The psyche bears 'within itself' the potential for liberation or destruction…

Dear Evangeline,

In your last message you cite Gospel of Thomas, logion 70. But this
translation is faulty. I suppose it is derived from Elaine Pagels’s “The Gnostic Gospels”, where she translates logion 70 thus:

Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth
will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do
not bring forth will destroy you.” (p.XV & p.126)

It occurs twice in the book. The first time she refers to it as logion
32, the other time as logion 45. So she references the wrong logia. She
gives J.M. Robinson, “The Nag Hammadi Library” as reference. However,
her translation does not occur in this book, except in her own foreword,
where she doesn’t give a reference. In fact, Robinson uses the
Patterson/Meyer translation:

70. Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have
will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have
within you [will] kill you.”

This translation concurs more or less with other versions. Blatz
translates it thus:

70. Jesus said: “If you have gained this within you, what you have will
save you. If you do not have this in [you], what you do not have in you
[will] kill you.”

Gärtner’s Swedish translation uses the pronouns ‘him’ and ‘he’ instead
of ‘it’, because the original text can also be read that way. Instead of
‘bring forth’ he uses ‘give birth’, but the meaning is the same.

We can safely conclude that Elaine Pagels’s translation of logion 70 is
faulty. It is important to get this right. Since it coincides finely
with Jungian theory, Jungians are likely to repeat the erroneous
translation. Pagels says:

“Many gnostics share with psychotherapy a second major premise: both
agree–against orthodox Christianity–that the psyche bears ‘within
itself’ the potential for liberation or destruction. Few psychiatrists
would disagree with the saying attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of
Thomas:…[citing the modified logion]” (p.126)

It seems that she has (probably unwittingly) modified the logion to
accommodate it to psychological theory. The saying probably refers to
the ‘spirit’ or the ‘divine light’ within. If you carry this light, you
will be saved. But if you allow it to go extinct, then your soul cannot
survive, because you won’t gain entrance into the Pleroma, the Gnostic
heaven. However, it is not clear that the notion of “bringing forth”
coincides with Gnostic theology. Nor is the notion of a spirit turned
deadly enemy easy to accommodate within any form of Christianity. The
Gospel of Thomas is a curious document which is neither entirely Gnostic
nor entirely Pauline.

Mats Winther


Blatz, B. (1991). ‘The Coptic Gospel of Thomas’ *in* Schneemelcher, W.
(ed.) New Testament Apocrypha. Westminster/John Knox Press.

Gärtner, B.E. (1972). Apokryferna till Nya Testamentet. Proprius.

Pagels, E. (1989). The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage Books.

Patterson S.J. & Robinson, J.M. (transl.) (1988) ‘The Gospel of Thomas’
*in* Robinson, J.M. (ed.) (1988). The Nag Hammadi Library. Harper & Row.

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