if you want to experience what he meant
saying- 30; God’s presence – stone and wood.
Where there are three gods (deities),
they are gods (divine).
Where there are two or one,
I am with him (that one).
Jesus said: Where there are [two, they are not] without god,
and when there is one alone, [I say,] I am with him.
Raise the stone, and there you will find me;
cleave the wood, and there I am.
(Pap. Oxyrh. Not a kernel saying)
The I am saying must not be understood as a statement of self-importance
on the part of Jesus, or as proof that he proclaimed himself god-like – it is never about
him as a person, only about the importance of his message, with which he identified
so much that he and his message became one and the same thing for him.
Hedrick (2010) states: the saying is obscure, and possibly corrupt. Maybe the Pap. Oxyrh.
phrasing is the most logical to understand here. Plisch (2008) reconstructs the first sentence as:
where there are three, they are godless, which may actually not make the interpretation easier.
Maybe the saying aims to say something like the first verse of the Tao Te Ching: the Tao (= “Way”,
but in Western perception one might also say ”God”) that can be told, is not the eternal Tao
(Mitchel,1999); the eternal name cannot be named (Schipper, 2011). Ecclesiastes(7:24) may have
hinted at the same thing: that which is, is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
If the Pap. Oxyrh. Version is the most authentic, the explanation may be as follows: Koester
(2007b) states: “for the Jewish scholar, God was present wherever the Torah was studied;
this is expressed in Aboth 3.2:
Wherever two sit together
And words of the Torah are between them,
The shekinah (glory of the Divine presence) dwells among them”.
This common Jewish wisdom may imply that God’s presence always requires to have
company, and can never be among a single person. Jesus says that the individual seeking
the kingdom as he proclaimed it is superior than to study the Torah with a companion.
I think that is the essence of this saying.
[The following passage I added on 07-06-2014, without ever having read anywhere anything
similar. In case I will come across a similar interpretation, I will mention so]:
The final sentences of the Oxyrh. papers is not taken by DeConick (2005) as a kernel saying.
Yet I wonder if it may be authentic anyway, based on the following considerations:
These sentences may be a reference to Ecclesiastes 10 verse 9:
He who carries stones is hurt by them;
and he who splits logs is engendered by them.
It is a verse in a sequence of several following the introductory verse 5:
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun,
as it were an error proceeding from the ruler.
Whether any divine ruler is meant or a worldly one, I cannot make up,
but the error seems to have led to a generally prevailing foolishness (verse 6):
folly is set in many high places.........
The passage may suggest that because rulers (or the Ruler) are in error,
everything has gone out of order, even regular things in daily life are full of
danger: one can hardly make any stone or wooden construction anymore (build a
house or a stable perhaps?) as these have become irksomely dangerous activities.
The people likely had to fear the authorities if they did; whereas they had to raise stones
and cleave wood - how else could they carry on their regular lives?
Jesus indicated that his teachings could ease the mental pain the people suffered from
worrying all the time about eventual personal consequences resulting from
governmental 'foolishness', which without doubt included a high degree of
unpredictability in promulgating extorting regulations, and the capricious
way these were judged to be violated by the people.
So, these two sentences may be seen as a protest by Jesus against governmental oppression
of the Galilean peasants, which makes him to interpret 'the ruler' of Ecclesiastes to be the
Another approach to this part of the saying is the following:
The combination of wood and stone can be found at various places in the Hebrew Bible
(Deuteronomy 4:28; . Also: Deut 28:36; 28:64; 29:17; 2Kings 19:18; Isaiah 37:19;
Jeremiah 1:19; 2:27; 3:9; Ezekiel 20:32; Daniel 5:4, 5:23; Habakuk 9:20) as a reference to the
worship of idol gods. Jesus might have meant that it is of no use to look for the
Truth elsewhere outside his teachings.
The combination of wood and stone may also refer to the building and use of an altar of burnt
offering in a cult that had become redundant in Jesus' view. Stones for building purposes could
be baked or hewn (2Chronicles 34:11; Even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy hewn
stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed),
whereas only crude natural stones were allowed to serve the building of an altar, and had
consequently to be lifted and carried - (Exodus 20:25; And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone,
thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it).
Plisch (2008; comments on logion 77) also mentions the perhaps intended close relation
to Eccl 10:9, where the meaning could be that Jesus can be encountered in everyday life of
the world, even when at work, without the need of special practices of piety.
Such interpretation would be very similar to the Zen orientation.