October 5th, 2004


Theological Notebook--Odes of Solomon 19

Today's work in the Holy Spirit seminar was on "Consort Pneumatology," portraying the Holy Spirit in terms where the major relationship image or metaphor is male-female. We looked at a few texts, but spent the bulk of our time playing with the 19th song in the Odes of Solomon. These are a collection of early Christian hymns, generally thought to date from the end of the first century, although some scholars are now arguing for a later date. I like the early idea better, myself, just because as one friend put it, "If this is really early--first or second generation Christians--then these are really beautiful songs; if it's later, then I'm not sure what to think of these people." That is, given other sub-Christian gnostic cults that grew up later, one might be inclined to think that some of the language here came out of some of those theologies, which tend to be very hostile to humanity and full of very strange mythologies. To put it as simply as I can, once the crazies showed up on the scene, these kind of lyrics couldn't have really appeared among Christians because they would have been taken in very different ways than in a Christian understanding. But as just straight early Christian songs, these are amazing.

The 19th has been my favourite ever since I first read it as an undergraduate, sitting at the Founders Library Main Information Desk, eyes going wide and smile growing huge at the fabulous imagery.

1. A cup of milk was offered to me
And I drank it with the sweetness of the Lord's kindness.
2. The Son is the cup,
And he who is milked is the Father;
And she who milked him is the Holy Spirit;
3. Because his breasts were full,
And it was undesirable that his milk
should be spilt without purpose,
4. The Holy Spirit opened her womb
And mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father,
5. And gave the mixture to the world without their knowing.
And those who take [it] are in the perfection of the right hand.
6. The womb of the Virgin caught [it]
And she received conception and gave birth.
7. And the Virgin became a mother through great mercy.
8. And she laboured and bore a son without suffering pain,
Because it did not happen without purpose.
9. And she did not require a midwife
Because he delivered her.
10. As a man she bore by will,
And she bore with display,
11. And acquired [her son] with great power.
And she loved [him] with redemption,
And guarded [him] with kindness,
And showed [him] with greatness.