A Note Concerning θειότης

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The beginning of tractate XI from the book Mercvrii Trismegisti Pœmandres, published in Paris in 1554

A Note Concerning θειότης

 

The Greek term θειότης occurs in tractate XI (section 11) of the Corpus Hermeticum – θειότητα μίαν – where I translated the term as “divinity-presenced.” [1]

Plutarch, in De Pythiae Oraculis – qv. 407a, 398a-f – uses the word in relation to the oracle at Delphi with divinity-presenced also a suitable translation there.

The context of θειότης in tractate XI is:

καὶ ὅτι μὲν ἔστι τις ὁ ποιῶν ταῦτα δῆλον· ὅτι δὲ καὶ εἷς, φανερώτατον· καὶ γὰρ μία ψυχὴ καὶ μία ζωὴ καὶ μία ὕλη. τίς δὲ οὗτος; τίς δὲ ἂν ἄλλος εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός; τίνι γὰρ ἄλλωι ἂν καὶ πρέποι ζῶια ἔμψυχα ποιεῖν, εἰ μὴ μόνωι τῶι θεῶι; εἷς οὖν θεός. †γελοιότατον†· καὶ τὸν μὲν κόσμον ὡμολόγησας ἀεὶ εἶναι καὶ τὸν ἥλιον ἕνα καὶ τὴν σελήνην μίαν καὶ θειότητα μίαν, αὐτὸν δὲ τὸν θεὸν πόστον εἶναι θέλεις [2]

It is evident someone is so creating and that he is One; for Psyche is one, Life is one, Substance is one.

But who is it?

Who could it be if not One, the theos? To whom if not to theos alone would it belong to presence life in living beings?

Theos therefore is One, for having accepted the Kosmos is one, the Sun is one, the Moon is one, and divinity-presenced is one, could you maintain that theos is some other number?

The “one” referred to in tractate XI is most probably the μονάς, Monas (Monad) as in tractate IV. As I noted in my Introduction to that tractate [1], John Dee used the term monas in his Testamentum Johannis Dee Philosophi summi ad Johannem Gwynn, transmissum 1568, a text included in Elias Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, published in 1652.

An interesting part of tractate IV is:

μονὰς οὖσα οὖν ἀρχὴ πάντα ἀριθμὸν ἐμπεριέχει, ὑπὸ μηδενὸς ἐμπεριεχομένη, καὶ πάντα ἀριθμὸν γεννᾶι ὑπὸ μηδενὸς γεννωμένη ἑτέρου ἀριθμοῦ.

The Monas, since it is the origin, enfolds every arithmos without itself being enfolded by any, begetting every arithmos but not begotten by any.

In respect of arithmos, ἀριθμὸς, as I noted in my commentary on tractate IV:10 and on XII:15, [1] the usual translation is ‘number’ but which translation is, in those instances in the Corpus Hermeticum, somewhat inappropriate and unhelpful.

Similar to – but conveying a different meaning to – θειότης is the Greek term θεότης. Different, because θειότης relates to θεῖος (divine, divinity), and θεότης to θεός (theos, the god).

The word θειότης also occurs – and only once – in the New Testament, in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 1.20, where it led to some theological discussions regarding how and in what God is manifest, since some commentators apparently mistakenly equated θειότης with θεότης. The Latin of Jerome is:

invisibilia enim ipsius a creatura mundi per ea quae facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur sempiterna quoque eius virtus et divinitas

which translates the Greek θειότης by the Latin divinitas, a word used by Cicero.

The Greek text of Romans, 1.20, as in NA28, [3] is:

τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα καθορᾶται, ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης

The Wycliffe translation:

For the invisible things of him, that be understood, be beheld of the creature of the world, by those things that be made, yea, and the everlasting virtue of him and the Godhead.

King James Bible:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead

Douay-Rheims, Catholic Bible:

For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity

In contradistinction to such translations, were I to temerariously venture my own ‘interpretation of meaning’ of the Greek –  that is, my non-literal translation – it would be along the following lines:

Through the foundation of the Kosmos, those unseen beings of that Being were visible, apprehensible by the beings which that Being produced, as also the sempiternal influence of that Being, and divinity-presenced.

In which interpretation I have endeavoured to express the metaphysical – the ontological – meaning, and have taken αὐτοῦ – literally, “of him/his” – as “of that Being” thus avoiding “gender bias”, qv. the appendix – Concerning Personal Pronouns – to my commentary on tractate VI. [1] Also, δύναμις is – at least in my fallible opinion – more subtle than the strident “might” or “power” translations impute, suggesting instead “influence” as in tractate III:1, where it interestingly occurs in relation to θεῖος:

δυνάμει θείαι ὄντα ἐν χάει, by the influence of the numen

My translation of tractate III:1 is as follows:

The numen of all beings is theos: numinal, and of numinal physis. The origin of what exists is theos, who is Perceiveration and Physis and Substance: the sapientia which is a revealing of all beings. For the numinal is the origin: physis, vigour, incumbency, accomplishment, renewance. In the Abyss, an unmeasurable darkness, and, by the influence of the numen, Water and delicate apprehending Pnuema, there, in Kaos. Then, a numinous phaos arose and, from beneath the sandy ground, Parsements coagulated from fluidic essence. And all of the deities <particularize> seedful physis.

Δόξα πάντων ὁ θεὸς καὶ θεῖον καὶ φύσις θεία. ἀρχὴ τῶν ὄντων ὁ θεός, καὶ νοῦς καὶ φύσις καὶ ὕλη, σοφία εἰς δεῖξιν ἁπάντων ὤν· ἀρχὴ τὸ θεῖον καὶ φύσις καὶ ἐνέργεια καὶ ἀνάγκη καὶ τέλος καὶ ἀνανέωσις. ἧν γὰρ σκότος ἄπειρον ἐν ἀβύσσωι καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ πνεῦμα λεπτὸν νοερόν, δυνάμει θείαι ὄντα ἐν χάει. ἀνείθη δὴ φῶς ἅγιον καὶ ἐπάγη †ὑφ’ ἅμμωι† ἐξ ὑγρᾶς οὐσίας στοιχεῖα καὶ θεοὶ πάντες †καταδιερῶσι† φύσεως ἐνσπόρου.


Which, for me at least, seems to place the use of
θειότης in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans into the correct Hellenic – Greco-Roman – metaphysical context.

David Myatt
28.iii.18

This article is a revised version of part of a personal reply sent to a life-long friend in answer to a specific question.

°°°

[1] D. Myatt. Corpus Hermeticum: Eight Tractates. Translations And Commentaries. CreateSpace. 2017. ISBN 978-1976452369.

[2] The Greek text is from A.D. Nock & A-J. Festugiere, Corpus Hermeticum, Paris, 1972.

[3] Nestle-Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th revised edition. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart. 2012.


Image credit:

The beginning of tractate XI from the book Mercvrii Trismegisti Pœmandres, published in Paris in 1554.

Greek Bible text from:

Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th revised edition, Edited by Barbara Aland and others, copyright 2012 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.


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