Floating dominical sayings not preserved in the gospels.
Some of our many sources for primitive Christianity.
The following sayings are the twenty-one cases of agrapha dealt with by
Joachim Jeremias in his book, Unknown Sayings
of Jesus, as well as most of those listed by Aurelio de Santos Otero in his
classic, Los evangélios apócrifos.
An agraphon is a saying of the
Lord that was not written down. It is a somewhat unfortunate term, since obviously the
saying was written down at some point, else how could we know about it? What
is actually meant by the term is that the saying was not written down in the canonical
gospels. Also included in this list are several that are attributed, not to the Lord
himself, but to some unknown scripture; these sayings make the list for their
similarity to other dominical sayings, and for the fact that sometimes Christian authors
attributed straightforward canonical sayings of the Lord to scripture rather than
to the Lord himself (refer to 1 Timothy 5.18, for instance, as apparently referencing
Luke 10.7 or something very much like it).
Also of interest: The significant textual variants
in the canonical texts and the canonical sayings of
Jesus as found outside the gospels.
The sayings are listed alphabetically by catch-phrase at
the bottom of this page.
1 Thessalonians 4.15-17a:
και οι νεκροι
For this we say to you by the word of the
Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the advent of the Lord
will not precede those who have fallen asleep, because the Lord
himself, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the
trumpet of God, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ
will rise first. Afterward we who are alive and remain will be
raptured up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Revelation 3.3b; 22.7:
If therefore you do not wake up, I shall come
as a thief, and you will not know at which hour I shall come upon
And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is
the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.
The epistles to the seven churches in Revelation 1.9-3.22
also contain extensive sayings of the risen Lord.
of the Apostles.
It is blessed rather to give
than to receive.
Acts of Peter 10:
Qui mecum sunt non me intellexerunt.
Those who are with me have not
But rather also concerning this he has said:
Let your alm sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give
Thus, he says, those who wish to see me and
take hold of my kingdom must receive me in tribulation and
Likewise again he narrates concerning the cross
in another prophet, who says: And when will these things be consummated?
The Lord says: When the tree shall lean over and stand up, and when blood
shall flow from the tree. You have again a note concerning the cross and
the who was to be crucified.
This saying may reflect an Ezekiel apocryphon partially preserved in 4Q385 (translation slightly
modified from Michael Owen Wise, Martin G. Abegg, and Edward M. Cook, The
Dead Sea scrolls: A New Translation, page 448):
[And] I said: O LORD, when will [th]ese things come to
pass? And the LORD said to [me: Until ... and after many] days a tree
shall bend, and it shall stand up....*
* My thanks to Andy Harrington for pointing out this connection.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 35;
Syrian Didascalia 6.5:
There shall be schisms and heresies.
Justin Martyr, Dialogue
On this account our Lord Jesus Christ also said:
In what things I take you [by surprise], in those things I also will
Compare 1 Corinthians 11.19.
Praedicta itaque benedictio ad tempora regni sine contradictione pertinet,
quando regnabunt iusti surgentes a mortuis, quando et creatura renovata et liberata
multitudinem fructificabit universae escae, ex rore caeli et ex fertilitate terrae,
quemadmodum presbyteri meminerunt, qui Iohannem discipulum domini viderunt, audisse se ab eo,
quemadmodum de temporibus illis docebat dominus et dicebat:
The blessing thus predicted pertains, without
[fear of] contradiction, to the times of the kingdom, when the just,
rising from the dead, will reign, when even the creation, renewed
and liberated, will produce a multitude of foods of all kinds from
the dew of heaven and the fertility of the earth, just as the elders
who saw John the disciple of the Lord remembered that they had heard
from him how the Lord would teach about those times and would say:
Venient dies in quibus vineae nascentur, singulae decem millia palmitum
habentes, et in unoquoque palmite dena millia brachiorum, et in unoquoque brachio dena
millia flagellorum, et in unoquoque flagello dena millia botruorum, et in unoquoque botro
dena millia acinorum, et unumquodque acinum expressum dabit vigintiquinque metretas vini.
Et cum eorum apprehenderit aliquis sanctorum botrum, alius clamabit botrus: Ego melior sum,
me sume, per me dominum benedic. similiter et granum tritici decem millia spicarum
generaturum, et unamquamque spicam habituram decem millia granorum, et unumquodque granum
quinque bilibres similae clarae mundae; et reliqua autem poma et semina et herbam
secundum congruentiam his consequentem, et omnia animalia his cibis utentia, quae a
terra accipiuntur, pacifica et consentanea invicem fieri, subiecta hominibus cum omni
The days will come in which vines will grow,
each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand
branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig
ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and
each grape, when pressed, will give twenty-five measures of wine.
And, when one of those saints takes hold of a cluster, another
cluster will clamor: I am better, take me, bless the Lord through
me! Similarly a grain of wheat also will generate ten thousand heads,
and each head will have ten thousand grains, and each grain five
double pounds of clear and clean flour. And the remaining fruits and
seeds and herbiage will follow through in congruence with these,
and all the animals using these foods which are taken from the earth
will in turn become peaceful and consenting, subject to men with
Haec autem et Papias Iohannis auditor, Polycarpi autem contubernalis,
vetus homo, per scripturam testimonium perhibit in quarto librorum suorum: sunt enim illi
quinque libri conscripti. et adiecit dicens: Haec autem credibilia sunt credentibus.
et Iuda, inquit, proditore non credente et interrogante: Quomodo ergo tales geniturae a
domino perficientur? dixesse dominum: Videbunt qui venient in illa.
These things Papias too, who was a earwitness of
John and companion of Polycarp, and an ancient man, wrote and
testified in the fourth of his books. For there are five books
written by him. And he adds, saying: But these things are believable
by the believers. And, he says, Judas the traitor did not
believe and asked: How therefore will such generations be brought
to completion by the Lord? The Lord said: Those who come into those
[times] will see.
Confer Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel 4.60.
Clement of Alexandria.
Clement of Alexandria,
Excerpts from Theodotus 2.2:
On this account the savior says:
Save yourself and your soul.
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies
For he says: Have you seen your brother?
You have seen your God.
Clement of Alexandria,
γαρ φησι τα
τα μικρα υμιν
For he says: Ask for the great things, and the little
things will be added unto you.
The passive is a periphrasis for the name of God;
it is God who will add the little things.
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 1.28:
With reason, then, the scripture, wishing us
to become such kind of dialectics, exhorts: But become approved
moneychangers, rejecting the [evil] things, and embracing the
Compare the ειδος, or
coin-image, in 1 Thessalonians 5.21-22.
(Aramaic shulchan) is a table; a
(Aramaic shulchani) is a moneychanger.
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies
And again the Lord says: Let the one who has married
not be cast out, and let the one who has not married not marry. He who has
confessed that he will not marry according to his decision of eunuchhood,
let him remain unmarried.
Clement of Alexandria, The
Instructor 3.12; Miscellanies
4.8 (confer Didascalia 2.3;
1 Peter 4.8):
Yes, indeed, concerning love also he says:
Love covers a multitude of sins.
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.10:
My mystery is for me and for the sons of my
Refer to a similar line from pseudo-Clement.
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.44:
And the Lord said: Go out, those who wish to do so,
from your bonds.
Tertullian, On Baptism,
Neminem intentatum regna coelestia consecuturum.
No man can obtain the heavenly kingdom that has not passed through
Pseudo-Clement, Epitome 1.96:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, said:
The good things must come, and blessed is the one, he says, through whom
Pseudo-Clementine Homilies 19.20:
And Peter [said]: We remember our Lord and teacher,
how he commanded and said to us: Keep the mysteries for me and for the sons
of my house.
Refer to a similar line from Clement
The Apostolic Church Order.
Church Order 26:
Martha said about Mary that she had seen her smiling.
Mary said: I never laughed, for he said to you when he taught that the sick
would be saved through the strong.
My thanks to Alan Humm
for information on this text; I had never
heard of it before. It is also called the Apostolic Church Ordinance.
on Daniel 4.60:
When therefore the Lord narrated to the disciples
that the imminent kingdom of the saints would be glorious and wondrous,
Judas, bewildered by these words, said: And who will see these things?
But the Lord said: Those who have become worthy will see these
Confer Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.33.3-4.
Origen, On Matthew 15.14,
from the gospel according to the Hebrews:
Scriptum est in evangelio quodam, quod
dicitur secundum Hebraeos, si tamen placet suscipere illud, non ad
auctoritatem sed ad manifestationem propositae quaestionis: Dixit,
inquit, ad eum alter divitum: Magister, quid bonum faciens vivam?
dixit ei: Homo, leges et prophetas fac. respondit ad eum: Feci.
dixit ei: Vade vende omnia quae possides et divide pauperibus, en
veni, sequere me.
It is written in a certain gospel, which is
called according to the Hebrews, if yet it pleases one to accept it,
not as an authority, but as a manifestation of the proposed question:
The second of the rich men said unto him: Master, what good thing can
I do and live? He said unto him: O man, do that which is in the law
and the prophets. He answered him: I have kept them. He said unto him:
Go, sell all that you own and distribute it to the poor, and come,
Coepit autem dives scalpere caput suum et non
placuit ei. et dixit ad eumdominus: Quomodo dicis: Legem feci et
prophetas? quoniam scriptum est in lege: Diliges proximum tuum sicut
te ipsum. et ecce, multi fratres tui filii Abrahae amicti sunt
stercore, morientes prae fame, et domus tua plena est multis bonis,
et non egreditur omnino aliquid ex ea ad eos.
But the rich man began to scratch his head,
and it pleased him not. And the Lord said unto him: How can you say:
I have kept the law and the prophets? For it is written in the law:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And behold, many of your
brethren, sons of Abraham, are clad in filth, dying of hunger, and
your house is full of many good things, and nothing at all goes out
of it unto them.
Et conversus dixit Simoni, discipulo suo sedenti
apud se: Simon, fili Ioanne, facilius est camelum intrare per
foramen acus quam divitem in regnum caelorum.
And he turned and said unto Simon his
disciple, who was sitting by him: Simon, son of Jonah, it is easier
for a camel to enter in by the eye of a needle than for a rich man
to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Origen, On Jeremiah,
Latin homily 20.3 (confer Didymus, commentary on Psalm 88.8):
Qui iuxta me est iuxta ignem est.
Qui longe est a me longe est a regno.
He that is near me is near the fire.
He that is far from me is far from the kingdom.
Jeremias translates back into Aramaic to find two four-beat stichoi with rhythm and a
preponderance of the letter mem:
Man diqerib 'immi qerib 'im nura.
Man direchiq minni rechiq mimmalkuta.
Origen, On Matthew 13.2:
And Jesus indeed says: On account of the sick I was
sick and on account of the hungry I was hungry and on account of the
thirsty I was thirsty.
Origen, On Jeremiah
And in the gospel it is written: And wisdom sends
out her children.
Didymus (the blind).
Didymus, commentary on Psalm
88.8 (confer Origen,
Latin homily 20.3):
On this account the savior says:
He that is near me is near the fire. But he that is far
from me is far from the kingdom.
Eusebius, Theophany 4.12
(in Syriac, apud Jeremias, and Latin):
Egbe li shappire; shappire hanon dihab li ab debashemayya.
Eligo mihi quae mihi placent; placent mihi quae
mihi dat pater meus in caelis.
I choose for myself those who please me;
they please me whom my father in heaven gives me.
On this account he says: The one speaking in the
prophets, behold, I am here.
For the scripture says: An unproven man is one who is
Jerome, On Ephesians 3,
commentary on Ephesians 5.4 (from the gospel
according to the Hebrews):
Numquam inquit laeti sitis nisi
cum fratrem vestrum videritis in caritate.
Never be content, he said, except when you look
upon your brother in love [or in charity].
Jerome, Against Pelagius 3.2:
Si peccaverit, inquit, frater tuus in
verbo, et satis tibi fecerit, septies in die suscipe eum. dixit illi Simon discipulus eius:
Septies in die? respondit dominus et dixit ei: Etiam ego dico tibi, usque septuagies septies.
etenim in prophetis quoque, postquam uncti sunt spiritu sancto, inventus est sermo
If your brother sins in word, says he,
and makes satisfaction to you, seven times a day receive him. Simon his disciple said to
him: Seven times a day? The Lord responded and said to him: Still I say to you, until
seventy times seven. For indeed in the prophets, even after they were anointed by the holy
spirit, the speech of sin was found.
Adversaries of the Law and Prophets 2.4.14 (it is now known
that this saying comes from Thomas 52):
The apostles asked the Lord:
Qui de adventu eius aliquid cecinisse in
[Loosely:] Has the advent already happened in the past?
And the Lord answered:
Dimisistis vivum qui ante vos est et de mortuis
You have dismissed the living one who is before your eyes
and talk idly of the dead.
Finally, the Lord said to them: Why do you wonder
at signs? I am giving you a great inheritance which the whole world does
Canonical Rule of the Holy
of the Holy Apostles 3:
In anyone partakes of the body of the Lord and
[also] bathes, he will be accursed, just as the Lord said.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840,
lines 1-7a, on injustice and suffering in this life.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840,
lines 7b-45, the controversy dialogue with Levi.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1,
lines 11-21a, on being in the midst of the world, from Thomas 28.
Oxyrhynchus 655, on raiment, from Thomas 36-37.
Oxyrhynchus 1, lines 23-30a, on lifting the stone and cleaving
the wood, from Thomas 77.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1224,
fragment 2 recto, column 2:
[He who today i]s far away tomorrow
[close at hand to you will] be.
For these variants please refer to my page of
significant textual variants
in the canonical tradition.
Aurelio de Santos Otero has the following on page 116 of
Los evangélios apócrifos
...la sentencia evangélica que dice: «Pasa la
apariencia de este mundo».
(Theodorus Balsamo, Epits. de Rasaph.: PG 138,1373).
[Greek portion only:] ...the evangelical word
that says: The scheme of this world is passing.
My thanks to Barry Norby for the information on Theodore Balsamo,
who lived in century XII (died circa 1204) in Contantinople.
This agraphon looks to me like a case of mistaken attribution;
it is a Pauline saying (1 Corinthians 7.31) which Theodore has
apparently attributed to the gospel(s).
Old English Homilies
and Homiletic Treatises of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries,
Estote fortes in bello et pugnate
cum antiquo serpente, et accipietis regnum aeternum, dicit
in the battle and fight with the ancient serpent, and
you will receive the eternal kingdom, says the
Aurelio de Santos Otero has the
following on page 119 of Los
evangélios apócrifos (text 38):
«Sed fuertes en la batalla y luchad
con la serpiente antigua, y alcanzaréis el reino
eterno», dice el Señor.
«Estote fortes in bello et pugnate cum antiquo
serpente, et accipietis regnum aeternum», dicit
Dominus (Old English Homilies and Homiletic
Treatises of the twelfth and thirteenth Centuries.
Ed. R. Morris, serie I, p. 151, London 1868. También
se encuentra en el Brevario Romano, Comm.
Apostol., ant. ad Magnificat, II Vísperas).
My thanks to Barry Norby for the pointer to the source of this
a facsimile reprint of the book to which de Santos refers;
this book is searchable on Amazon.
Table of sayings.
Listed by catch-phrases.
(Listed in alphabetical order, omitting the and a.)