Simon Peter Sutherland wonders:
[Some] historical text is from what is called “The Hymn of the pearl”. This text is said to have been written by the apostle Thomas himself and is somewhat mysterious and less direct, maybe even poetical, but nevertheless, a reference. This work is referred to in the third century Acts of Thomas and the work itself is generally agreed to date to the 2nd century AD.
The text reads as follows;
“But, when suddenly I saw my garment reflected as in a mirror, I perceived in it my whole self as well and through it I knew and saw myself. For though we originated from the one and the same we were partially divided, then again we were one, with a single form. The treasurers too who had brought the garment I saw as two beings, but there existed a single form in both, One royal symbol consisting of two halves…And the image of the King of Kings was all over it”
Here is something I wrote in this blog in September of 2008 when few people were reading this blog.
There is a wonderful early 3rd century text called the Acts of Thomas (not to be confused with the Gospel of Thomas). Many scholars argue it is Gnostic and the Catholic Church has called it heretical. But that does not diminish its significance for historians. It is the legendary story — true, partly true or false — of the apostle Thomas’ (Judas Thomas or Thomas Judas Didymus) mission to India and his martyrdom. Authorship is often attributed to the Gnostic poet Bardesane of Edessa, perhaps as early as 216 CE).
Within the Acts of Thomas is an extraordinary Syriac poem, The Hymn of the Pearl, (also known as the Hymn of the Robe of Gloryand the Hymn of the Soul). The poem is thought to be older than the Acts of Thomas. It is inserted in different places in different versions of the Acts found among early Greek and Syriac Christian traditions.
Within the Hymn of the Pearl there are a few lines of poetry that are intriguing. These lines, referred to as the “two images segment,” seem to have been inserted into the hymn. This is one common translation of those lines with optional interpretations (other translations appear after the fold):
Suddenly, I saw my image on my [burial] garment like in a mirror
Myself and myself through myself [or myself facing outward and inward]
As though divided, yet one likeness
Two images: but one likeness of the King [of kings]
What could these lines possibly mean? The poem does not offer a clue.
If we infer from the context of the poem that the first-person speaker of these lines is Jesus (contextually justifiable in a stylistic sense and not a literal sense) then these words might be a wonderful description of the Shroud of Turin, Jesus’ purported burial shroud.
On the shroud, we find two images: one facing outward and one facing inward, though the modern interpretation is usually expressed as a front and back image.
This hypothesis is reinforced by the Legend of Abgar, as related by Eusebius of Caesarea in the early 4th century. According to Eusebius, a cloth bearing an image of Jesus was brought to Edessa by the apostle Thomas or the disciple Thadeus (of the biblical 70).
The words, “like in a mirror,” are puzzling. Several interpretations have been suggested: 1) The image is a collimated image as is, indeed, a mirror. 2) The image is reversed left to right, also an attribute of an image in a mirror. 3) The image is life size. 4) The image on the shroud is a negative and this is a primitive attempt to describe negativity.
There is little question that the Hymn of the Pearl, originated in the Mesopotamian city of Edessa. And it was in Edessa, in 544 AD, that the Edessa Cloth was discovered — the cloth that we now know, from solid historical records, was a full burial cloth in which . . .
You can see [not only] the figure of a face, but [also] the figure of the whole body.
–– The Codex Vossianus Latinus
The Rev. Albert Dreisbach, an Episcopal priest who studied the Shroud of Turin for many years asks us . . .
to ponder what these seemingly strange expressions might mean, if they do NOT have reference to the Turin Shroud . . .
Other Translations of the Hymn of the Pearl
Continue reading “Hymn of the Pearl: Description of the Shroud of Turin?”