Week 3: New Testament Parables

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Gospel of Thomas: Pearl

Reading time: 2 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

This next section of Thomas contains the famous parable of the pearl which is also found in Matthew. Scholars have debated about whether there is any kind of organization to the Gospel of Thomas, or whether it is simply a list of sayings and parables that come in no real order at all. What do you think about that? Do you detect some significance in the order in which these parables and sayings are arranged? Is there any kind of structure here that you can see?

Patterson and Meyer translation:

Jesus said, "The crop is huge but the workers are few, so beg the harvest boss to dispatch workers to the fields."

He said, "Lord, there are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the well."

Jesus said, "There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the bridal suite."

Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys."

Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."


Lambdin translation:

Jesus said, "The harvest is great but the laborers are few. Beseech the Lord, therefore, to send out laborers to the harvest."

He said, "O Lord, there are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the cistern."

Jesus said, "Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will enter the bridal chamber."

Jesus said, "The kingdom of the father is like a merchant who had a consignment of merchandise and who discovered a pearl. That merchant was shrewd. He sold the merchandise and bought the pearl alone for himself. You too, seek his unfailing and enduring treasure where no moth comes near to devour and no worm destroys."

Jesus said, "It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the all. From me did the all come forth, and unto me did the all extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • why are laborers needed for the harvest?
  • why did the merchant buy the pearl?
  • where does Jesus say that he can be found?

Source: Gospel of Thomas 73-78.
The "Scholars' Translation" of the Gospel of Thomas by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer, in The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version. Polebridge Press: 1992. Website: Gospel of Thomas Homepage.
"Nag Hammadi Library" translation by Thomas O. Lambdin, in The Nag Hammadi Library. HarperCollins: San Francisco, 1990. Website: Gnostic Society Library.


Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM