saying-78; a reed shaken by the wind – a man in fine garments.



if you want to experience what he meant

saying- 78; a reed shaken by the wind – a man in fine garments.



(latest update: 07-12-2018).



Jesus says,

Why have you come out into the desert/countryside?

To see a reed shaken by the wind?

And to see a man clothed in fine garments like your kings and your great men?

Upon them are the fine [garments],

and they are unable to discern the truth.





The reed shaken by the wind unlikely refers to John the Baptist (Plisch, 2008). Crossan (1998)

noticed that it doesn’t in Thomas, whereas it does in Q. He cites Theissen (1992) who noticed

that king Herod Antipas had minted coins with reeds on it. So the saying could mean to ask

sarcastically if the people think that they will find a sort of king, whereas in both cases, either

John or Jesus, they found quite the opposite. Because of historicity of the antithesis between

John and Herod, desert and palace, Crossan concludes that Thomas removed the reference to John,

and that the Q version is the original. However, the contrast between rich kings and great men on

the one side, and the Jesus’ people at the other, favors rather a saying of Jesus than of John, as it

was one of the central tenets of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus preached “the truth”; John

preached “repentance”. Besides, we should remember that the saying stems from Jesus

followers who kept Jesus’ words in honor, not from John’s followers who kept his

remembrance alive. So, I guess it was a saying of Jesus, who referred to himself.


Cameron (1990) also notes that the Thomas saying holds no reference to John or a prophet

figure. He translates ‘countryside’, rather than ‘desert’. One does usually not expect to come

across reeds in a desert, but there where one expects to find water. However, used as a literary

device the question could mean to state that one is unlikely to find what one is looking for. In

that case it rather suits the style of other Jesus’ sayings. As expression a reed shaken by the wind

could be also refer to someone who is of flimsy opinion on certain matters, depending on

circumstances. Also in the Aesopus fables, the bending reed refers to those who “go with the flow”

and bow to all whims of those in power. It may have been rather Jesus than John who told his

visitors in this way that they came in vain.



Jesus was probably visited by people from the towns or even the cities located farther away

from the area where he usually wandered, which was rural area – the countryside, the ‘dessert'.

They may have been attracted by stories about a fragile rabbi - a reed shaken by the wind .

Jesus just might have had a lean and even emaciated appearance due to his itinerant life style,

without regular meals. That Jesus and his followers were often hungry is mentioned in various

NT stories (Mark 11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-19) , and the famous story on plucking ears of grain

on the Sabbath in Mark 2:23; Matthew 12:1; Luke 6:1. Being accused in that story by the

Pharisees Jesus refers to a story of David who stole consecrated temple bread because he

was extremely hungry, which suggests that Jesus and his followers were in a similar state;

only Matthew explicitly states that the disciples indeed were hungry.

Theissen (1992) suggests that the itinerant lifestyle of Jesus’ followers would often

have left them hungry.


If Jesus meant by your great men the priesthood of the temple cult, as these similar to the

kings wore fancy linen instead of woolen cloths, (just as Jesus himself

might have done - see below), a certain degree of cynicism towards this category

cannot be denied here. Moreover, Jesus tells his visitors that because of the reason for their

visit they have nothing to expect from him, just as they have nothing to expect from their kings

and religious leaders as both categories cannot discern the Truth.


Worldly power and wealth, both the ultimate signs of obsessive clinging to

material existence, virtually exclude the Truth to be found.





Some considerations about Jesus’ clothes.


We read in Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, and Luke 23:34

that the soldiers took Jesus' clothes and divided these amongst themselves. According to

John 19:23 there were four parts to divide, which may have been his sandals, head-dress,

tunic and outer coat (with a girdle).

As these were of different value, the soldiers cast lots. However, the main reason might have

been the extraordinary value of Jesus coat or tunic (the tunic directly covered the body

whereas the coat was probably worn over the tunic in case of protection against the cold.

Various translations mix the two up - see below, e.g.). Considering the Palestinian climate,

during active teaching Jesus might not worn the outer coat, but only his tunic. Conspicuous

about Jesus' garment (so, likely his tunic) was for one thing as mentioned in John, that is was

woven in one piece. There were no armholes in it as usual and besides it was not sewn to

fit the body. So, it was not a piece of clothing altogether, but one seamless piece of woven

material , wrapped around the body (like Buddhist monks e.g. have done until today). Even more

conspicuous would he have looked if this "tunic" had not been made of wool, but of linen, the

clothing material of priests and the rich. Now the stories given by the evangelists about this

division of Jesus’ clothes during his Passion may well be ‘historicized prophesy’ rather than

‘history remembered’ (Crossan, 1995 – refers to Psalm 22:18 which says: they divide my clothes

among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots, and the Gospel of John even mentions that

this was done to fulfill scripture!), but there is a peculiarity mentioned about Jesus’ brother

James "the Just" , who is also mentioned as going dressed in linen only instead of wool. Wool

was the poor man's material (discussed by Crossan, 1998). We may see all kinds of

symbolism in Jesus' clothing ( despite his poverty he wore symbols of a priest or a king), but it

could well be that his family had easy access to linen fabric, and that he and his brother James

indeed wore such material. Regular, natural dyes were not only blue and purple, but also scarlet.

Now imaging this itinerant, skinny teacher preaching a weird kind of new teaching, using unfamiliar language, clothed with a one-piece woven scarlet blanket wrapped around his body - no wonder

people came out to the countryside to see this curious phenomenon. If spotted today, one

would held him for a wandering Buddhist luminary who lost his way. However, John might just

have indicated that it was Jesus’ tunic that was of one piece, just as that of the Temple priests,

to make an allusion to Jesus’ divine priesthood .




Vermes (2012) states that Jesus' cloak had tassels attached to it, which would pinpoint

him as a classical, law-abiding Jew, who had such appendages on their cloaks as a reminder

of the Law as was ordained in Numbers 15:37-41. In ancient Greek language, tassel would be

κρασπέδου (kraspedon), and as such it appears in the gospel of Mathew (9:20) and Luke(8:44),

whereas Mark only says “his garment” in the story of the woman with a bleeding problem

seeking to be cured by Jesus. Because of both Mathew’s and Luke’s dependence on Mark,

both might have had their own reasons to add the fringes to the story (Kloppenborg, 2008) ,

although elsewhere, Mark (6:56) tells of the people seeking to touch the kraspedon of

Jesus’ garment to be healed. However, kraspedon might also just refer to edge or border

of a cloak. Furthermore, Jesus’ original teachings are not very Law-like. Time and again he

violates the Torah in word and deed, and the wearing of a cloak with tassels as a Law

reminder would have been rather outlandish in his case. Furthermore, the historic veracity of whole

miraculous healing and exorcism side of Jesus remains doubtful from Thomas. Flavoring

stories with supra-natural performances, how unrealistic and even bizarre these may sound,

was (and still is!) performed as a formula to stress divine involvement from the perspective

that the divine is miraculous, (with the consequent, but actually illogical deduction that

therefore, everything miraculous is divine!) and the knowledge that many minds are receptive

to such flavoring. However, Thomas' Jesus rather stresses the natural character of things,

and does not invoke the supra-natural.

It looks a bit similar to Buddhism: in the most early stories about the Buddha he

remained Pyrrhonic about the supra-natural, just as still retained in Zen. However, later stories about

the Buddha are adorned with the most unrealistic, and fantastic supra-natural motives and