PERFECT MIND THUNDER
The second treatise in Codex VI of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY. The text consists of a revelatory discourse uttered by an unnamed female deity who speaks chiefly about herself. Using the phrase “I am . . .” to point out her essential qualities, she ascribes to herself such diverging characteristics as: “I am senseless and I am wise” (15.29-30), and “I am the bride and the bridegroom” (13.27-28). It is this contradictory style of self-disclosure that makes this document unique.
Even though this short piece is preserved only among the Christian Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi, it exhibits no distinctively Christian traits. While it does manifest ties to a Gnostic world of thought—parallels to selected passages in the Nag Hammadi Library have been adduced (MacRae, 1988; Arthur, 1984)—not any of the expected elements of a Gnostic myth are present. As a result, the treatise is to be considered a document with a pre-Christian origin, possessing features that would commend it to Gnostics and also find readers among Christians.
Concerning possible ties to Jewish thought, links to the divine Wisdom—in association with the Egyptian goddess Isis—have been proposed (Quispel, 1975; Arthur, 1984). To be sure, the literary style that employs the “I am” phraseology stands closest to the aretologies of Isis, the Egyptian goddess whose functions are richly diverse. But similarities to the Isis inscriptions remain without certainty because of the uniquely contradictory tone of what is said about the deity features in Thunder. At best, the threads that would assist in locating the origin of this piece in place and time are thin and weak. In a word, Thunder is a unique work, which has so far resisted categorization.
- Arthur, R. H. The Wisdom Goddess: Feminine Motifs in Eight Nag Hammadi Documents. New York, 1984.
- MacRae, G. “The Thunder: Perfect Mind.” In Protocol of the Fifth Colloquy of the Center for Hermeneutical Studies, ed. W. Wuellner. Berkeley, Calif., 1973.
- MacRae, G., and D. M. Parrott. “The Thunder: Perfect Mind (VI,2), Introduction and Translation.” In The Nag Hammadi Library, 3rd ed., ed. J. M. Robinson. San Francisco, 1988.
- Quispel, G. “Jewish Gnosis and Mandaean Gnosticism: Some Reflections on the Writing Bronte.” In Les Textes de Nag Hammadi, ed. J.-E. Menard. Leiden, 1975.
S. KENT BROWN