Monday, May 31, 2010

Is Colorbasus 'the Voice of Four' or 'the Voice of the Fourth' (רביעיא)'

I have been thinking about Colorbasus (so Irenaeus, Hippolytus gives 'Colarbasus') for some time now.  Almost everyone acknowledges this is yet another slip of the editors of Irenaeus, taking a Hebrew, Aramaic or Syriac word related to the number four - אַרְבַּע - and misconstruing it into the name of a person.

The credit of detecting the cause of the confusion belongs to C. A. Heumann (Hamburgische Vermischte Bibliothek, 1743, i. 145). He got rid of the mysterious double of Marcus by pointing out that Chol-arba (כלארבע) means "All-Four" i.e. the divine Tetrad, which in the scheme of Marcus stood at the head of the Pleroma. He was less successful in dealing with the details of the text: and F. C. Baur (K.G. d. 3 erst. Jahrh. i. 204) has rightly substituted Col (קול) for Chol (The Voice of Four for All-Four). Volkmar explains the appearance of s by the Aramaic commutation of ע with צ, and the o of several authorities by Theodoret's Kossianos for Kassianos: Colassae and Colossae afford a still better illustration. (from Wikipedia entry)

I am wonder whether the opening words of Genesis might be the context of Mark's interest in the 'four' or 'fourth':

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת

The fourth word  אֵת  is well attested as the 'alpha and omega' of Jewish mysticism.  It symbolizes the beginning and end of the Hebrew alphabet and is mystically 'expanded' as it were by אֲמִתּ (i.e. the beginning, middle and end of the alphabet) which as we have already noted is explicitly referenced by Irenaeus as descending from heaven to Mark.  If we assume that the 'fourth' is consistently mistranslated as 'four' we would read in Irenaeus's original:

Moreover, the fourth (word viz. אֵת) explaining these things to him (Mark) more fully, said:--I wish to show thee אֲמִתּ herself; for I have brought her down from the dwellings above, that thou mayest see her without a veil, and understand her beauty--that thou mayest also hear her speaking, and admire her wisdom. Behold, then, her head on high, אֵ and ת her neck, בֹ and שִׁ; etc.... Such is the body of אֲמִתּ, according to this magician, such the figure of the element, such the character of the letter. And he calls this element Man, and says that is the fountain of all speech, and the beginning of all sound, and the expression of all that is unspeakable, and the mouth of the silent Silence. This indeed is the body of אֲמִתּ. But do thou, elevating the thoughts of thy mind on high, listen from the mouth of אֲמִתּ to the self-begotten Word, who is also the dispenser of the bounty of the Father.(Irenaeus AH i.14.3)

I think there is something to this as we see the מִ in אֲמִתּ understood to have been involved in the restoration of וּ. It is interesting to note that the sixth word in Gen 1.1 is the fourth word with the addition of וּ or  וְאֵת. Anyway more to follow later ...

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