INNER CIRCLE: Inside the Outside

INNER CIRCLE: Inside the Outside December 30, 2023

IMAGE: Keith Giles [MidJourney]

Jesus said, “Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Do you not understand that he who made the inside is also he who made the outside?”


As we’ve seen, some of the sayings recorded in Thomas have parallels in the New Testament Gospels. Here, the saying slightly echoes what we read in Matthew 23:25-26 and in Luke 11:39-41. However, in those Gospels the meaning seems to be more about how the outside of the cup refers to outward piety as opposed to inner spirituality and integrity. Here, in the Gospel of Thomas, we have no such metaphors suggested. Instead, we’re left with the usual contrasts between “inside” and “outside.”

By now it should be an easy thing for us to see that, in Thomas, what Jesus wants us to notice is that there is truly no difference between the inside or the outside. Those are merely illusions we perceive and pretend are real, but once we have been awakened to the reality of Divine Unity, we begin to realize that the cup is a metaphor for the Oneness of our True Self. Cleaning the outside of the cup is unnecessary if the inside is already clean. Why? Because, when it comes to our True Self, the inside and the outside are one and the same.

We can meditate on this and arrive at some of the same conclusions about outward behaviors needing to match our inward reality, but now in the context of an inward reality that is shaped by an awareness of the Oneness shared by all things, everywhere.

In other words, once we truly realize that the concepts of “inside” and “outside” are irrelevant and that Oneness is the true reality of everything around – and within – us, then we should behave accordingly. Our outward behaviors should reflect that inward awakening. This means our outward interactions with those who appear to be “other” than us should reflect the inward reality of our Oneness and interconnection with them.

When we see “them” we realize that what we are seeing and perceiving is another reflection of ourselves and the self we see reflected in them is the True Self which is also a reflection of the Divine Self which is God, the One in whom we all live, and move and have our being.

As scholars Funk and Hoover write:

“Matthew and Luke have turned the original aphorism into a mixed metaphor about cup and self: the outside of the cup concerns ritual purity, the inside of the self is full of greed and evil. In Thomas, however, the aphorism is recorded without context or moralizing conclusion. The outside and inside are made equal, because they are both made by the same creator. The aphorism thus appears to have been a criticism of the ritual washing of vessels such as cups. In this form, it could well have come from Jesus.” (The Five Gospels, p. 520)

We may wonder why Jesus seems to say the same thing over and over again in slightly different ways. Perhaps it is because he realizes that we so quickly forget this transformative truth and therefore require nearly constant reminders of the reality that requires us to see everything with new eyes.


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.” He hosts the Second Cup with Keith podcast, and co-hosts the Apostates Anonymous podcast, and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast.

His latest book, Second Cup with Keith is available now on Amazon HERE>


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