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The Mingana Collection (Birmingham): Ms. Syr. 142, ff.48a-61b

[Translated by Martin R. Zammit (University of Malta)] 

(f. 48a)We say, first, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen. We will instruct you, my brethren, about these extraordinary words from which the minds flee. For when we, the Christians, call "Father" God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – that is, the name of the Living, the One speaking by the Son – this is the word "Father". And we also say "of the Son" – that is, we mean the power of God. The Holy Gospel attests to this (truth): "… and the power of God shall come upon you, because the child born from you shall be called the Most Holy and the Son of God." And our saying "and of the Holy Spirit", (that is) because the Holy Spirit is the spirit of life of every living person from (?). The Holy Gospel bears witness (to this truth), in the words of the angel Gabriel: "… because the child born from you is from the Holy Spirit."

As regards, our brethren, the way of the foreigners, their original deities (f. 48b.) were three: the First Cause, the Mind born from it, and the Soul emanating from it. For this reason, they made each one of the temples of their deities consisting of three sanctuaries: the sanctuary of the First Cause, the sanctuary of the Mind and the sanctuary of the Soul. They covered them with gold and paintings, and in every sanctuary they set up an idol representing their deity. They said that the soul of the worshipped emanated onto that idol and it became a mediator between them and the humans. They offered sacrifices to them, as attested by their sects. Most of them worship the seven planets in the seven climes. For this reason, the fathers and the prophets opposed them with signs and wonders which transcend the minds. Firstly, the great wonder, such as the splitting of the sea and its rising on two sides (f. 49a) like a great mountain, and the passage of the Israeli soldiers and the loss of the armies of the Egyptians. Despite all these (extraordinary) matters, the divine Book does not attest that any of the foreign peoples returned to the worship of God, the Exalted, but rather the (holy) Books attest that the Children of Israel, who are the people of God, after their ascent from the sea, ahead of the Pharaoh, and having seen those strange signs and the great wonders, they also worshipped the planets, the celestial bodies, the humans persons and the persons of the animals, and they (also) worshipped the calf, whose existence was well-known (to them). They said to the Calf: "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. All that (happened) because they relied on the things existing in front of them, and the worshipped (deity) was concealed from them. For the demons used to speak face to face with their worshippers.

(f. 49b) The Children of Israel had lived in Egypt and had seen these deeds. They mixed in their blood and in their veins, and were encouraged when witnessing those wonderful matters and the wonderful signs such as magic, - - - , talismans, and divination. All nations went to hell for a number of years, till the enactment of the law of our Lord Jesus Christ. He ordered the Apostles, saying: "Go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," (this being) an indication against those who used to say that the spirit of the deities emanates onto the bodies so as to be a mediator between them and the worshippers. Moreover, our lords the Apostles made innumerable signs which magicians cannot make, such as the raising of the dead, the lifting up of the crippled, the healing of the blind (f. 50a) and the mad. Their turning (into healthy bodies) is easy unto God, the Exalted. They shattered the idols and destroyed the temples (?). All miracles that the apostles were doing, they were doing them with these three attributes, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - because they were called by them (the gentiles) "the triunity", because they used to say: "The Creator is the spirit of the celestial sphere." This is found in the book of  al-Istāmāsīs. The wise Aristotle said: "There was in the clime of Mercury a man whom the spirit of Mercury had clothed. He was called Afrīdūn the wise, and he was a wise king. Mercury said to him: ‘I am choosing you and assuming you as a wise man for me, and I am clothing you with a spirit that will abide with you. I am making you my cultic leader, but you shall make for me a fixed feast. Gather all the people of your reign and call them to (follow) me! (f. 50b) If you (and your people) do that, I shall emanate my spirit upon you, and I shall give you what you demand.’ In the morning, Afrīdūn informed the high officials of his state and the people of his reign about the whole vision which he had seen. The people of that clime belonged to different religions, and they did as he had told them. A spirit came, like a torch of fire, and spoke thus: ‘O Afrīdūn, behold I am staying with you and helping you in your affair against them.’" Here is Christ the Lord, in the grace of the Holy Spirit which alighted upon the disciples in the upper room of Zion and annulled the spirit of Afrīdūn and his satanic stratagems, with the power of the Holy Spirit and the life-giving spirit of God.

We will also inform you about what Afrīdūn did and (what) God (did) against him, by means of the prophet Moses. The spirit spoke through Afrīdūn and said: "(You are) my clime and my share (f. 51a), and I shall clothe you with my spirit, my rule and my direction. I am making one my spirits between me and you. So protect it and keep it from impurities and filth, and conceal it from the eyes of the common people. When you want anything, enter and ask the spirit, and I shall give that to you." Afrīdūn ordered that a spacious house be cleaned up and a golden throne be placed in it. The people in the house were to offer seven goats. The goats were then skinned and their fat was put around the table. He made special prayers, whilst incensing with that incense. He then took the meat, brought it out and ordered that it be cooked, and he prepared enough bread for the people of that country. When he did that, and invoked those names, that spirit appeared in its well-known form. It made laws and norms for it and ordered that (f. 51b) it shoulb be served by four beautiful youths whose faces are free from hair. Then that spirit remained inside that place, sniffing the fat of that meat. Then Afrīdūn ate, and he ordered them to eat quietly, in silence and without speaking. He ordered that whatever remained of it they should carry it to their houses and distribute it among their households.

God (was) against them by means of Moses, and annulled their action. Firstly, he appeared to Moses from the fire, then he ordered Moses to make the Dome of Time. He ordered that in its midst he should make a stove altar, when the fire of the spirit descended towards it. He charged the sons of Aaron to guard it, and ordered him to sacrifice sacrificial offerings and to put the fat around that place, upon the fire which was on the altar, and to bring out the meat (f. 52a) to the house, and to cook (it) and eat from it quietly and soberly. Then the people, those present, stayed. "O my brethren, consider the greatness of our Lord, how he  annihilated the deeds of those who worshipped others instead of him, with his powerful force and the vivifying Spirit of his holiness.

We will also instruct you, brethren, that which the dissidents and the averse have done, and how our Lord opposed them because of it. Aristotle said to Alexander, on his way to the country of the Persians: "You ought to know, O King, that the country of the Persians is extensive and has desolate wastes and dry deserts. Your army is a tremendous one and great in number, and you must have with you talismans which help you attain the desired goal and facilitate for you your great affairs. It is (the following): make an ark of iron (f. 52b) and put inside it a statue made of iron, gold, silver, and copper in your image, and an iron statue representing your armies riding on horses, and make statues of bent lead (?), with its hand (turned) backwards, and in the other hand a lance of lead, reversed backwards. Everyone shall have a bow with broken chord. You shall put between the two of them, in the ark, an iron veil - I mean, between your armies and their enemies -  then offer a sacrifice and incense to Bandarītūs, king of the talismans, and glorify and magnify him profusely. Then you shall take it with you wherever you go – with you and with your soldiers – and wherever you go, you shall put the ark in front of you, and nobody shall touch it, except you. Whoever is present with you and offers incense to Bandarītūs, you and whoever is with you shall be safe from all the enemies (f. 53a) and the adversaries."

God, the Exalted, opposed him when he said to Moses: "Make an ark and place in it the tablet of the covenant, the staff of Moses and Aaron, and the container of the manna. Nobody shall touch it, except the priests from the tribe of Levi. Wherever you go to fight the enemies, the priests shall carry the ark in front of the soldiers, glorifying and jubilating, and they shall return behind them (behind the soldiers) and they (your enemies) shall be broken and the movements of their hands shall be lax." Consider, our brethren, the people of God: God annulled with this ark - made on the command of God - the power of the ark made in the name of Bandarītūs, the enemy of God. Consider, our brethren, the wisdom, the power, and the marvels of God.

Moreover we inform you (about the following): Aristotle said to Alexander: "Make four talismans; one of them will make waters gush out in the desolate steppes (f. 53b) and the dry deserts. And it (works in this way): you shall take such and such (a quantity of) lead, and such (a quantity of) gold and make it in such and such a form, and offer a sacrifice to Bandarītūs. When you settle in the dry deserts, put this talisman on your right hand and you shall say this incantation. Offer a sacrifice, there, and burn incense to Bandarītūs. He shall make waters from springs gush out for you, whatever is sufficient to you and to your army, and (the waters) will flow over the face of the earth."

God opposed him with his saying to Moses - when thirst got hold of the people in the desert - Our Lord said to Moses: "O Moses, strike the rock with your staff and it will make water to gush out for the people to drink – they, their riding beasts and their small cattle." Moses did that, and God ordered that stone to be carried wherever they went and wherever they settled. Why did God do this? (f. 54a) Because the people of the Children of Israel were magnifying the gods of the peoples and were inclined towards their worship, because of what they heard about them concerning strange magical matters, and the minds of the Children of Israel inclined towards them.

Aristotle also said to Alexander: "Moreover, O Alexander, there shall be with you talismans preventing fatigue, barefootedness, sicknesses and diseases." The powerful God opposed them by the staying of the Children of Israel for forty years in the desert, safe from sicknesses, accidents and diseases. Their garments did not get torn, neither the shoes of their feet, and their riding beasts did not get tired. He covered them from the sun by the cloud, and at night by the column of fire.

Aristotle also said to him: "Make a trnj (?) fat which will repell the savage beasts, the snakes, the vipers, the insects and the harmful beasts of prey." (f. 54b)God opposed him when he said to Moses: "Make a snake of copper and put it on the head of a lance. Whoever is bitten by a snake shall look at this copper snake and shall be healed. And likewise (they will be safe from) all the harmful animals and the damaging insects." As he said in Ps[alm] 90 that he who relies on God "… shall tread upon the asp and the viper, and shall trample the lion and the dragon, because he has hoped in me, and I shall deliver him, save him and protect him."

He (Aristotle) also told him: "Make a talisman, so that when you enter a city, and its inhabitants escape from you and enter inside their fortresses, fortifying themselves, and keeping themselves inaccessible to you with their stratagems, on a Sunday night you shall place that ark containing the talismans and ask Bandārītūs, and he shall open for you the city without fighting." God opposed him by means of Joshua son of (f. 55a) Nūn. The people of Jericho escaped from him and fortified their fortresses. He ordered the priests to carry the ark of the covenant and to go around the city for six days. On the seventh day, in the morning, the priests carried the ark and Joshua said: "Raise your voices, for God gave you this country!" So they shouted to God, the Exalted, and went around the city, and the seven walls of the city fell and its inhabitants were  exterminated.

Aristotle also said to Alexander: "Take a pearl, make it a stone for your ring, put it in your finger and all the people shall obey you. When you seal a letter with your seal to one of the kings, and send it to him, he will not disobey you. You shall offer a sacrifice to Bandarītūs so that he may expedite the granting of your necessity." God opposed him when Joshua went up from the Jordan and the people (f. 55b) were carrying the ark of the covenant in which there was the stone engraved by the finger of God. And they went to the country of their enemies. He said: "When the ark went up, and the Amorites and the Canaanites heard (this) their hearts melted out of fear, as is mentioned in the fifth book: "One Israeli defeats one hundred, and one hundred defeat myriads."

Then we will follow this (account) with a little of that with which God opposed the nations, through our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall, then, instruct you also (that) Alexander asked Aristotle saying: "From which types of spirits is Bandarītūs?" Aristotle said to him: "He is a spirit born from ‘Adyūs, the spirit of the moon, and Māmūs, the spirit of Jupiter. That is because ‘Adyūs is from the clime of Jupiter and Istahmāmūs, and from it was born (f. 56a) Bandārītūs, the lord of the talismans." And the wise and the philosophers used to magnify Bandārītūs and offer him sacrifices, and they would magnify him exceedingly. This was still going on in their minds until our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of humanity, opposed him with his birth and his baptism, and (with) the breaking of the idols and the destruction of the temples (?), and with his power he annulled the demons’ deeds and those cults. In compensation for the birth of Bandārītūs from the spirit of Jupiter, He was born from a pure virgin by means of the Holy Spirit, without seed, and he came (among us) united with the Word of God the Exalted. That (happened) with the annunciation of the angel to our lady the Virgin Mary, peace be upon her. He said to her: "The Holy Spirit shall alight upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you, because he who is born (f. 56b) from you will be called the Most Holy and the Son of God."

We shall also inform you concerning Saturn. Saturn emanated seventy-two of its spirits onto seventy-two men, and taught them sorcery and magic to attract people by sorcery, incantations and talismans. The Lord Jesus Christ opposed them with seventy-two evangelizers and twelve Apostles and sent them to the countries of the earth to attract the people to the worship of God the Exalted. When he sent them out (to preach), he said to them: "Heal the sick, make straight the crippled and expel the demons. Freely have you taken, and freely shall you give." With his saying "expel the demons" He gave them the power to annul the movement of the talismans.

Know that the book of al-Istāmāsīs attested that every one (f. 57a) of the spirits of the seven planets has channels in the human bodies. Firstly, the spirit of the Sun runs in seven veins of the mind. The spirit of the moon runs in seven veins of the lung and the throat, and the spirit of Jupiter in seven veins of the heart. The spirit of Mercury runs in seven veins of the liver, the spirit of Mars runs in seven veins of the gall bladder, and the spirit of Saturn runs in seven veins of the spleen. The spirit of Venus runs in seven veins of the kidney. He said: "The veins of these parts are interconnected and interpose each other. That is similar to the constitutions of the macrocosm and the upper celestial sphere. (f. 57b) And for this reason man has been called the microcosm." And these defiled diabolic spirits continued flowing in these mentioned veins to mislead humanity. Therefore Christ enacted the law of baptism which is bathing in holy water, to expel, with the Spirit of God, the evil spirits. It ordered that the person to be baptized should be anointed with holy oil on the head, the liver, the heart and the kidney, and the rest of the human parts (a lacuna?) which distinguish the mentioned parts, and the mentioning of the cross of Christ when they are anointed. It ordered the godfather to say: "I renounce you, Satan, and all your power, all your filthy commands and your bad sayings." Its completion is (found in) what is written in (f. 58a) the book of baptism. Then the priest blows over his mouth (i.e. the mouth of person baptized) to expel, with the Holy Spirit, all the defiled spirits. Then (Christ) enacted the law of the sacrifice: the holy bread which is the body of Christ and his blood, born of the Holy Spirit, so as to flow, always, in the channels of the aforementioned parts, thus avoiding the arrival and settlement of the bad spirits and the diabolic thoughts, and so that the bodies acquire an overpowering force. For this reason Christ the Lord said to those who become defiled after baptism: "The unclean spirit, when it leaves man, wanders in waterless regions looking for rest, but it finds none, and it says: ‘I will return to my house from which I came out.’ And it will come and it will find it empty, swept and (f. 58b) put in order. It will (then) go and take seven spirits more evil than itself, and the end of that person will be worse than his beginning." And he made clear that whatever wanders in the aforementioned seven parts of the entire body in the unclean diabolic spirits (a lacuna?)

As regards the sect of the Magians, we also mention to you what Zoroaster did in the days of ‘Adyūn (sic), the eighty-second king since Adam. He opened the temples of fire and made manifest miracles which attracted souls to obey him. Among his signs (he used to do the following): he used to be where the people were, so that they find themselves in the temples of fire, and those who look on think that they got burnt. All that was an act of magic. After (some) time the people were seeing that they (f. 59a) were at fault when they were in their temples, as attested in the Book of ZBHR and in other books of the Magians. Zoroaster also said this to his disciples: "Whoever does not eat my body and drink my blood, and mixes with me and I mix with him, he shall not have salvation." When his deeds became great and his call spread throughout existence, they boiled him and drank his brew (?). Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world, opposed them with the true resuscitation of the dead, the healing of sicknesses and diseases, the cleaning of the lepers and the evildoers, the healing of the chronically ill and the disarticulated, the expulsion of demons and the annulment of the works of Zoroaster from all existence. At the end, our Lord said to his disciples: "Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood, he shall have perpetual life."

He also said, opposing him (Zoroaster?): "Whoever wants to save his life, let him lose it, (f. 59b) and whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of my Gospel, shall save it." Then, after that, the Christian believers changed concerning his love (?): a people with the sword and a people with fire, and so on, being certain of their rising from death to life everlasting.

He also ordered the Apostles, saying to them: "Go, teach all the nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." When he sent them to the country of the Jews, in which his name was known, they did not address them with this expression (?), but he ordered them, first, telling them: "Go to the surrounding lands, in the Jordan, and announce to them the good news of the kingdom of God, to whom befits glory and thanksgiving, now and always and for ever and ever, Amen."

He said: "And the divine Book said (f. 60a): ‘And Moses came to the enemy, and all the messengers after him, and none of them returned to the worship of the Exalted. Even the Children of Israel, his own people, most of them were secretly worshipping the idols and prostrating themselves before the stars, as attested in the books of the Law. They took for themselves the calf and prostrated themselves before it, saying: This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’" That (happened) when Moses was (still) present (among them), because they relied on verifying things by the appearance of their senses, and the concealment of the worshipped (deity) from their eyes, and (because of) their inclination towards the worship of idols and the visible things whose existence they can be see. Therefore they worshipped the planets and the celestial bodies whose existence can be demonstrated, and on account of the appearance of their traces and effects. (f. 60b) So they renounced its (i.e. creation’s) Originator and its Creator, because of his concealment from their eyes. And on account of his superabundant compassion and mercy towards them, and because he knows that, whenever his existence is not proven by the evidence which comes from the senses, they do not grasp his existence at all, he made himself in human forms to the prophets who were sent to them. The Exalted took upon himself the bodily characteristics and the requirements of humankind. So he appeared to some of them in the form of a whole man sitting upon the seat of the Cherubim, and to some he appeared sitting on the throne, and to Abraham (he appeared) in the form of a man crossing his camp. The Torah said: "And God spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." And he said in the Torah: "And God descended in the pillar of cloud and stood above the Dome of the Testimony (i.e. the tabernacle)."

(f. 61a) Concerning the ten commandments written in the stone tablets, he said that they were written by the finger of God." Thereupon he said to Moses: "Tell the Children of Israel: ‘Today you have heard him who spoke to you from the pillar of cloud. So do not take for yourselves idols.’"

As regards his characterization with human organs, such as the eye, the hand, and the emotional states, such as anger and satisfaction, much is as was written and known. All of that (happens) in order that the Exalted may assert his presence among them by that which is familiar to them. So they worshipped him, as was appropriate, because the Exalted has body members and organs! May he be exalted far above that! When the prophets and messengers succeeded each other, and the people did not renounce their worship of the idols, the celestial bodies, the planets and the animals, (f. 61b) God, the Exalted, warned them that the day shall come when he shall make a most clear appearance. You should know that when God, the Exalted, imposed the law of justice, he supported it with signs (miracles) and, through it, called upon the Children of Israel to affirm only his divinity and existence. He did not expect too much of them concerning that. And since they did not know him as they should, but in most cases they were secretly worshipping idols and offering incense to the planets of the sky, and doing what is not allowed legally and mentally, as attested in the books of the law, he threatened them, through the prophets, that he would cut them off from his aid, and that he would bring forth a nation, instead of them, which would always praise him, and whose conscience will not need the existence of anybody else (apart from God), as he said through (next folio) the prophet … (end of MS).  

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