if you want to experience what he meant
saying- 17; what no eye has seen…..
( latest update: 24-11-2018)
I shall give you what no eye has seen
and what no ear has heard
and what no hand has touched
and what has never occurred to the human mind
(minds have not conceived).
The phrase what has not arisen in the human mind indicates that never before had
anyone come up with such ideas as Jesus now proclaimed – they were utterly different
and far removed from everything that was traditional or novel at that moment, whereas the essence
of his teachings remained beyond conceptualization. I think this is the key issue of this saying.
Vermes (2012) states that in the gospel canon Jesus, all in all, made only nine references to the
Hebrew scriptures, which is an impressively small number indeed, to sustain the idea that Jesus'
teachings can be considered as rooted in the Hebrew tradition. To quote Vermes (2010) further:
“it is obvious that Jesus' preaching the Kingdom of God was not the outcome of ordinary
Jewish theological speculation that was keen to discover the moment when God would
reveal himself to mankind and outline the portents that signal his approach.....whereas also did
Jesus not offer a philosophical or theological definition of God......”.
That Jesus' teachings did not connect to current religious ideas and practice
of that time seems rather an understatement, and framing them into
the Hebrew rabbinic tradition (Young, 1998) a bit forced and anachronistic.
What no eye has seen and what no ear has heard was a regular saying in the
Roman-Hellenistic and Hebrew tradition (Meyer,1992; Hedrick, 2010).
If Paul, quoting the saying in 1 Cor. 2:9, refers to “wat is written”, he likely refers to Isaiah,
not anything outside Hebrew religious literature. However, Isaiah lacks Paul’s “and what no
human mind has conceived”, whereas it is in Thomas! Paul might have known Hellenistic
literature which does include this sentence, thinking it was also in Hebrew “scripture”.
1 Cor. 2:9 (NIV)
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”
the things God has prepared for those who love him.
Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
It may well be that Jesus used a common expression, only to manipulate it for his own purpose,
which was to stress the fact that his message differed fundamentally from usual religious thinking.
The fact that Paul refers in 1 Cor. 2:8 to Thomas saying-2, and directly following that to a saying
that is also in Thomas (this saying-17), and all that in a context where he is fervently trying to
convince a Corinthian group to quit their “wisdom” related convictions, suggests that the
Corinthians must have understood these sayings as “the revelation of hidden wisdom and
life-giving knowledge” (Koester,1990). Obviously, Paul also had knowledge of these sayings, and
while he refers to at least two of them, Koester’s analysis (Robinson and Koester,1971;
Koester, 2007) may be right, and that Paul is quoting here from a very early written
"Thomas collection"; (1 Corinthian letter was written in the early fifties!).
I think that this is the first recorded dispute between those who believed in Jesus’ words and
those who had very little to do with the human Jesus, and instead proclaimed the Christ
myth – eventually history witnessed the perdition of the first category, but not earlier than that
the Gospel of Thomas had widely circulated as a Greek text during the second century
(Koester, 1990). In the gospel of John we can read about another confrontation between Thomas’
trust in the words of Jesus and the new faith of the risen and glorified Christ: John 14:5 puts
Thomas down as a non-believer of the right faith and castigates him because he was only
convinced after he had experienced the truth for himself – a theme well known from
the Thomas tradition!
The Corinthians were probably not an exception to the rule: apart from an early Thomas
collection, there circulated also the Q-sayings collection which in its most primitive stage
(containing many parallels with Thomas – both might stem from a common earliest source,
sometimes referred to as the Common Sayings Tradition. Early Q and Thomas also
share parallel parables.) likely contained only “wisdom sayings” of Jesus. It is obvious that
during the early decades following Jesus’ death, many had their ‘faith’ rooted in the “sayings
of Jesus”, at least in those areas visited by itinerant followers of Jesus’ way of life, and not in
a redeemer-Christ myth constructed by religious scribes in the cities! It is obvious from
history that the Christ myth proclaimers were rather intolerant people, and rather
aggressive proselytes. Eventually, the wandering Jesus’ followers died out, when ‘the church’
came to develop, a transition well described by Patterson to have taken place by the end of] the first century (Patterson,1993).
Theissen also mentions that, when communities grew in size they developed the need of
local authorities, who inevitably competed with the wandering charismatics, who eventually
lost the game (Theissen, 1978). Sadly, it also meant that the teachings as Jesus originally
meant them to be practiced, died out with the ones who practiced them.
Now "elders and bishops" with a responsibility for people, property, money, housing, food,
rites, rules, ritual, and orthodox teaching - away from the words of the man Jesus and toward
s the Christ myth - took the place of the itinerant social fools,
who had always refrained from those things, whereas the new order of self-proclaimed
authority was never to leave again!
From then on, this authority took the place of the living Jesus in teaching how to seek
and find the kingdom, a kingdom, as well as the way to it, designed after their own ideas.
It was to become a kingdom in which not the poor but the rich were the ones most close
to God, whereas little by little the original teachings were re-formulated into hollow phrases
about who had what power to decide on who’s place in the now eschatological kingdom of God.
And even words spoken in defense of the itinerant poor as absorbed into the canonical
books of the New Testament by way of the epistle of James (Patterson, 1993) could
not prevent that even remembering the significance of the original Jesus’ followers
went into oblivion, which would last for almost two-thousand years.