First Century Aramaic Jewish Christian Gospel and poetry
The Odes of Solomon
"The Odes of Solomon are hymns of praise and devotion that we inherit from an early poet. The author, the Odist, was a Jew, conceivably an Essene because he intermittently evidences that he knew the Thanksgiving Hymns (the so-called hymnbook of the Qumran Community). The Odist eventually believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and imagined: 'The dove fluttered over the head of our Lord Messiah, /Because he was her head' (Ode 24:1).
"The collection is identified as the Odes of Solomon, not because they were written by King Solomon in the tenth century B.C., but because they were rightly considered to be in the tradition of Solomon, who was known in the Bible as 'the Beloved.' The Odist uses this term for himself and all like him; it is a concept that helps define the Odes. While Solomon lived in the tenth century B.C., the Odist lived sometime near A.D. 100. He composed the Odes in a form of early Aramaic and Syriac which is a language spoken in the early Christian centuries and was a form of the language spoken by Jesus" - James Charlesworth
Despite the fact that the theology of this early community was entirely orthodox, Modern Western Christian thought would be offended by the Jewish Aramaic Biblical allusion in poetry of the first and second centuries. But this poetry rendered in 42 psalms or Odes sees deeply into the allusions and potentialities of the Hebrew Bible itself and displays a refusal to "stop" at language itself, even if to do so, appears to be contradictory. In this, they show themselves to be a true "Biblicist" and passionate believers. This will explain, why sometimes the Holy Spirit is thought of as Male and sometimes as Female, but beyond them both, or to be more exact, through them both, the Third Person of what would later be called "the Trinity", why the Father is expressed as having breasts when it is clear, that they did not believe he has breasts - all in the service of the Divine Milk that can only come from God - St. Peter's "desire the pure milk of the Word of God..." Further, it is particularly the sex intoxicated and fixated generation we live in that stops at the word and fails to go beyond to the Word. This literature is noted for its exuberance and expressions of faith and praise.
Here is their Ode 19
1. 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,
Syriac: "kasa deHalba etqarev li, weshtiteh dbesimuteh deMarya (Mar=Adon=Lord). Bra kasa iitoy"
Hebrew: "'kos shel HaLaV niq'revah eilay weshatiti, be hasday ha Adon. HaBen hu haKos"
(The common Semitic roots in Aramaic and Hebrew are printed above in bold letters)
2. And the Father is He who was milked:
And the Holy Spirit is she who milked Him;
Syriac: we ho de ithalev Ava wedhalevteh ruha dkudsha
The "cup" may already be an allusion to the cup of communion (and as such, may be translated "chalice"), or just as a medium of conveyence for the milk, but probably for both. The milking of the Father by the Holy Spirit is combination of imagery which considers, as the Bible does, that the Holy Spirit takes of the Father and gives to mankind. In the words of the creed, based on the New Testament thought and wordage, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and gives gifts to man.
Some translate "she" as "he". That is not necessary since the "she" does not refer to gender in God, but rather is a take off on theme and consistant with the fact that early Jewish Aramaic, as with Hebrew, has only masculine and feminine forms for all nouns and uses the feminine for the Spirit (Ruach). Later Aramaic (Syriac) settled for masculine in context in accord with God being a He. Greek has neuter as well as masculine and feminine. The Spirit being in the feminine, along with similar ideation and wording as the Dead Sea Scroll, are factors in this Aramaic literature being considered first century.
3. Because His breasts were full,
And that it was undesireable that His milk should be ineffectully released.
metul dathdaui etmaliyu wela methbe'eh wadsfiqaith neshtadhe halbeh
God is not ineffectual in His doings as He is perfect in His being and in His love. He is right "on target"
4. The Holy Spirit opened her bosom,
And mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.
pethat 'ubah ruha dequdsha wemezgath halba dethrein thadohi daba
The "two breasts of the Father" may be taken as a metaphor naturally meaning the Father is the source of all abundance and goodness, the milk of the Word coming from Him and which gives life, or it may indicate the understanding of the two "founts" for the Spirit. Biblically, the Spirit's coming to church on earth comes from the Father through the Son (now ascended), and this understanding was encased in the later Nicene creed, the original form of which, and even now used by all Eastern Churches, is "Who proceeds from the Father. Together with Father and the Son, He is worshipped and glorified.." In the Roman Catholic Church, starting in Spain, the "filoque ('and from the Son')" clause was added,"Who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, Together with the Father and the Son, He is worshipped and glorified...) This latter form is the one familiar to all Roman Catholics today, as well as to Protestants of a liturgical tradition.
5. 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.
weyehvat hultana le'alma cad la yadh'in we henon de nasvin veshumlyah enon deyamina
Here the nutrition for life that the Holy Spirit gives is for all mankind (but those who receive it, are in the Perfection..), even for the unknowing, but this is said only to support what will follow - the unique and particular gifting of the Holy Spirit in the miraculous conception of the Savior
6. The womb of the Virgin took it,
And she received conception and gave birth.
It was the Holy Spirit who gave conception to the Virgin and not a man
gafat carsah de betulta wenasvat batna weyeldat
7. So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies.
wehwat ema debetulta berahme sagiye
8. And she labored and bore the Son but without pain,
Because it did not occur without Purpose.
we hablat weyeldat bra wela ka'ev la metul dla hwa sefika'ith hwat
Here is the clear expression that the pain in this life is mitigated and made easier, when it is not futile. when God has a great purpose behind it.
9. And she did not require a midwife,
Because He caused her to give life.
we la b'ath hayatha metul dehyah
No midwife is mentioned in the Gospels but that is not why this is said. If God causes, none can prevent. None can 'help Him along'.
The Odist, or the Aramaic Community behind him, uses pun and allusion, metaphor and suggestion, and is not simple dictionary. He is a poet and expects the reader, or better yet, his fellow worshipper (these poems are communal prayers) to go through the words to the Word. There is a also a poetry that is intimately connected both to the Aramaic language and to the Source of all, the Bible. Jesus said that the Sadducees could not believe in the resurrection because they could understand neither the power of God nor that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be alive because God is "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". The connection, of course, is that the Lord is known as the Living God - El Hay or Elohim Hayim. So to be attached to Him, as they are, even in Divine designation of title, is a granting to them, of the life of God, which is eternal. They thus will live again - and so will you!. Here, the Virgin does not require a midwife (Hayaatha) , which is literally a Life-er or a Life giver, because the Lord God Himself has caused her to give life (aHyah) Himself. Put another way, Life is by influx. All whom the Living God touches, are infused with Life, and produce life.
To this day, many Jews wear a pendant around the neck, much like a Christian will wear a cross. The pendant is either the "Star (shield) of David" or the number 18 in Hebrew Letters. That number is Hay - Life (lives).*
10. She brought forth like a strong man with desire,
And she bore according to the manifestation,
And acquired with great power.
akh gavra yeldath betehuyat weqnath be'uhdana sagiya
Again no difficulty in attributing masculine characteristics to a woman (and after characterizing the Holy Spirit in feminine terms!), just as Proverbs 31 does.
11. And she loved with redemption,
And guarded with kindness,
And declared with grandeur.
we ahbath befurqana wenatrat bebesimutha wehowyat*** berabouta HALLELUYA
This verse 11. as well as other indications of this Aramaic literature exhibits a "mid-position" concerning praise of man and is similar to the Jewish understanding and feeling concerning the Patriarchs and Matriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah. Traditional Protestant understanding has been to "downplay" the saints in reaction to Roman Catholic traditional practice of elevating the Saints. With this, traditional Protestant thought emphasizes the sainthood of all believers along with the priesthood of all believers. Jewish thought generally is able to praise the Patriarchs, Matriarchs, and saints (Kedoshinm) without it detracting from honor of God. Jewish Aramaic Christianity of the first century, sees the goodness of the people who have followed the Messiah to the praise of God, as vehicles for His Glory. Appreciation is accorded to them in a natural and heartfelt way and expression, and at the same time, a "halleluyah' to God.
Jewish Aramaic Christianity's ability to appreciate and readiness to praise the people of God, stems from another kinship with Judaism. Original sin, as exemplified by the West (St. Augustine and onwards) sees a total depravity caused by the Adamic sin being passed on to his offsping. Adam was created perfect and immortal and ever since his sin and fall from grace, sin "nature" has been passed on to mankind. Aramaic Christianity generally (there is no "required" interpretation) sees that God knowing that Adam would sin against Him, created Adam mortal (so, in effect, the consequence of sin is physical as well as spiritual death) and what is passed on to the offspring of Adam is not the "sin nature", but a corrupted and weakened, and susceptible mortal bodily existance, and man must will to do God's will, and can do it, but only by God's help and grace. This is similar to Judaism which sees that in the nature of man, there is a good impulse (the Yetzer ha Tov) and the bad impulse (the Yetzer ha Ra), and man must overcome the evil by choosing the good. Man must will to do good. But both Aramaic Christianity and Western Christianity agree that no matter whether it is a fallen nature (once immortal in the Creation of Adam), which is passed on, or it is a weakened and corrupted nature exactly like the created nature of Adam (created mortal because God knew what Adam would do), every man can do God's will only by receiving His Grace and help which God is extending to him. This appreciation for the people of God and for the Virgin who "loved", "guarded", and "cared" is therefore congruent with with the view that Aramaic Christianity has of the problem, plight, and possibilities inherent in mankind.
Another beautiful praise is Ode 13:
Behold, the Lord is our mirror.
(The Lord is being offered as the vantage for true knowledge)
Open (your) eyes and see them in Him.
(It is only in the looking at the Lord that you can know yourself, can see yourself accurately)
And learn the manner of your face,
(You will see yourself viewing yourself undeceived)
And so declare praises to His Spirit.
(you will praise God for being now undeceived and His having worked in you)
Then wipe the paint from your face,
(You will now know the worthless cover lying over you)
And love His holiness and put it on.
(and you can now be clothed with what will truly cover you, His holiness,so take it, yours for the desiring!)
Then you will be unblemished at all times with Him.
(And you be covered with this beauty and holiness even before His eyes)
It is difficult to convey in today's ambiance the rare mixture of genuine exuberance of faith with discipline but it perhaps be exemplified through another media - music. This will proximate musically what the odes convey literarilly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awCHimZfgFk&feature=related
- This is a short beautiful movie about the number 18 equaling life. It also shows the perpetuation of symbol and how it can reappear, in transmuted form, in the psyche of an individual or people. The living God has power even on paper, if that paper is the Bible. Life, literally, goes on! http://www.aish.com/v/insp/78397677.html
- The Sign of the Cross: of Jewish Origin
- Singing the Hebrew Scriptures
- New Testament understanding through the Jewish perspective
- Aramaic Judaism, Jewish Aramaic Christianity, and John 1:1
- Early Aramaic Jewish Christian prophesying
- God on earth, the original!: an essay
- Jewish Biblical way of interpretation: a solution for New Testament understanding
- What is Torah, what is Talmud