Parable of the empty jar

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The Parable of the Empty Jar (also known as the Parable of the Woman With a Jar), is a parable attributed to Jesus. However, it appears in none of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament but only in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. According to the Gospel of Thomas 97 Jesus said:

"The kingdom of the father is like a certain woman who was carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking on the road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and the meal emptied out behind her on the road. She did not realize it; she had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down and found it empty."[1]


The scholars of the Jesus Seminar gave the Parable of the Empty Jar a "pink" rating, indicating that it is in their opinion probably, but not certainly, an authentic saying of Jesus.[2] The scholars of the Seminar noted parallels with the parable of the leaven, which immediately precedes the parable of the empty jar in the Gospel of Thomas and the parable of the mustard seed: in all three the kingdom starts with something "unnoticed or unexpected or modest". However, the work of the Jesus Seminar has been criticized by other scholars.[3][4]


This parable has been given a wide variety of interpretations. It may be a warning against letting the "Kingdom", which according to Thomas 3 is "inside of you and outside of you"[1] slip away like the lost flour:[5] it may also be a simple warning against self-confidence.[6] The emptiness of the jar may represent an empty life: "people who live their lives in the world [...] carry jars they think are full, but discover, even after much activity, that they are empty".[7] Another interpretation is that the parable refers to "the imperceptible coming of the Kingdom".[8] One commentator recasts the emptiness of the jar in a positive light by highlighting the contrast of the image of the empty jar with the expected ending of the woman finding a full jar: such a "happy ending" would be "fairy tale religiosity" whereas "emptiness in the world is what is critical to eventual spiritual fullness".[9]


  1. ^ a b "Gospel of Thomas (Lambdin Translation) - The Nag Hammadi Library". Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  2. ^ Funk, Robert Walter (1997). The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? the Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (first HarperCollins paperback ed.). HarperCollins. p. 552. ISBN 0-06-063040-X. 
  3. ^ "Jesus Seminar Preface". Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  4. ^ Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, eds. (1999). "Five Gospels but No Gospel" (PDF). Leiden: Brill. pp. 83–120. Retrieved 2014-02-26. originally published in Authenticating the Activities of Jesus 
  5. ^ Hultgren, Arland J. (2002). The Parables of Jesus: a commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 443. ISBN 0-8028-6077-X. 
  6. ^ Bromiley, Geoffrey W, ed. (1994). "Apocryphal gospels". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 186. ISBN 0-8028-3781-6. 
  7. ^ Valantasis, Richard (1997). The Gospel of Thomas. London and New York: Routledge. p. 178. ISBN 0-415-11622-8. 
  8. ^ Jones, Peter Rhea (1997). Studying the Parables of Jesus. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 1-57312-167-3. 
  9. ^ Amundsen, Christian (1999). Insights/Secret Teachings of Jesus: The Gospel of Thomas. Sunstar Publishing Ltd. p. 230. ISBN 1-887472-57-6.