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Depth, Bythos, Abyss?

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  • Mark
    Greetings! I found this group while researching a question. In Elaine Pagel s book, The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books, 1981), she speaks of some key concepts
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 14, 2007
      Greetings!

      I found this group while researching a question. In Elaine Pagel's
      book, The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books, 1981), she speaks of some key
      concepts related to Valentinus' teachings. Two of his key words
      were "the Depth" and "Silence" (pp. 44, 59). She cites Iranaeus as her
      source. My question involved discovering the Greek for these words,
      especially for "Depth". My goal is to use the Greek, via the
      Septuagint, to see what the possible Hebrew world for "Depth" might be.

      As I researched your archives, I found you all were quite fluent on
      this topic and, for the most part, referred to this "Depth" with
      Bythos/Bythus (see #6374 morphodyte). However, I also found a
      reference to "Depth" that used the Greek "Abyss" (abussos), and that
      Bythos appeared only later being birthed from Logos-Zoe (See #9441 Bal-
      lli; and #7158, AJRoberti).

      I then did some research in the Gnostic Library. I found that
      Irenaeus, Hyppolitus and Tertullian primarily used Bythos, but G.R.S.
      Mead in his Fragments of a Faith Forgotten often used "Abyss" in
      reference to this First or Root Source, and even once referred
      to "Bythus, or the Abyss of Profundity."

      So, in short, I am confused. I do not have the original texts to see
      what word is translated as "Depth." Can someone help me with this? Of
      course, there are multiple Gnostic traditions, so there may be a
      difference, but I am primarily interested in the Valentinus' tradition
      (see
      http://www.gnosis.org/library/valentinus/Valentinian_Theology.htm).

      For many this may not be significant, but the Greek Bythos (buthos,
      bathos) and Abyss (abussos) are used differently in the Septuagint to
      translate different Hebrew words. In addition, Abyss (abussos)
      eventually becomes--in the NT and Manichean traditions--equated with
      Hades and the underworld and evil. This is not the case in many of the
      Septuagint OT traditions that use Abyss (abussos). This may also help
      to understand to what degree, if any, the Septuagint played in
      Valentinus' thoughts. Or, did the Septuagint translators avoid the use
      of Bythos in certain contexts, especially when translating Hebrew
      tehom, in order to avoid any Platonic connotations?

      I am very new to Gnosticism, so please excuse any misrepresentations.
      My strength is in Hebrew Bible Studies. However, please know this is
      more than an academic question: it deals with my personal path. The
      concepts of depth and silence play an important role in my spiritual
      path, which is why Pagel's discussion caught me up.

      Thanks!
      Mark
    • pmcvflag
      Hey Mark, welcome to the group. ... book, The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books, 1981), she speaks of some key concepts related to Valentinus teachings. Two of
      Message 2 of 7 , Jan 15, 2007
        Hey Mark, welcome to the group.

        >>>I found this group while researching a question. In Elaine Pagel's
        book, The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books, 1981), she speaks of some
        key concepts related to Valentinus' teachings. Two of his key words
        were "the Depth" and "Silence" (pp. 44, 59). She cites Iranaeus as
        her source. My question involved discovering the Greek for these
        words, especially for "Depth". My goal is to use the Greek, via the
        Septuagint, to see what the possible Hebrew world for "Depth" might
        be.<<<

        I think it would be important to remember that Gnostics, like other
        Platonists, did kind of tend to build lingos specific to their
        systems. A word in that system may not always mean exactly what it
        did in the wider Greek usage. While some users of the Septuagint
        were very much Platonists, I don't know if any work has been done
        concerning any influence of the sort on the translators themselves.
        Or perhaps you are aware of some?

        >>>As I researched your archives, I found you all were quite fluent
        on this topic and, for the most part, referred to this "Depth" with
        Bythos/Bythus (see #6374 morphodyte). However, I also found a
        reference to "Depth" that used the Greek "Abyss" (abussos), and that
        Bythos appeared only later being birthed from Logos-Zoe (See #9441
        Bal- lli; and #7158, AJRoberti).<<<

        I believe the particular examples you give represent
        transliterations by the authors of the posts (and in one case at
        least very likely the taste of late Victorian occult vogue authors)
        rather than something specific to actual Valentinian texts. I don't
        believe they were actually intending to be as specific as you would
        need to be in order to deal with the much more in-depth subject
        matter you are dealing with. I don't think they help you.

        As for the question concerning the placing or "ranking" of Bythos in
        the cosmology, I think it is Tertullian that raises the issue of
        whether all Valentinians used the term the same way. That is another
        conversation.

        >>>I then did some research in the Gnostic Library. I found that
        Irenaeus, Hyppolitus and Tertullian primarily used Bythos, but G.R.S.
        Mead in his Fragments of a Faith Forgotten often used "Abyss" in
        reference to this First or Root Source, and even once referred
        to "Bythus, or the Abyss of Profundity."<<<

        I have not read this book by Mead, but again I think we may be
        dealing with a personal choice of words made by the modern author. I
        wouldn't make overly much of it.

        I do wonder, though, if you noticed that Irenaeus actually uses the
        term "Bythus" seemingly as a pun in one instance (end of book 5).
        The word can be translated as "depth", but like our modern English
        word "depth" it can mean "profound"... as in "this poem has depth".
        In this usage one could not substitute the word Abyss, and
        considering the other terms equated with the cosmogeny I think we
        have to be careful when reading modern authors.

        >>>So, in short, I am confused. I do not have the original texts to
        see what word is translated as "Depth." Can someone help me with
        this? Of course, there are multiple Gnostic traditions, so there may
        be a difference, but I am primarily interested in the Valentinus'
        tradition.<<<

        The word "Bythus" is maintained as a name in the historical texts
        you mention (which generally survive in Latin). Bythos survives as
        the loan word in Coptic Gnostic texts as well.

        There is an interesting case I can think of in the Bruce codex, but
        unless any of our Coptic specialists want to get involved we
        probably can leave that alone. In spite of the fact that it may look
        on the surface like it relates to your subject, I think it would be
        a dead end against your real question. The simple version of the
        answer to your question is that the word you are looking for in the
        Gnostic sources is Bythos.

        >>>I am very new to Gnosticism, so please excuse any
        misrepresentations. My strength is in Hebrew Bible Studies. However,
        please know this is more than an academic question: it deals with my
        personal path. The concepts of depth and silence play an important
        role in my spiritual path, which is why Pagel's discussion caught me
        up.<<<

        Well, in this group there are both academic and personal interest
        represented. I hope I could help a little.

        PMCV
      • Mark
        PMCV, Your answer has helped and I appreciate it deeply. I have been working on some reflections related to the Hebrew word tehom, which is translated by the
        Message 3 of 7 , Jan 16, 2007
          PMCV,

          Your answer has helped and I appreciate it deeply. I have been
          working on some reflections related to the Hebrew word tehom, which
          is translated by "the deep" in Gen 1:2 (Gr. abussos, and elsewhere).
          So when I came across Pagel's comment, I wanted to find out more.

          Thanks,
          Mark

          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hey Mark, welcome to the group.
          >
          > >>>I found this group while researching a question. In Elaine
          Pagel's
          > book, The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books, 1981), she speaks of some
          > key concepts related to Valentinus' teachings. Two of his key words
          > were "the Depth" and "Silence" (pp. 44, 59). She cites Iranaeus as
          > her source. My question involved discovering the Greek for these
          > words, especially for "Depth". My goal is to use the Greek, via the
          > Septuagint, to see what the possible Hebrew world for "Depth" might
          > be.<<<
          >
          > I think it would be important to remember that Gnostics, like other
          > Platonists, did kind of tend to build lingos specific to their
          > systems. A word in that system may not always mean exactly what it
          > did in the wider Greek usage. While some users of the Septuagint
          > were very much Platonists, I don't know if any work has been done
          > concerning any influence of the sort on the translators themselves.
          > Or perhaps you are aware of some?
          >
          > >>>As I researched your archives, I found you all were quite fluent
          > on this topic and, for the most part, referred to this "Depth" with
          > Bythos/Bythus (see #6374 morphodyte). However, I also found a
          > reference to "Depth" that used the Greek "Abyss" (abussos), and that
          > Bythos appeared only later being birthed from Logos-Zoe (See #9441
          > Bal- lli; and #7158, AJRoberti).<<<
          >
          > I believe the particular examples you give represent
          > transliterations by the authors of the posts (and in one case at
          > least very likely the taste of late Victorian occult vogue authors)
          > rather than something specific to actual Valentinian texts. I don't
          > believe they were actually intending to be as specific as you would
          > need to be in order to deal with the much more in-depth subject
          > matter you are dealing with. I don't think they help you.
          >
          > As for the question concerning the placing or "ranking" of Bythos
          in
          > the cosmology, I think it is Tertullian that raises the issue of
          > whether all Valentinians used the term the same way. That is
          another
          > conversation.
          >
          > >>>I then did some research in the Gnostic Library. I found that
          > Irenaeus, Hyppolitus and Tertullian primarily used Bythos, but
          G.R.S.
          > Mead in his Fragments of a Faith Forgotten often used "Abyss" in
          > reference to this First or Root Source, and even once referred
          > to "Bythus, or the Abyss of Profundity."<<<
          >
          > I have not read this book by Mead, but again I think we may be
          > dealing with a personal choice of words made by the modern author.
          I
          > wouldn't make overly much of it.
          >
          > I do wonder, though, if you noticed that Irenaeus actually uses the
          > term "Bythus" seemingly as a pun in one instance (end of book 5).
          > The word can be translated as "depth", but like our modern English
          > word "depth" it can mean "profound"... as in "this poem has depth".
          > In this usage one could not substitute the word Abyss, and
          > considering the other terms equated with the cosmogeny I think we
          > have to be careful when reading modern authors.
          >
          > >>>So, in short, I am confused. I do not have the original texts to
          > see what word is translated as "Depth." Can someone help me with
          > this? Of course, there are multiple Gnostic traditions, so there
          may
          > be a difference, but I am primarily interested in the Valentinus'
          > tradition.<<<
          >
          > The word "Bythus" is maintained as a name in the historical texts
          > you mention (which generally survive in Latin). Bythos survives as
          > the loan word in Coptic Gnostic texts as well.
          >
          > There is an interesting case I can think of in the Bruce codex, but
          > unless any of our Coptic specialists want to get involved we
          > probably can leave that alone. In spite of the fact that it may
          look
          > on the surface like it relates to your subject, I think it would be
          > a dead end against your real question. The simple version of the
          > answer to your question is that the word you are looking for in the
          > Gnostic sources is Bythos.
          >
          > >>>I am very new to Gnosticism, so please excuse any
          > misrepresentations. My strength is in Hebrew Bible Studies.
          However,
          > please know this is more than an academic question: it deals with
          my
          > personal path. The concepts of depth and silence play an important
          > role in my spiritual path, which is why Pagel's discussion caught
          me
          > up.<<<
          >
          > Well, in this group there are both academic and personal interest
          > represented. I hope I could help a little.
          >
          > PMCV
          >
        • Gerry
          ... The ready availability of on-line texts is immensely helpful, but, as PMCV cautioned (and you already realized), translations can be a tricky thing. If
          Message 4 of 7 , Jan 16, 2007


            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@...> wrote:

            >
            >  […]
            >  So, in short, I am confused. I do not have the original texts to see
            > what word is translated as "Depth." Can someone help me with this?

             

            The ready availability of on-line texts is immensely helpful, but, as PMCV cautioned (and you already realized), translations can be a tricky thing.  If you wish to verify for yourself the passage that Pagels mentions, you'll probably need to hunt down the information in an actual library.  You should be able to locate the Greek text of Irenaeus quoted in the works of Epiphanius.  It worked for me a couple of years ago when I was looking for some passages from his Panarion … and finally found what I needed in one of the libraries at my old university.  I trust you won't be surprised if you end up with something like a book in English citing a German work dealing with the Greek original, but, since you're not likely to run across Greek versions of these texts online, you may find it worth the effort.  Otherwise, as you've already seen, Báthos/Bythós is indeed the term you will most likely encounter in Valentinian writings.

            It helped to read the elaboration in your last post, Mark.  I had been a bit confused by this:

             


            > […]  My question involved discovering the Greek for these words,
            > especially for "Depth". My goal is to use the Greek, via the
            > Septuagint, to see what the possible Hebrew world for "Depth" might be.
            >

            > […]  Or, did the Septuagint translators avoid the use
            > of Bythos in certain contexts, especially when translating Hebrew
            > tehom, in order to avoid any Platonic connotations?
            >

             

            It appeared that your interest in locating the Greek term for Depth was to see what Hebrew word might best correspond to the Valentinian expression of this concept, but I reckon you lost me when you seemed to answer your own question by mentioning the very word that I was going to suggest—even before your other post showed up:

            "tehom"

            Since you've clarified that one, I'm still curious as to what you had considered for Silence (Gr. sigê) in Hebrew:

            "demamah"?

             

            In the translation of the Valentinian Myth (according to Irenaeus) that Bentley Layton includes in his anthology, The Gnostic Scriptures, his notes include a number of parallels to other works from the same school—mostly the Gospel of Truth.  Unless you are married to the OT usage of Ábyssos, you may enjoy comparing and contrasting parts of that text with Genesis.

            Gerry

          • Gerry
            ... In a similar note of caution, I believe that the Hebrew word I just proposed for Silence is only one consonant away from Hades. Between readers
            Message 5 of 7 , Jan 16, 2007


              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:

              >
              >
              > I do wonder, though, if you noticed that Irenaeus actually uses the
              > term "Bythus" seemingly as a pun in one instance (end of book 5).
              > The word can be translated as "depth", but like our modern English
              > word "depth" it can mean "profound"... as in "this poem has depth".
              > In this usage one could not substitute the word Abyss, and
              > considering the other terms equated with the cosmogeny I think we
              > have to be careful when reading modern authors.

               

              In a similar note of caution, I believe that the Hebrew word I just proposed for "Silence" is only one consonant away from "Hades."  Between readers' interpretations, translators' biases and scribal slips, there's plenty of room for error.

               

               

              >
              > […]  There is an interesting case I can think of in the Bruce codex, but
              > unless any of our Coptic specialists want to get involved we
              > probably can leave that alone….
              >

               

              Well, since you've put it under the tree already, let's go ahead an unwrap it.  Maybe some Coptic scholars will come along.

              Gerry

            • pmcvflag
              Hey Gerry In response to my post about the interesting section of the Untitled tract in the Bruce codex, you state....
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 18, 2007
                Hey Gerry

                In response to my post about the "interesting" section of the
                Untitled tract in the Bruce codex, you state....

                <<<Well, since you've put it under the tree already, let's go ahead
                an unwrap it. Maybe some Coptic scholars will come along.>>>

                Well, I am not on my own computer right this second, but perhaps I
                can point out which part I mean for anyone who is interested. At the
                very beginning, maybe between 10 and twently lines in (somewhere in
                the second paragraph) there is a mention of "bythos" and the "abyss
                of truth" within just a sentence or two. Erm... since I don't have
                the text here I can't be sure, but I believe the term for "abyss" is
                the Coptic (nox or nex, if I remember... which I could be off on
                since I don't read Coptic I have only tried to familiarize myself
                with important words from the glosseries) rather than a Greek loan
                word. IF we imagine the orginal Greek text, this could very well
                represent both words in question.

                The reason I even remember this is that I used it once to support the
                argument that there really is a sort of "trade lingo" in Gnostic
                texts, and those words have been sometimes maintained not only across
                languages but sometimes even across the Sethian Valentinian devide
                (the other person believed that there was no such special set of
                terms that Gnostics employed that we need to concern ourselves with
                in order to understand the texts).

                PMCV

                P.S. Some versions place the page in the middle of the book rather
                than the beginning. I believe, though, that your copy has it at the
                beginning.
              • Mark
                ... was ... seemed to ... going to ... I was certainly hoping that the Greek word Bythos was the translation for tehom, but it is not. Instead, bythos is used
                Message 7 of 7 , Jan 18, 2007
                  --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Gerry" <gerryhsp@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > It appeared that your interest in locating the Greek term for Depth
                  was
                  > to see what Hebrew word might best correspond to the Valentinian
                  > expression of this concept, but I reckon you lost me when you
                  seemed to
                  > answer your own question by mentioning the very word that I was
                  going to
                  > suggest—even before your other post showed up:
                  >
                  > "tehom"

                  I was certainly hoping that the Greek word Bythos was the translation
                  for tehom, but it is not. Instead, bythos is used most often to
                  translate Hebrew words based on the root ayin, mem, koph (though by
                  no means exclusively so [see Hatch & Redpath, Concordance to the
                  Septuagint (LXX)--I forgot I had this book in my home library]). In
                  some passages, LXX bythos shares in the symantic field of bythos as
                  in some gnostic texts (see Job 11:8; 12:2 ["mysterious"]; Ps 63:6;
                  Prov 18:4; 20:5; 25:3; Eccl 7:24; Dan 2:22 ["profound"]). Wisdom
                  10:19 and Sirach 24:5 use both bythos and abussos as in "the depths
                  of the abyss."

                  It makes more sense that the Hebrew AMK instead of TEHOM would be
                  translated by bythos since TEHOM/abussos is a place and as such can
                  be defined and located and limited, whereas AMK/Bythos is a
                  quantifying concept and as such can be limitless and without
                  boundaries. I am glad my first hope was not fulfilled--it would have
                  been limiting.

                  This study has presented me with some new concepts and opened a whole
                  new symantic field.

                  >
                  > Since you've clarified that one, I'm still curious as to what
                  > you had considered for Silence (Gr. sigê) in Hebrew:
                  >
                  > "demamah"?
                  >

                  I had thought this would be the word also. But the Hebrew DMH is
                  translated with sige only once in Lam 3:49 (again using Hatch &
                  Redpath). The most common Hebrew roots translated by sige is ChRSh
                  and ChShH, but all in all, sige is a fairly rare word in the LXX.


                  >
                  > In the translation of the Valentinian Myth (according to Irenaeus)
                  that
                  > Bentley Layton includes in his anthology, The Gnostic Scriptures,
                  his
                  > notes include a number of parallels to other works from the same
                  > school—mostly the Gospel of Truth. Unless you are married to the OT
                  > usage of Ábyssos, you may enjoy comparing and contrasting parts of
                  > that text with Genesis.

                  When it comes to Sacred texts, I am a polygamous: the Hebrew Bible is
                  my first love, but she allows (amd encourages!) my love affairs with
                  other texts. One thing that has delighted me in my studies in the
                  Gnostic traditions and texts is that some of the insights I have had
                  in studying the Hebrew Bible--and that are far from "orthodox"--I
                  have found confirmation for in the Gnostic texts.

                  >
                  > Gerry
                  >

                  Mark
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