The agrapha: Sayings of Jesus not recorded in the gospels

The agrapha: Sayings of Jesus not recorded in the gospels



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. Here are some of these sayings in other canonical books of the new testament and early church fathers’ writings.


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 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.

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.


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.

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