if you want to experience what he meant
saying- 65; vineyard or graveyard?
There was a good man who owned a vineyard. He leased it to tenant farmers so that
they might work it and he might collect the produce from them. He sent his servant so
that the tenants might give him the produce of the vineyard. They seized his servant and
beat him, all but killing him. The servant went back and told his master. The master
said, 'Perhaps <they> did not recognize <him>.' He sent another servant. The tenants beat
this one as well. Then the owner sent his son and said, 'Perhaps they will show respect to
my son.' Because the tenants knew that it was he who was the heir to the vineyard,
they seized him and killed him.
Jeremias (1966) reminds us that this parable is linked with Isaiah 5:1-7:
The Song of the Vineyard, but he also remarks the difference in editorial comment between
the synoptic renderings and Thomas, where such comment fails, as also noted by Koester (1990).
The synoptic following of Isaiah’s interpretation makes the parable into an allegory, which
According to Jeremias originally any allegorical editing, whether or not by invoking an
OT textual background, was not an original part of the parables, and that, therefore,
Thomas renders the more original parable version.
If God is the good vineyard owner in the allegory, then the vineyard is the world, and the
tenants are the people, or Israel and its people, respectively.
Divine messengers have been sent, instructing the people to give
God what belongs to God, but the people think they can do without the Divine and want to
keep everything as they wish. This illustrate the stubbornness of the people in accepting
divine meaning in their lives, whereas the messenger closest to the Truth is the one who is at the
highest risk of seriously being molested and even killed. Such one was Jesus, referring
to himself as the "Son of God" , making the Thomas scholar Quispel (2004) state about this saying:
"there is no excerpt in the whole of the New Testament where Jesus considers himself
so evidently as "God's Son".
This classical, allegorical interpretation is based on the synoptic gospel stories. However,
Thomas' Jesus may have meant something else. As in the other parables, the kingdom is
compared to a person, in this case the good vineyard owner, not to the vineyard.
We have to realize that the kingdom is not a thing, not something concrete, but rather
a kind of process, of certain affairs as undertaken or experienced by an individual. Thomas'
Jesus' kingdom is not something to consider at a societal level; Jesus taught
individuals, not societies. Where is written the kingdom, one may try and replace it by
'the Sacred', 'Enlightenment', 'Divine Ruling', and even 'experience of the Beyond',
and then re-read the saying.
A vineyard is a thing, but the actions the vineyard owner undertakes reflects a process,
and in this case perhaps a process with wrong choices and wrong actions.
The owner exploits some property as a business, providing him with revenues.
It is both logical and fair that he claims what is rightfully his according to law and convention,
but he runs into trouble doing such business of money making, which eventually
costs him what he held most dearly, his own son, which may metaphorically signify
his future life perspectives, if not even eternal life. Jeremias (1966) points out that the
tenants’ killing of the son hoping to obtain the vineyard should not strike us as an
“absurd expectation”, as first it is “a realistic description of the Galilean peasants’ attitude
toward the foreign landlords” who in fact owned the land, which would fall back to the
peasants in case there was no heir to the owner to claim the land within an indicated period.
Jeremias concludes that, therefore, the son in the story does not refer to Jesus as God’s son,
going to be killed.
That the issue is about making money and not collecting wine as revenue, is explained by
Quispel (2004). His interpretation of the original text is that the vineyard was rent by
the tenants, and that the story is about collecting the rent, not the harvest.
The saying warns against greedy money making while exploiting one's fellow men,
even when done completely in accordance with law and customs, because doing so
you may lose what you should consider most valuable: finding the kingdom.
Matthew 21:34-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16.