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The Authentic Sayings of Jesus of Nazareth

The following sayings are considered to be nearest to the genuine words of Jesus as we can get, according to the Jesus Seminar's scholars.*

The scholars identified approximately 500 sayings and parables of Jesus, found in the four canonical gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) and the Gospel of Thomas. They then debated the sayings and parables and took a vote on the authenticity of each saying, averaging their votes and then assigning a weighted average between 1.00 and 0.00 (from most to least authentic). Ninety-one of the sayings and parables rated a weighted average of 0.50 or above. The sayings are listed on this page. Click here for the Authentic Parables of Jesus of Nazareth.

To me, there are three (and possibly four) core sources for the sayings: the Gospel of Mark, the Sayings Gospel Q (which both Matthew and Luke used), and the Gospel of Thomas. Therefore, I've labeled sayings from GMatt and GLuke below as Q. I list the passage cite in parentheses after the saying. The fourth source would be a "proto-Q" or earlier sayings gospel used by Mark. See below for more on that theory. In the case of either Matthew or Luke having a saying that the other does not use, I'm more inclined to think that the saying was in Q, but that one or the other decided for their own reasons not to include it. Therefore, all M and L attributions are shown as Q below.

All the canonical sayings below are taken from the World English Bible, which is a public-domain translation based on the American Standard Version (1901) of the Bible. The Thomas sayings below are taken from the Patterson-Myers translation (the same used in The Five Gospels, but also found at the Gnostic Society Library web site) because there is no public-domain version of the text available.

1. Turn the Other Cheek:

  • Q: Whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matt 5:39)

2. Give Your Coat:

  • Q: From him who takes away your cloak, don’t withhold your coat also. (Luke 6:29)

3. Blessed are the Poor:

  • Q: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)
  • Thomas: Congratulations to the poor, for to you belongs Heaven's kingdom. (Thom 54)

4. Go the Second Mile:

  • Q: Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (Matt 5:40)

5. Love Your Enemies:

  • Q: Love your enemies (Luke 6:27//Matt 5:44; they are identical)

6. The Leavened Bread:

  • Q: The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, until it was all leavened. (Matt 13:33)
  • Thomas: The Father's kingdom is like [a] woman. She took a little leaven, [hid] it in dough, and made it into large loaves of bread. (Thom 96:1-2)

7. Render to Caesar:

  • Thomas: Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, give God what belongs to God, and give me what is mine. (Thom 100:2)
  • Mark: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Mark 12:17)

    Ed. note: This is the highest-ranked Mark/Thomas saying (no Q parallel). It is my theory that this saying either was in Q and was so close to the Mark version that Matthew and Luke did not change it, or that the saying existed in an earlier sayings gospel used by Mark when he constructed his gospel. (See my complete theory in The Three Jesuses of Mark elsewhere on this site.)

8. Give to Those Who Ask:

  • Q: Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again. (Luke 6:30)

9. Blessed are the Hungry:

  • Q: Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be filled. (Luke 6:21)
  • Thomas: Congratulations to those who go hungry, so the stomach of the one in want may be filled. (Thom 69:2)

10. Blessed are Those Who Weep:

  • Q: Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. (Luke 6:21)

11. The Lord's Prayer:

Ed. note: According to the J.S. (and I agree with them) the "Lord's Prayer" as we know it was assembled from separate aphorisms, though was in its basic form in Q, before either Matthew or Luke's gospels. Therefore, I'm going to keep them all together here. Note that the lines beyond "Our Father in heaven..." were not rated this highly by the J.S. though their rankings were still above 0.50. The last line of the prayer, which more familiarly went, "and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..." did not rate above 0.50 and so is not included here.

  • Q: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. (Matt: 6:9-12)

12. The Mustard Seed:

  • Thomas: [Heaven is] like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky. (Thom 20:2-4)
  • Mark: [Heaven is] like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow. (Mark 4:30-32)
  • Q: [Heaven is] is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and put in his own garden. It grew, and became a large tree, and the birds of the sky lodged in its branches. (Luke 13:18-19)

13. Consider the Lilies, etc.:

Ed. note: I combined these separate sayings (according to the J.S.) because the Greek fragment of Thomas has them together, as does Q.

  • Thomas: Do not fret, from morning to evening and from evening to morning, about your food--what you're going to eat, or about your clothing-- what you are going to wear. You're much better than the lilies, which neither card nor spin. (Thom 36:1, includes text from Greek fragment)
  • Q: Therefore I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life, what you will eat, nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they don’t sow, they don’t reap, they have no warehouse or barn, and God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds! Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his height? If then you aren’t able to do even the least things, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if this is how God clothes the grass in the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith? (Luke 12:22-28)
  • Brian: Consider the lilies... in the field. Well, the birds then. Have they got jobs? ...They do all right, don't they? And you're much more important than they are, right? So, what are you worrying about? There you are. See? (LoB: Sc 16)

14. The Woman Who Lost a Coin:

  • Q: What woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn’t light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it? (Luke 15:8-9)

15. The Foxes and the Birds:

  • Q: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. (Luke 9:58//Matt 8:20)
  • Thomas: [Foxes have] their dens and birds have their nests, but human beings have no place to lay down and rest. (Thom 86:1-2)

16. Not Welcome at Home:

  • Thomas: No prophet is welcome on his home turf; (Thom 31:1)
  • Mark: A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house. (Mark 13:57)
  • Q: No prophet is acceptable in his hometown. (Luke 4:24)

    Ed. note: While Matthew reproduces Mark very closely, Luke's version is identical to the Thomas version. (The Scholars' Version of the Luke saying confirms this.) To me, this is perplexing. Why would Matthew fail to edit Mark to agree with Q? At the very least, I believe that this saying was in Luke's copy of Q, if it was not in Matthew's.

17. Midnight Persistence:

  • Q: Which of you, if you go to a friend at midnight, and tell him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him,’ and he from within will answer and say, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give it to you’? I tell you, although he will not rise and give it to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as many as he needs. (Luke 11:5-8)

18. You Can't Serve Two Masters:

  • Q: No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon.(Luke 16:13)
  • Thomas: A slave cannot serve two masters, otherwise that slave will honor the one and offend the other. (Thom 47:2)

19. The Treasure in the Field:

  • Q: Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. (Matt 13:44)
  • Thomas: The (Father's) kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. And [when] he died he left it to his [son]. The son [did] not know about it either. He took over the field and sold it. The buyer went plowing, [discovered] the treasure, and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished. (Thom 107:1-3)

    Ed. note: Another place where one or the other of Matthew or Luke matches a saying in Thomas, while the other ommits it from his gospel. Was this saying in Matthew's copy of Q, but not Luke's? Could these minor differences offer evidence of which communities provided Q to the gospel writers?

20. The Lost Sheep:

  • Q: What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray? If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. (Matt 18:12-13)
  • Thomas: The (Father's) kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine and looked for the one until he found it. After he had toiled, he said to the sheep, 'I love you more than the ninety-nine.' (Thom 107:1-3)

21. What Goes In and What Comes Out:

  • Mark: There is nothing from outside of the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man. (Mark 7:14-15)
  • Thomas: What goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you. (Thom 14:5)

22. Let the Dead Bury the Dead:

  • Q: Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Matt 8:22)

23. Eunuchs for God:

  • Q: For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. (Matt 19:12)

24. By Their Fruits:

  • Q: For there is no good tree that brings forth rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that brings forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (Luke: 6:43-44)
  • Thomas: Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they yield no fruit. (Thom 45:1-3)

25. Heaven is Like a Valuable Pearl:

  • Thomas: The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. (Thom 76:1-2)
  • Q:Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matt 13:45-46)

26. The Eye of the Needle:

  • Mark: It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

27. The City on the Hill:

  • Q: A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. (Matt 5:14)
  • Thomas: A city built on a high hill and fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden. (Thom 32)

28. I Saw Satan:

  • Q: I saw Satan having fallen like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18)

    Ed. note: I don't know about this one. I understand it's short and memorable, but it's only in Luke.

29. Snakes and Doves:

  • Q: Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Matt 10:16)
  • Thomas: As for you, be as sly as snakes and as simple as doves. (Thom 39:3)

30. Killing the Powerful One:

  • Thomas: The Father's kingdom is like a person who wanted to kill someone powerful. While still at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would go in. Then he killed the powerful one. (Thom 98)

31. Don't Expect Your Money Back:

  • Thomas: If you have money, don't lend it at interest. Rather, give [it] to someone from whom you won't get it back. (Thom 95)
  • Q: Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you. (Matt 5:42)

32. The Finger of God:

  • Q: But if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore will they be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come to you. (Luke 11:19-20)

33. Lighting the Light:

  • Mark: Is the lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it put on a stand? (Mark 4:21)
  • Q: No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, that those who come in may see the light. (Luke 11:33)
  • Thomas: After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lampstand so that all who come and go will see its light. (Thom 33)

34. The Earth Bears Fruit:

  • Mark: The Kingdom of God is as if a man should cast seed on the earth, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he doesn’t know how. For the earth bears fruit: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is ripe, immediately he puts forth the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29)

35. Woe to the Scribes:

  • Mark: Beware of the scribes, who like to walk in long robes, and to get greetings in the marketplaces, and the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts: those who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation. (Mark 12:38-40)

36. Left Hand in the Dark:

  • Q: But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does. (Matt 6:3)
  • Thomas: Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. (Thom 62:2)

37. Sliver in Your Friend's Eye:

  • Thomas: You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend's eye. (Thom 26)
  • Q: Why do you see the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how can you tell your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck of chaff that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42)

    Ed. note: Matthew's version is much shorter than Luke's, and scored higher by the JS, but I like how Luke's longer version mirrors the longer Thomas version.

38. Mother and Brothers:

  • Mark: For whoever does the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. (Mark 3:35)
  • Thomas: Those here who do what my Father wants are my brothers and my mother. (Thom 99:2)

39. More Valuable than Sparrows:

  • Q: Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

 

Ed. note: It's late and I'm tired. I'll add more of the sayings when I get some more time.

 

* For a more complete explanation of the methodology of the Jesus Seminar, I suggest you get the book, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, edited by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar (copyright © 1993 by Polebridge Press). The sayings above are NOT taken directly from that book, since that book uses a brand new translation prepared by the Jesus Seminar, copyrighted by them. All I got from that book is the list of sayings. I'm also not showing the color rankings nor the weighted averages with the sayings here. I have, however, listed them in the same order, most authentic to those somewhat authentic.