Thursday, October 2, 2008

Magical Cup has nothing to do with Christ

Jim Davila posted today on a news release item about an old magic cup that has been discovered in the sea of Alexandria.

The report:
A bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., is engraved with what may be the world's first known reference to Christ. The engraving reads, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which has been interpreted to mean either, "by Christ the magician" or, "the magician by Christ."
This cup has nothing to do with Christ. The Greek on the cup has CHRESTOU not CHRISTOU (or CHRSTOU as the newsreport has it!). CHRESTOU was a well-known title for one of the Sethian Gnostic archons, ATHOTH. It means "EXCELLENT ONE". It is found in several Sethian texts, including the Gospel of Judas. I do not yet know what OGOISTAIS is, but I am going to work on it. But it doesn't mean "magician." This magical bowl is possibly a GNOSTIC magical bowl with an invocation to ATHOTH on it. So don't believe the hype for minute. This bowl had absolutely nothing to do with CHRIST or with CHRIST as a magician. BUT it is totally fascinating if this object is actually SETHIAN!

UPDATE: Wieland Willker has been tracking suggestions on his blog Textual Criticism of the Bible HERE. Thanks for the link Wieland!


Anthony said...

Won't that be a fascinating insight into Sethian ritual practice!

Pastor Bob said...

Dr DeConick have you seen more than the picture on your blog? I agree that sure isn't an iota after the rho. My guess is an eta but the upper right staff seems to be missing. What do you think?

April DeConick said...

It's an eta. Thus Chrestou. This is sure.

Jared Calaway said...

I have to disagree on one point...or at least a bit of caution. I am not so sure that ogoitais does not mean "magician" or something like it. I read the omicron as the article. The root word would come from goaw: "to enchant." The usual form of the noun form is "goes." Another form of this is "goates" and another is "goetes." Since eta and iota, especially in diphthong form with the omicron would sound nearly indistinguishable, I have little problem with the spelling issues here.

Now, another possible presents itself. The same verb goaw also means to wail, to weep, to lament. So, the person could be a mourner. The "enchanter" form actually seems to come from "to wail / howl out enchantments" (Liddell and Scott).

Chrestous? It is probably overblown. Again, the eta / iota switch is possible since this is so common in this period. But, then again, Chrestos / Chrestus was such a common name, often among slaves, since it means "useful one."

I am resisting your Sethian interpretation right now, thinking perhaps it might relate to a chanting slave...or perhaps something used in mourning rituals.

I can think of another possibility, however. That the "chrestou" is not a person at all. Perhaps something more like "through usefulness" or "through auspiciousness" (chrestos can mean auspicious one as well). IN that case, it might be "the enchanter / the mourner / through auspiciousness."

Or, we might consider that the two terms are people but two different people. Something like "the enchanter through the auspicious one."

April DeConick said...

As I said in my post, it DOES NOT REFER TO CHRIST. CHRESTOS is not a common replacement for CHRISTOS. It is however a well-known title of ATHOTH. It is a possibility. Christ is not.

CHRESTOS could be a name, as could DIACHRESTOS.

None of this will be resolved until we figure out the second half of the inscription which is very problematic. It is nonsense at least at first glance. So we have to work on it to figure it out.

But it does not say Christ the Magician!

Jared Calaway said...

I think it is also important to point out the dating. It is first century at the LATEST.

The original analysis says Second Century BCE to First Century CE. The dating itself makes a "Christ" connection less likely.

The only Christos / Chrestos switch I know is Suetonius, which is probably based upon a misunderstanding by Suetonius or his source. Still, while iota's and eta's often switch in both directions, I agree that it is best understood as construed: Chrestos, the useful one.

Pastor Bob said...

Anyone got comments on the dating? The paleography or the pottery style?

Nehemias said...

This article in the spanish newspaper ElMundo, gives more information about dating and stratigraphy. It's said that the bowl was found in the first century AD strata, but the provenance is Asia Minor (first century BC). Also according El Mundo, the inscription itself was added later (before 50 AD and, probably, in first century AD).

(Take a look)
"El valor del descubrimiento se incrementa al comprobarse su antigüedad, ya que, según aseguran los egiptólogos que han estudiado la pieza, la vasija, procedente de Asia Menor, es del siglo I a.C. y la inscripción fue realizada antes del año 50 d.C. Esta datación convertiría el hallazgo en la primera referencia al Mesías que se conoce, ya que hasta ahora este honor lo ostenta una carta del apóstol San Pablo del año 51 d.C. en la que habla de su maestro. No obstante, ésta no es más que una de las dos o tres teorías que barajan los expertos sobre el origen y el significado de esta valiosa pieza."

I have found this english translation: (by Brian Duboc)
"The validity of this discovery is supported by the old age of the vase. Already Egyptologists have studied the piece and assure that the vase, coming from Asia minor, is of the first century and the inscription in question was made in 50 AD. This could be the oldest discovery and the first reference to the messiah that we know of, beating a letter from Saint Paul of the year 51AD that speaks of "his teacher."
Although, this is only one of two or three theories that have emerged from experts about the origin and significance of the valid piece."


José Solano said...

At Ben Witherington has a number of perspectives on this cup and what it is saying.