Elaine Pagels (“The Gnostic Gospels”) 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:
- 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:
- 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 concurs so finely with psychological theory, psychologists 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.
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.