Another year, another Thanksgiving has gone by. I meant to get this written last week or so, but as we’ve all been discovering this year, linear time is a lie.
Around Thanksigiving each year, I like to draw attention to the Hermetic Prayer of Thanksgiving. It’s one of the more famous prayers from the Hermetic texts, made especially well-known in its appearance in the final section of the Asclepius. However, those who have a sharp eye will also pick up on its presence in two other locations: one in PGM III in a ritual to establish a relationship with Hēlios, and the other in the Nag Hammadi Codices. What’s fascinating is that we have three versions of the same prayer, each preserved in a different language (Latin in the Asclepius, Greek in the PGM, and Coptic in the Nag Hammadi Codices). Getting access to the Latin and Greek version is easy enough—Preisendanz is the most easily-accessible critical edition of PGM III, and the Asclepius is everywhere in the Western world since the time of Ficino—but getting access to the Coptic text was a bit more of a challenge, because for the longest time all I could find was versions of the Nag Hammadi texts in English translation. However, not that long ago, I got my hands on a copy of volume 11 of the Nag Hammadi Studies, a part of the Coptic Gnostic Library from Leiden, which gives the only complete collection of the Coptic texts from the Nag Hammadi Codices in full, both in Coptic and in English translation. Once I found this, I wanted to finally do something I’ve been aiming to do for a while: a side-by-side comparison of these three texts to see exactly how far they’re alike and how far they’re not. Happily, it seems that the scholars who worked on this specific section of the Nag Hammadi texts (Peter Dirkse and James Brashler) had the same idea, and gave a side-by-side comparison of the three versions of the Prayer of Thanksgiving in their publication of it. Between their notes and my own observations, I’m thrilled to finally be able to show off a bit of fun stuff on my blog for this.
First, a bit of context. The Prayer of Thanksgiving is in all three sources as a pretty-much perfectly-preserved (or as perfectly as one can expect over 2000 years under the knife of time and the redactor’s pen) Hermetic prayer, and is more than just a simple hymn of gratitude to God. In each text it appears in, it seems to fulfill a ritual role in a broader context, though its wholly self-contained structure suggests that it .
- In the context of the Asclepius, Hermēs recites this prayer with Tat, Asklēpios, and Ammōn outside the temple (facing east at sunrise or south at sunset) after the long and holy sermon he gave to them inside. Similar to the Coptic text, the final line of this final section of the Asclepius ends with the note “with such hopes we turn to a pure meal that includes without any flesh of animals”, phrased as a spoken end to the prayer.
- For the Coptic Nag Hammadi text, this prayer appears immediately after the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth; the placement suggests that it was recited by Hermēs and Tat(?) immediately after their ritual work described in that text, especially given the incipit introducing the Prayer of Thanksgiving (“this is the prayer that they spoke”) and the closing lines of it (“when they said these things in prayer, they embraced each other and they went to eath their holy food which has no blood in it”). Immediately after the prayer comes the “Scribal Note”, a small addendum by whoever transcribed the prayer indicating that it was sent to someone who was likely already familiar with many such Hermetic texts or prayers; after that comes a Coptic translation of several sections from a now-lost version of the Greek Asclepius (though notably of a slightly different lineage of texts than what the Latin Asclepius preserves).
- For the Greek text from PGM III.591—611, the Prayer of Thanksgiving occurs in the middle of a longer oration as part of an operation to “establish a relationship with Hēlios”. After calling on the names, forms, plants, stones, birds, and animals associated with the twelve hours of the Sun in its daytime course through the heavens (much like the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios from PGM IV.1596—1715, yet with more attributions yet in much poorer shape) and after a short hymn in verse (Preisendanz’s Hymn 2, which he says is addressed to the “All-Creator” and which I find to be an exceedingly appropriate companion to CH III) along with general requests, this thanksgiving prayer is used.
The introduction to the Prayer given by Dirske and Brashler is highly informative, as is Jean-Pierre Mahé’s introduction in The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts edited by Marvin Meyer, as well as Copenhaver’s notes in his Hermetica. A few highlights from their analyses of the text in question:
- From Dirske and Brashler:
- This prayer is “especially significant for the clear evidence it presents of the existence of [classical] Hermetic cultic practices”, and “the prayer itself is certainly liturgical, as its balanced language attests”.
- From Mahé:
- This prayer is “particularly appropriate to conclude a dialogue describing the final stage of [a] Hermetic initiation”.
- Although the prayer describes “the three gifts of mind, word, and knowledge…to be granted simultaneously”, other Hermetic texts (like the preceding Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth) suggest that these “fulfill successive functions on the ‘way of immortality’).
- “Knowledge divinizes human beings not by itself alone, but jointly with word and mind, which both remain indispensable to cover ‘the way of immortality’ up to its end” (cf. CH I.26: “this is the final good for those who have received knowledge: to be made god”).
- There is a description of sacred sexuality in the text, especially in the final parts, and Mahé interprets “light of mind” as a male principle and “life of life” as a female one, coming together to describe God not just as someone with both male and female sexual organs but also as one who never stops impregnating their own womb.
- From Copenhaver:
- Some scholars argue that the presence of the Prayer of Thanksgiving with a rubric (directions to face before the prayer, instructions for a ritual meal afterwards) in the Asclepius without other magical rituals present, as well as at the final part of a magical ritual in the PGM, suggests that “the survival of a thanksgiving for gnōsis in ‘a magician’s handbook testifies to a certain amount of sharing between Hermeticism and the magicians who produced the Greek Magical Papyri”.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the actual texts themselves in their original languages with Romanized transliteration. First up, the Sahidic Coptic text from NHC VI.7, page 63 line 34 through page 65 line 2. For the Coptic transliteration below, note that the schwa letter (“ə”) transcribes the supralineal stroke above a letter, indicating a weak/movable vowel or one that turns the marked consonant into a vocalized one.
|1||ⲦⲚ̄ϢⲠ̄ ϨⲘⲞⲦ Ⲛ̄ⲦⲞⲞⲦⲔ̄||tənšəp hmot ənto’tək|
|2||ⲮⲨⲬⲎ ⲚⲒⲘ ⲀⲨⲰ ⲪⲎⲦ ⲠⲞⲢϢ̄ ϢⲀⲢⲞⲔ||psukhē nim awō phēt porəš šarok|
|3||Ⲱ ⲠⲒⲢⲀⲚ ⲈⲨⲢ̄ⲈⲚⲰⲬⲖⲈⲒ ⲚⲀϤ ⲀⲚ||ō piran ewərenōkhli naf an|
|4||ⲈϤⲦⲀⲈⲒⲀⲈⲒⲦ ϨⲚ̄ ⲦⲞⲚⲞⲘⲀⲤⲒⲀ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲚⲞⲨⲦⲈ||eftaiait hən tonomasia əmpnute|
|5||ⲀⲨⲰ ⲈⲨⲤⲘⲞⲨ ⲈⲢⲞϤ ϨⲚ̄ ⲦⲞⲚⲞⲘⲀⲤⲒⲀ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲒⲰⲦ||awō ewsmu erof hən tonomasia əmpiōt|
|7||ϢⲀ ⲞⲨⲞⲚ ⲚⲒⲘ ⲀⲨⲰ ϢⲀ ⲠⲦⲎⲢϤ̄||ša won nim awō ša ptērəf|
|9||ⲦⲈⲨⲚⲞⲒⲀ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲈⲒⲰⲦ ⲘⲚ̄ ⲠⲘⲈ ⲘⲚ̄ ⲠⲞⲨⲰϢ||teunoia əmpeiōt mən pme mən pwoš|
|10||ⲀⲨⲰ ⲈϢϪⲈ ⲞⲨⲚ̄ ⲞⲨⲤⲂⲰ ⲈⲤϨⲀⲖⲈϬ ⲈⲤⲞ Ⲛ̄ϨⲀⲠⲖⲞⲨⲤ||awō ešje wən usbō eshalec eso ənhaplus|
|11||ⲈⲤⲢ̄ⲔⲀⲢⲒⲌⲈ ⲚⲀⲚ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲚⲞⲨⲤ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲖⲞⲄⲞⲤ Ⲛ̄ ⲦⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ||esərkarize nan əmpnus əmplogos ən tgnōsis|
|12||ⲠⲚⲞⲨⲤ ⲘⲈⲚ ϪⲈⲔⲀⲀⲤ ⲈⲚⲀⲢ̄ⲚⲞⲨⲈⲒ Ⲙ̄ⲘⲞⲔ||pnus men jeka’s enaərnui əmmok|
|13||ⲠⲖⲞⲄⲞⲤ ⲆⲈ ϪⲈⲔⲀⲀⲤ ⲈⲚⲀϨⲈⲢⲘⲎⲚⲈⲨⲈ Ⲙ̄ⲘⲞⲔ||plogos de jeka’s enahermē newe əmmok|
|14||ⲦⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ ⲆⲈ ϪⲈⲔⲀⲀⲤ ⲈⲚⲚⲀⲤⲞⲨⲰⲚⲔ̄||tgnōsis de jeka’s ennaswōnək|
|16||Ⲛ̄ⲦⲀⲢⲚ̄ϪⲒ ⲞⲨⲞⲈⲒⲚ ϨⲚ̄ ⲦⲈⲔⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ||əntarənji woin hən tekgnōsis|
|18||ϪⲈ ⲀⲔⲦⲤⲈⲂⲞⲚ ⲈⲢⲞⲔ||je aktsebon erok|
|20||ϪⲈ ⲈⲚϨⲚ̄ ⲤⲰⲘⲀ||je enhən sōma|
|21||ⲀⲔⲀⲀⲚ Ⲛ̄ⲚⲞⲨⲦⲈ ϨⲚ̄ ⲦⲈⲔⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ||aka’n ənnute hən tekgnōsis|
|22||ⲠϢⲠ ϨⲘⲀⲦ Ⲛ̄ⲠⲢⲰⲘⲈ ⲈⲦⲠⲎϨ ϢⲀⲢⲞⲔ ⲞⲨⲀ ⲠⲈ||pš[ə]p hmat ənprōme et-pēh šarok wa pe|
|23||ϪⲈⲔⲀⲤ ⲀⲦⲢⲚ̄ ⲤⲞⲨⲰⲚⲔ̄||jekas atrən swōnək|
|25||Ⲱ ⲠⲞⲨⲞⲈⲒⲚ Ⲛ̄ⲚⲞⲎⲦⲞⲚ||ō pwoin ənoēton|
|26||Ⲱ ⲠⲰⲚϨ̄ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲰⲚϨ̄||ō pōnəh əmpōnəh|
|28||Ⲱ ⲦⲘⲎⲦⲢⲀ Ⲛ̄ϪⲞ ⲚⲒⲘ||ō tmētra ənjo nim|
|30||Ⲱ ⲦⲘⲎⲦⲢⲀ ⲈⲦϪⲠⲞ ϨⲚ̄ ⲦⲪⲨⲤⲒⲤ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲒⲰⲦ||ō tmētra et-j[ə]po hən t[ə]phusis əmpiōt|
|32||Ⲱ ⲠⲘⲞⲨⲚ ⲈⲂⲞⲖ ϢⲀ ⲈⲚⲈϨ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲈⲒⲰⲦ ⲈⲦϪⲠⲞ||ō pmun ebol ša eneh əmpeiōt et-j[ə]po|
|33||ⲦⲈⲒ̈ϨⲈ ⲀⲚ ⲞⲨⲰϢⲦ̄ Ⲙ̄ⲠⲈⲔⲀⲄⲀⲐⲞⲚ ⲞⲨ||teïhe an wōšət əmpekagathon u|
|34||ⲞⲨⲰϢⲈ ⲞⲨⲰⲦ ⲠⲈⲦⲚ̄Ⲣ̄ⲀⲒⲦⲈⲒ Ⲙ̄ⲘⲞϤ||wōše wōt petənəraiti əmmof|
|35||ⲈⲚⲞⲨⲰϢ ⲈⲦⲢⲈⲨⲢ̄ ⲦⲎⲢⲈⲒ Ⲙ̄ⲘⲞⲚ ϨⲚ̄ ⲦⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ||enwōš etrewər tēri əmmon hən tgnōsis|
|36||ⲞⲨⲀⲢⲈϨ ⲆⲈ ⲞⲨⲰⲦ ⲠⲈⲦⲈⲚ ⲞⲨⲞϢϤ̄||wareh de wōt peten wōšəf|
|37||ⲈⲦⲘ̄ⲦⲢⲈⲚⲤⲖⲀⲀⲦⲈ ϨⲘ̄ ⲠⲈⲈⲒⲂⲒⲞⲤ Ⲛ̄ϮⲘⲒⲚⲈ||etəmtrensla’te həm peibios əntimine|
Yes, I know line 8 is empty. There’ll be some oddities in how this and the following Greek and Latin text are arranged or how the lines are numbered; bear with me, and it’ll make sense further on.
Next, the Koiné Greek text from the Papyrus Mimaut (Louvre P. 2391) column XVIII lines 591—611, aka PGM III.591—611 (broader entry PGM III.494—611, possibly continued through line 731). Unfortunately, the final two lines (after the end of the prayer proper) are in too poor a shape to read. For the Greek text here, Dirske and Brashler used Preisendanz’s version of the PGM emended with suggestions from Mahé and “an independent collation from published photos” of the papyrus. (I know I’m using my idiosyncratic style of transliteration here, so just bear with me.)
|1||Χάριν σοι οἴδαμεν||Khárin soi oídamen|
|2||Ψυχὴ πᾶσα καὶ καρδίαν πρὸς σὲ ἀνατεταμένην||psukhḕ pâsa kaì kardían pròs sè anatetaménēn|
|3||ἄφραστον ὄνομα τετιμημένον||áphraston ónoma tetimēménon|
|4||τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ προσηγορίᾳ||têy toû theû prosēgoríay kaì elogoúmenon|
|5||καὶ ελογούμενον τῇ τοῦ πατρὸς ὀνομασίᾳ||têy toû patròs onomasíay|
|7||πρὸς πάντας καὶ πρὸς πάντας||pròs pántas kaì pròs pántas|
|8||πατρικὴν εὔνοιαν καὶ στρογὴν καὶ φιλίαν||patrikḕn eúnoian kaì storgḕn kaì philían|
|9||καὶ ἐπιγλυκυτά την ἐνεργίαν||kaì epiglukutá tēn energían|
|11||χαρισάμενος ἠμῖν νοῦν, λόγον, γνῶσιν||kharisámenos ēmîn noûn, lógon, gnôsin:|
|12||νοῦν μὲν ἵνα σε νοήσωμεν||noûn mèn hína se noḗsōmen,|
|13||λόγον δὲ ἵνα σε ἐπικαλέσωμεν||lógon dè hína se epikalésōmen,|
|14||γνῶσιν δὲ ἵνα σε ἐπιγνώσωμεν||gnôsin dè hína se epignṓsōmen.|
|18||ὅτι σεαυτὸν ἡμῖν ἔδιξας||hōti seautòn hēmîn édiksas.|
|20||ὅτι ἐν πλὰσμασιν ἡμᾶς ὄντας||hóti en plàsmasin hēmâs óntas|
|21||ἀπεθέωσας τῇ σεαυτοῦ γνώσει||apethéōsas têy seautoû gnṓsei.|
|22||Χάρις ἀνθρώπου πρὸς σὲ μία||Kháris anthrṓpou pròs sè mía:|
|23||τὸ γνωρίσαι σε||tò gnōrísai se.|
|24||Ἐγνωρίσαμεν σε||Egnōísamen se,|
|25||ὦ φῶς νοητόν||ô phôs noētón,|
|26||ὦ τῆς ἀνθρςπίνης ζωῆς ζωή||ô tês anthrōpínēs zōês zoḗ.|
|27||Ἐγνωρίσαμεν σε||Egnōísamen se,|
|28||ὦ μήτρα πάσης φύσεως||ō̂ mḗtra pásēs phúseōs.|
|29||Ἐγνωρίσαμεν σε||Egnōísamen se,|
|30||ὦ μήτρα κυηφόρε ἐμ πατρὸς φυτίᾳ||ō̂ mḗtra kuēphóre em patròs phutíay.|
|31||Ἐγνωρίσαμεν σε||Egnōísamen se,|
|32||ὦ πατρὸς κυηφοροῦντος αἰώνιος διαμονή||ō̂ patròs kuēphoroûntos aiṓnios diamonḗ.|
|33||Οὕτο τὸν σοῦ ἀγαθὸν προσκυνήσαντες||Hoúto tòn soû agathòn proskunḗsantes,|
|34||μηδεμίαν ᾐτήσαμεν χάριν πλὴν||mēdemían hēytḗsamen khárin plḕn:|
|35||Θελησον ἡμᾶς διατηρηθῆναι ἐν τῇ σῇ γνῶσει||thelēson hēmâs diatērēthênai en têy sêy gnôsei;|
|36||Μία δὲ τήρησις||mía dè tḗrēsis:|
|37||τὸ μὴ σφαλῆναι τοῦ τοιούτου βίου τούτου||tò mḕ sphalênai toû toioútou bíou toútou.|
Finally, the Latin text from the Asclepius, section 41. The Latin here is taken from Nock’s and Festugière’s Hermès Trismégiste vol. II, pages 353—355, compiled from a number of Latin manuscripts written in the 12th or 13th centuries. Because the text is in Latin, no transcription is needed here.
- Gratias tibi / summe exsuperantissime / tua enim gratia tantum sumus cognitionis tuae lumen consecuti,
- Nomen sanctum et honorandum,
- nomen unum quo solus deus est benedicendus
- religione paterna,
- paternam pietatem et religionem et amorem
- et quaecumque est dulcior efficacia
- praebere dignaris
- condonans nos sensu, ratione, intelligentia:
- sensu ut te cognouerimus,
- ratione ut te suspicionibus indagemus,
- cognitione ut te cognoscentes gaudeamus.
- Ac numine saluati tuo
- quod te nobis ostenderis totum;
- quod nos in corporibus sitos aeternitati
- fueris consecrare dignatus.
- Haec est enim humana sola gratulatio:
- cognitio maiestatis tuae.
- Cognouimus te
- et lumen maximum solo intellectu sensibile.
- Intellegimus te,
- o uitae uera uita.
- O naturarum omnium fecunda praegnatio;
- cognouimus te.
- totius naturae tuo conceptu plenissimae aeterna perseueratio.
- In omni enum ista oriatione adorantes bonum bonitatus tuae
- hoc tantum deprecamur,
- ut nos uelis seruare persuerantes in amore conitionis tuae
- et numquam ab hoc uitae genere seperari.
Having the original texts in their original languages is nice, but now it’s time to actually get to the translation. Although these are all fundamentally the same text, a side-by-side comparison will show the differences in both their orders and their specific wordings. To better establish a concordance between the different bits and parts of the Coptic, Greek, and Latin texts, I essentially used the Coptic text as a base to give each part of the prayer a number, which is why the numbering in the above sections looks so weird, but it’ll help make the concordance easier to handle. Take a look:
|1||We give thanks to you.||1||We give thanks to you,||1||We thank you,|
|1a||o most high and most excellent,|
|1b||for by your grace have we received the great light of your knowledge.|
|2||Every soul and heart is lifted up to you,||2||every soul and heart stretched out to you,|
|3||o undisturbed name||3||o inexpressible name||3||Your name is holy and to be honored,|
|4||honored with the name of “God”,||4||honored with the designation of “God”||4||the only name by which God alone is to be blessed|
|5||and praised with the name of “Father”,||5||and blessed with the name of “Father”,||5||with ancestral reverence,|
|7||to everyone and everything||7||to everyone and to all things||7||to all things|
|9||the fatherly kindness and affection and love||9||paternal kindness, devotion, love||9||paternal kindness, devotion, love|
|10||and any teaching there may be that is sweet and plain,||10||and yet sweeter action||10||and whatever virtue may be more sweet,|
|8||you have displayed,||8||you think it good to display|
|11||giving us mind, word, and knowledge:||11||having granted to us mind, word, and knowledge:||11||granting to us mind, reason, and knowledge:|
|12||mind so that we may understand you,||12||mind in order that we may understand you,||12||mind in order that we may understand you,|
|13||word so that we may expound you,||13||word in order that we may call upon you,||13||reason in order that by means of hints we may investigate you,|
|14||knowledge so that we may know you.||14||knowledge in order that we may know you.||14||knowledge in order that, knowing you, we may rejoice.|
|16||having been illumined by your knowledge.||16||16||Redeemed by your power,|
|17||We rejoice||17||We rejoice||17||we rejoice,|
|18||because you have shown us yourself.||18||because you have shown yourself to us.||18||that you have shown yourself to us completely.|
|19||We rejoice||19||We rejoice||19||We rejoice,|
|20||because while we were in the body||20||because while we were yet in molded shapes|
|21||you have made us divine through your knowledge.||21||you deified us by the knowledge of yourself.||21||that you have thought it good to deify us for eternity|
|20||while we are yet situated in bodies.|
|22||The thanksgiving of the man who attains to you is one thing:||22||The thanksgiving of a man to you is one:||22||For this is the only human gratitude:|
|23||that we may know you.||23||to know you.||23||the knowledge of your majesty.|
|24||We have known you,||24||We have known you,||24||We know you|
|25||o intellectual light.||25||o intellectual light,||25||and the greatest light perceptible to the intellect alone.|
|27||We understand you,|
|26||O life of life,||26||o life of human life.||26||o true life of life.|
|27||we have known you.||27||We have known you,|
|28||O womb of every creature,||28||o womb of all nature.||28||O pregnancy fertile with all natures,|
|29||we have known you.||29||We have known you,||29||we know you,|
|30||O womb pregnant with the nature of the Father,||30||o womb pregnant in the nature of the Father.|
|31||we have known you.||31||We have known you,|
|32||O eternal permanence of the begetting Father,||32||o eternal continuation of the impregnating Father.||32||eternal continuation of all nature most full of your impregnating activity|
|33||thus have we worshiped your goodness.||33||Thus having worshiped your goodness,||33||For worshiping the good of your goodness in this whole prayer|
|34||There is one petition that we ask:||34||we ask only one favor:||34||we pray for just one thing:|
|35||we would be preserved in knowledge.||35||that you might will that we will be preserved in your knowledge;||35||that you will to keep us preserving in the love of your knowledge|
|36||And there is one protection that we desire:||36||and one protection:|
|37||that we not stumble in this kind of life.||37||that we not fall away from a life such as this.||37||and never to be separated from a life such as this.|
Notes on the side-by-side comparison:
- For the most part, it’s clear that the Coptic and Greek versions are nearly identical in structure, although the Greek version seems to have dropped lines 15 and 16 (“we rejoice, having been illumined by your knowledge”), and the Coptic lacks any explicit verb corresponding to “you have displayed” on line 8 present in both the Greek and Latin (though this appears after the list of the gifts of God).
- The Latin version, on the other hand, is much more variant, with several lines appearing out of order compared to the Coptic or Greek text (e.g. lines 21 and 20), extra adoration to God (lines 1a and 1b), or outright missing lines usually due to structural simplification or modification (e.g. line 15).
- Line 2, “every soul and heart is lifted up/stretched out to you”, echoes CH I.31: “accept pure speech offerings from a soul and heart that reach up to you” (ἀπὸ ψυχῆς καὶ καρδίας πρὸς σὲ ἀνατεταμένης). The Greek text from PGM III is corrupt at this point, so the Greek from the CH is used to emend it.
- Line 3 in Coptic has “undisturbed” (ⲈⲨⲢ̄ⲈⲚⲰⲬⲖⲈⲒ ⲚⲀϤ ⲀⲚ “him not being disturbed” from Greek ένοχλεῖν “to disturb, trouble”), but the Greek uses ἄφραστον “inexpressible”. This is one of several bits of evidence that the Coptic prayer was a translation from a Greek prayer, but from a different textual lineage from what was used in PGM III. The use of “undisturbed” here is difficult for me to parse, but based on the use of the Greek “inexpressible”, perhaps it’s in a sense of “one who cannot be disturbed by calling”.
- Line 5 in the Coptic and Greek pretty much agree exactly (“praised/blessed with the name of ‘[the] Father'”), but the corresponding line in Latin is weird. I assume some corruption crept into the Latin text over time, so it kinda got the overall gist of what was being said (religione paterna) even if not the precise meaning.
- Line 10 uses the adjective “sweet”, but the different texts use it in different ways, and evidence here suggests that the Greek text has the better structure and meaning.
- In line 10, although the Coptic uses “teaching” (ⲤⲂⲞ) to translate Greek ἔνδειξιν, the Greek text from PGM III uses ἐνδείξω. It may be that the original prayer in Greek uses ἐνδείξω and a Coptic translator misread the final -ω for -ιν, changing the verb into a noun.
- In line 10, the Coptic uses “plain” (ϨⲀⲠⲖⲞⲨⲤ from Greek ἁπλοῦς), which is likely a translation from the Greek ἐναργήν (“visible”, “palpable”, “manifest”), which was sometimes confused for ἐνεργήν (“active”, “effective”). Alternatively, it may have been confused for ἐνεργίαν/ἐνεργεῖαν (“energy”, “activity”), which would relate better to both the Greek ἐνεργίαν and the Latin efficacia.
- Line 13 is a fun one: “word, that we may ____ you”. Each version gives a different word here: the Latin gives “investigate by means of hints”, the Greek gives “call upon” (ἐπικαλέσωμεν), and the Coptic has “expound” (ⲈⲚⲀϨⲈⲢⲘⲎⲚⲈⲨⲈ, from Greek ἑρμηνεύειν meaning “interpret”). It’s the use of the Coptic-Greek word here that is a fun link to Hermēs, given the long history between the Greek name of the god and the word “to interpret”, which can also be used for “to give voice/utterance to” or “to put into words”. I like that, but there’s no clean way to translate that with the richness of the pun here, so the best English translation might be the one from the Greek, in my opinion.
- The Latin text, given that it’s a translation from an earlier Greek one, is fairly dutiful in how it represents the original Greek despite how the English translation might look. The two Latin verbs cognouerimus and cognoscentes correspond to Greek νοήσωμεν and ἐπιγνώσωμεν, meaning “to understand/think” and “to discern/come to know”, respectively.
- The word “light” or “illumination” (ⲞⲨⲞⲈⲒⲚ) on line 16 the Coptic suggests that the corresponding Latin should read “light” instead of “power” (lumine instead of numine).
- Lines 19-21 are interesting; all the texts agree on what’s being said (“we rejoice, for while we were yet in the body, you made us divine through your knowledge”). However, this does admittedly fly against several Hermetic texts that state that divinity and divinization/deification cannot be done while in the body (e.g. CH I.26, CH IV.7, CH X.6). However, CH XIII talks about how spiritual rebirth does occur in the body once one receives the divine mercies of God to chase away the tormentors once physical perception has been transcended.
- Although line 21 has Greek ἀπεθέωσας (perhaps better spelled ἀποθεώσας) and Coptic ⲀⲔⲀⲀⲚ Ⲛ̄ⲚⲞⲨⲦⲈ (“make gods”, I think?), the Latin has consecrare, which isn’t the same thing as deification, just “make holy”. Copenhaver in his notes to his translation of the Asclepius points out a possible modesty or shyness on the part of the Latin translator (or later redactors) about using the term “deification”, especially in light of an increasingly Christian audience.
- There’s a nuance to the phrase “we know you” in lines 23 through 31. In Greek, this verb is in the aorist tense, which has no direct correspondence to an English one; it indicates an undivided events (like the individual steps in a continuous process) or to express events that happen in general without asserting a time. Knowing God is a divinely simple action, complete and indivisible unto itself, and the use here is almost like a completed action; it’s like a cross between “we know you indefinitely and without restriction” and “we have undergone the process to make you known to us”.
- Although line 32 has the translation of “permanence” from Coptic and “continuation” from Greek (διαμονή) and Latin (peveratio), even the Greek word is used in both senses/translations, so I don’t know if there’s much of a difference here implied by the use of “permanence” vs. “continuation”. Likewise, the Latin word used here can also be used for “persistance” or “perseverance” or “duration”, as can the Coptic word.
- Line 35 in the Coptic reads “knowledge” (ⲦⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ), but should probably be emended to read ⲦⲈⲔⲄⲚⲰⲤⲒⲤ (“your knowledge”) which would make it agree with both the Greek and Latin and to agree with its own line 21 above.
I’m honestly glad I had the chance—and enough of what few meager language chops I can bring to bear—to actually take a look at all three texts side-by-side. It’s this kind of analysis that helps me (and, more than likely, a good few of us) get a better understanding at the text itself as well as the other texts in which it appears as a component. Plus, it helps us come up with a sort of “synthesized” version of the prayers; lacking any original, we can still make an attempt at coming up with a “uniform” version that bridges the gaps between its different appearances between the Asclepius, PGM, and NHC. I’ve done so before on my old page write-up for the Prayer of Thanksgiving, which I’m going to update as a matter-of-course now that I’ve done this analysis, but I think I should make a slight update to (if not a new stab at) what I had before as a synthesized version of the prayer.
We give thanks to you!
Every soul and heart reaches up to you,
o ineffable Name
honored as “God” and praised as “Father”,
for to everyone and everything you have shown
fatherly kindness, affection, love, and sweetest activity,
granting to us mind, word, and knowledge:
mind, that we may understand you;
word, that we may call upon you;
knowledge, that we may know you.
We rejoice, for we have been illuminated by your knowledge.
We rejoice, for you have revealed yourself to us.
We rejoice, for you have made us incarnate divine by your knowledge.
The thanksgiving of mankind to you is this alone:
that we may know you.
O Light of Mind, we know you.
O Life of Life, we know you.
O Womb of every creature, we know you.
O Womb pregnant with the nature of the Father, we know you.
O eternal permanence of the begetting Father, we know you.
Thus do we worship your goodness.
Thus do we ask for one favor: that we be preserved in your knowledge.
Thus do we ask for one protection: that we not fall away from this sort of life.