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Excursus I. The Greek Vorlage of Thomas 12:2
In chapter 1, I have dealt with the “mixed signals” of saying 12. It is worth noting that the text
of this saying appears to be problematic. Since the analysis of Thomas 12 plays an important role in
my discussion of the date and compositional history of Thomas, it seems justified to give here a
treatment of the problems related to the text of this saying, especially since my translation of it
deviates from that of the Berliner Arbeitskreis.
The expression ŁĹġേĻŇġŇĩŇͩĩijേͧĹġʼn, “(the place) where57 you came from,” in Thomas 12:2 is
problematic. Quite remarkably, the Berliner Arbeitskreis offers two different interpretations of this
phrase. In the first edition of their translation of Thomas, they suggested that ŁĹġേrenders the Greek
expression ὅπου ἐάν, as it does in the Sahidic translation of Matt 8:19. According to their hypothesis,
in the Greek Vorlage ὅπου ἐάν was followed by a verb in the aorist subjunctive, which was probably
confused with the aorist in the indicative and thus rendered as the Coptic perfect. Assuming thatേͧĹġʼn
should be understood as ĩĹġʼn,58 they suggested the following rendering of ŁĹġേĻŇġŇĩŇͩĩijേͧĹġʼn:
“Wherever you will have come to.” This is essentially a translation not of the Coptic text, but of its
Greek retroversion, ὅπου ἐὰν ἔλθητε.59
It did not take long before this hypothesis was revised. According to the second, and much more
appealing, proposal of the Berliner Arbeitskreis, ĩijേͧĹġʼn in Thomas 12:2 stands in contrast to ģőĵേ
Ɠġ, “to go to,” and thus should express the idea of “coming from.” Indeed, there are reasons to suspect
thatേͧĹġʼn can be used as an equivalent of ĩģĿķേĻƙįŇƑേor ĩģĿķേͧĹġʼn.60 Thus, the definitive English
translation of Thomas 12 prepared by the Berliner Arbeitskreis (and slightly modified by Stephen J.
Patterson and James M. Robinson) reads as follows:61
12:1 The disciples said to Jesus: “We know that you will depart from us. Who (then) will rule
over us?” 12:2 Jesus said to them: “(No matter) where you came from, you should go to James
the Just for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.”
Yet the text of Thomas 12:2 remains problematic for several reasons. First, the subordinate
clause ŁĹġേĻŇġŇĩŇͩĩijേͧĹġʼn is not linked to any element of the main clause and thus is seemingly
“hanging” onto nothing.62 One could argue that this indicates that the Coptic text is corrupt and needs
to be emended. Moreover, an examination of a similar anomaly in the Sahidic version of Matt 18:20
may seem to lend support to such a claim:
For ŁĹġേexpanded by a relative clause constituting a subordinate “where”-clause, see Layton 2011, 429 (§522).
It is worth noting that the substitution of ĩĹġʼn with ͧĹġʼn is a rare and late phenomenon; see Crum 1939, 197a.
See Aland 1996, 522; Plisch 1999, 526.
See Plisch 1998, 77; Bethge 1998, 45.
Patterson 2011b, 3; cf. Aland 1997, 522. This understanding of the Coptic text of Thomas 12:2 was embraced in Nagel
2014, 113.
A similar phenomenon also occurs in Thomas 30:1–2, but, since the text of saying 30 is even more problematic than
that of saying 12, it will be left out of the following discussion.
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