Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 2-19-08

"A cup of milk was offered to me,
and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord's kindness.
The Son is the cup,
and the Father is he who was milked,
and the Holy Spirit is she who milked him,
because his breasts were full,
and it was undesirable that his milk should be released without purpose.
The Holy Spirit opened her bosom,
and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.
Then she gave the mixture to the generation without their knowing,
and those who have received it are in the perfection of the right hand."

Odes of Solomon 19:1-5

Okay, this one wasn't random. But I couldn't help it given the article in the Catholic National Registry which turned me into a man.

This is a baptismal hymn from a collection of liturgies used in the early Syrian churches at the end of the second and beginning of the third centuries. The reference to the cup and milk is likely a reference to eucharist practices. Some early Christians used milk (or water) instead of wine. Since the Syrian churches at this time tended toward encratic behavior (rejection of the body, marriage, meat and wine), the practice of drinking a cup of milk at the eucharist fits their overall lifestyle program. Notice that the Spirit is still being treated as a female figure in Syria, although it is the Father who has the breasts and gives the milk!


Deane said...

Congratulations on becoming a man, April. ;-)

I quite like the Odes of Solomon - they're quite beautiful and elegant. Lots of ascents, too. There's even a merkavah ride in Ode 38!

I also found the prevalent Christus Victor imagery to be quite simple and straightforward - it seems to agree with (early?) second century material, rather than the more convoluted detail in third century accounts. Doesn't Charlesworth date the Odes to c100?

April DeConick said...


I would love an earlier date for the Odes. These sorts of liturgies, of course, are always earlier than their collection in writing, since they are liturgies that have been in use for some time. From my own reading of these liturgies, I would be very open to an early second century date.

José Solano said...

James H. Charlesworth writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 6, p. 114):

The date of the Odes has caused considerable interest. H. J. Drijvers contends that they are as late as the 3d century. L. Abramowski places them in the latter half of the 2d century. B. McNeil argued that they are contemporaneous with 4 Ezra, the Shepherd of Hermas, Polycarp, and Valentinus (ca. 100 C.E.). Most scholars date them sometime around the middle of the 2d century, but if they are heavily influenced by Jewish apocalyptic thought and especially the ideas in the Dead Sea Scrolls, a date long after 100 is unlikely. H. Chadwick, Emerton, Charlesworth, and many other scholars, are convinced that they must not be labeled "gnostic," and therefore should not be dated to the late 2d or 3d century.