In the beginning was the Word/Mind

This forum is for all 100 level students of Gnosticism and Esoteric Religion

Moderator: Shana

Post Reply
Sandalphon
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2020 3:51 pm

1. In Beginning was Mind; And Mind was with GOD.
2. So Mind was God. This was in Beginning with GOD.
3. All kept coming into existence through it;
And apart from it came into existence not a single [thing].
4. What has come into existence in it was Life;
And LIFE was the Light of the [true] Men.
5. And the Light shineth in the Darkness;
And the Darkness did not emprison it.


(1There was a Man sent by God,—his name Yōánes. This [Man] came for bearing witness, that he might bear witness about the Light, in order that all [men] might have faith through it. That [Man] was not the Light, but [came] in order that he might bear witness about the Light.)

6. It was the True Light, Which enlighteneth every Man
Who cometh into the world.
7. It was in the world; And the world kept coming into existence through it; And the world did not know it.
8. It came unto its own; And its own did not receive it.
9. But as many as received it, To them it gave power
To become Children of God,—
10. To those who have faith in his name,— Who were brought to birth, Not out of [the blending of] bloods,
11. Nor of urge of flesh, Nor of urge of a male,— But out of God.
12. So Mind became flesh And tabernacled in us,—
13. And we beheld its glory, Glory as of [? an] only-begotten from Father,— Full of Delight and Truth.

(10Yōánēs beareth witness about him,11 and hath cried aloud, saying—he it was who said—: He who cometh behind me hath been before me,1 for he was my First.2)

14. For of its Fulness we all received, And Delight over against Delight.

(5In that the Law (Torah) was given by Moses, Delight and Truth kept coming into the word through Yeshū' Messiah.6 No man hath seen God at any time;7 An only-begotten <god>, who is in8 the bosom9 of the Father,—he dictated.)
AFTER I had for some time been making a close study of Lidzbarski's translations of the Mandæan John-Book and Liturgies, I had occasion in another connection to refer to the Greek text (Westcott & Hort) of the prologue to the fourth gospel. As I read, I found that a number of Mandæan associations came welling up from the preconscious, especially with regard to Life and Light, the use of the term Man and the way the sentences about John the Baptist linked on to these concepts. I found I was almost automatically construing parts of this familiar text from a new angle or at any rate envisaging them in a new perspective. I had already for long been convinced that the historical references broke awkwardly into the doctrinal proem proper, and that this contained what may be called some characteristic general gnostic notions. Moreover I had long been of the opinion that the proem was based on a 'source'; but thought that this 'source' was most probably already in Greek when it was made such deft use of by the inspired writer of the 'pneumatic' gospel. I now asked myself, could it possibly have been originally in Aramaic, for there are indubitably some strained constructions in it, that might be explicable as literal renderings of Semitic idioms. Translation into Greek would doubtless make the original appear to be more hellenistically coloured than was actually the case and so 'philosophize' it somewhat. The main difficulty seemed to lie in determining what could have been the Semitic original of the leading term rendered by Logos? Was it Word or Wisdom or some other Divine Power or Potency? On this I could form no conclusion. But further, whatever it was, could it have been translated by any other Greek term than Logos? For the student of comparative Hellenistic theology is not confined to seeking for parallels or associations with the idea behind this term in Stoicism and Philo simply; he has to take into consideration a far wider field of research. In the Trismegistic literature, for instance, in which the Heavenly Man doctrine is prominent, the parallel notion is rendered by Noûs, Mind, and in the Hellenistic poem so beloved by the Later Platonists and generally known as the 'Chaldæan Oracles,'1 the Mind of the Father stands at the summit; while in allied Gnostic tradition connected with the 'Chaldæan Mysteries' or even said to be based on the 'Chaldæan Books,' where again the Divine Man doctrine is prominent, the term preferred is Mind. Mind, moreover, in the Valentinian system stands at the head of the Plērōma. This is solely with regard to translation into Greek in the general Hellenistic theological language of the time, and says nothing about the Semitic or Chaldæan original terms, which may have been numerous, apart from the very general (notably Egyptian) Oriental magical notion of creation by the word. Certainly the Man-doctrine was wide-spread and where personifications were the order of the day, Man and Mind would go better together than Man and Word or Reason or even Wisdom. It is, however, with all hesitation that I have ventured to use the term Mind in my translation, p. 122 find more to call attention to the problem than anything else.

With these ideas—namely the supposal of a probable Aramaic original of the proem-source and the consequent 'philosophizing' by translation into Hellenistic Greek of some terms that in the original were more concretely presented, I attempted the following version. This I did before I had read Prof. C. F. Burney's recent (1922) arresting study, entitled The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (Oxford, The Clarendon Press). The contention of the Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford, who is so great an authority on the O.T., is that not only for the proem but for much, if not the whole, of the gospel there is an Aramaic background. Whatever may be ultimately decided on this novel and far-reaching hypothesis, it should inaugurate a fruitful line of N.T. research. My own venture is far more modest in every way; I deal with a single 'source' only, and have not the competence to treat even that technically from the Semitic side. The only remark I would venture to make on Prof. Burney's labours is in respect to the Johannine Greek quotations from the O.T. The problem whether the few of them which differ from the LXX. Greek Targum or Translation,—the Authorised Version of the time so to say,—were made freshly from the Hebrew, does not seem to me necessarily to help to prove the author's contention. They are far more likely to have been taken from what is said to have been probably the earliest Christian Greek document,—a collection of proof-texts to establish the claims of Christian Messianism from O.T. prophecy, at times not without accommodation. They sometimes agree with and sometimes diverge from the Septuagint rendering. p. 123 All this has been most thoroughly worked out by Proff. Rendel Harris and Vacher Burch in their indispensable work (Pt. I., 1916, Pt. II., 1920) on the now famous Testimony Book (Testimonia contra Judæos).

I also conjectured, presumably owing to the rhythms of the Mandæan books running in my head, that the 'source' might have been in verse; and found that the Greek broke up easily into some sort of rhythmic lines. But of course this was pure guesswork on my part. Professor Burney, however, with his wide knowledge of Hebrew and Palestinian Aramaic, has come most definitely to this conclusion as to the proem. If the rest of the gospel cannot be so treated, this seems to me to be an additional indication that in the prologue we are dealing with a 'source.' Though my tentative translation from the Greek differs both in analysis and phrasing from Prof. Burney's, I so far see no compelling reason to alter the phrasing by his, and let the breaking up of the lines stand to indicate rhythm rather than the measured lines he has so ingeniously endeavoured to reconstruct into Aramaic.
Post Reply