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

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References and Fragments in the Fathers

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i. Cohortatio ad Gentiles, xxxviii.; Otto (J. C. T.), ii. 122 (2d ed., Jena, 1849). 1


Now if any of you should think that he has learnt the doctrine concerning God from those of the philosophers who are mentioned among you as most ancient, let him give ear to Ammon and Hermes. For Ammon in the Words (Logoi) concerning himself 2 calls God “utterly hidden”; while Hermes clearly and plainly declares:

To understand God is difficult; to speak [of Him] impossible, even for one who can understand. 3


This passage occurs at the very end of the treatise. Justin will have it that the most ancient of all the philosophers are on his side.

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These are Ammon and Hermes. Justin, moreover, knows of certain Words (Logoi), or Sermons, or Sacred Utterances of Ammon, which must have been circulating in Greek, otherwise it is difficult to see how Justin was acquainted with them. They were evidently of an apocalyptic nature, in the form of a self-revelation of Ammon or God.

These “Words of Ammon” have clearly nothing to do with the Ammonian type of the surviving Trismegistic literature, where Ammon is a hearer and not an instructor, least of all the supreme instructor or Agathodaimon. In them we may see an intermediate stage of direct dependence of Hellenistic theological literature on Egyptian originals, for we have preserved to us certain Hymns from the El-Khargeh Oasis which bear the inscription “‘The Secret Words of Ammon’ which were found on Tables of Mulberry-wood.” 1


The sentence from Hermes is from a lost sermon, a fragment of which is preserved in an excerpt by Stobæus. It was probably the opening words of what Stobæus calls “The [Sermon] to Tat,” 2 that is to say, probably one of the “Expository Sermons to Tat,” as Lactantius calls them. 3

The idea in the saying was a common place in

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[paragraph continues] Hellenistic theological thought, and need not be always directly referred to the much-quoted words of Plato: “To find the Father and the Maker of this universe is a [great] work, and finding [Him] it is impossible to tell [Him] unto all.” 1 Indeed, it is curious to remark that Justin reproduces the text of the Hermetic writer far more faithfully than when he refers directly to the saying of Plato. 2

ii. I. Apologia, xxi.; Otto, i. 54.


And when we say that the Word (Logos) which is the first begetting of God, was begotten without intercourse,—Jesus Christ, our Master,—and that he was crucified, and was dead, and rose again and ascended into heaven, we bring forward no new thing beyond those among you who are called Sons of Zeus. For ye know how many Sons the writers who are held in honour among you ascribe to Zeus:—Hermes, the Word (Logos), who was the interpreter and teacher of all; and Asclepius, who was also 3 a healer, 4 and was smitten by the bolt [of his sire] and ascended into heaven . . . [and many others] . . .

iii. Ibid., xxii.; Otto, i. 58.


But as to the Son of God called Jesus,—even though he were only a man [born] in the common way, [yet] because of [his] wisdom is he worthy to be called Son

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of God; for all writers call God “Father of men and gods.” And if we say [further] that he was also in a special way, beyond his common birth, begotten of God [as] Word (Logos) of God, let us have this in common with you who call Hermes the Word (Logos) who brings tidings 1 from God.


It is remarkable that Justin heads the list of Sons of God—Dionysus, Hercules, etc.—with Hermes and Asclepius. Moreover, when he returns to the subject he again refers to Hermes and to Hermes alone. This clearly shows that the most telling parallel he could bring forward was that of Hermes, who, in the Hellenistic theological world of his day, was especially thought of under the concept of the Logos.

The immediate association of the name of Asclepius with that of Hermes is also remarkable, and indicates that they were closely associated in Justin’s mind; the indication, however, is too vague to permit of any positive deduction as to an Asclepius-element in the Trismegistic literature current in Rome in Justin’s time. Justin, in any case, has apparently very little first-hand knowledge of the subject, for he introduces the purely Hellenic myth of Asclepius being struck by a thunderbolt, which, we need hardly say, is entirely foreign to the conception of the Hellenistic Asclepius, the disciple of Hermes.


To these quotations Chambers (p. 139) adds the following passage from II. Apologia, vi.,—which in date may be placed some four or five years after the First.

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“Now to the Father of all no name can be given; seeing that He is ingenerable; for by whatsoever name one may be called, he has as his elder the one who gives the name. But ‘Father,’ and ‘God,’ and ‘Creator,’ and ‘Lord,’ and ‘Master’ are not names, but terms of address [derived] from His blessings and His works.”

It is quite true that this passage might be taken verbally from a Hermetic tractate, but I can find no authority in the text of Justin for claiming it as a quotation. For the same idea in Hermes compare C. H., v. (vi.) 10, and Lact., D. I., i. 6.


215:1 The Exhortation is considered by most pseudepigraphic, but is supposed by others to be the earliest work of Justin, which may be placed conjecturally about 130 A.D.; the First Apology is generally ascribed to the year 148 A.D.

215:2 Taking the reading περὶ ἑαυτοῦ (Otto, n. 13), adopted in R. 138.

215:3 Quoted also by Lactantius, D. I. Epit., 4; Cyril Alex., Con. Jul., i. 31; and Stobæus, Flor., lxxx. [lxxviii.], 94 (Ex. ii. 1).

216:1 R. 138. The connection between this Ammon and Hermes was probably the same as that which is said to have existed between the king-god Thamus-Ammon and the god of invention Theuth-Hermes. Thamus-Ammon was a king philosopher, to whom Theuth brought all his inventions and discoveries for his (Ammon’s) judgment, which was not invariably favourable. See the pleasant story told by Plato, Phædrus, 274 C. Cf. also the notes on Kneph-Ammon, K. K., 19, Comment.

216:2 Stob., loc. infra cit.

216:3 See Fragg. xi., xii., xiii., xv., xx., xxii., xxiii., xxiv. (?).

217:1 Timæus, 28 C.

217:2 See Cohort., xxii.; II. Apol., x. Clemens Alex., Origen, Minutius Felix, Lactantius, and other of the Fathers also quote this saying of Plato.

217:3 That is, like Jesus.

217:4 θεραπευτὴν (therapeut).

218:1 τὸν παρὰ θεοῦ ἀγγελτικόν. Compare Plutarch, De Is. et Os., xxvi. 5.

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