(BEING CONTINUED FROM 21/2/16)
I.—THE GNOSTIC JOHN THE BAPTIZER.
PORTENTS AT JOHN’S BIRTH (§ 18).1
In the Name of Great Life may hallowed Light be glorifed.
A CHILD was planted out of the height, a mystery revealed in Jerusalem.2 The priests saw dreams; chill seized on their children, chill seized on Jerusalem.
Early in the morning he3 went to the temple. He opened his mouth in blasphemy and his lips of lying. He opened his mouth in blasphemy and spake to all of the priests:
“In my vision of the night I beheld, [I beheld] in my vision. When I lay there, I slept not and rested not, and sleep came not to me by night. I slept not and rested not, [and I beheld] that a star appeared and stood over Enishbai.4 Fire burned in Old Father (Abā Sābā) Zakhriā;5 three heaven-lights appeared.6The
pg. 36 sun sank and the lights rose. Fire lit up the house of the people (synagogue), smoke rose over the temple. A quaking quaked in the Throne-chariot,1 so that Earth removed from her seat. A star flew down into Judæa, a star flew down into Jerusalem. The sun appeared by night, and the moon rose by day.”
When the priests heard this, they cast dust on their head. Yaqif the priest weeps and Beni-Amin’s tears flow.2 Shilai and Shalbai3 cast dust on their heads. Elizar4 [the chief priest] opened his mouth and spake unto all of the priests: “Yaqif interprets dreams, but as yet he has no understanding of these. Beni-Amin interprets dreams; is he not a man who discloses your
pg. 37 secrets? Ṭāb-Yōmīn1 gives us no revelation, though you deem he can give information on all that is and [that] is not.
Earth groans out of season and is sent a-whirl through the heaven-spheres. Earth2 opens her mouth and speaks to Elizar: “Go to Lilyukh,3 that he may interpret the dreams you have seen,” Thereon Elizar opened his mouth and spake unto all of the priests: “Who goes to Lilyukh, that he may interpret the dreams you have seen?” Then wrote they a letter and put it in the hand of Ṭāb-Yōmīn. Ṭāb-Yōmīn took the letter and betook himself to Lilyukh, Lilyukh lay on his bed; sleep had not yet flown from him. A quaking came into his heart, shivered his heart and brought it down from its stay, Ṭāb-Yōmīn drew near to Lilyukh, Ṭāb-Yōmīn stepped up to Lilyukh, shook him out of his sleep and spake to him: “The priests saw dreams, . . . [the above paragraph is repeated verbally down to] . . . and the moon rose by day.”
When Lilyukh heard this, he cast dust on his head. Naked, Lilyukh rose from his bed and fetched the dream-book. He opens it and reads in it and looks for what stands there written. He opens it and reads therein and interprets the dreams in silence without reading aloud. He writes them in a letter and expounds them on a leaf. In it he says to them: “Woe unto you, all of you priests, for Enishbai shall bear a child. Woe unto you, ye rabbis, for a child shall be born in Jerusalem. Woe unto you, ye teachers and pupils, for Enishbai shall bear a child, woe unto you, Mistress Torah (the Law), for Yōhānā shall be born in Jerusalem.”
Lilyukh writes unto them in the letter and says to them: “The star, that came and stood over Enishbai: A child will be planted out of the height from above; he comes and will be given unto Enishbai. The fire, that burned in Old Father Zakhriā: Yōhānā will be born in Jerusalem.”
Ṭāb-Yōmīn took the letter and in haste made off to Jerusalem.
p. 38 He came and found all the priests sitting in sorrow. He took the letter and laid it in the hand of Elizar. He (E.) opens it and reads it and finds in it wondrous discourses. He opens it and reads it and sees what stands therein written. He reads it in silence and gives them no decision about it. Elizar then took it and laid it in the hand of Old Father Zakhriā. He (Z.) opens it and reads it and sees what stands therein written. He reads it in silence and gives no decision about it. Elizar now opened his mouth and spake to Old Father Zakhriā: “Old Father, get thee gone from Judæa, lest thou stir up strife in Jerusalem.” Old Father then raised his right hand and smote on the head Elizar: “Elizar, thou great house, thou head of all the priests! If thou in thy inner [part] knewest thy mother, thou wouldst not dare come into our synagogue. If thou in thy inner [part] knewest, thou wouldst not dare read the Torah. For thy mother was a wanton.1 A wanton was she, who did not match with the house of her husband’s father. As thy father had not the hundred gold staters for writing her the bill of divorcement, he abandoned her straightway and enquired not for her. Is there a day when I come and look forth,2 and see not Mīshā bar Amrā?3 Yea, is there a day when I come without praying in your synagogue, that you (pl.) should be false and dishonest and say a word which you have ne’er heard about me? Where is there a dead man who becomes living again, that Enishbai should bear a child? Where is there a blind man who becomes seeing, where is there a lame man for whom his feet [walk again], and where is there a mute who learns [to read in] a book, that Enishbai should bear a child? It is two and twenty years4 to-day that I have seen no wife. Nay, neither through me nor through you will Enishbai bear a child.”
Then all of the priests arose and said to Old Father Zakhriā, [they said] in reproach: “Be at rest and keep thy seat, Old Father, and let the calm of the Good (pl.) rest upon thee. Old
p. 39 Father, if there were no dreams in Judæa, then would all that Mīshā has said, be lying. Rather shall thy word and our word be made good, and the dreams we have seen. Yōhānā will receive Jordan and be called prophet in Jerusalem.”
Thereon Old Father removed himself from their midst, and Elizar followed him. Then were seen three lights (lit. lamps) which companied with him (Z.). They (the priests) ran up, caught Old Father by the hem of his robe and said to him: “Old Father, what is ‘t that goes before thee, and what is ‘t that follows thee?” Then answered he them: “O Elizar, thou great house, thou head of all of the priests, I know not whom the lights guard which go before me. I know not with whom the fire goes which follows me. [But] neither through me nor through you will Enishbai bear a child.”
Then all the priests rose and said to Old Father Zakhriā, [they said] in reproach: “Old Father Zakhriā, be at peace, firm and decided, for the child will be planted from out of the most high height and be given to thee in thy old age. Yōhānā will be born, Yōhānā will receive Jordan and be called prophet in Jerusalem. We will be baptized with his baptizing and with his pure sign [will we] be signed. We will take his bread and drink his drink and with him ascend to Light’s region.”
All the priests arose and said to Old Father Zakhriā, [they said] in reproach: “Old Father! We will enlighten thee as to thy race1 and thy fathers, from whom thou hast come forth. . . . [there follows a list of prophets and sages, beginning with Moses, which I omit, as it requires a lengthy commentary for which space here does not serve,—ending with]. . . Ṭāb-Yōmīn and the school-teachers have come forth from thy race. The blessed princes, who are thy forbears, Old Father, all of them have taken no wife and begotten no sons.2 Yet in their old age3 each of them
p. 40 had a son.1 They had sons, and they were prophets in Jerusalem. If now out of thee as well a prophet comes forth, thou dost then revive this race again. Yea, Yōhānā will be born and will be called prophet in Jerusalem.”
Then Elizar opened his mouth and said to Old Father: “Old Father! If Yōhānā receives Jordan, then will I be his servant, be baptized with his baptizing and signed with his pure sign. We will take his bread and drink his drink and with him ascend to Light’s region.” Then Old Father opened his mouth and said unto all of the priests: “If the child comes out of the most high height, what then will you do in Jerusalem?”
They2 have taken the child out of the basin of Jordan and laid him in the womb of Enishbai.
Life is victorious and victorious is the Man3 who has come hither.
JOHN’S PROCLAMATION CONCERNING HIMSELF AND HIS ASSUMPTION OF THE PROPHET’S MANTLE (§ 19).
Yahyā proclaims in the nights, Yōhānā on the Night’s evenings.4
YAHYĀ proclaims in the nights and says: “Through my Father’s discourses I give light and through the praise of the Man, my creator, I have freed my soul from the world and from the works that are hateful and wrong. The Seven5 put question to me, the Dead who have not seen Life, and they say: “In whose strength dost thou stand there, and with
p. 41 whose praise dost thou make proclamation?” Thereon I gave to them answer: “I stand in the strength of my Father and with the praise of the Man, my creator. I have built no house in Judæa, have set up no throne in Jerusalem. I have not loved the wreath of the roses, not commerce with lovely women. I have not loved the defective,1 not loved the cup of the drunkards. I have loved no food of the body, and envy has found no place in me. I have not forgotten my night-prayer, not forgotten wondrous Jordan. I have not forgotten my baptizing, not [forgotten] my pure sign. I have not forgotten Sun-day,2 and the Day’s evening has not condemned me. I have not forgotten Shilmai and Nibdai,3 who dwell in the House of the Mighty.4 They clear me and let me ascend; they know no fault, no defect is in me.”
When Yahyā said this, Life rejoiced over him greatly. The Seven sent him their greeting and the Twelve5 made obeisance before him. They said to him: “Of all these words which thou hast spoken, thou hast not said a single one falsely. Delightful and fair is thy voice, and none is an equal to thee. Fair is thy discourse in thy mouth and precious thy speech, which has been bestowed upon thee. The vesture which First Life did give unto Adam, the Man,6 the vesture which First Life did give unto Rām,7
p. 42 the Man, the vesture which First Life did give unto Shurbai,1 the Man, the vesture which First Life did give unto Shum bar Nū,2—has He given now unto thee. He hath given it thee, O Yahyā, that thou mayest ascend, and with thee may those ascend * * * * * * The house of defect3 will be left behind in the desert.4 Everyone who shall be found sinless, will ascend to thee to the Light’s region; he who is not found sinless, will be called to account in the guard-houses.”5
And Life is victorious.
JOHN’S LIGHT-SHIP (§ 20).
Yahyā proclaims in the nights, Yōhānā on the Night’s evenings.
YAHYĀ proclaims in the nights and says: “In the name of Him who is wondrous and all-surpassing! The Sun sat in his Court (? Corona), and the Moon sat in the Dragon. The Four
p. 43 Winds of the House get them gone on their wings and blow not.”1
The Sun opened his mouth and spake unto Yahyā:2 “Thou hast three [head-] bands [and] a crown which equals in worth the whole world. Thou hast a ship of mashklil,3 which sails about here on the Jordan. Thou hast a great vessel which sails about here ‘twixt the waters.4 If thou goest to the House of the Great [One], remember us in the Great’s presence.” Thereon Yahyā, opened his mouth and spake to the Sun in Jerusalem: “Thou enquirest about the [head-] bands, may the Perfect (pl.) watch o’er thy crown. This mashklil-ship they have carpentered together5 with glorious splendour. On the vessel that sails ‘twixt the waters, the seal of the King has been set. She6 who in thy house7 plays the wanton, goes hence and approaches the dung-house;8 she seeks to have children from her own proper spouse,9 and she does not find them. If she then10 has fulfilled her vow, and she departs11 she is unworthy for the House of the Life and will not he alotted to the Light Dwelling.
And praisèd be Life.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
by G. R. S. Mead
1 Because Yōhānā is mentioned only once in the Genzā, Brandt supposes that the John-Book pieces must be later in date. But surely this is not a scientific conjecture. It is rather to be supposed that the John-pieces were naturally gathered together from the general mass of material when the collection-process began. Though Yahyā is the Arabic form of the name, Yōhānā alternates with it; this shows a later redaction in the Mohammedan period, when the people vulgarly spoke Arabic, but says nothing as to the date of earlier writings from which the pieces were copied out.
2 Ur-ashlam, a mock-name or derisive caricature-permutation = ‘Ur perfected’ it. Ur is originally the Chaldæan Deus Lunus; he is the eldest son of Rūhā, the World-Mother, and corresponds in some respects with the Yaldabaōth of ‘Ophite’ gnosticism.
4 The Elizabeth of Luke. The name may be some mystical echo of Elisheba, the wife of Aaron, the first priest, just as the Miriam of the Jesus birth-story reminds us of Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Moses, the first prophet. If the pre-Christian Palestinian Dorshē Reshumōth may be thought incapable of going so far, the Alexandrian Jewish allegorists, to whose school Philo belonged, would, and did, sublimate the sister or wife of a sage into a figure of his spiritual virtue or power. This will become clearer later on.
6 Cp. the more concrete three Magi motive. It should, however, be noted that Origen (1st half of 3rd cent.) is the first of the Fathers to state that the number of the Magi was 3; Chrysostom, 150 years later, gives their number as 12 (see Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science London, 1923, i. 472ff.).
2 The narrative is largely in the familiar style of Danielic and Talmūdic chronological camouflage; the Daniel Book (c. 164 B.C.) throws back the religio-political conflict of the Jews with the kingdorn and Hellenistic religion of Antiochus Epiphanes to the days of Nebuchhadnezzar (c. 600 B.C.), and the Talmūd Jesus stories, for instance, throw back the setting to some 100 years B.C. or advance it to some 100 years A.D. See my Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?—An Enquiry into the Talmūd-Jesus Stories, the Toldoth Jushu and Some Curious Statements of Epiphanius—Being a Contribution to the Study of Christian Origins (London, 1903). It is to be noted that the Talmūd knows nothing of John; it evidently regards the John-Jesus movement as one and the same kind of heresy. Y. and B. may perhaps be personified types of members of certain contemporary communities or mystical groups. In §54 Y. and B. are called the ‘Two Gold-sons.’ This reminds us of alchemical symbolism; see my tracing of ‘psychical’ alchemy to Babylon in The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition (London, 1919), Proem, pp. 25ff. They may have belonged to the early ‘Sons of the Sun’ tradition—the later Sampsæans of Epiphanius, still later in wider distribution known to the Moslim historians as Shemsīyeh (Shamish = the Sun). This hypothesis is strengthened by the apparently cryptic gloss Beni-Amin, ‘Sons of (the) Amēn’ (cp. Rev. iii. 14: These things saith the Amēn, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”). I have no space here to follow up this conjecture; but L. seems to me to be, not only nodding, but fast asleep, when he assumes that the Mandæan writers were simply ignoramuses who mistook Ben-Yamin for Beni-Amin. The Heb. derivation of Benjamin is given very variously In the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the O.T. L. refers to Yaqif (clearly Jacob) as Joseph.
4 Can this be camouflage for Rabbi Eliazer ben Hyrcanus, the founder of the famous Rabbinical school at Lud (Lydda) and teacher of Akiba? He flourished 70-100 A.D. R. Eliazer was imprisoned for heresy; the Talmūd account connects this accusation of heresy with an interview between him and a certain Jacob of Kephar Sechania, a city in lower Galilee, who is said to have been one of the disciples of Jeshu ha-Notzri, i.e. J. the Nāzōræan (see D.J.L. 100 B.C.?—pp. 216 ff. for reference and discussion). But Eliazer is a name of great distinction in Pharisaic priestly tradition, especially that of the Maccabæan proto-martyr priest, the teacher of the martyred Seven Sons and the Mother in IV. Maccabees.
1 This is the same motive as that in the Talmūd Jesus-stories and Toldoth. It is the language of popular, Bazaar theological controversy, and is in keeping with Jewish figurative diction in which ‘fornication’ is the general term for all lapses from right religious beliefs and views.
1 Sc. the race of the righteous, of the spiritual or perfect. It has many names in mystical literature of the first centuries, as for instance in Philo, who distinguishes ‘race’ and ‘kin’ of God from ‘people’ of God. See for references and quotations my Thrice-greatest Hermes (London, 1906), Index s.v. ‘Race.’
2 The same mystic idea underlies the words of Philo about the women Therapeuts (D.V.C.): “Their longing is not for mortal children, but for a deathless progeny which the soul that is in love with God can alone bring forth.” See my translation in Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (London, 2nd ed., 1906), p. 75. It is the Melchisedec motive also.
3 The Heavenly Man of Light. The Man-doctrine is an essential element of the Gnosis, as it was also with Jesus. (‘Son of Man’ is the Aramæan idiom for ‘Man’ simply.) See Reitzenstein’s Poimandres(Leipzig, 1904), my Thrice-greatest Hermes (1906), and Bousset, op. cit. (1907), indexes.
4 This introductory formula, as is the case with other headings and conclusions, is due to the collectors and editors. It is unexplained, but seems to refer to the dark period before the dawn of the Day of Light which was expected. The days of this age are spiritual nights. N.B. (a prophet ‘proclaims,’ he does not ‘preach.’
2 Brandt (Art. E.R.E.) apologetically conjectures that this observance of Sun-day (hab šabbā) was taken over from Syro-Christian usage. But reverence for Sun-day is fundamental with the MM., and it is one of their celestial personifications. The MM. loathed idolatry and sun-worship; they worshipped Life and Light, but may have venerated the light as the symbol of that Light. The same puzzle occurs with the prayer-custom of the Essenes, who turned to the rising sun in their morning orisons. The problem we have here to face is the existence of a pre-Christian Sun-day as rigidly observed as the Jews and others kept the Sabbath, and not a ‘Pagan’ holy-day.
5 The powers of the Cosmic Animal-life Circle or Zodiac, which were held by the MM. to be equally inimical with the Seven. Both orders were sons of the World-mother Namrūs, generally called Rūhā, i.e.Spirit, the World-spirit, spirit here being used in the wide-spread sense of the lower, animal spirit.
2 Shem, son of Noah. The first age or world-period was that of Adam; the second, of Rām and Rūd (fem.); the third, of Shurbai and Sharhab-ēl; the fourth, that of the Flood. The second generation perished by the sword and pestilence, the third by fire (cp. § 25 below). The Indian yugas came from the same source. As to the prophetica1 vesture in this special connection, apart from the more general wide-spread notion of the garment of light or robe of glory, cp. the Rabbinical tradition in the mediæval Yaschar or Sepher Hai-yaschar (The Book of the Just, more commonly known as The Book of the Generations of Adam or The Book of the History of Man) which contains ancient material, translated into French by Chevalier P. L. B. Drach: “After the death of Adam and Eve the coats [sc. of skin—see R. Eisler’s brilliant conjecture that J. the B. outwardly assumed his camel’s hair robe in memory of the first garments of the fallen protoplasts, as a sign of repentance, in the preceding study] were given to Enoch, son of Jared. Enoch, at the time of his being taken to God, gave them to his son Methusaleh. After the death of Methusaleh, Noah took them and hid them in the Ark. Ham stole them, and hid them so successfully that his brethren were unable to find them. Ham gave them secretly to his eldest son, Chus, who made a mystery of it to his brothers and sons. When Nimrod [ = Zoroaster, see Bousset, op. cit., index] reached the age of 20 years, he (Chus) clothed him with the vesture, which gave him extraordinary strength” Migne, Dic. des Apocryphes, ii. 1102, 1150; and see my World-Mystery (London, 2nd ed., 1907), § ‘The Soul-Vestures,’ pp. 115ff.). It would not be difficult to penetrate under the camouflage of the Rabbinic tradition, but space does not serve.
1 All was at peace, the Sun shining brightly, the Moon sunk in the darkness beneath. Cp. ‘The Mystic Hymnody’ at the end of ‘The Secret Sermon on the Mountain’ (Corp. Herm. xiii-xiv., Mead ii. 230): “Ye Heavens open, and ye Winds stay still; [and] let God’s Deathless Sphere receive my word!”
5 For the Carpenter-motive in connection with the John-Noah hewing of the timber for the salvation-ark-building see the previous study and especially the Samaritan Midrash concering the S. Ta’eb (Deliverer or Messiah) and the mystic ark of conversion (pp. 8 and 21f.).