101 Foxes have Holes

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(1) GThom. 86
(2) 1Q: Luke 9:58 = Matt 8:19-20

Crossan analysis:

Item: 101
Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
Attestation: Double
Historicity: +
Common Sayings Tradition: No


Thomas 8

Jesus said, "[Foxes have] their dens and birds have their nests,
2but human beings have no place to lie down and rest." [Complete Gospels]

Sayings Gospel Q

Luke 9:57-58

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

58And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

= Matt 8:19-20

A scribe then approached and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
20And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." v




Accustom yourselves to wash with cold water,
to drink only water,
to eat nothing that has not been earned by toil,
to wear a cloak,
and to make it a habit to sleep on the ground.v [Anonymous instruction cited in A.J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles (1977)]


For me, a Scythian cloak serves as my garment,v

the skin of my feet as my shoes,
the whole earth as my resting place,
milk, cheese and meat as my favorite meal,
hunger as my main course.
[cited in A.J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles (1977)]


John Dominc Crossan

Crossan [Historical Jesus, 255f] comments as follows:

The complex 101 Foxes Have Holes [1/2] is very important because, as mentioned before, it is the only case among all of the forty Son of Man complexes in which that phrase is present in two independent sources ...
In ... [1Q = Luke/Matt] ... , Son of man, as the translator's capitalization indicates, is both titular and circumlocutionary: it means Jesus himself. But it also indicates that the designation is now being used for the earthly and past Jesus, not just for the future and apocalyptic judge. The dialectical format of the unit probably stems from its position in the Sayings Gospel Q, where it was embedded in, most likely, three such dialogues (Kloppenborg 1988:64). Note, for example, the structural rhythm of man/Jesus, Jesus/man/Jesus, man/Jesus and the thematic rhythm of "I will follow you ... Follow me ... I will follow you" across the three units in Luke 9:57-62.
The ... [Thomas] ... version, however, retains the earlier format of a Jesus saying without any dialogue framework. It also retains, more significantly, a saying in which "son of man" is neither titular nor cicumlocutionary. It does not mean Jesus but the generic or indefinite "human being." We can be relatively sure on this point because, while the Gospel of Thomas is, as we saw earlier, emphatically anti-apocalyptic, that apocalypticism did not contain the theme of Jesus as the Son of Man, or else that Gospel would surely have avoided or glossed this present saying. In other words, Gospel of Thomas 86 uses "son of man" for "human being" without any fear of apocalyptic misunderstanding, just as Gospel of Thomas 106 uses the plural "sons of man" for "human beings" (Koester 1989a:43). The saying in Gospel of Thomas 86 asserts, and it is an assertion capable of diverse interpretations, that the human being, unlike the animal or bird, has no fixed abode on earth. I leave aside, by the way, that terminal "and rest," which is, in the light of other sayings on rest and repose such as Gospel of Thomas 2, 50, 51, 60, a major theological theme within the redaction of that Gospel (Vielhauer). Apart from that final gloss, the saying goes back to Jesus, although, as just mentioned, its meaning will demand much further context for final interpretation. But its existence means that the Sayings Gospel Q had at least one traditional unit in which Jesus spoke of "the son of man" and that, in conjunction with the other traditional theme of Jesus as apocalyptic judge from Daniel 7:13, facilitated the creation of Jesus speaking of himself as the apocalyptic Son of Man.

International Q Project

IQP reconstructs the original Q saying as follows:

And someone said to him: I will follow you wherever you go.

And Jesus said to him: Foxes have holes, and birds of the sky have nests;

but the son of humanity does not have anywhere he can lay his head.

Jesus Seminar

The views of the Seminar on this item can be represented as follows:

Thom 86:1-2

Thom 86:1-2
Thom 86:1-2
Thom 86:1-2
Luke 9:58
Luke 9:58
Luke 9:57-58
Luke 9:58
Matt 8:20
Matt 8:20
Matt 8:18-20

Matt 8:20

These color codes reflect decisions from three different sessions: 1987 StPaul, 1988 Sonoma, and 1989 Toronto.

While the commentary in The Five Gospels (p. 316f) gives no hint of the changing assessments of this saying across three different sessions of the Seminar, it does offer a general assessment of the authenticity of this item:

Luke has gathered three aphorisms into this complex, while Matthew has preserved only two. Their common source is Q. Thomas records only the first of them in Thom 86:1-2. The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar think the first two are a reliable index to Jesus' behavior and outlook.

This epigram is reminiscent of the Cynic philosophers who probably wandered about Galilee in Jesus' day ... Compare Jesus' words with the saying attributed to a Cynic teacher, Anacharsis:

For me, a Scythian cloak serves as my garment,

the skin of my feet as my shoes,
the whole earth as my resting place,
milk, cheese and meat as my favorite meal,

hunger as my main course.

The commentary in The Five Gospels concludes:

Jesus appears to have much in common with the Cynic teachers ... However, the Fellows of the Seminar believe that such ascetic behavior ran counter to Jesus' social world and would have been sufficiently distinctive to have attracted attention. In addition, the saying employs images that are concrete and vivid. And here, as elsewhere, Jesus does not speak of himself in the first person, but refers to himself in the third person as the "son of Adam."


On Being a Human Being

Oh HUMAN BEING, with dominion over nations,
    Is the throne pillow so uncomfortable?
                (Dan 7:14, Lk 4:8)

Oh HUMAN BEING, object of paralytic trust,
    Is not your authority now revealed?
                    (Mk 2:3, 10)

Oh HUMAN BEING who demands public faithfulness,
    Will your shame display our weakness?
                    (Mk 8:38)

Oh HUMAN BEING, one repulsed by leader tyrrany,
    Am I among the slaves freed by your service?
                    (Mk 10:44-45)

Oh HUMAN BEING, helpless in the face of betrayal,
    Will your threats enrich your followers' lives?
                    (Mk 14:21)

Oh HUMAN BEING, the object of high priest scorn,
    Will the earth be receptive to your cloud ride?
                (Mk 13:27, 14:62)

oh human being, lamenting over fox and bird security,
        have you forgotten your choices about

    the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus
                (Lk 10:38; Jn 11:1, 12:1)
            the house of Simon and Andrew
                            (Mk 1:29)
                the many places of solitude
                            (Mk 1:35)
                the Levi/Matthew residence
                    (Mk 2:15; Mt 9:10)
                        your own home
                            (Mk 2:1)
                the house of Zacchaeus
                            (Lk 19:5)
        the welcoming well at Samaritan Sychar
                            (Jn 4:5-6)
the rescue efforts of mother, brothers, and sisters
                            (Mk 3:21)

    the companionship of riding the waves together
                            (Mk 4:36)
            the draw of mountain and seaside
                    (Mk 3:13, 4:1, 9:2)
                  the welcoming villages
                            (Mk 6:10)
                      reunions in Galilee
                        (Mt 17:22, 28:10)

                    the homes of Pharisees
                        (Lk 7:36, 14:1)
                the inn's healing environment
                            (Lk 10:34)
            the accepting homes of pagan cities
                            (Mk 7:24)
    the welcome wrap of a father's accepting arms
                            (Lk 10:34)

    the comfort of a man and woman bound as one
                            (Mk 7:24)
            the very familiar environs of Bethany
                            (Mk 10:9)
                the home of Simon the leper
                            (Mk 14:3)
                    Gethsemene looms
                            (Mk 14:32)

                    the Passover room
                            (Mk 14:15)
                the draw of the Mt of Olives
                            (Jn 8:53)
            the alien residence of the cross
                            (Mk 15:34)
        the surround environs of shroud and tomb
                            (Mk 15:46)

                            (Acts 2:33)

        And may I ask, is there any pathway from
                            human being
                          HUMAN BEING

    That doesn't pass through the cross of crucifixion
        to rise above the domination system?
    Apparently, not even the magic written words can
        provide the hoped for route of escape,
    "You are to pay homage to the Lord your God, and
        you are to revere him alone." (Lk 4:8)
Gene Stecher
Chambersburg, Pa.


Work to be Done