For links to many more fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.

SUMMARY: This fragment is mostly from the Christian Church father Clement of Alexandria in which he quotes from what is called the Testament of Orpheus, a Jewish-Egyptian revision of an Orphic poem in which he is said to deny polytheism in favor of monotheism.

II. The Redaction of Clement (Pseudo-Hecataeus?)

246. (5) From (Pseudo-Justin Martyr) Περί Μοναρχίας τοῦ Ἰουστίνου μάρτυρος, ideas which also are seen to flow in Λόγος Προτρεπτικὸς πρὸς Ἕλληνας Κλήμεντος του Ἀλεξανδρέως VII 74, 4 (I 56, 14 Staeh.) in saying these words first:

ὁ δὲ Θράικιος ἱεροφάντης καὶ ποιητὴς ἅμα, ὁ τοῦ Οἰάγρου Ὀρφεύς, μετὰ τὴν τῶν ὀργίων ἱεροφαντίαν καὶ τῶν εἰδώλων τὴν θεολογίαν, παλινωιδίαν ἀληθείας εἰσάγει, τὸν ἱερὸν ὄντως ὀψέ ποτε, ὅμως δ’ οὖν ἄιδων λόγον, he conveys from the Orphic Testament.

“But the Thracian Orpheus, the son of Œagrus, hierophant and poet at once, after his exposition of the orgies, and his theology of idols, introduces a palinode (ed. a poem retracting views expressed in a previous poem) of truth with true solemnity, though tardily singing the strain...”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

They are verses 1-10, to which he connects after verse 7 the word ἀθάνατον (“immortal”) i. e. the commencement of the redaction of Aristóvoulos (Ἀριστόβουλος of Alexandria, 181–124 BCE) fragment 247 vs. 9 ([quoted in Εὑαγγελικὴ προπαρασκευὴ Εὐσεβίου 13.12.5] ἀθάνατον· παλαιὸς δὲ λόγος περὶ τοῦδε φαείνει, that is, “immortal; an ancient story comes to light about this”)

The same source is used in Λόγος Στρώματα Κλήμεντος του Ἀλεξανδρέως V 12, 78, 4 (II 378, 1 Staeh.), where after the words:

ἡ γραφὴ ‘εἰσῆλθεν δὲ Μωϋσῆς εἰς τὸν γνόφον οὗ ἦν ὁ θεός’, τοῦτο δηλοῖ τοῖς συνιέναι δυναμένοις, ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἀόρατός ἐστι καὶ ἄρρητος, γνόφος δὲ ὡς ἀληθῶς ἡ τῶν πολλῶν ἀπιστία τε καὶ ἄγνοια τῆι αὐγῆι τῆς ἀληθείας ἐπίπροσθε φέρεται. Ὀρφεύς τε αὖ ὁ θεολόγος ἐντεῦθεν ὠφελημένος εἰπών·

“And when the Scripture says, ‘Moses entered into the thick darkness where God was’, this shows to those capable of understanding, that God is invisible and beyond expression by words. And the darkness — which is, in truth, the unbelief and ignorance of the multitude — obstructs the gleam of truth. And again Orpheus, the theologian, aided from this quarter, says:”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

He cites in verse 8 εἷς ἔστ’-τέτυκται to which he adds ἢ ‘πέφυκεν’, γράφεται γὰρ καὶ οὕτως (“or ‘to be by nature disposed to do,’ for it is even spelled like this”) v. fr. 245 n. 9 (πέφυκε “he has brought forth” the reading varies also in fragment 21 a, verse 2); verses 9 οὐδέ τις αὐτόν-10 δρᾶται, verse 14 αὐτὸν δ’ οὐχ ὁρόω-15 ἐν ὄσσοις by adding the verse μικραί, ἐπεὶ σάρκες τε καὶ ὀστέα (ἐμπεφυῖα add. L) ἐμπεφύασιν “[mortal eyes are] small, in as much as flesh and bones grow there” v. fragment 245 n. 15 (μαῦραι pro μικραί legi iubet Platt Journ. philol. Lond. XXVI 1899, 229).

Also, Pseudo-Justin attests that he used another edition of the Orphic Testament Λόγος Στρώματα Κλήμεντος του Ἀλεξανδρέως V 14, 123, 1 (II 409, 15 Staeh.):

ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς Ὀρφεὺς καὶ ταῦτα λέγει, sequuntur redactionis Iustinianae verse 5

εἰς δὲ λόγον θεῖον βλέψας τούτῳ προσέδρευε,

ἰθύνων κραδίης νοερὸν κύτος· εὖ δ' ἐπίβαινε

ἀτραπιτοῦ, μοῦνον δ' ἐσόρα κόσμοιο ἄνακτα ἀθάνατον

“And the same Orpheus speaks thus:—

‘But to the word divine, looking, attend,

Keeping aright the heart's receptacle

Of intellect, and tread the straight path well,

And only to the world's immortal King

Direct your gaze.’ ”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

(v. before), then it goes on to say:

αὐθίς τε περὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀόρατον αὐτὸν λέγων, μόνωι γνωσθῆναι ἑνί τινί φησι τὸ γένος Χαλδαίωι, εἲτε τὸν Ἁβραὰμ λέγων τοῦτον εἲτε καὶ τὸν υἱὸν τὸν αὐτοῦ, διὰ τούτων

“And again, respecting God, saying that He was invisible, and that He was known to but one, a Chaldean by race — meaning either by this Abraham or his son — he speaks as follows”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

Then follows the redaction of Aristóvoulos (Ἀριστόβουλος) verse 23 εἰ μὴ through verse 27 περὶ χεῦμα

εἰ μὴ μουνογενής τις ἀπορρὼξ φύλου ἄνωθεν

Χαλδαίων· ἴδρις γὰρ ἔην ἄστροιο πορείης,

καὶ σφαίρης κίνημ' ἀμφὶ χθόνα [θ’] ὡς περιτέλλει

κυκλοτερὲς ἐν ἴσῳ τε κατὰ σφέτερον κνώδακα,

πνεύματα δ’ ἡνιοχεῖ περί τ’ ἠέρα καὶ περὶ χεῦμα.

“But one a scion of Chaldean race;

For he the sun's path knew right well,

And how the motion of the sphere about

The earth proceeds, in circle moving

Equally around its axis, how the winds

Their chariot guide o'er air and sea.”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

and following that the words [V 14,124]:

εῖτα οἷον (παραφράζων add. ex Eus.) τὸ

‘ὁ οὐρανός μοι θρόνος, ἡ δὲ γῆ ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν μου’ (Is. 66, 1) ἐπιφέρει

“Then, as if paraphrasing the expression,

‘Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.’

(Isaiah 66, 1; trans. William Wilson, 1885)

sequuntur redactionis Aristobuliane verse 30 αὐτὸς δὴ through 36 τελευτήν

αὐτὸς δ’ αὖ μέγαν αὖτις ἐπ’ οὐρανὸν ἐστήρικται

χρυσέῳ εἰνὶ θρόνῳ, γαίη δ’ ὑπὸ ποσσὶ βέβηκεν.

χεῖρα ‹δὲ› δεξιτερὴν περὶ τέρμασιν ὠκεανοῖο

ἐκτέτακεν, ὀρέων δὲ τρέμει βάσις ἔνδοθι θυμῷ

οὐδὲ φέρειν δύναται κρατερὸν μένος. ἔστι δὲ πάντῃ

αὐτὸς ἐπουράνιος καὶ ἐπὶ χθονὶ πάντα τελευτᾷ,

ἀρχὴν αὐτὸς ἔχων καὶ μέσσην ἠδὲ τελευτήν.

“But in great heaven, He is seated firm

Upon a throne of gold, and ‘neath His feet

The earth. His right hand round the ocean's bound

He stretches; and the hills’ foundations shake

To the centre at His wrath, nor can endure

His mighty strength. He all celestial is,

And all things finishes upon the earth.

He the Beginning, Middle is, and End.”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

and ἄλλως οὐ θεμιτόν σε λέγειν· τρομέω δέ τε γυῖα

   ἐν νόῳ. ἐξ ὑπάτου κραίνει,

“But You I dare not speak. In limbs

And mind I tremble. He rules from on high.”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

To which he adds the words:

καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τούτοις. διὰ γὰρ τούτων δεδήλωκεν πάντα ἐκεῖνα τὰ προφητικά (Isaiah 64, 1) ‘ἐὰν ἀνοίξηις τὸν οὐρανόν, τρόμος λήψεται ἀπὸ σοῦ ὄρη [V 14,125] καὶ τακήσεται, ὡς ἀπὸ προσώπου πυρὸς τήκεται κηρός’·

“And so forth. For in these he indicates these prophetic utterances: ‘If You open the heaven, trembling shall seize the mountains from Your presence; and they shall melt, as wax melts before the fire;’ ”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

...follows fragment 248.

Then he cites in Λόγος Στρώματα Κλήμεντος του Ἀλεξανδρέως V 14, 126, 5 (II 411, 24 Staeh.) the redaction of Justin verse 11:

αὐτὸς (οὗτος Justin and Aristókritos the Manichaean [T] compare to fragment 247 n. 11) δὲ ἐξ ἀγαθοῖο κακὸν θνητοῖσι φυτεύει

καὶ πόλεμον κρυόεντα καὶ ἄλγεα δακρυόεντα κατὰ τὸν Ὀρφέα.

“ ‘And He, from good, to mortals plants ill,

And cruel war, and tearful woes,’ according to Orpheus.”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

And after having brought forward fragment 88 of Arhílokhos (Ἀρχίλοχος) (Bergk PLG4 II 707) p. 412, 6 Staeh., he proceeds on with:

πάλιν ἡμῖν ἀισάτω ὁ Θράικιος Ὀρφεύς

“Again let the Thracian Orpheus sing to us”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

...verse 31 of the redaction of Aristóvoulos (Ἀριστόβουλος):

χεῖρα δὲ δεξιτερὴν ἐπὶ τέρματος ὠκεανοῖο

“His right hand all around to ocean's bound” (v. n. 30)

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

...and with a verse fashioned from 32 and 30:

πάντοθεν (v. Aristocrit. p. 264) ἐκτέτακεν, γαίη δ' ὑπὸ ποσσὶ βέβηκεν.

“He stretches; and beneath His feet is earth.”

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

...to which he adds:

ταῦτα ἐμφανῶς ἐκεῖθεν εἴληπταιὁ κύριος σώσει πόλεις κατοικουμένας, καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην καταλήψεται τῆι χειρὶ ὡς νεοσσιάν’ (Isaiah 10, 14).

“These are plainly derived from the following: ‘The Lord will save the inhabited cities, and grasp the whole land in His hand like a nest’ (Isaiah 10, 14).

(trans. William Wilson, 1885)

Denique Strom. V 14, 133, 1 (II 416, 4 Staeh.) cites verse 13 of the redaction of Justin (οὐδέ τις ἔσθ’ ἕτερος χωρὶς μεγάλου βασιλῆος “There is no one apart from the great king” v. fragment 245 n. 14).

Although out of these verses of the Testament strewn through the books of Clement we could piece together the poem, nevertheless I (Kern) have refrained from this undertaking, on seeing it is not possible to render a faithful restoration. As regards Abel’s attempt (fragment 5), Elter rightly judged in 1. 1. 154.

Clement used pseudo-Hecataeus’ (sc. Ἑκαταῖος ὁ Ἀβδηρίτης) book Κατ’ Ἄβραμον καὶ τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους “On Abraham and the Egyptians” (Strom. V 14, 113, 1 [II 402, 17 Staeh.]) (compare Elter 152. 178 ss. and Christium Abhdlg. Akademie München XXI 1901, 485). Pseudo-Hecataeus lived before Joseph; for this, Antiquit. I 7, 2, 159, says:

Ἑκαταῖος δὲ καὶ τοῦ μνησθῆναι (sc. Ἀβράμου) πλεῖόν τι πεποίηκε· βιβλίον γὰρ περὶ αὐτοῦ συνταξάμενος κατέλιπεν

“But Hecataeus does more than barely mention him; for he composed, and left behind him, a book concerning him.”

(trans. William Whiston, 1895)

And, also, Clement mentions the same book. Compare Christium l. l. 486; Diels II3 154, 17 n. 15.

Lobeck I 443; Elter 153. 178 bis; Wobbermin (v. p. 258) 138.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

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Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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