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of P.Oxy. 655 identified as Thomas,32 T. C. Skeat made a compelling argument that the reading
attested in what we now know as the Greek version of Thomas 36 (P.Oxy. 655 col. i, ll. 9–10)
antedates the parallel reading in Q, the hypothetical Synoptic Sayings Source. While, according to
the Greek Thomas, the lilies “[ο]ὐ ξα[ί]νει οὐδὲ ν[ήθ]ει,” “neither card nor spin,” Q 12:27 reads,
“Consider the lilies, how they grow (αὐξάνει): they neither toil nor spin (οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει).” As
Skeat demonstrated, the reading of Q 12:27 must be later, since αὐξάνει is most certainly a corruption
of οὐ ξαίνει. The most likely explanation for the emergence of this later reading is, first, due to scribal
error οὐ ξαίνει οὐδὲ νήθει became *αὐξάνει οὐδὲ νήθει, which made the Greek text
ungrammatical;second, οὐ κοπιᾷ was inserted in order for οὐδέ to be preceded by a negative verb. In
the words of Paul Maas, Skeat’s proposal is “as surprising as it is convincing”;33 recently, Skeat’s
argument has been supported and elaborated upon by Christoph Heil and James M. Robinson.34
Thus, there are Thomasine sayings that, in all likelihood, depend on the Synoptics; there are
Synoptic-resembling sayings that are arguably independent from the Synoptic tradition; and there are
sayings that may attest to pre-Synoptic tradition. To explain this hodgpodge of “conflicting evidence,”
then, and to offer a plausible date for Thomas is a daunting task. To complicate already complicated
matters, we must also take into account Thomasine material that is without parallels to other sources.
The most striking example comes from Thomas 12:
Łĩƛĩേ ij‫ر‬േ Ļġʼnേƛĩേ ŁĹġേ ĻŇġŇĩŇͩĩijേ ͧĹġʼnേĩŇĩŇĻġģőĵേƓġേыġĵőģĿŅേ ŁħijĵġijĿŅേŁġĩijേͩŇġേŇŁĩേĹͩേ
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: “Wherever you come from, you should go to James the Just
for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.”35
The fascinating feature of saying 12 is that it seems to send “mixed signals” to the audience of
Thomas. Taken out of its Thomasine context, saying 12 would appear to contain a praise of James.
Johannes Munck even went as far as to call Thomas 12 “the strongest description of the place of
James in the Salvation story.”36 But when we read saying 12 in its proper context, we realize that
what Jesus says about James is in fact “both ironic and negative.”37
Let us first approach saying 12 as an isolated text. The disciples ask Jesus who is going to be
their leader after his departure:േĻijĹേŁĩേĩŇĻġͱേĻĿƝേĩƙŃġыേĩƛőĻ, “Who will be great/the greatest over
The suggestion that the three Oxyrhynchus fragments attest the same text as the second writing of NHC II was initially
made in Puech 1958. Before the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices, scholars were able to identify P.Oxy. 1 and
P.Oxy. 654 as witnesses to the same text, but P.Oxy. 655 was usually considered to be a fragment of a different
“apocryphal” gospel; see, e.g., the editio princeps of P.Oxy. 655: Grenfell and Hunt 1904, 22–8. The view that P.Oxy.
655 is a witness to the same text as P.Oxy. 1 and P.Oxy. 654 was expressed already in Bartlet 1905, 124, but did not
receive any support (see, e.g., Evelyn White 1920, xlix–li).
Maas 1958, 40.
See Skeat 2004; Robinson and Heil 1998; Robinson and Heil 2001; Robinson 2007.
I have modified the translation of the Berliner Arbeitskreis; for a discussion of the Greek Vorlage of this saying, see
Excursus I.
Munck 1959–1960, 106.
Valantasis 2000, 74.