INNER CIRCLE: The Strong Man

INNER CIRCLE: The Strong Man December 22, 2022

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SAYING 35: Jesus said, “No one can enter the house of the strong man and take it by force without first tying that person’s hands. Thereafter, one can ransack the person’s house.”


Once again, we have a saying that finds parallels in the New Testament Gospels. This time our saying recalls Mark 3:27, Matthew 12:29 and Luke 11:21-22, but without the context those authors suggest.

Here, we are left to ponder who “the strong man” might be in this scenario. Mark’s Gospel places this alongside ideas of exorcising demons or overcoming the power of Satan. But, here, there is no such context.

In fact, our Gospel of Thomas makes no mention of demons or of the Devil or Satan at all. So, it’s unlikely that this saying is referring to demonic powers or the kingdom of darkness.

Others have suggested that Jesus is speaking of apologetical arguments or even evangelism in terms of “tying that person’s hands” metaphorically by overcoming their objections to the Gospel or using forceful arguments to “demolish strongholds” in their minds prior to converting them to the faith.

None of this makes any sense within the Gospel of Thomas, so it’s, again, quite unlikely that this saying is about evangelism or apologetics.

So, if this saying is not about demons, or Satan, or spiritual warfare, or apologetics or evangelism, what is it about?

One possible way of understanding this saying is to see it as a warning against those who seek to manipulate our minds and plunder our free will.

Rather than assume that the one who is “tying [a] person’s hands” and “taking [them] by force” is Jesus, or perhaps a follower of Jesus – which would make no sense to anyone who actually followed Jesus due to his strong emphasis on love and nonviolence – perhaps the ones doing the violence and plundering someone’s personal treasure in this saying is, in fact, an enemy we should not allow into our lives.

If this is the case, then what Jesus is saying here is to be taken as a caution against allowing anyone to take away our freedom or enslave us in any way.

So, the point is this: Don’t allow anyone – not even Jesus – to have the sort of power over your mind or your life where your own free will is compromised. Once you give yourself over to anyone – even a wise man, or a guru as seemingly kind and gentle as Jesus is – you have placed your hands in the snare and allowed yourself to be taken by force and plundered.

Going back to what Jesus said to Thomas in Saying 13, we see that even Jesus resists this title of “master” over our life:

“….Thomas said to him, “Master, I am wholly incapable of saying whom you are like.” Jesus said, “I am not your Master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out.”

Once our eyes are opened, as we saw in our previous saying, we need no one to guide us. Once we have become intoxicated by the spring of living water, the well is revealed to be deep within ourselves.

Taken this way, the saying is a warning for us to never allow anyone to bind us in doctrine, or tie us up in rules, or laws, or ceremony, or tradition. Once we surrender ourselves to a teacher, pastor, guru or guide, we become their slave and the treasure that resides within us becomes theirs for the taking.

The guru we seek is already within. The guide we require is closer than our own heartbeat. Rather than submit ourselves to another, our hope is – as it has always been – within our very own being and breath.

Christ abides in us and we abide in Christ. This is the Truth that sets us free to thrive within the beautiful Kingdom of God which is within us, and all around us, even now.

NEW: Online Course – INSIDE/OUTSIDE – on the Gospel of Thomas starts Feb. 13. 

Curious about the Gospel of Thomas? This course will examine select sayings of Jesus from this text, and explain why it’s not a true “Gospel”, not truly “Gnostic” and yet, quite possibly, an authentic collection of the secret teachings from Jesus recorded by his disciples. Plus, an exploration of why the text was buried in 367 AD and uncovered in 1945.


Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” His latest book, SOLA MYSTERIUM: Celebrating the Beautiful Uncertainty of Everything is available now on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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