Saying #19 / C

[19]. Jesus says: “Blessed is the man who existed before he came into being! If you become my disciples and if you hear my words, these stones will serve you. For you have there, in Paradise, five trees which change not winter nor summer, whose leaves do not fall: whoever knows them will not taste death!”

I like David’s way of doing this – bit by bit – so …

1) Blessed is the man who existed before he came into being!

……. I think Jesus is refering to himself … if you accept the idea of the Trinity, Jesus, as God, did exist before he was born on earth. A more gnostic interpretation would probably be that we all existed as part of God before we were born as individualss.

2) If you become my disciples and if you hear my words, these stones will serve you.

……. This may refer to stones being turned into bread, if the disciples are rightly able to grasp Jesus’ teachings … Matthew 7:9 says … Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread.

3) For you have there, in Paradise, five trees which change not winter nor summer, whose leaves do not fall: whoever knows them will not taste death!

…….. To me, this is the most interesting part of the saying. Jesus mentions Paradise … I think he means an actual place (the after-life), rather than a state of mind (kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God). The term occurs only three times in the NT – Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, Revelation 2:7 – a garden-like place belonging to God. Trees have been sacred to many ancient cultures and in dry places like the middle east, trees were especially important. Two trees are mentioned in Genesis in the garden of Eden – the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Marvin Meyer writes: “The five trees in paradise are mentioned frequently in gnostic texts, ordinarily without explanation or elaboration. (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, pp. 77-78).

***

This saying seems to mean that if a person understands Jesus’ teachings, and comes to know they were once part of God and that they will return to God (Paradise, where the trees stand), they will win eternal life.

I have trouble with this interpretation … life eternal depends here on understanding Jesus’ teachings, instead of being a gift for all.

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7 responses

  1. There’s a tree of life in Revelation too. It bears 12 kinds of fruit (one for each disciple? one for each tribe of Israel?) and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.That would seem to connect the teaching part with the life/healing part.I keep seeing this over and over. For Thomas — life/salvation comes from hidden knowledge or through interpretation of the teachings. For the canonical authors life/salvation comes from following the teachings.

  2. Crystal and David, that’s the way it is if you don’t see the poetic and metaphoric dimension.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Crystal, I think you often have good things to say in your deleted posts. You might keep that in mind before you hit the delete key.

  5. Hi David. Sorry – sometimes I post something and then I think, wow, that was thoughtless and might offend someone.

  6. The overall impression I’m getting is that Thomas as a whole tends to invite the possibility of understanding Jesus as a very much enlightened human being – who, in experience and identity, was close to God – and who was trying to teach us all that this is the way to go.This would be in distinction from seeing Jesus as having claimed that his personality, his historical self, was specially identified with God, so that we are to view him as a figure to worship and a presence who saves us in a manner that is primarily external to ourselves.

  7. Hi Paul. I think you are right about Thomas’ interpretation of Jesus. That attitude is typical of gnosticism, I guess. It’s not my view, though, so I’m swimming upstream with all this stuff.

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