AGRAPHA, ag'ra-fa ("Unwritten"): Name given to so-called sayings of Jesus not recorded in the Gospels, but reported by oral tradition. The term was first used by J. G. Körner in his De sermonibus Christi (Leipsic, 1776), in which he gives sixteen such agrapha. Since that time several collections of agrapha have been made; and the material seemed to have reached a climax in the work published by Alfred Resch, Agrapha: aussercanonische Evangelien-Fragmente in möglichster Vollständigkeit zusammengestellt und quellenkritisch untersucht (TU, v. 4, 1889; cf. J. H. Ropes, Die Sprüche Jesu ... eine kritische Bearbeitung des von A. Resch gesammelten Materials, xiv. 2 of the same series, 1896). In 1897 Drs. B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt discovered a papyrus page containing eight "sayings of Jesus" which are known as "the Oxyrhynchus Logia." In Feb., 1903, they came upon another papyrus fragment of a somewhat similar character, containing five additional "sayings of Jesus." Ropes divides the material found in Resch into five classes: (1) sayings which tradition has not considered agrapha; (2) passages erroneously quoted as sayings of the Lord; (3) worthless agrapha; (4) eventually valuable agrapha; (5) valuable agrapha. Such a classification is arbitrary and impossible; and even as to the number of agrapha scholars differ.
Among the more noteworthy of the agrapha are:
1. The sentence, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," quoted by Paul (Acts xx. 35) as the "words of the Lord Jesus." No such saying is mentioned in the canonical Gospels. In the Teaching of the Apostles (i. 5) is found "happy is he that giveth according to the commandment"; and in the Apostolical Constitutions (iv. 3): "since even the Lord says, 'the giver was happier than the receiver.'" In Clement of Rome (Epist., i. 2). the same saying seems to be referred to under the form "more willing to give than to receive."
2. "On the same day, having seen one working on the Sabbath. he said to him. 'O man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed and a transgressor of the law.'" This very remarkable saying occurs after Luke vi. 4 in Cod. D and in Cod. Græc. B. Rob. Stephani.
3. "But ye seek to increase from little and from greater to less. When ye go and are bidden to dinner, sit not down in the highest seats, lest one grander than thou arrive, and the giver of the feast come and say to thee, 'Take a lower seat,' and thou he ashamed. But if thou sit down in the meaner place, and one meaner than thou arrive, the giver of the feast will say to thee, 'Go up higher'; and this shall be profitable to thee." This saying is found after Matt. xx. 28 in Cod. D, and in Some other codices (cf. the New Testaments of Griesbach and Tischendorf ad. loc.).
4. "Jesus said to his disciples 'Ask great things, and the small shall be added unto you; and ask heavenly things and the earthly shall he added unto you'" (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, i. 24; Origen, De Orat. libell., ii.; cf. Ambrose, Epist., xxxvi. 3).
5. "Rightly, therefore, the Scripture in its desire to make us such dialecticians, exhorts us: 'Be ye skilful money-changers,' rejecting some things, but retaining what is good" (Clement of Alexandria, Strom., i. 28). This is the most frequently quoted of all traditional sayings. Beech gives sixty-nine passages.
6. "Let us resist all iniquity. and hold it in hatred," quoted as the words of Christ by Barnabas (Epist., iv.). In Epist., vii. is found: "They who wish to see me and lay hold of my kingdom must receive me by affliction and suffering."
7. "Our Lord Jesus Christ said, 'In whatsoever I may find you, in this will I also judge you.'" This saying, found in Justin Martyr (Trypho., xlvii., ANF, i., p.219), is ascribed by Clement of Alexandria (Quis dives, xl.) to God; by Johannes Climacus (Scala paradisi, vii. 159; Vita B. Antonii, i. 15; Vitae patrum, p. 41) to the prophet Ezekiel (cf. Ezek. vii. 3, 8; xviii. 30; xxiv. 14; xxxiii. 20, with Fabricius, Cod. Apocr., i. 333). These passages in Ezekiel, however, do not justify the quotation, and some apocryphal gospel is probably the authority for this saying.
8. Among the sayings found in 1903 was the following:
- "Jesus saith, 'let not him who seeks . . . cease until he finds, and when he finds he shall be astonished; astonished he shall reach the kingdom; and having reached the kingdom he shall rest.'" Another, with conjectural restoration of missing portions, is: "Jesus saith, '[Ye ask, who are those] that draw us [to the kingdom, if] the kingdom is in heaven? . . . The fowls of the air, and all beasts that are under the earth or upon the earth. and the fishes of the sea [those are they which draw] you, and the kingdom of heaven is within you; and whoever shall know himself shall find it. [Strive therefore] to know yourselves, and ye shall be aware that ye are the sons of the [almighty] Father; [and] ye shall know that ye are in [the city of God], and ye are [the city]."'
- B. PICK.
Bibliography: Collections of agrapha are found in J. H. Grabe, Spicilegium, Oxford, 1698; J. A. Fabricius, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, Hamburg. 1703; R. Hoffmann, Das Leben Jesu nach den Apocryphen, Leipsic, 1851; B. F, Westcott, Introduction, to the Study of the Gospels, London, 1860; Schaff, Christian Church, i. 162-167; A. Reach, Agrapha, in TU, v. 4, 1891; J. H. Ropes, in TU, xiv. 2, 1896; E. Nestle, Novi Testamenti Græci Supplementum, pp. 89-92, Leipsic, 1896; B. Pick, The Agrapha: or, Unrecorded Sayings of Jesus Christ, in The Open Court, xi. (1897) 525-541; idem, The Extra-Canonical Life of Christ, pp. 250-312, New York, 1903 (including a list of articles on the Oxyrhynchus Logia published in 1897); C. Taylor, The Oxyrhynchus Logia and the Apocryphal Gospels, London, 1899; E. Preuschen, Antilegomena, pp. 43-47, Giessen, 1901; The New Sayings of Jesus, and Fragment of a Lost Gospel were published by B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, Oxford and New York, 1904, reviewed in Biblical World, xxiv. (1904) 261, in Saturday Review, xcviii. (1904) 133, and Church Quarterly, lviii. (1904) 422. For sayings of Jesus in Mohammedan writers consult D. S. Margoliouth, in The Expository Times, v. (1898) 59, 107, 177; W. Lock, in The Expositor, 4th series, ix. (1894) 97-99; and for sayings of Jesus in the Talmud consult Pick, ut sup.