Thursday, June 3, 2010

Abracadabra and Mark the Gnostic

I have become quite fascinated with the idea that Irenaeus description of Mark the Gnostic was originally developed in Aramaic.  I have developed several lines of proof now, the most recent is Irenaeus's description of Mark as a 'magician' or 'charmer' and the desire of the Marcosians to 'join themselves' to Mark's person.  The description ultimately is rooted in the contemporary 'gnostic' cult of St. Mark in Alexandria (and so described by its leading proponent in the late second century, Clement of Alexandria).  Yet I am increasingly certain that the Alexandrians identified their assembly as a   which in turn was twisted by Irenaeus into a 'proof' that they used magic.

I took the time to cite ALL the range of meanings of the Aramaic term ḥbr from the CAL website below.  As the reader will again see the term is rooted in the concept of the act of 'joining' or joining an association but there is a specifically Biblical derived meaning of the term which denotes someone who 'binds' or 'associates' with demons.  So we start with the Anchor Bible Dictionary for instance has the following entry for the term:

One who is a spellbinder (ḥōbēr ḥāber).  Scholars generally agree that the root ḥbr refers to the use of charms and spells since the root conveys the idea of “uniting, joining, and weaving,” which may by
extension speak of the practice of “tying or wrapping magical knots or threads around people or objects . . . to bind the gods to do one’s will or to bind (disable) the object or person to be affected. [David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 4:468]

ḥbr vb. to be associated with

  1 to be associated with Syr.
  2 (DJPA: see now xbr #3) Gal.
  1 to be associated with Syr.
  2 to make a companion of Syr.
  3 to fix the eyes Syr.
  1 to enter into association with Syr.
  1 to gather together PTA.
  2 to become as associate of PTA.
  1 to join oneself Syr.
   LS2: 212. DJPA: 186a. J. Payne-Smith: 125. Audo: 1:305.

ḥbr vb. #2 to wound
  1 to wound JBA.
   Jastrow: 421.

ḥbr vb. #3to shout down, to boo s.o.
  1 +על : to shout down, to boo s.o. Gal.
   DJPA: 186.

ḥbr, ḥbrʾ (ḥḇar, ḥaḇrā) n.m. companion

  1 companion, friend Com.
  2 other one, its fellow --(a) animate beings JudSyr--(b) inanimates JudSyr.
  3 a scholar or student GalJBA.   LS2: 212. DJPA: 185bDJBA: 428b. J. Payne-Smith: 125.

xbr#2 N --> xbwr N  

ḥbr, ḥbrʾ n.m. #3charm

  1 charm PTASam.   DJPA: 186a.

ḥbr, ḥbrʾ n.m. #4 company, group

  1 company, group Jud.   DJPA: 186a.

ḥbr, ḥbrʾ (ḥabbār, ḥabbārā) n.m.#5exorcist

  1 exorcist CPASyrJBA.
  2 Zoroastrian JBA.   LS2: 212. J. Payne-Smith: 125.

ḥbr, ḥbrʾ (ḥebrā) n.m. #6 ink

  1 ink Syr.   LS2: 212.

ḥbr, ḥbrʾ (ḥabbār, ḥabbārā) n.m.#7darkness

  1 darkness JBAMan.
  2 fog Syr.
  3 dark pit Syr.   LS2: 212. Drower/Macuch: 115a. J. Payne-Smith: 125.

So when we return to the description of Irenaeus it is impossible not to see the range of meanings here.  Indeed the fact that Irenaeus cites Aramaic Marcosian prayers later in the report demonstrates that both Irenaeus and his subject matter were familiar with the language.

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