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stance”;484 this Syriac term, in turn, “could very well illuminate” the language of standing in sayings
16, 18, and 23 of Thomas, “which seems to have a Syrian ancestry.”485
Third, Murray also tried to connect Thomasine “standing” with the traditions of Syriac
designated ascetics that “formed a kind
Christianity.486 In the Syriac-speaking area, the word
of ‘church within the Church’ called the
.”487 When the aspirants were baptized, they swore to
hints at the baptismal
celibacy and joined this “covenant.”488 The very semantics of the term
context: in the act of baptism, “a new member ‘took his stand’ for Christ and in the name of Christ.”489
Since the Syriac Vorlage of Thomas spoke of “standing” as a single one,
,490 Thomasine sayings
16, 23, 49, and 75 bear evidence of “an early Judaeo-Christian baptismal exhortation.”491
Although all these interpretations are quite insightful, none of them is supported by the text of
Thomas. First, sayings 16, 18, and 23 neither mention nor even allude to the notion of angels and
their heavenly liturgy. Angels are mentioned in Thomas twice, in sayings 13:2 and 88:1,492 and both
times in a context that can be hardly interpreted as sympathetic. In Thomas 13:2, Simon Peter says
that Jesus is “like a righteous angel,” but his view is inferior to the one of Thomas (Thomas 13:4).493
Jesus is clearly much more than an angel, and, since, according to saying 108, our ultimate goal is to
become like Jesus, it is very unlikely that assimilation to the angels is to be seen as a worthwhile
Moreover, it is unlikely that we can learn anything useful from the angels. The meaning of
Thomas 88:1, “the angels and the prophets will come to you and give to you those things you (already)
have” (trans. T. O. Lambdin), is uncertain, but since many believed that the law of Moses was given
through angels (Jub. 1:27; 2:1; Gal 3:19), it is probable that Jesus in saying 88 denies the authority of
“the law and the prophets,” i.e. of the Hebrew Scriptures.494
Second, it is unlikely that Thomasine sayings ever refer to the practice of standing. While there
are two sayings that clearly mention literal standing, sayings 75 and 99 (see section 8.2.1, below),
neither of them allude to any such practice. Moreover, it is doubtful that literal standing is implied in
sayings 16, 18, and 23. It is much more likely that these sayings describe not the means of spiritual
Williams follows the suggestion made by Adam 1953–1954, 224–8. It is worth noting that, although Võõbus 1958–
1988, 1:98–9, criticized this suggestion, it may be accurate. The Syriac noun
, “covenant,” comes from the verbal
root ‫ ܡ‬, “rise up,” “stand.” As Griffith 1998, 232, points out, “It is the nature of Semitic languages and their semantics
to employ polyvalent terms. Given the presumption that all forms derive from a particular set of root consonants, they
carry a reference to all the other lexical possibilities implicit in their shared roots.”
See Williams 1985, 89–90.
A similar attempt has recently been made by Dmitrij F. Bumazhnov, who also relates sayings 16, 23, and 75 to
but does not offer any interpretation of Thomasine “standing.” See Bumazhnov 2011.
Murray 2004, 14.
See Murray 2004, 15.
Murray 1974, 78.
Murray 1974, 70, assumes that both ĹĿĻġōĿŅ and ĿʼnġേĿʼnőŇ render
. See the previous chapter for my critique
of this theory.
Murray 2004, 16; cf. Murray 1974, 68–70, 77–8.
Plisch 2008, 64 and 198 (cf. Schenke 2012, 882–3), argues that the noun ġĥĥĩķĿŅ in sayings 13 and 88 means
“messenger” rather than “angel,” but his arguments do not seem appealing. First, since some angels are evil (Matt 25:41),
there is no reason why the others cannot be called “just” (saying 13). Second, ͩġĥĥĩķĿŅേĹͩേͩŁŃĿŋįŇįŅ is not necessarily
equivalent to οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ προφῆται of Did. 11:3.േ
In this respect, Thomas 13:2 is similar to Thomas 114:1, where Peter also expresses an inadequate opinion that is later
corrected by Jesus; cf. Uro 2003, 90.
The same idea seems to be present in saying 52, where “twenty-four prophets” probably stand for the Hebrew
Scriptures; see Miroshnikov 2012, 183.
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