatessaronic tradition as represented by the
Middle Dutch Liege harmony. In some cases HMT sayings seem to be earlier
than all other versions, and to represent a valuable primitive textual
tradition. In all 12 cases HMT seems to represent a tradition that is
earlier than the Liege harmony. Therefore, Petersen's hypothesis is not
supported by the above evidence. In fact quite clearly these textual
comparisons seem to go against it. So it seems unlikely that HMT derived
from the textual tradition as represented by the medieval Liege harmony.
There remain 10 more sayings as listed by Howard yet to be examined. I may
do this further analysis in the future.
Here's a methodological note. The 22 textual parallels between HMT and GOT
that Howard lists in his book appear to have been prepared on the basis of
previous work done by Baarda. Howard writes on p. 203,
"In a 1960 study, Tjitze Baarda demonstrated a connection between the
Gospel of Thomas and the Syro-Latin tradition, including the Diatessaron of
Tatian. .. He also isolated 130 instances where Thomas has a variant in
agreement with one or more recensions of the Diatessaron."
As Howard writes further, also in his charts Baarda listed agreements
between GOT and some other old texts, including five agreements between GOT
and du Tillet's Hebrew Mt. When Howard inserted Shem-Tob's Mt into Baarda's
chart, instead of 5, he got 22 agreements.
So I note here that Howard's 22 agreements all seem to have been
pre-selected as triple agreements between GOT, DT, and HMT. This makes me
suspect that there may be also other (double) agreements between GOT and
HMT that would not have appeared in Howard's chart. Also, I'm somewhat
puzzled by William Petersen's comment re this subject in his TC-Journal
article. In par. 48 Petersen puts in italics his discovery that in his
study TATIAN AND THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS, 1975, Gilles Quispel also listed
"each and every one of the 22 parallels" that Howard lists in his book. But
why should this be surprising, seeing that Howard used Baarda's chart of
GOT and Diatessaron agreements in making his chart of 22 triple agreements?
Nevertheless, by Petersen's own admission in par. 46, half of Howard's 22
parallels are lacking in Liege harmony. Many of these parallels are found
only in the Eastern DT tradition. This by itself would seem pretty well to
exclude HMT's dependence on Western DT tradition alone, without positing
some yet additional hypothetical sources.
Yuri Kuchinsky | Toronto | http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/bbl/bbl.htm
Biblical history list http://www.egroups.com/group/loisy
The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is
equivalent to becoming God -=O=- Julian