Thursday, May 8, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 5-8-08

If you do not stand in the darkness, you cannot see the light. If you do not understand how fire came to exist, you will burn with it because you do not know its root. If you do not first understand water, you don't know anything. For what use is there for you to be baptized in it? If you do not understand how blowing wind came to exist, you will blow away with it. If you do not understand how the body which you wear came to exist, you will perish with it. How will you know the Father if you do not know the Son?

Dialogue of the Savior 133.22-134.15 (early second century encratic text from Syria)

Comment: In my translation, I shifted the person from third person to second person in order to make the text gender inclusive.


R.Eagle said...

This is really deep. Man, I'd love to read the whole thing!

Dr. D., what does "encratic" mean?

Is this (whole) book? (Dialogue of the Savior) translated, and if so, could I read it?

And who wrote these words? Priests? Bishops? And of which Christian sect, if you would?

April DeConick said...

Encratic comes from a greek word that means "self-control." These Christians were severe ascetics, even saying that marriage was a sinful state. It has to do with their interpretation of the Genesis story, which is a longer story than I can write in this comment. I go over much of this ground in a chapter in Recovering called "The Restoration of Eden" if you are interested.

The Dialogue of the Savior is part of the Nag Hammadi collection, so there are many translations of it available.

Who wrote this? Probably a leader in the early Syrian church in Edessa. The text seems to be interacting with mainstream western Christianity which was closing women out of leadership roles. This text is countering this tendency. I'm actually writing about this in my new book Sex and the Serpent in Ancient Christianity. So there will be more to come...

R.Eagle said...

Dr. D,

I googled your book and, man, that chapter sounds real interesting. I should get the book. Thank you!

Concerning Dialogue of the Savior, I found this one online...

Stephen Emmel's English Translation

Is this as good as any?


"...Sex and the Serpent in Ancient Christianity. So there will be more to come..."

Right on! Thanks!

Btw, in light of....

"The text seems to be interacting with mainstream western Christianity which was closing women out of leadership roles."

...although I'm not clear on how this particular excerpt demonstrates this (as the rest of this idea is in the chapter you mentioned?), can one can say that this particular gnostic group (like most?) would have esteemed Mary of Magdalene rather than trashing her like the western church(es) did?

Just tryin' to put the pieces together.

R.Eagle said...

Btw, Dr. D....

Are Emmel's pauses the untranslatable parts???

"The Savior said to his disciples, "Already the time has come, brothers, for us to abandon our labor and stand at rest. For whoever stands at rest will rest forever. And I say to you, be always above [...] time [...] you [...] be afraid of [...] you [...] anger is fearful [...] arouse anger [...] but since you have [...] they accepted these words concerning it with fear and trembling, and it set them up with governors, for from it nothing was forthcoming. ..."

Thanks in advance!!

April DeConick said...


yes on all counts here.

MM is a positive leader in encratic traditions.

[...] indicates holes in manuscript itself or eroded text that is unreadable.

Emmel is a good translation.

Richard said...

Great apocryphote. Like jms, I am going to have to look it up.

I have no problem with gender neutralizing, so long as it is not gender-neutering.