Hymn of the Pear
Jan 30, 1996 07:06 PM
by Martin Leiderman
The Hymn of the Pearl Translated from the Syriac (Source: William Wright,
_Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles_ [London, 1871], pp. 238-245. Illegible
words are indicated by .....
The Hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostle in the Country of the Indians.
When I was a little child, and dwelling in my kingdom, in my father's
house, and was content with the wealth and the luxuries of my nourishers,
from the East, our home, my parents equipped me (and) sent me forth; and
of the wealth of our treasury they took abundantly, (and) tied up for me a
load large and (yet) light, which I myself could carry,-- gold of
Beth-Ellaya, and silver of Gazak the great, and rubies of India, and
agates from Beth-Kashan, and they furnished me with the adamant, which
can crush iron. And they took off from me the glittering robe, which in
their affection they made for me, and the purple toga, which was measured
(and) woven to my stature.
And they made a compact with me, and wrote it in my heart, that it might
not be forgotten: "If thou goest down into Egypt, and bringest the one
pearl, which is in the midst of the sea around the loud-breathing
serpent, thou shalt put on thy glittering robe and thy toga, with which
(thou art) contented, and with thy brother, who is next to us in
authority, thou shalt be heir in our kingdom." I quitted the East (and)
went down, there being two guardians, for the way was dangerous and
difficult, and I was very young to travel it.
I passed through the borders of Maishan, the meeting-place of the
merchants of the East, and I reached the land of Babel, and I entered the
walls of Sarbug. I went down into Egypt, and my companions parted from
me. I went straight to the serpent, I dwelt in his abode, (waiting) till
he should lumber and sleep, and I could take my pearl from him. And when
I was single and alone (and) became strange to my family, one of my race,
a free-born man, and Oriental, I saw there, a youth fair and loveable,
the son of oil-sellers; and he came and attached himself to me, and I
made him my intimate friend, and associate with whom I shared my
I warned him against the Egyptians, and against consorting with the
unclean; And I dressed in their dress, that they might not hold me in
abhorrence, because I was come from abroad in order to take the pearl,
and arouse the serpent against me. But in some way other or another they
found out that I was not their countryman, and they dealt with me
treacherously, and gave their food to eat. I forget that I was a son of
kings, and I served their king; and I forgot the pearl, for which my
parents had sent me, and because of the burden of their oppressions I lay
in a deep sleep. But all this things that befel me my parents perceived,
and were grieved for me; and proclamation was made in our kingdom, that
every one should come to our gate <kingdom>, kings and princes of Parthia,
and all the nobles of the East.
And they wove <wrote> a plan on my behalf, that I might not be left in
Egypt; and they wrote to me a letter, and every noble signed his name to
it: "From thy father, the king of kings, and thy mother, the mistress of
the East, and from thy brother, our second (in authority), to thee our
son, who art in Egypt, greeting! Call to mind that thou art a son of
kings! See the slavery,--whom thou servest! Remember the pearl, for
which thou was sent to Egypt! Think of thy robe, and remember thy
splendid toga, which thou shalt wear and (with which) thou shalt be
adorned, when thy name hath been read out in the list of the valiant, and
thy brother, our viceroy, thou shalt be in our kingdom" My letter is a
letter, which the king sealed with his own right hand, (to keep it) from
the wicked ones, the children of Babel, and from the savage demons of
It flew in the likeness of an eagle, the king of all birds; it flew and
alight beside me, and became all speech. At its voice and the sound of
its rustling, I started and arose from my sleep. I took it up and kissed
it, and I began (and) read it; and according to what was traced on my
heart were the words of my letter.
I remembered that I was a son of royal parents, and my noble birth
asserted itself. I remembered the pearl, for which I had been sent to
Egypt, and I began to charm him, the terrible loud breathing serpent. I
hushed him asleep and lulled him into slumber, for my father's name I
named over him, and the name of our second (in power), and the of my
mother, the queen of the East.
And I snatched away the pearl, and turned to go back to my father's house.
And their filthy and unclean dress I stripped off, and left it in their
country; and I took my way straight to come to the light of our home in
And my letter, my awakener, I found before me on the road; and as with
its voice it had awakened me, (so) too with its light it was leading me.
It, that dwelt in the palace, gave light before me with its form, and
with its voice and its guidance it also encouraged me to speed, and with
its love it drew me on.
I went forth (and) passed by Sarbug; I left Babel on my left hand; and I
came to the great Maisan, to the haven of merchants, which sitteth on the
shore of the sea. And my bright robe, which I had stripped off, and the
toga that was wrapped with it, from Rantha and Reken(?) my parents had
sent thither by the hand of their treasures, who in their truth could be
And because I remembered not its fashion,-- for in my childhood I had left
it in my father's house,-- on a sudden, when I received it, the garment
seemed to me to become like a mirror of myself. I saw it all in all, and
I to received all in it, for we were two in distinction and yet gain one
in one likeness.
And the treasurers too, who brought it to me, I saw in like manner to be
two (and yet) one likeness, for one sign of the king was written on them
(both), of the hands of him who restored to me through them my trust and
my wealth, my decorated robe, which was adorned with glorious colours,
with gold and beryls and rubies and agates and sardonyxes, varied in
And it was skilfully worked in its home on high, and with diamond clasps
were all its seams fastened; and the image of the king of kings was
embroidered and depicted in full all over it, and like the stone of the
sapphire too its hues were varied. And I saw also that all over it the
instincts of knowledge were working, and I saw too that it was preparing
I heard the sound of its tones, which it uttered with its....., (saying):
"I am the active in deeds, whom <when> they reared for him before my
father; and I perceived myself, that my stature grew according to his
labours." And in its kingly movements it poured itself entirely over me,
and on the hand of its givers it hastened that I might take it. And
love urged me too run to meet it and receive it; and I stretched forth
and took it. With the beauty of its colours I adorned myself, and I
wrapped myself wholly in my toga of brilliant hues.
I clothed myself with it, and went up to the gate of salutation and
prostration; I bowed my head and worshipped the majesty of my father who
sent me,-- for I had done his commandments, and he too had done what he
promised,-- and the gate of his...., I mingled with his princes, for he
rejoiced in me and received me, and I was with him in his kingdom, and
with the voice of.... all his servants praised him. And he promised that
to the gate too of the king of kings with him I should go, and with my
offering and my pearl with him should present myself to our king.
The hymn of Judas Thomas the Apostles, which he spake in prison, is ended.
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