The agrapha.

Floating dominical sayings not preserved in the gospels.

Some of our many sources for primitive Christianity.

The following sayings are the twenty-one cases of agrapha dealt with by Joachim Jeremias in his book, Unknown Sayings of Jesus, as well as most of those listed by Aurelio de Santos Otero in his classic, Los evangélios apócrifos.

An agraphon is a saying of the Lord that was not written down. It is a somewhat unfortunate term, since obviously the saying was written down at some point, else how could we know about it? What is actually meant by the term is that the saying was not written down in the canonical gospels. Also included in this list are several that are attributed, not to the Lord himself, but to some unknown scripture; these sayings make the list for their similarity to other dominical sayings, and for the fact that sometimes Christian authors attributed straightforward canonical sayings of the Lord to scripture rather than to the Lord himself (refer to 1 Timothy 5.18, for instance, as apparently referencing Luke 10.7 or something very much like it).

Also of interest: The significant textual variants in the canonical texts and the canonical sayings of Jesus as found outside the gospels.

The sayings are listed alphabetically by catch-phrase at the bottom of this page.


1 Thessalonians 4.15-17a:

Τουτο γαρ υμιν λεγομεν εν λογω κυριου, οτι ημεις οι ζωντες οι περιλειπομενοι εις την παρουσιαν του κυριου ου μη φθασωμεν τους κοιμηθεντας· οτι αυτος ο κυριος εν κελευσματι, εν φωνη αρχαγγελου και εν σαλπιγγι θεου, καταβησεται απ ουρανου και οι νεκροι εν Χριστω αναστησονται πρωτον, επειτα ημεις οι ζωντες οι περιλειπομενοι αμα συν αυτοις αρπαγησομεθα εν νεφελαις εις απαντησιν του κυριου εις αερα.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the advent of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep, because the Lord himself, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Afterward we who are alive and remain will be raptured up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.


Revelation 3.3b; 22.7:

Εαν ουν μη γρηγορησης, ηξω ως κλεπτης, και ου μη γνως ποιαν ωραν ηξω επι σε.

If therefore you do not wake up, I shall come as a thief, and you will not know at which hour I shall come upon you.

Και ιδου, ερχομαι ταχυ· μακαριος ο τηρων τους λογους της προφητειας του βιβλιου τουτου.

And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.

The epistles to the seven churches in Revelation 1.9-3.22 also contain extensive sayings of the risen Lord.

The Acts of the Apostles.

Acts 20.35b:

Μακαριον εστιν μαλλον διδοναι η λαμβανειν.

It is blessed rather to give than to receive.

The Acts of Peter.

Acts of Peter 10:

Qui mecum sunt non me intellexerunt.

Those who are with me have not understood me.

The Didache.

Didache 1.6:

Αλλα και περι τουτου δε ειρηται· Ιδρωσατω η ελεμοσυνη σου εις ταις χειρας σου μεχρις αν γνως τινι δως.

But rather also concerning this he has said: Let your alm sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give it.


Barnabas 7.11b:

Ουτω, φησιν, οι θελοντες με ιδειν και αψασθαι μου της βασιλειας οφειλουσιν θλιβεντες και παθοντες λαβειν με.

Thus, he says, those who wish to see me and take hold of my kingdom must receive me in tribulation and suffering.

Barnabas 12.1:

Ομοιως παλιν περι του σταυρου οριζει εν αλλω προφητη λεγοντι· Και τοτε ταυτα συντελεσθησεται; λεγει κυριος· Οταν ξυλον κλιθη και αναστη, και οταν εκ ξυλου αιμα σταξη. εχεις παλιν περι του σταυρου και του σταυρουσθαι μελλοντος.

Likewise again he narrates concerning the cross in another prophet, who says: And when will these things be consummated? The Lord says: When the tree shall lean over and stand up, and when blood shall flow from the tree. You have again a note concerning the cross and the who was to be crucified.

This saying may reflect an Ezekiel apocryphon partially preserved in 4Q385 (translation slightly modified from Michael Owen Wise, Martin G. Abegg, and Edward M. Cook, The Dead Sea scrolls: A New Translation, page 448):

[And] I said: O LORD, when will [th]ese things come to pass? And the LORD said to [me: Until ... and after many] days a tree shall bend, and it shall stand up....*

* My thanks to Andy Harrington for pointing out this connection.

Justin Martyr.

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 35; Syrian Didascalia 6.5:

Εσονται σχισματα και αιρεσεις.

There shall be schisms and heresies.

Justin Martyr, Dialogue 47:

Διο και ημετερος κυριος Ιησους Χριστος ειπεν· Εν οις αν υμας καταλαβω, ιν τουτοις και κρινω.

On this account our Lord Jesus Christ also said: In what things I take you [by surprise], in those things I also will judge.

Compare 1 Corinthians 11.19.


Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.33.3-4:

Praedicta itaque benedictio ad tempora regni sine contradictione pertinet, quando regnabunt iusti surgentes a mortuis, quando et creatura renovata et liberata multitudinem fructificabit universae escae, ex rore caeli et ex fertilitate terrae, quemadmodum presbyteri meminerunt, qui Iohannem discipulum domini viderunt, audisse se ab eo, quemadmodum de temporibus illis docebat dominus et dicebat:

The blessing thus predicted pertains, without [fear of] contradiction, to the times of the kingdom, when the just, rising from the dead, will reign, when even the creation, renewed and liberated, will produce a multitude of foods of all kinds from the dew of heaven and the fertility of the earth, just as the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord remembered that they had heard from him how the Lord would teach about those times and would say:

Venient dies in quibus vineae nascentur, singulae decem millia palmitum habentes, et in unoquoque palmite dena millia brachiorum, et in unoquoque brachio dena millia flagellorum, et in unoquoque flagello dena millia botruorum, et in unoquoque botro dena millia acinorum, et unumquodque acinum expressum dabit vigintiquinque metretas vini. Et cum eorum apprehenderit aliquis sanctorum botrum, alius clamabit botrus: Ego melior sum, me sume, per me dominum benedic. similiter et granum tritici decem millia spicarum generaturum, et unamquamque spicam habituram decem millia granorum, et unumquodque granum quinque bilibres similae clarae mundae; et reliqua autem poma et semina et herbam secundum congruentiam his consequentem, et omnia animalia his cibis utentia, quae a terra accipiuntur, pacifica et consentanea invicem fieri, subiecta hominibus cum omni subiectione.

The days will come in which vines will grow, each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape, when pressed, will give twenty-five measures of wine. And, when one of those saints takes hold of a cluster, another cluster will clamor: I am better, take me, bless the Lord through me! Similarly a grain of wheat also will generate ten thousand heads, and each head will have ten thousand grains, and each grain five double pounds of clear and clean flour. And the remaining fruits and seeds and herbiage will follow through in congruence with these, and all the animals using these foods which are taken from the earth will in turn become peaceful and consenting, subject to men with every subjection.

Haec autem et Papias Iohannis auditor, Polycarpi autem contubernalis, vetus homo, per scripturam testimonium perhibit in quarto librorum suorum: sunt enim illi quinque libri conscripti. et adiecit dicens: Haec autem credibilia sunt credentibus. et Iuda, inquit, proditore non credente et interrogante: Quomodo ergo tales geniturae a domino perficientur? dixesse dominum: Videbunt qui venient in illa.

These things Papias too, who was a earwitness of John and companion of Polycarp, and an ancient man, wrote and testified in the fourth of his books. For there are five books written by him. And he adds, saying: But these things are believable by the believers. And, he says, Judas the traitor did not believe and asked: How therefore will such generations be brought to completion by the Lord? The Lord said: Those who come into those [times] will see.

Confer Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel 4.60.

Clement of Alexandria.

Clement of Alexandria, Excerpts from Theodotus 2.2:

Δια τουτο λεγει ο σωτηρ· Σωζου συ και η ψυχη σου.

On this account the savior says: Save yourself and your soul.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 1.19:

Ειδες, γαρ φησι, τον αδελφον σου; ειδες τον θεον σου.

For he says: Have you seen your brother? You have seen your God.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 1.24:

Αιτεισθε γαρ φησι τα μεγαλα και τα μικρα υμιν προστεθησεται.

For he says: Ask for the great things, and the little things will be added unto you.

The passive is a periphrasis for the name of God; it is God who will add the little things.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 1.28:

Εικοτως αρα και η γραφη τοιουτους ημας διαλεκτικους ουτως εθελουσα γενεσθαι παραινει· Γινεσθε δε δοκιμοι τραπεζιται, τα μεν αποδοκιμαζοντες, το δε καλον κατεχοντες.

With reason, then, the scripture, wishing us to become such kind of dialectics, exhorts: But become approved moneychangers, rejecting the [evil] things, and embracing the good.

Compare the ειδος, or coin-image, in 1 Thessalonians 5.21-22. A τραπεζα (Aramaic shulchan) is a table; a τραπεζιτης (Aramaic shulchani) is a moneychanger.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 3.15:

Και παλιν ο κυριος φησιν· Ο γημας μη εκβαλλετω και ο μη γαμησας μη γαμειτω· ο κατα προθεσιν ευνουχιας ομολογησας μη γημαι, αγαμος διαμενετω.

And again the Lord says: Let the one who has married not be cast out, and let the one who has not married not marry. He who has confessed that he will not marry according to his decision of eunuchhood, let him remain unmarried.

Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 3.12; Miscellanies 4.8 (confer Didascalia 2.3; 1 Peter 4.8):

Ναι, μην και περι αγαπης· Αγαπη, φησι, καλυπτει πληθος αμαρτιων.

Yes, indeed, concerning love also he says: Love covers a multitude of sins.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.10:

Μυστηριον εμον εμοι και τοις υιοις του οικου μου.

My mystery is for me and for the sons of my house.

Refer to a similar line from pseudo-Clement.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.44:

Και ο κυριος· Εξελθετε, ειπεν, εκ των δεσμων οι θελοντες.

And the Lord said: Go out, those who wish to do so, from your bonds.


Tertullian, On Baptism, chapter 20:

Neminem intentatum regna coelestia consecuturum.

No man can obtain the heavenly kingdom that has not passed through temptation.


Pseudo-Clement, Epitome 1.96:

Ο κυριος ημων Ιησους Χριστος, ο υιος του θεου, εφη· Τα αγαθα ελθειν δει, μακαριος δε, φησιν, δι ου ερχεται.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, said: The good things must come, and blessed is the one, he says, through whom they come.

Pseudo-Clementine Homilies 19.20:

Και ο Πετρος· Μεμνημεθα του κυριου ημων και διδασκαλου, ως εντελλομενος ειπεν ημιν· Τα μυστηρια εμοι και τοις υιοις του οικου μου φυλαξατε.

And Peter [said]: We remember our Lord and teacher, how he commanded and said to us: Keep the mysteries for me and for the sons of my house.

Refer to a similar line from Clement of Alexandria.

The Apostolic Church Order.

Apostolic Church Order 26:

Μαρθα ειπεν δια Μαριαμ οτι ειδεν αυτην μειδιωσαν· Μαρια ειπεν· Ουκετι εγελασα· προελεγε γαρ υμιν οτε εδιδασκεν οτι το ασθενεις δια του ισχυρου σωθησεται.

Martha said about Mary that she had seen her smiling. Mary said: I never laughed, for he said to you when he taught that the sick would be saved through the strong.

My thanks to Alan Humm for information on this text; I had never heard of it before. It is also called the Apostolic Church Ordinance.


Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel 4.60:

Του ουν κυριου διηγουμενου τοις μαθηταις περι της μελλουσης των αγιων βασιλειας ως ειη ενδοξος και θαυμαστη, καταπλαγεις ο Ιουδας επι τοις λεγομενοις εφη· Και τις αρα οψεται ταυτα; ο δε κυριος εφη· Ταυτα οψονται οι αξιοι γενομενοι.

When therefore the Lord narrated to the disciples that the imminent kingdom of the saints would be glorious and wondrous, Judas, bewildered by these words, said: And who will see these things? But the Lord said: Those who have become worthy will see these things.

Confer Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.33.3-4.


Origen, On Matthew 15.14, from the gospel according to the Hebrews:

Scriptum est in evangelio quodam, quod dicitur secundum Hebraeos, si tamen placet suscipere illud, non ad auctoritatem sed ad manifestationem propositae quaestionis: Dixit, inquit, ad eum alter divitum: Magister, quid bonum faciens vivam? dixit ei: Homo, leges et prophetas fac. respondit ad eum: Feci. dixit ei: Vade vende omnia quae possides et divide pauperibus, en veni, sequere me.

It is written in a certain gospel, which is called according to the Hebrews, if yet it pleases one to accept it, not as an authority, but as a manifestation of the proposed question: The second of the rich men said unto him: Master, what good thing can I do and live? He said unto him: O man, do that which is in the law and the prophets. He answered him: I have kept them. He said unto him: Go, sell all that you own and distribute it to the poor, and come, follow me.

Coepit autem dives scalpere caput suum et non placuit ei. et dixit ad eumdominus: Quomodo dicis: Legem feci et prophetas? quoniam scriptum est in lege: Diliges proximum tuum sicut te ipsum. et ecce, multi fratres tui filii Abrahae amicti sunt stercore, morientes prae fame, et domus tua plena est multis bonis, et non egreditur omnino aliquid ex ea ad eos.

But the rich man began to scratch his head, and it pleased him not. And the Lord said unto him: How can you say: I have kept the law and the prophets? For it is written in the law: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And behold, many of your brethren, sons of Abraham, are clad in filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, and nothing at all goes out of it unto them.

Et conversus dixit Simoni, discipulo suo sedenti apud se: Simon, fili Ioanne, facilius est camelum intrare per foramen acus quam divitem in regnum caelorum.

And he turned and said unto Simon his disciple, who was sitting by him: Simon, son of Jonah, it is easier for a camel to enter in by the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Origen, On Jeremiah, Latin homily 20.3 (confer Didymus, commentary on Psalm 88.8):

Qui iuxta me est iuxta ignem est.
Qui longe est a me longe est a regno.

He that is near me is near the fire.
He that is far from me is far from the kingdom.

Jeremias translates back into Aramaic to find two four-beat stichoi with rhythm and a preponderance of the letter mem:

Man diqerib 'immi qerib 'im nura.
Man direchiq minni rechiq mimmalkuta.

Origen, On Matthew 13.2:

Και Ιησους γουν φησιν· Δια τους ασθενουντας ησθενουν και δια τους πεινωντας επεινων και δια τους δειψωντας εδιψων.

And Jesus indeed says: On account of the sick I was sick and on account of the hungry I was hungry and on account of the thirsty I was thirsty.

Origen, On Jeremiah 14.5:

Και εν τω ευαγγελιω αναγεγραπται· Και αποστελλει η σοφια τα τεκνα αυτης.

And in the gospel it is written: And wisdom sends out her children.

Didymus (the blind).

Didymus, commentary on Psalm 88.8 (confer Origen, On Jeremiah, Latin homily 20.3):

Διο φησιν ο σωτηρ· Ο εγγυς μου, εγγυς του πυρος· ο δε μακραν απ εμου, μακραν απο της βασιλειας.

On this account the savior says: He that is near me is near the fire. But he that is far from me is far from the kingdom.


Eusebius, Theophany 4.12 (in Syriac, apud Jeremias, and Latin):

Egbe li shappire; shappire hanon dihab li ab debashemayya.

Eligo mihi quae mihi placent; placent mihi quae mihi dat pater meus in caelis.

I choose for myself those who please me; they please me whom my father in heaven gives me.


Epiphanius, Panarion 66.42:

Δια τουτο λεγει· Ο λαλων εν τοις προφηταις, ιδου, παρειμι.

On this account he says: The one speaking in the prophets, behold, I am here.

The Didascalia.

Didascalia 2.8:

Λεγει γαρ η γραφη· Ανηρ αδοκιμος απειραστος.

For the scripture says: An unproven man is one who is untempted.


Jerome, On Ephesians 3, commentary on Ephesians 5.4 (from the gospel according to the Hebrews):

Numquam inquit laeti sitis nisi cum fratrem vestrum videritis in caritate.

Never be content, he said, except when you look upon your brother in love [or in charity].

Jerome, Against Pelagius 3.2:

Si peccaverit, inquit, frater tuus in verbo, et satis tibi fecerit, septies in die suscipe eum. dixit illi Simon discipulus eius: Septies in die? respondit dominus et dixit ei: Etiam ego dico tibi, usque septuagies septies. etenim in prophetis quoque, postquam uncti sunt spiritu sancto, inventus est sermo peccati.

If your brother sins in word, says he, and makes satisfaction to you, seven times a day receive him. Simon his disciple said to him: Seven times a day? The Lord responded and said to him: Still I say to you, until seventy times seven. For indeed in the prophets, even after they were anointed by the holy spirit, the speech of sin was found.


Augustine, Against Adversaries of the Law and Prophets 2.4.14 (it is now known that this saying comes from Thomas 52):

The apostles asked the Lord: Qui de adventu eius aliquid cecinisse in praeteritum putabantur?

[Loosely:] Has the advent already happened in the past?

And the Lord answered: Dimisistis vivum qui ante vos est et de mortuis fabulamini.

You have dismissed the living one who is before your eyes and talk idly of the dead.


Macarius, Homilies 12.17:

Λοιπον ο κυριος ελεγεν αυτοις· Τι θαυμαζετε τα σημεια; κληρονομιαν μεγαλην διδωμι υμιν ην ουκ εχει ο κοσμος ολος.

Finally, the Lord said to them: Why do you wonder at signs? I am giving you a great inheritance which the whole world does not have.

Canonical Rule of the Holy Apostles.

Canonical Rule of the Holy Apostles 3:

Ει τις μεταλαβη το σωμα του κυριου και λουσεται, επικαταρατος εσται, καθως ειπεν ο κυριος.

In anyone partakes of the body of the Lord and [also] bathes, he will be accursed, just as the Lord said.


Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840, lines 1-7a, on injustice and suffering in this life.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840, lines 7b-45, the controversy dialogue with Levi.

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1, lines 11-21a, on being in the midst of the world, from Thomas 28.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 655, on raiment, from Thomas 36-37.
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1, lines 23-30a, on lifting the stone and cleaving the wood, from Thomas 77.

(I include these amongst the agrapha because Jeremias does so. The Coptic gospel of Thomas was as yet undiscovered when Jeremias wrote his book on the agrapha.)

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1224, fragment 2 recto, column 2:

[Ο σημερον ω]ν μακραν αυριον [εγγυς υμων γ]ενησεται.

[He who today i]s far away tomorrow [close at hand to you will] be.

Manuscript variants.

For these variants please refer to my page of significant textual variants in the canonical tradition.

Theodorus Balsamo.

Aurelio de Santos Otero has the following on page 116 of Los evangélios apócrifos (text 26): sentencia evangélica que dice: «Pasa la apariencia de este mundo».

...το ευαγγελικον ρημα το λεγον· «Παραγει γαρ το σχημα του κοσμου τουτου» (Theodorus Balsamo, Epits. de Rasaph.: PG 138,1373).

[Greek portion only:] ...the evangelical word that says: The scheme of this world is passing.

My thanks to Barry Norby for the information on Theodore Balsamo, who lived in century XII (died circa 1204) in Contantinople. This agraphon looks to me like a case of mistaken attribution; it is a Pauline saying (1 Corinthians 7.31) which Theodore has apparently attributed to the gospel(s).

Old homily.

Old English Homilies and Homiletic Treatises of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, homily XVI:

Estote fortes in bello et pugnate cum antiquo serpente, et accipietis regnum aeternum, dicit dominus.

Be strong in the battle and fight with the ancient serpent, and you will receive the eternal kingdom, says the Lord.

Aurelio de Santos Otero has the following on page 119 of Los evangélios apócrifos (text 38):

«Sed fuertes en la batalla y luchad con la serpiente antigua, y alcanzaréis el reino eterno», dice el Señor.

«Estote fortes in bello et pugnate cum antiquo serpente, et accipietis regnum aeternum», dicit Dominus (Old English Homilies and Homiletic Treatises of the twelfth and thirteenth Centuries. Ed. R. Morris, serie I, p. 151, London 1868. También se encuentra en el Brevario Romano, Comm. Apostol., ant. ad Magnificat, II Vísperas).

My thanks to Barry Norby for the pointer to the source of this saying, , a facsimile reprint of the book to which de Santos refers; this book is searchable on Amazon.

Table of sayings.

Listed by catch-phrases.

(Listed in alphabetical order, omitting the and a.)