Was Jesus talking about artistic angst in the Gospel of Thomas saying #70? (Article 1 of 2)

A few months ago, I went looking for that quote from the Gospel of Thomas — the one that artists, writers, and healers love — the one that says something like: if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will just kiiiiiiiill you.

Oh yeah.

In the throes of our artistic angst, especially when not doing our art, our teaching, or our healing, we can identify with the feeling of slowly dying.

But when I finally located the quote, I discovered it was misquoted. Among the three main scholarly translations and several others I found, none translate logon #70 the way I have seen it on facebook and twitter.

Here is the misquote, directly from BrainyQuote.com (a website that any serious writer or facebook quoter avoids like the plague):

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”  (emphasis mine)

Instead, the real quote speaks of something deeper and even more profound. 

What do official translations say?

Part 1: What Saves You Is What You HAVE… If You Express It

The first half of the logon is fairly straightforward. Accepted translations say that is not WHAT you bring forth that saves you (not your polished perfect book, painting, poem, or business), but THAT you bring it forth as well as THAT it is INSIDE you. Take a look.

ACCURATE (first half of quote):

Translated by Thomas O. Lambdin:
(70) Jesus said, “That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves.”

Translated by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer:
70. Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you.”

Translated by Stephen J. Patterson and James M. Robinson:
(70) Jesus says: (1) “If you bring it into being within you, (then) that which you have will save you.

Rendered by Pico Iyer (Source: The Gospel According to Thomas: With Complementary Texts, ed. Raghavan Iyer, Concord Grove Press, 1983, often miscredited online to a mysterious Nancy Johnson.)
70.) When you produce this within, what you have will save you.

The Coptic Ecumenical Project, translated into English and Spanish by Paterson Brown:
70. Yeshua says: When you bring forth that which is within yourselves, this that you have shall save you. (Again, my bolding for easy comparison to the misquote.)

Three Intentions for Awakening

What does this new understanding mean for those of us who produce creative or healing works?

1. Stop looking for what will save you “out there.” Know that you already have something wonderful inside you, something worth sharing, something can turn your life around, every time you need it to. You will not find it out there, although some of what you find out there may remind you of what you already have inside. Drop any jealousy of other people’s published works, too, because those are mere shadows of what counts. Wonderful though they may be, the works don’t matter. What YOU already have counts for a lot.

Translations #3 and 4 even seem to imply that all you have to do is develop this thing within you, to “bring it forth” within, perhaps by simply exploring it, listening to it, or acknowledging it. Turn inward.

2. Express your something wonderful. If you are a dancer, dance. If you are a writer, write. If you are a healer, heal. Do it behind closed doors and unpublished if you have to at first. Explore what is within you. It’s more important that you acknowledge what is in you and EXPRESS it, than you or your works be seen or approved of. It may be that our most sacred duty is simply expressing what is inside us, if only to ourselves and our loved ones.

Well, all right, we kind of knew that already, but let it soak in: It’s not what you have, but THAT you have something wonderful already. It’s not what you produce but THAT you produce it.

3. And, finally, stop counting jelly beans. It’s not the size of your, er, body of work that counts. Contrary to the misquote, what you’ve produced is not what saves you. The painter with the most canvases hanging in the Louvre does not win. The vast potential you don’t even know you have inside is what makes the difference… if you connect with it. If you seek it and “bring it into being.” So stop counting the other kids’ jelly beans while you focus on your own.

This teaching reminds me of Jesus’s admonition to pray in secret. There, alone, it’s what you do in your heart that counts — what you do when it’s just you and God looking, not what you show to others. This teaching also reminds me of the Tao Te Ching’s saying that, “Those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know.”

I had no idea this quote would turn out to be about a lot more than artistic angst. What counts, in my words, is your Inner Healer: your naturally healing gifts and your inner connection to them.

And you will be “saved” by awakening this within you.

Would you like a small challenge to activate this teaching? Take 10 seconds right now, and name ONE thing you can do immediately (or later today) to connect with the real you, inside you. (Whether that part of you looks like what you think other people want… or not.) How could you honor this hidden part of you? How could you begin to explore it more deeply?

One thing.

Let me know what you discover, in the comment section below.


© 2013 Daria Boissonnas