Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:17 pm

Nathan wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:13 pm
Somewhat unrelatedly, Davies' claim that the "Odes do not mention Jesus in any sense" is absurd. When (e.g.) Ode 19 talks of the virgin birth, what or who does he think the odist is referring to? Or when Ode 23 speaks of the "name of the Father ... and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," who is that referring to? Who was having lots cast against him in Ode 28? Who in Ode 41 is "the Son of the Most High" that "appeared in the perfection of his Father," "the Word that was before time in him"? I almost get the sense that Davies has not read the Odes himself, at least based on that excerpt from his book.
To be fair, Davies does discuss all of those instances. He regards them as highly symbolic stuff which eventually influenced what we find in the gospels, rather than the other way around.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Nathan » Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:24 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:17 pm
Nathan wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:13 pm
Somewhat unrelatedly, Davies' claim that the "Odes do not mention Jesus in any sense" is absurd. When (e.g.) Ode 19 talks of the virgin birth, what or who does he think the odist is referring to? Or when Ode 23 speaks of the "name of the Father ... and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," who is that referring to? Who was having lots cast against him in Ode 28? Who in Ode 41 is "the Son of the Most High" that "appeared in the perfection of his Father," "the Word that was before time in him"? I almost get the sense that Davies has not read the Odes himself, at least based on that excerpt from his book.
To be fair, Davies does discuss all of those instances. He regards them as highly symbolic stuff which eventually influenced what we find in the gospels, rather than the other way around.
OK. Fair enough.

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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by andrewcriddle » Sat Apr 14, 2018 12:54 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:49 pm


I am revisiting this thread because I have been going through the Odes of Solomon again:

Stevan Davies, Spirit Possession and the Origins of Christianity, page 268: One can go further. The Odes do not mention Jesus in any sense. His name is never used, nor do the Odes contain a single one of his sayings, nor do they mention even one event in which the gospels say he participated. The word "cross" supposedly appears twice in the Odes of Solomon (Odes 27 and 42), but only when translators such as Charlesworth take the Syriac (qaysa) or Greek (xylon), the word for tree or wood and translate it as "cross." Less tendentious translators do not do this. The first English translator, Rendel Harris, used the word "wood." Lattke's recent translation gives, for Ode 27, "I stretched out my hands and hallowed my Lord, because the spreading out of my hands is his sign, and my stretching [up] is the wood, which is upright;" (the passage in Ode 42 is nearly identical). Charlesworth and others have assumed that "wood" must be "the cross" and that the physical position of the one speaking is cruciform. Accordingly, while Charlesworth's version of Ode 27 is "I extended my hands and hallowed my Lord, for the expansion of my hands is His sign. And my extension is the upright cross," Lattke argues that the speaker stands with arms upraised, stretched up and outwards, not in a cruciform shape. This matters a great deal because if Lattke is correct (and his recent tome of commentary makes him the world's leading expert on the Odes) then there is no reference to cross or crucifixion in the Odes anywhere.

You also posted this image as an example of the posture:

Image

Michael Lattke seems to support the interpretation of this posture as more treelike than crosslike in the Odes of Solomon, at any rate.
Ode 27 is very brief and gives very little context.
However Ode 42 seems to relate the sign the outstretched arms and the wood to a context of suffering and death and deliverance from death.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/odes2.html
1 I stretched out my hands and approached my Lord: 2 For the stretching of my hands is His sign: 2 My expansion is the outspread tree which was set up on the way of the Righteous One. 4 And I became of no account to those who did not take hold of me and I shall be with those who love me. 5 All my persecutors are dead; and they sought after me who hoped in me, because I was alive: 6 And I rose up and am with them; and I will speak by their mouths. 7 For they have despised those who persecuted them; 8 And I lifted up over them the yoke of my love; 9 Like the arm of the bridegroom over the bride, 10 So was my yoke over those that know me: 11 And as the couch that is spread in the house of the bridegroom and bride, 12 So is my love over those that believe in me. 13 And I was not rejected though I was reckoned to be so. 14 I did not perish, though they devised it against me. 13 Sheol saw me and was made miserable: 16 Death cast me up and many along with me. 17 I had gall and bitterness, and I went down with him to the utmost of his depth: 18 And the feet and the head he let go, for they were not able to endure my face: 19 And I made a congregation of living men amongst his dead men, and I spake with them by living lips: 20 Because my word shall not be void: 21 And those who had died ran towards me: and they cried and said, Son of God, have pity on us, and do with us according to thy kindness. 22 And bring us out from the bonds of darkness: and open to us the door by which we shall come out to thee. 23 For we see that our death has not touched thee. 24 Let us also be redeemed with thee: for thou art our Redeemer. 25 And I heard their voice; and my name I sealed upon their heads: 26 For they are free men and they are mine. Hallelujah.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:41 am

This made me think of the supposedly earliest depiciton of the crucifixion, early fifth century, Santa Sabina, Rome. Kinda looks like the prayer posture, i.e. the orans, and maybe that's intended.
Image

There are no source references, but wiki on "orans" says:
The orans posture was practiced by both pagans and Jews before it was adopted by the earliest Christians. Christians saw the position as representing the posture of Christ on the Cross; therefore, it was the favorite of early Christians.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orans

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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:38 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Sat Apr 14, 2018 12:54 am
Ode 27 is very brief and gives very little context.
However Ode 42 seems to relate the sign the outstretched arms and the wood to a context of suffering and death and deliverance from death.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/odes2.html
1 I stretched out my hands and approached my Lord: 2 For the stretching of my hands is His sign: 2 My expansion is the outspread tree which was set up on the way of the Righteous One. 4 And I became of no account to those who did not take hold of me and I shall be with those who love me. 5 All my persecutors are dead; and they sought after me who hoped in me, because I was alive: 6 And I rose up and am with them; and I will speak by their mouths. 7 For they have despised those who persecuted them; 8 And I lifted up over them the yoke of my love; 9 Like the arm of the bridegroom over the bride, 10 So was my yoke over those that know me: 11 And as the couch that is spread in the house of the bridegroom and bride, 12 So is my love over those that believe in me. 13 And I was not rejected though I was reckoned to be so. 14 I did not perish, though they devised it against me. 13 Sheol saw me and was made miserable: 16 Death cast me up and many along with me. 17 I had gall and bitterness, and I went down with him to the utmost of his depth: 18 And the feet and the head he let go, for they were not able to endure my face: 19 And I made a congregation of living men amongst his dead men, and I spake with them by living lips: 20 Because my word shall not be void: 21 And those who had died ran towards me: and they cried and said, Son of God, have pity on us, and do with us according to thy kindness. 22 And bring us out from the bonds of darkness: and open to us the door by which we shall come out to thee. 23 For we see that our death has not touched thee. 24 Let us also be redeemed with thee: for thou art our Redeemer. 25 And I heard their voice; and my name I sealed upon their heads: 26 For they are free men and they are mine. Hallelujah.
Nathan wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:13 pm
FWIW Lattke's distinction between "a cruciform shape" and "arms upraised, stretched up and outwards" seems rather forced to me, as does Davies' distinction between the wood/tree and the cross.

What do they make of the phrase "the spreading out of my hands is his sign," then? If not to the crucifixion, then to what does that refer? Why are outspread hands "his sign"? And what is the significance of "wood, which is upright," if not a reference to the cross? Why is upright wood meaningful to the odist, if not a Christian invoking cruciform imagery?
On the one hand, these are obviously really excellent points. I think that the meaning would have to be spelled out in a convincingly noncruciform manner; otherwise these references start to look just like all the other references in the OP to the son of God hanging on a "tree" with his "arms outstretched," and most of those references definitely have a crucifixion in mind.

On the other hand, meanings can change:
Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:41 am
This made me think of the supposedly earliest depiciton of the crucifixion, early fifth century, Santa Sabina, Rome. Kinda looks like the prayer posture, i.e. the orans, and maybe that's intended.
Image

There are no source references, but wiki on "orans" says:
The orans posture was practiced by both pagans and Jews before it was adopted by the earliest Christians. Christians saw the position as representing the posture of Christ on the Cross; therefore, it was the favorite of early Christians.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orans
Peter Kirby also brought this prayer posture into the mix just a few posts in. Since it existed before the crucifixion motif and was thus adapted to that purpose by Christians, it is not impossible that outstretched arms and "wood" bear some kind of meaning which was later adapted to the crucifixion. I am happy to regard the Odes as belonging to the same basic strain of cross mysticism as, say, the Sibylline Oracles or the Pauline epistles; but I would also like to make sure nothing is being missed here.

For one thing, Ode 42 has a lot of death in it, to be sure, but its main focus is the escaping of death: "All my persecutors are dead," the Odist claims, but "I was alive." Does "I rose up" have to mean resurrection in the next line? It does not really sound like it. "I did not perish," the Odist continues. Okay, so "Sheol saw me," but Sheol was also "made miserable." "Death cast me up," while "I spoke with them by living lips." The dead are a clear category in Sheol here, but they themselves cry out, "For we see that our death has not touched you!" So does the Lord (or the Odist) actually die in this Ode? Or does he plunder Sheol of its dead while never actually tasting of death himself? What would a cruciform posture of worship mean in the latter case?

For another, in Ode 29 the Lord "revealed to me His sign, and He led me by His light." Is this sign the cross, as well? If so, what does it mean that this sign was revealed? Ode 39 is all about how only the faithful can safely ford rivers, because "the sign on them is the Lord, and the sign is the Way for those who cross in the name of the Lord," because "the Lord has bridged them," and "His footsteps stand firm upon the waters," being "like a beam of wood that is constructed on truth." The wood imagery returns here, but is there anything cruciform about it? Rather, the wood seems here to be a bridge. So are we sure that we fully grasp the niceties of "the sign" in the Odes?

These are not leading or rhetorical questions. I want to know.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:08 am

Oh, the Odes... so hard to untangle. I'm actually part of a project beginning very soon where we're going to publish the first Danish translation of the Odes! So many questions. Is Christ the speaker sometimes? When?

I remember seeing somewhere else the motif with Christ walking on water as walking on wood. And maybe even this wood-image connected to the cross..? (Perhaps in Quinn's The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Life or some version of the text The Testament of Adam)

Do you have access to Lattke's Hermeneia commentary? IRRC he discusses some themes and motifs in the introduction, perhaps he has something to say about the "sign" motif.

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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:30 am

I am going to go ahead and post what I have in my notes about the Pistis Sophia and the Odes, as well as the single quotation of the Odes in Lactantius. I have no comment on these, except that I am posting only the quotations from the Pistis Sophia; follow the links to get the accompanying commentary by the various figures (Mary, Salome, Peter, Thomas, Matthew) giving the quotations, as well as by the Lord himself:

Pistis Sophia 59 (quoting Ode 1): And Mary, the mother of Jesus, answered and said: "My Lord, thy light-power hath prophesied aforetime concerning these words through Solomon in the nineteenth Ode and said: 'The Lord is on my head as a wreath, and I shall not depart from him. The wreath in truth is woven for me; and it hath caused thy twigs to sprout in me. For it is not like unto a wreath withered that sprouteth not. But thou art alive on my head and thou hast sprouted upon me. Thy fruits are full and perfect, filled with thy salvation.'" [19th Ode = 18 Psalms of Solomon + 1 Ode of Solomon; hence, Ode of Solomon 1 by our reckoning. Link: http://gnosis.org/library/pistis-sophia/ps063.htm.]

Pistis Sophia 58 (quoting Ode 5): And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished speaking these words unto his disciples, that Salome came forward and said: "My Lord, my power constraineth me to speak the solution of the words which Pistis Sophia hath uttered. Thy power hath prophesied aforetime through Solomon, saying: 'I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, for thou art my God. Abandon me not, O Lord, for thou art! my hope. Thou hast given me thy vindication for naught, and I am saved through thee. Let them who pursue me, fall down and let them not see me. May a smoke-cloud cover their eyes and an air-mist darken them, and let them not see the day, so that they may not seize me. May their resolution be impotent, and may what they concoct come upon them. They have devised a resolution, and it hath not taken effect for them. And they are vanquished, although they be mighty, and what they have wickedly prepared is fallen upon them. My hope is in the Lord, and I shall not be afraid, for thou art my God, my Saviour.'" [Link: http://gnosis.org/library/pistis-sophia/ps062.htm.]

Pistis Sophia 65 (quoting Ode 6): Peter came forward and said: "My Lord, concerning the solution of the words which thou hast spoken, thus hath thy light-power prophesied aforetime through Solomon in his Odes: 'A stream came forth and became a great wide flood. It tore away all to itself and turned itself against the temple. Dams and buildings could not hold it, nor could the art of them who hold the waters. It was led over the whole land and laid hold of all. They who were on the dry sand, drank; their thirst was quieted and quenched, when the draught from the hand of the Highest was given. Blessed are the ministers of that draught, to whom the water of the Lord is entrusted. They have refreshed parched lips; they whose power was taken away, have gotten joy of heart and they have laid hold of souls, having poured in the breath, so that they should not die. They have raised up limbs which were fallen; they have given power to their openness and light unto their eyes. For they all have known themselves in the Lord and are saved through the water of Life eternal.'" [Link: http://gnosis.org/library/pistis-sophia/ps070.htm.]

Lactantius, Divine Institutes 4.12 (quoting Ode 19): Therefore the Holy Spirit of God, descending from heaven, chose the Holy Virgin, that He might enter into her womb. But she, being filled by the possession of the Divine Spirit, conceived; and without any intercourse with a man, her virgin womb was suddenly impregnated. But if it is known to all that certain animals are accustomed to conceive by the wind and the breeze, why should any one think it wonderful when we say that a virgin was made fruitful by the Spirit of God, to whom whatever He may wish is easy? And this might have appeared incredible, had not the prophets many ages previously foretold its occurrence. Thus Solomon speaks: "The womb of a virgin was strengthened, and conceived; and a virgin was made fruitful, and became a mother in great pity [infirmatus est uterus virginis, et accepit factum, et gravata est, et facta est in multa miseratione mater virgo]."

Pistis Sophia 71 (quoting Ode 22): And Matthew answered and said: "Concerning the interpretation of the song which Pistis Sophia hath uttered, thus thy light-power prophesied aforetime thereon through the Ode of Solomon: 'He who hath led me down out of the higher regions which are above, hath led me up out of the regions which are in the bottom below. Who hath there taken those in the midst, he hath taught me concerning them. Who hath scattered my foes and my adversaries, he hath bestowed power on me over the bonds, to unloose them. Who hath smitten the serpent with the seven heads with my hands, he hath set me up above its root, that I may extinguish its seed. And thou wert with me, helping me; in all regions thy name surrounded me. Thy right hand hath destroyed the venom of the slanderer; thy hand hath cleared the way for thy faithful. Thou hast freed them out of the tombs and hast removed them from the midst of the corpses. Thou hast taken dead bones and hast clothed them with a body and to them who stirred not, hast thou given the activity of life. Thy way is become indestructibleness and thy face [also]. Thou hast led thy aeon above decay, so that they all may be loosed and renewed and thy light become a foundation for them all. Thou hast piled thy riches upon them and they have become a holy dwelling-place.'" [Link: http://gnosis.org/library/pistis-sophia/ps076.htm.]

Pistis Sophia 69 (quoting Ode 25): Thomas answered and said: "My Lord, concerning the song which Pistis Sophia hath uttered, because she was saved out of the chaos, thy light-power prophesied aforetime thereon through Solomon, the son of David, in his Odes: 'I am saved from the bonds and am fled unto thee, O Lord. For thou hast been on my right hand, saving me and helping me. Thou hast hindered my adversaries and they have not been revealed, because thy face was with me, saving me in thy grace. I was despised in the sight of many and cast out; I have become as lead in their sight. Through thee I have gotten a power which helped me; for thou hast set lamps on my right and on my left, so that no side of me may be without light. Thou hast overshadowed me with the shadow of thy grace, and I was relieved of the coats of skin. It is thy right hand which hath raised me up, and thou hast taken the sickness from me. I have become powerful in thy truth and purified in thy righteousness. My adversaries have withdrawn themselves from me, and I am justified by thy goodness, for thy rest endureth unto all eternity.'" [Link: http://gnosis.org/library/pistis-sophia/ps074.htm.]

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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:31 am

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:08 am
Oh, the Odes... so hard to untangle. I'm actually part of a project beginning very soon where we're going to publish the first Danish translation of the Odes! So many questions. Is Christ the speaker sometimes? When?
Great project. And yes, the issues are so tangled....
I remember seeing somewhere else the motif with Christ walking on water as walking on wood. And maybe even this wood-image connected to the cross..? (Perhaps in Quinn's The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Life or some version of the text The Testament of Adam)
I would be most interested in that passage.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:48 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:38 pm
......................................................................................
For another, in Ode 29 the Lord "revealed to me His sign, and He led me by His light." Is this sign the cross, as well? If so, what does it mean that this sign was revealed? Ode 39 is all about how only the faithful can safely ford rivers, because "the sign on them is the Lord, and the sign is the Way for those who cross in the name of the Lord," because "the Lord has bridged them," and "His footsteps stand firm upon the waters," being "like a beam of wood that is constructed on truth." The wood imagery returns here, but is there anything cruciform about it? Rather, the wood seems here to be a bridge. So are we sure that we fully grasp the niceties of "the sign" in the Odes?

These are not leading or rhetorical questions. I want to know.
I'll say what I think about Ode 39 but I may well be wrong.
1 Great rivers are the power of the Lord: 2 And they carry headlong those who despise Him: and entangle their paths: 3 And they sweep away their fords, and catch their bodies and destroy their lives. 4 For they are more swift than lightning and more rapid, and those who cross them in faith are not moved; 5 And those who walk on them without blemish shall not be afraid. 6 For the sign in them is the Lord; and the sign is the way of those who cross in the name of the Lord; 7 Put on, therefore the name of the Most High, and know Him and you shall cross without danger, for the rivers will be subject to you. 8 The Lord has bridged them by His word; and He walked and crossed them on foot: 9 And His footsteps stand firm on the water, and are not injured; they are as firm as a tree that is truly set up. 10 And the waves were lifted up on this side and on that, but the footsteps of our Lord Messiah stand firm and are not obliterated and are not defaced. 11 And a way has been appointed for those who cross after Him and for those who adhere to the course of faith in Him and worship His name. Hallelujah.
I think this has a reference to the crossing of the Red Sea. Note parallels to Psalm 77
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
If so the wood refers to the rod of Moses by which the sea was divided. This rod was was from very early times a type of the cross. See Justin Dialogue with Trypho.
And when I had quoted this, I added, "Hear, then, how this Man, of whom the Scriptures declare that He will come again in glory after His crucifixion, was symbolized both by the tree of life, which was said to have been planted in paradise, and by those events which should happen to all the just. Moses was sent with a rod to effect the redemption of the people; and with this in his hands at the head of the people, he divided the sea. By this he saw the water gushing out of the rock; and when he cast a tree into the waters of Marah, which were bitter, he made them sweet.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:13 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:48 pm
I'll say what I think about Ode 39 but I may well be wrong.
That is actually quite good. :) Thanks!
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