Mural at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA.
“The Wedding Song of Wisdom”, a title given by Mead (as far as I can determine), is a rare gnostic fragment that came from the lips of St. Thomas, as found in the lengthy gnostic book, The Acts of Thomas (and HERE). Upon the diaspora of the apostles with their mission to carry the message to foreign lands, St. Thomas first refused to go to his location in India, but then Yeshua tricked him by selling him as a slave carpenter to a King (a fascinating story). Upon arriving, Thomas found himself amidst the wedding feast for the daughter of Gundaphorus, “King of the Indians.” He was a stranger, a Hebrew in the land of Indians and he refused to partake in the food and wine. Indeed when he was offered indulgences, he asserted that there was a Wedding feast, far more significant, in honor of the “Daughter of Light”.
The earliest and most original version of this poem was in Greek, however, according to Syriac scholars, the consensus is that it likely was a translation of the original Syriac, which is likely to have been the language of the area out of which the Thomas literature emerged (Edessa).
Though much could be said about this material, I only suggest that this possibly first century relic may have far more significance that has been recognized thus far in helping us understand The Song of Songs, allegedly written prior to the first century.
The Acts of the Holy Apostle Thomas
The Wedding Song of Sophia
From the Acts of Thomas
(Thomas is at the Indian King’s daughter’s wedding feast)
And as the apostle continued looking on the ground, one of the cup-bearers stretched forth his hand and gave him a buffet; and the apostle lifted up his eyes and looked upon him that smote him and said: My God will forgive thee in the life to come this iniquity, but in this world thou shalt show forth his wonders and even now shall I behold this hand that hath smitten me dragged by dogs. And having so said, he began to sing and to say this song:
(The Wedding Song of Wisdom)
The damsel is the daughter of light, in whom consisteth and dwelleth the proud brightness of kings, and the sight of her is delightful, she shineth with beauty and cheer. Her garments are like the flowers of spring, and from them a waft of fragrance is borne; and in the crown of her head the king is established which with his immortal food (ambrosia) nourisheth them that are founded upon him; and in her head is set truth, and with her feet she showeth forth joy. And her mouth is opened, and it becometh her well: thirty and two are they that sing praises to her. Her tongue is like the curtain of the door, which waveth to and fro for them that enter in: her neck is set in the fashion of steps which the first maker hath wrought, and her two hands signify and show, proclaiming the dance of the happy ages, and her fingers point out the gates of the city. Her chamber is bright with light and breatheth forth the odour of balsam and all spices, and giveth out a sweet smell of myrrh and Indian leaf, and within are myrtles strown on the floor, and garlands of all manner of odorous flowers, and the door-posts are adorned with freedst. And surrounding her her groomsmen keep her, the number of whom is seven, whom she herself hath chosen. And her bridesmaids are seven, and they dance before her. And twelve in number are they that serve before her and are subject unto her, which have their aim and their look toward the bridegroom, that by the sight of him they may be enlightened; and for ever shall they be with her in that eternal joy, and shall be at that marriage whereto the princes are gathered together and shall attend at that banquet whereof the eternal ones are accounted worthy, and shall put on royal raiment and be clad in bright robes; and in joy and exultation shall they both be and shall glorify the Father of all, whose proud light they have received, and are enlightened by the sight of their lord; whose immortal food they have received, that hath no failing, and have drunk of the wine that giveth then neither thirst nor desire. And they have glorified and praised with the living spirit, the Father of truth and the mother of wisdom.
G.R.S. Mead has offered an invaluable contribution to the preservation and revival of these nearly lost Wisdom fragments. Not only was Carl Jung drawing from Mead’s work during his own intensive excavation of gnostic theosophy (Jung did not did benefit from the translations of the vast Nag Hammadi books) but Mead has brought to many thirsty students faded fragments of this oddly mystical literary genre. We are fortunate to have Mead’s book Echoes From The Gnosis in which we find translations of three separate versions of this wedding hymn.
TRANSLATION FROM THE GREEK VERSION which is closest to the original with some likely modifications according to Mead.
The Maiden is Lights Daughter; On her the Kings’ Radiance resteth. Stately her Look and delightsome. With radiant beauty forth-shining. Like unto spring-flowers are her Garments, From them streameth scent of sweet odour. On the Crown of her Head the King throneth, [With Living Food] feeding those ‘neath Him. Truth on her Head doth repose, She sendeth forth Joy from her Feet. Her Mouth is opened, and meetly ; Two-and-thirty are they who sing praises. * * * * Her Tongue is like the Door-hanging Set in motion by those who enter. Step-wise her Neck riseth — a Stairway The first of all Builders hath builded. The Two Palms of her Hands Suggest the Choir of the Mons. Her Fingers are secretly setting The Gates of the City ajar. Her Bridechamber shineth with Light, Forth-pouring scent of balsam and sweet- herbs, Exhaling the sweet perfume both of myrrh and savoury plants, And crowds of scented flowers. Inside ’tis strewn with myrtle-boughs; Its Folding-doors are beautified with reeds. Her Bridesmen are grouped round her, Seven in number, whom she hath invited. Her Bridesmaids, too, are Seven, Who lead the Dance before her. And Twelve are her Servants before her. Their gaze looking out for the Bridegroom; That at His sight they may be filled with Light. And then for ever more shall they be with Him In that eternal everlasting Joy; And share in that eternal Wedding-feast, At which the Great Ones assemble; And so abide in that Delight Of which the Ever-living are deemed worthy. With Kingly Clothes shall they be clad, And put on Robes of Light. We both shall be in Joy and Exaltation and praise the Father of the Wholes, Whose Light magnificent they have received. For at their Master’s sight they were now filled with Light; They tasted of His Living Food That hath no waste at all, And drank of that [eternal] Wine That causes thirst and longing never more. [So] with the Living Spirit they sang praise and hymn Unto Truth’s Father and to Wisdom’s Mother
FROM THE CATHOLICIZED (LATER) SYRIAC TEXT.
My Bride is a Daughter of Light; Of the Kings’ she possesseth the Splendour. Stately and charming her Aspect, Fair, with pure beauty adorned. Her Robes are like unto blossoms, Whose scent is fragrant and pleasant. On the Crown of her Head the King throneth, Giving Food to her Pillars beneath Hint. She seteth Truth on her Head, joy eddieth forth from her Feet. Her Mouth is open — and well doth it suit her — For she singeth with it loud praises. Her the Son’s Twelve Apostles And the Seventy-two are all-thunderous. Her Tongue’s the Hanging of the Door, The Priest uplifts and enters. A Stairway is her Neck That the first Builder hath builded. The Palms of her Hands, furthermore, Predict the Land of the Living. And of her fingers the Decad Set for her open the Heaven’s Door. Her Bridal Chamber a-light, And filled with the scent of Salvation. Incense is set in her Midst, of Love, and of Faith, And of Hope, and taking all scented. Within is Truth strewn ; Its Doors with Verity are decked. Her Bridesmen surround her, All, whom she hath invited. And her Bridesmaids, grouped with them. Are singing the Praise-hymn before her. Before her there serve Living Ones, And watch for the Bridegroom’s coming. That by His Radiance they may be filled with Light, And with him entereth His Kingdom That never more shall pass away. And go unto that Feast Where all like Righteous shall assemble ; And so attain to that Delight Wherein they each and all shall enter. Thereon they clothe themselves in Robes of Light, I am wrapped in the Radiance of their Lord, And to the Living Father praises sing, In that they have received the Light magnificent, And by their Lord’s Resplendence are made Light, And they have tasted of His Living Food That never more hath waste. And of the Living [Water] they have drunk. That suffers them to pant and thirst no more. 25 Praise ye the Father, the Lord, And [praise ye] the Son Begotten, And thanks give unto the Spirit As [thanks giving] unto His Wisdom.
FROM THE LATER ARMENIAN VERSION (MORE CHRISTIANIZED). TWO FRAGMENTS.
Great is the Lights Daughter, the Church ; She is the Desire of thy Kings, longed for and happy. * * * * We shall go to the Heavenly Marriage And drink the Wine that makes gladsome ; We shall [thenl be with Him for ever, From the Bounds of the East bearing witness.
(The Scribe has unfortunately copied only the first and last lines, and omitted the whole body of the Hymn.)