INNER CIRCLE: Fasting For What?

INNER CIRCLE: Fasting For What? April 5, 2024

IMAGE: Keith Giles [MidJourney]
Saying 104

They said to Jesus, “Come, let us pray today and fast.” Jesus said, “What then is the sin that I have done, or in what have I been overcome? But when the bridegroom comes out from the bridal chamber, then let them fast and pray.”

I think scholars Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman sum up this saying perfectly when they say:

“Jesus is asked to pray and fast (see Sayings 5 and 14). Since he has committed no sin, he refuses, just as in the Gospel of the Hebrews (see page 33) he does not wish to be baptized, and in John 7:3-9 Jesus does not wish to go to the Feast of Tabernacles. However, fasting and prayer are permissible ‘when the bridegroom comes out of the bridechamber’ (cf., Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35). Since no Gnostic leaves the bridechamber (see Saying 75), this means that the Gnostic will never fast or pray.”[1]

Ignoring the use of the term “Gnostic” here (since the Gospel of Thomas is not a Gnostic text), the rest of what they point to is spot on.

Jesus forbids his disciples to fast or to pray in previous sayings, and does not encourage baptism, so the suggestion that he pray and fast is met with not only an emphatic refusal, but a question about which act of sinfulness or weakness would he be guilty of to warrant a need for such things.

Not that Jesus is claiming that he has not sinned, but that, in light of what he has said about fasting and praying already, the disciples’ suggestion that they all need to pray and fast together suggests that they – and he – have somehow fallen back into that forgetful sleep of duality and separation where such outward religious activities as praying and fasting would make sense.

The reference to “when the bridegroom comes out from the bridal chamber” is indeed a call back to what he said in Saying 75 about entering the bridal chamber as a metaphor for awakening to the reality of the Oneness of the Father’s Kingdom.

Once we come out of that place of Oneness and return to a state of illusion, then things like fasting and praying begin to seem reasonable religious activities.

The point here that Jesus wants us all to get is that we should remain in the bridal chamber of enlightenment about the reality of Divine Unity. It’s only those who have not yet entered it, or those who have come out of it, who need to fast or pray.

[1] The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 191, by Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman.


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, The Quantum Sayings of Jesus: Decoding the Lost Gospel of Thomas, releases on April 23 at Amazon.


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