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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Sayings, Traditional, of Christ.


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There can be no doubt that, besides the words of Christ which are mentioned in the gospels, others of more or less significance were spoken by him, and what John (John 20:30; John 21:25) says of the works of Christ, we may equally apply to his words. Paul mentions (Acts 20:35) a saying of Christ, μακάριόν ἐστι διδόναι λαμβάνειν (i.e. "It is more blessed to give than to receive"), which we look for in vain in the canonical gospels. The following examples contain those sayings of Christ which the ancient Church has designated as such; and we put them together, not because we ascribe them altogether to apocryphal authors, but because they have no canonical authority in their favor:

1. "On the same day, having seen one working on the Sabbath, he said to him, O man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed; but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed, and art a transgressor of the law." This very remarkable saying occurs in Cod. D and in Cod. Graec. Rob. Stephani after Luke 6:4. Whether or not these words were originally in Luke's Gospel, we cannot decide, but that they convey an evangelical meaning is certain (comp. Loisell. Opusc. p. 20; Paulus Colomesius, Observation. Sacr. p. 143).

2. "But ye seek to increase from little, and from greater to less. When ye go and are bidden to dinner (δειπνῆσαι ), sit not down in the highest seats, lest a more honorable man than thou come, and he that bade thee come and say to thee, Take a lower seat, and you be ashamed. But when thou sit down in a lower seat, and a less honorable man than thou come, then he that bade thee will say unto thee, Go up higher, and this will be profitable to thee." This saying is also found in Cod. D or Cantabrig. and in some other codd. after Matthew 20:28 (comp. Griesbach, N.T. ad loc.; Tischendorf, N.T. ad loc.). That this addition was well known may be seen from the fact that Juvencus (q.v.), in his Hist. Evang. 3, 613 sq., has given it in the following verses:

"At vos ex minimis opibus transscendere vultis, Et sic e summis lapsi comprenditis imos. Si vos quisque vocat coenae convivia ponens Cornibus in summis devitet ponere membra Quisque sapit, veniet forsan si nobilis alter, Turpiter eximio cogetur cedere cornu Quem tumor inflati cordis per summa locarat. Sin contentus erit mediocria prendere coena Inferiora dehinc si mox conviva subibit, Ad potiora pudens transibit strata tororum."

3. "The Lord says in the Gospel, If ye keep not that which is small, who will give you that which is great? For I say unto you that he who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much." This is found by Clem. Rom. (Epist. II ad Corinth. 8; comp. Iren. Adv. Hoeres. 2, 64).

4. "And Jesus says, For those that are sick, I was sick; and for those that hunger, I suffered hunger; and for those that thirst, I suffered thirst." It is difficult to say whether this citation, which is found by Origen (Comment. in Matt. tom. 13 [tom. 3, 563, ed. De la Rue]), can claim any originality or not (comp. Matthew 25:35; 1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

5. "Ask great things, and the small shall be added unto you; ask heavenly things, and the earthly shall be added unto you." This saying, which is found in Clem. Alex. (Strom. 1, 1, 416 [ed. Pott, 2, 488]; Orig. De Orat. 2, 43; Opp. 1, 197, 219), seems not to be taken from an apocryphal gospel (comp. Grabe, Spicileg. 1, 14), or from an interpolated codex (Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T. 1, 329), but has been freely cited from Matthew 6:33. Such license is often used in common life, when quoting the sentence of another, which is not done verbatim, but with such words as the circumstances and the connection of speech require.

6. "Show yourselves tried money changers" (γίνεσθε τραπεζῖται δόκιμοι ). This saying of Christ, which is found in Clement. Homil. 2, 51; 3, 50; 18, 20; Epiphan. Hoeres. 44, 2; Orig. Ad. Joh. tom. 19, 8, 20, p. 268; Jerome, Epist. 119 (ed. Vallars. 1, 815); Socrates, Hist. Eccl. 3, 16, is first cited without any authority (in the Apostol. Constit. 2, 36), then as a passage of Scripture by Clem. Alex. (Strom. 1, 1, 425), and also as an apostolic, but more especially Pauline, commandment (comp. Dionys. Alex. ap. Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiastes 7, 7; Cyrill. Alex. Ad Jes. 2, 56). Under these circumstances, it will be difficult to decide who the author of this saying is.

7. "Let us resist all iniquity, and hold it in hatred," quoted as the words of Christ by Barnabas (Epist. Catholica, 4); and ibid. 7 we read, "They who wish to see me and lay hold of my kingdom must receive me by affliction and suffering."

8. "If only one of Israel will repent, and believe in God through my name, his sins shall be forgiven. After twelve years go ye into the world, lest one should say, We have not heard." In Clem. Alex. (Strom. [ed. Pott], 6, 762), Peter quotes these words as those of the Lord, and Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 5, 18) mentions this command of Christ, ἐπὶ δώδεκα ἔτεσι μὴ χωρισφῆναι τῆς ῾Ιερουσαλήμ.

9. "The Lord said, Should you be with me gathered in my bosom, and not do my commandments, I will cast you off, and say to you, Go from me, I know you not whence you are, workers of iniquity." This we read in Clem. Rom. (Epist. ad Corinth. 2, 4). In the same epistle (5), we read,

10. "The Lord saith, Ye shall be lambs in the midst of wolves. But Peter answered him, What, then, should the wolves tear in pieces the lambs? Jesus said to Peter, Let not the lambs fear the wolves after they are dead; and do you fear not those who kill you and can do nothing to you; but fear him who after you are dead hath power over soul and body to cast them into hellfire." While there is some resemblance in this narrative with Matthew 10:16; Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5, yet the whole manner of this conversation betrays too much its apocryphal origin.

11. "Keep the flesh pure and the soul unspotted, that ye may receive (ἀπολάβητε ; not as some read, ἀπολάβωμεν , "that we may receive") eternal life" (Epist. 8).

12. "Our Lord Jesus Christ said, In whatsoever I may find you, in this will I also judge you." This saying, which is found in Justin. Mart. (Dial. c. Tryph. [ed. Marani, p. 143), is ascribed by Clem. Alex. (Quis Dives Salvetur, § 40) to God; by Johannes Climacus (in Scala Paradisi, 7, p. 159, and in the Vita B. Antonii, c. 15, in Vita Patrum, p. 41) to the prophet Ezekiel (comp. Ezekiel 7:3; Ezekiel 7:8; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 24:14; Ezekiel 33:20, with Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. 1, 333). A comparison of the passages in Ezekiel will, however, prove that these parallels are insufficient, and some apocryphal gospel is probably the authority for this saving.

13. "The days will come in which vines shall spring up, each having ten thousand stocks, and on each stock ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand bunches, and on each bunch ten thousand grapes, and each grape when pressed shall give five-and-twenty measures of wine. And when any saint shall have seized one bunch, another shall cry, I am a better bunch; take me; through me bless the Lord. Likewise also he said that a grain of wheat shall produce ten thousand ears of corn, and each grain of wheat shall produce ten pounds of fine pure flour; and so all other fruits and seeds and each herb according to its proper nature. And that all animals, using for food what is received from the earth, shall live in peace and concord with one another, subject to men with all subjection. And when Judas the traitor believed not, and asked. How, then, shall such productions proceed from the Lord? the Lord said, They shall see who shall come to these times." This narrative of the millennium Irenaeus (Adv. Hoeres. 5, 33) describes as delivered by John to Papias. Since, however, this tradition belongs to Papias, whom Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3, 39) describes as an ἄνδρα σμικρὸν τὸν νοῦν , we must deny from the very beginning the authority of Christ as having uttered these words. Besides, the whole tenor of this narrative so conflicts with the dignity contained in all the words of Christ, that, without the least shadow of a doubt, we can ascribe to it an apocryphal origin. The description of the millennium reminds us of the Rabbinic representations of the same, especially as we find it in the Jalkut Shimoni (fol. 7, Colossians 1, No. 20), and which is too trivial to be translated. A German translation is given by Eisenmenger (Entdecktes Judenthum, 2, 309 sq.). An examination of the Koran (sur. 18, 32; 37, 49; 38, 53; 56, 38, etc.) will also show that the Mohammedan representation of Paradise is less sensual than that given above from a Christian source.

14. Pseudo-Linus (De Passione Petri; comp. Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N.T. 1, 335, 775) quotes a mystical saying of the Lord: "Unless ye turn your right into the left and the left into the right, and that which is above into that which is below, and that which is before you into that which is behind, ye will not know the kingdom of God."

15. "The Lord being asked by Salome when his kingdom will come, said, When the two shall be one, and that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female neither male nor female." This quotation, which is found by Clem. Rom. (Epist. ad Corinth. 12), is, according to Clem. Alex. (Strom. [ed. Pott], 3, 553), taken from the Gospel of the Egyptians. From the same gospel, Clem. (ibid. p. 532) has preserved the following conversation of Christ with Salome:

16. "When Salome asked the Lord, How long shall men die? he said, As long as women bear children. Then Salome answered, I have done well that I did not bear (καλῶς ουν ἐποίησα μὴ τεκοῦσα ); but the Lord replied, Thou mayest eat of every herb, but of that which has bitterness do not eat." And further on (p. 540) he states, "I am come to make an end to the works of the woman of the woman, viz. the lust; to the works, viz. to the birth and death."

17. "He that wanders shall reign, and he that reigns shall rest" (Clem. Alex. Strom. 1, 453), from the Hebrew Gospel.

18. "I came to put an end to sacrifices; and unless ye cease from sacrificing, God's anger will not cease from you" (Evang. Ebion. ap. Epiph. Hoeres. 30, 16).

19. "My mystery is for me and for the sons of my house" (Clem. Alex. Strom. 5, 684).

20. "In the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Savior himself says, Just now my mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by one of my hairs, and bore me away to the great mountain Thabor." This very singular saying is quoted by Origen, in Joann. tom. 2 (ed. De la Rue, 4, 64); Jerome, Comment. in Jes. 11, 2, lib. 2; in Micham, 7, 6. That the Holy Ghost should be presented here as a genus femininum must not be looked for in the Gnostic idea of the Holy Ghost as female principle (comp. Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. 1, 362 sq.), but finds its explanation in the words of Jerome (Comment. in Jes. 40, 11), "Nemo autem in hac parte scandalizari debet, quod dicatur apud Hebraeos spiritus genere feminino, cum nostra lingua appellatur genere masculino, et Graeco sermone neutro; in divinitate enim nullus est sexus."

21. "Never be joyful except when ye shall look on your brother in love" so from the Hebrew Gospel by Jerome (Comment. ad Ephesians 5, 4).

See Grabe, Spicilegium, 1, 12 sq.; Fabricius, Codex Apocr. N.T. 1, 321 sq., Kö rner, De Sermonibus Christi ἀγράφοις (Lips. 1776); Hoffmann, Das Leben Jesu nach den Apokryphen, (ibid. 1851), p. 317 sq.; Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels (Boston, 1867), p. 445 sq. (B.P.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sayings, Traditional, of Christ.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/sayings-traditional-of-christ.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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