This is a continuation of my series on John the Baptist (see here).

Since the Gospel of Thomas is a sort of “sayings” document (though I think recent work on this gospel by people like Nicholas Perrin display more organization than previously thought) it is no surprise that our mention of John the Baptist seems a bit detached. He is mentioned in logion 46 which reads:

Jesus said, “Among those born of women, from Adam until John the Baptist, there is no one so superior to John the Baptist that his eyes should not be lowered (before him). Yet I have said, whichever one of you comes to be a child will be acquainted with the kingdom and will become superior to John.” (trans. Thomas O. Lambdin)

Most translators have struggled with the final part of the first sentence. Lambdin’s rendering suggest that there should be shame in John’s presence (a lowering of the eyes). Layton agrees (here). Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer prefer “averted” which has the same connotation (here). Whatever translation is closest doesn’t determine the meaning. It is straightforward in attributing greatness to John.

The second half of the saying echoes what we have read in the canonical gospels. Again, it carries the connotation that if someone is “least in the kingdom” they are greater than John but it merges it with Jesus’ sayings about becoming a child to enter the kingdom.

What I did find interesting is the content of logion 47. In 47a it says, “A master cannot mount two horses or bend two bows. And a slave cannot serve two masters, otherwise the slave will honor the one and offend the other.” As we have observed the juxtaposition between Jesus and John throughout the Synoptics, the Fourth Gospel, and the Book of Acts it is interesting that either-or, serve one and not the other, language is used. Could Thomas be continuing in the tradition of exalting Jesus over John?

In 47b we read, “Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine. Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil. An old patch is not sewn onto a new garment, since it would create a tear.” Again, we have either/or language and even “old” and “new”. Is Thomas continuing to juxtapose the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of John?

I am no Thomas scholar but considering the progressive distinction between Jesus and John that we have discussed it would seem that the author/compiler of Thomas put these two logion next to each other for a reason!