Gnostic Doctrine

Saturday, 28 March 2020

renounce power Gospel of Thomas Saying 81

Saying 81

(81) Jesus said: He who has become rich, let him become king, and he who has power, let him renounce (it).

This passage seems a little odd and even contradictory. What we would expect Jesus to say is “Let the wealthy give up his money and the powerful to give up his power.” However, assuming this passage is an accurate account of what Jesus said, it is possible that he is saying let those who have acquired great spiritual wealth reign over the earth, and then the powerful will lose their control. I think it is apparent that many of theses passages have little structured sequencing or context, which makes it more difficult to ascertain the true intent of Jesus’ teachings. Our most important guide is finding logical and spiritual harmony in the framework of God’s love and sovereignty. By the way, this is how we should view the world as well. In light of everything else Jesus taught then it makes perfect sense to see that Jesus is saying the meek will inherit the earth. The meek of this world have become spiritually rich because they have stored up great wealth in heaven. 

The wealthy ones are they having knowledge, understanding and wisdom as a crown on their heads a jewelled crown of light, truth-consciousness. One who is wealthy in this way shall become a king in the age to come. But those who are powerful or have power should give it up and become poor to become rich. Just as for kings have life wisdom to you so you should leave the world to them.

81) Jesus said, "Let him who has grown rich [finding true wealth of the higher/inward (spiritual) teachings] be king [find life that he might pass it on to others], and let him who possesses power [over the world as a result] renounce it [in the Kingdom of God, the Kings and Priests are there to serve not be served]."


  1. F. F. Bruce writes: "This saying either disparages material wealth and power, or commends true wealth and power in the spiritual realm (cf. Saying 2); he who has the latter will renounce the world." (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 144)

  2. Gerd Ludemann writes: "'Become rich' refers in a metaphorical sense to knowledge (cf. 3.5). The one who has knowledge should be king (cf. 2.3)." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 630)

  3. Gerd Ludemann writes: "This verse requires renunciation on the part of the one who has worldly power, so that he enters into the state denoted in v. 1." (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 631)

  4. Funk and Hoover write: "This paradoxical saying is a puzzle to interpreters of the Gospel of Thomas. The first half seems to condone worldly values, the second half to condemn them. Thom 110 is similar, except that the paradox is lacking. The term 'reign' in v. 1 may be a key to understanding the saying. 'Reign' elsewhere in Thomas is a technical term (in Thom 2:4, those who seek will find, they will then be disturbed and marvel, and finally, they will 'reign over all,' a final state that corresponds to salvation), but, even so, the meaning of the saying is far from clear. The use of paradox fits generally into the Thomean pattern, which is also chraacteristic of some of the genuine sayings of Jesus. However, the Fellows could not fit the first part of the saying itno what is known about Jesus from other sayings and parables, so it was designated black. The second half sounded more like something Jesus might have said; this possibility produced a gray vote." (The Five Gospels, p. 517)