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Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 3, by G.R.S. Mead, [1906], at

p. 14



(I have added the title, the excerpt not being found in Patrizzi.

Text: Stob., Flor., lxxx. [lxxviii.] 9, under the heading: “Of Hermes from the [Book] to Tat”; G. iii. 135; M. iii. 104, 105. 1

Ménard, Livre IV., No. x. of “Fragments from the Books of Hermes to his Son Tat,” p. 256.)

[Her.] To understand 2 God is difficult, to speak [of Him] impossible.

For that the Bodiless can never be expressed in body, the Perfect never can be comprehended by that which is imperfect, and that ’tis difficult for the Eternal to company with the ephemeral.

The one is for ever, the other doth pass; the one is in [the clarity of] Truth, the other in the shadow of appearance.

So far off from the stronger [is] the weaker,

p. 15

the lesser from the greater [is so far], as [is] the mortal [far] from the Divine.

It is the distance, then, between the two that dims the Vision of the Beautiful.

For ’tis with eyes that bodies can be seen, with tongue that things seen can be spoken of; but That which hath no body, that is unmanifest, and figureless, and is not made objective [to us] out of matter,—cannot be comprehended by our sense.

I have it in my mind, O Tat, I have it in my mind, that what cannot be spoken of, is God.


Justin Martyr quotes these opening words of our excerpt verbatim, assigning them to Hermes (Cohort., 38; Otto, ii. 122). 1

The substance of the second sentence is given twice by Lactantius in Latin (Div. Institt., ii. 8; Ep. 4); in the second passage the Church Father also quotes verbatim the first sentence of our excerpt, and from his introductory words we learn that they were the beginning of a written sermon from Hermes to his son (Tat).

The first four sentences are also quoted in almost identical words (there being two variants of reading and two slight additions) by Cyril,—Contra Julianum, i. 31 (Migne, col. 549 B), who, moreover, gives some additional lines, beginning (Frag. xi.): “If, then, there be an incorporeal eye,” etc.

p. 16

If, furthermore, we are right in supposing that Frag. xv. (Cyril, ibid., i. 33) is from the same sermon, then this sermon is the “First Sermon of the Expository [Sermons] to Tat,” and the Stobæan heading, “From the [Book] to Tat,” will mean the collection of Expository Sermons (see Comment, on Frag. xv.).


14:1 Hense’s text ends with xlii. 17; the second part has apparently never been published.

14:2 Or think of.

15:1 Which see for Commentary under “Fragments.”

Next: Excerpt III. Of Truth