Saying #19 / C
. Jesus says: "Blessed is the man who existed before he came into being! If you become my disciples and if you hear my words, these stones will serve you. For you have there, in Paradise, five trees which change not winter nor summer, whose leaves do not fall: whoever knows them will not taste death!"
I like David's way of doing this - bit by bit - so ...
1) Blessed is the man who existed before he came into being!
....... I think Jesus is refering to himself ... if you accept the idea of the Trinity, Jesus, as God, did exist before he was born on earth. A more gnostic interpretation would probably be that we all existed as part of God before we were born as individualss.
2) If you become my disciples and if you hear my words, these stones will serve you.
....... This may refer to stones being turned into bread, if the disciples are rightly able to grasp Jesus' teachings ... Matthew 7:9 says ... Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread.
3) For you have there, in Paradise, five trees which change not winter nor summer, whose leaves do not fall: whoever knows them will not taste death!
........ To me, this is the most interesting part of the saying. Jesus mentions Paradise ... I think he means an actual place (the after-life), rather than a state of mind (kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God). The term occurs only three times in the NT - Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, Revelation 2:7 - a garden-like place belonging to God. Trees have been sacred to many ancient cultures and in dry places like the middle east, trees were especially important. Two trees are mentioned in Genesis in the garden of Eden - the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Marvin Meyer writes: "The five trees in paradise are mentioned frequently in gnostic texts, ordinarily without explanation or elaboration. (The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, pp. 77-78).
This saying seems to mean that if a person understands Jesus' teachings, and comes to know they were once part of God and that they will return to God (Paradise, where the trees stand), they will win eternal life.
I have trouble with this interpretation ... life eternal depends here on understanding Jesus' teachings, instead of being a gift for all.