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NAG HAMMADI CODICES – THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING; by Archbishop Uwe Ae.Rosenkranz

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NAG HAMMADI CODICES

THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING (VI,7)

by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Introduced and translated by

James Brashler, Peter A. Dirkse, and Douglas M. Parrott

Edited by

Douglas M. Parrott

This short, almost perfectly preserved Hermetic prayer expresses in carefully constructed liturgical language the gratitude of one who has received deifying knowledge. Although set off with decorations like those regularly used with titles in the Nag Hammadi codices, the heading, “This is the prayer that they spoke,” was originally only an introductory line. Together with the concluding statement, this heading forms a narrative framework for the prayer.

The scribal note, which immediately follows The Prayer of Thanksgiving, shows that the prayer was contributed by the copyist, who had a collection of Hermetic materials. Presumably he thought that the prayer was an appropriate way to conclude the account of the mystical experience described in VI,6. The note suggests that after he had copied the prayer, the copyist was uncertain whether he should have done it, and was seeking in an oblique way to justify his action (rather than being bold, he was in fact restrained!). His action may have been responsible for an unusual crowding of the Coptic text in the remaining pages of the codex. The theory that the scribal note refers to VI,8 was based on the mistaken supposition that the note was written over the erased title of VI,8 after VI,8 was copied (see introduction to VI,8).

Version VI,7 is one of three versions of the Hermetic Prayer of Thanksgiving. The context of the prayer is different in each case. In the Greek text called Papyrus Mimaut, it is part of a long prayer embedded in a magical composition. In the Latin Asclepius, it forms the conclusion of the tractate. And here it is appended to another Hermetic tractate. This suggests that it was originally an independent piece of tradition.

Pr. Thanks. is especially significant for the clear evidence it presents of the existence of Hermetic cultic practices. The prayer itself reflects liturgical usage, as its balanced language attests. Moreover, the concluding statement mentions a ritual embrace or kiss (also found in VI,6 at 57, 26–27) after the prayer, and a cultic meal. These references to cultic practices suggest that the primary Sitz im Leben of Pr. Thanks. was a Hermetic community dedicated to the encouragement of the visionary experience alluded to in 64, 16–17 and the preservation of the mystical knowledge communicated in that experience. While it is not possible to assign a date to such communities, it is reasonable to assume that they flourished in the second and third centuries C.E. and possibly even earlier.

THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

VI 63, 33–65, 7

This is the prayer that they spoke: | “We give thanks to You! Every soul 35 and heart is lifted up to You, | undisturbed name, 64 honored with the name | ‘God’ and praised | with the name ‘Father,’ | for to everyone and everything 5 (comes) the fatherly kindness and | affection and love, | and any teaching there may be that is sweet | and plain, giving | us mind, speech, 10 (and) knowledge: mind, | so that we may understand You, | speech, so that we may | expound You, knowledge, | so that we may know You. 15 We rejoice, having been illuminated | by Your knowledge. We rejoice | because You have shown us Yourself. We rejoice | because while we were in (the) body, You have made us | divine through Your knowledge. 20

“The thanksgiving of the man who attains | to You is one thing: that we know | You. We have known You, | intellectual light. | Life of life, we have known You. 25 Womb of every creature, we have | known You. Womb pregnant with | the nature of the Father, we have known | You. Eternal permanence | of the begetting Father, thus have we 30 worshipped Your goodness. | There is one petition that we ask: | we would be | preserved in knowledge. | And there is one protection that we 65 desire: that we not stumble | in this kind of life.” |

When they had said these things in the prayer, they | embraced each other and 5 they went to eat their | holy food, which has no blood | in it. |

SCRIBAL NOTE (VI,7a)

VI 65, 8–14

I have copied this one discourse of his. | Indeed, very many have come to me. I have not 10 copied them because I thought that they had come to you (pl.). | Also, I hesitate to copy these for | you because, perhaps they have (already) come to you, and | the matter may burden you. Since | the discourses of that one, which have come to me, are numerous …

| Small strokes above the line indicate line divisions. Every fifth line a small number is inserted in place of a stroke; the frequency of these numbers, however, may vary in tractates which are quite fragmentary. A new page is indicated with a number in bold type. When the beginning of a new line or page coincides with the opening of a paragraph, the line divider or number is placed at the end of the previous paragraph.

( Parentheses indicate material supplied by the editor or translator. Although this material may not directly reflect the text being translated, it provides useful information for the reader.

Robinson, James McConkey ; Smith, Richard ; Coptic Gnostic Library Project: The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 4th rev. ed. Leiden; New York : E.J. Brill, 1996, S. 328

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