Ca 220 CE
The mystery school ‘Thunder: Perfect Mind’ could have been produced in Armenia by the great scholar and mystery school initiate, Bardaisan, who was living in exile from Edessa.
It has been extremely difficult for scholars to determine anything about ‘Thunder’—who wrote it, when, where, and even why or what it is about except that it is some kind of revelation discourse in the female voice using ‘I am’ statements. However there are some major clues that narrow the possibilities greatly.
The first clue is that it isn’t Eve or Norea talking but the divine feminine. The speaker is way too grandiose to be Eve. This is the key passage:
Why then have you hated me, you Greeks?
Because I am a barbarian among the barbarians?
For I am the wisdom of the Greeks
and the knowledge of the barbarians.
I am the judgement of the Greeks and of the barbarians.
I am the one whose image is great in Egypt
and the one who has no image among the barbarians.
The speaker is “the wisdom of the Greeks” who would be Sophia/Wisdom/the Holy Spirit. She would be “the knowledge of the barbarian.” This word ‘knowledge’ would obviously refer to mystery schools among the barbarians.
The next interesting point is “Why then have you hated me, you Greeks?” When have the Greeks hated Wisdom? How about when they were Roman? The Romans had a Greek culture. The “Greek” phraseology could be a circumlocution for ‘Roman’ for a speaker too circumspect to complain openly about the Roman boot on the neck. After the mass crucifixion of Christians by Nero in 64 CE the Roman Church was a Pauline and Herodian church which greatly feared the rise of more ‘sons of Wisdom’ leading Palestinian revolutions which could have gotten them all killed. The Pauline Church was clearly a Roman-friendly which committed one of the greatest of heresies by switching the gender of the Holy Spirit from female to male.
Who, then, would be the barbarians? The Greeks generally considered anyone non-Greek to be a barbarian. The Romans considered many peoples to be barbarian. This included the Persian Empire within which subsisted the smaller country of Osrhenia with a capitol in Edessa where the noted Bardaisan flourished. The first Christian convert king of Osrhenia happened to be the son of Helen, Queen of Adiabene whose name was Izates but whose dynastic name was Abgar V or Abgar the Black. The designation of ‘the Black’ derives from Arab ancestry of the dynasty who were all considered ‘black’ by the Palestinians.
It is noteworthy that the speakers “image is great in Egypt”. This would refer Sophia whose Sophia Mythos was birthed in Egypt and not in Persia. This would, actually, even refer to Isis who was a goddess of wisdom and a type of Sophia in Egypt. So, it is very clear that the speaker is Sophia who is resident in Egypt and in barbarian lands in mystery schools (“knowledge”) and is complaining about being rejected by the Greek-speaking (Roman) world (focused on the male Logos).
The following section of ‘Thunder’ to the one above is the following one which is of almost equal importance:
I am the one who has been hated everywhere
and who has been loved everywhere.
I am the one whom they call Life,
and you have called Death.
I am the one whom they call Law,
and you have called Lawlessness.
I am the one whom you have pursued,
and I am the one whom you have seized.
I am the one whom you have scattered,
and you have gathered me together.
I am the one before whom you have been ashamed,
and you have been shameless to me.
I am she who does not keep festival,
and I am she whose festivals are many.
The fifth line identifies the Jewish-Christian nature of Bardaisan’s mystery school which retained the importance of the Jewish Law in contrast to the Pauline Church which abolished it as represented in line six.
The second century books like the Samaritan ‘Second Treatise of the Great Seth’ and the Jewish Christian ‘Odes of Solomon’ also reflect their bitterness towards the Roman Church as lines seven through thirteen reflect. None of these books seem to make much of a distinction between the Roman Church and Roman state.
The fourteenth line reflects the ecstatic and charismatic worship of the Pauline Church which had features such as speaking in tongues as contrasted with the mystery school services which were more meditative such as in the Bridal Chamber sacrament. They did not make it a ‘festival’ as far as can be known yet their lives were an ecstatic ‘festival’.
The time frame for the production of ‘Thunder’ would make the most sense in the century beginning with the Roman invasion of Osrhenia in the second decade of the second century and ending after the second decade of the third century when Bardaisan died and the mystery school faded away under the Roman presence and sway of the Roman Church.
In terms of the author of ‘Thunder’ it would make the most sense if it were a great classical scholar, literary giant, and famous hymnodist like Bardaisan. He very likely also authored the allegorical ‘The Hymn of the Soul’ that features Egypt as well.
We know he is a theological match. He was considered a Valentinian but one who differed in theology. Valentinus used an Egyptian philosophical term for the Holy Spirit called ‘Limit’ in the middle of the second century—probably in an effort to broker a compromise with the Roman Church. However, we know from Bardaisan’s hymns that it was the ‘Father of Life’ and ‘Mother of Life’ who brought forth the Son.
It is striking that the speaker is aware of Egypt where her “image is great” as well to entitle the piece ‘Thunder: Perfect Mind’ to identify with or over-write Zeus, the highest Greek god in the thunder image and to equate herself with “Perfect Mind”. This ‘Perfect Mind’ has to be identical with ‘First Thought’ of Simon Magus and the Sophia Mythos. Whoever wrote this piece had a cosmopolitan mind with the size and experience of a Bardaisan.
‘Thunder’ could have been written any time in the career of Bardaisan but fits well at the end of his life. Roman intolerance began four years before the birth of Bardaisan in 150 CE when Anicetus banned Montanists and became the first Roman bishop to ban heresy. In 165 CE Tatian was kicked out of the Roman Church for his views in favor of celibacy and for Valentinus. Bardaisan converted to Christianity in 179 CE and succeeded in converting his King Abgar IX. In 189 CE, Victor I, bishop of Rome, excommunicated Theodosius of Byzantium for his Adoptionist viewpoint. Intolerance was brought closer to home in 191 CE when Patriarch Serapion of Antioch appointed Palut as bishop of Edessa to act against the Gnosticizing tendencies of Bardaison. However, those holding the Roman viewpoint in Edessa were in such a minority they were called Palutians. In 199, Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome, begins suppressing the heresies of Marcion, Valentinus, and the Montanists.
Meanwhile, relations with the Roman state deteriorate as Emperor Severas bans conversion to Christianity in 203 CE. In 214 CE, Osrhoenia becomes a colony of Rome as its King is taken off to Rome and executed. Bardaisan fled to Armenia in 217 CE and died in 222 CE. This very well may have been the period when Bardaisan might have composed ‘Thunder’ as a mortar round into the heart of the empire which hoped would get through the censors and stir some hearts. Another very interesting and similar development also happened in 217 CE when a figure named Alciabiades showed up in Rome with a Jewish Christian book of the Elchesaites from somewhere in Parthia whose viewpoint was related to the Gospel of Peter. They are probably related to the Abgar dynasty which probably still maintained harems since the book disapproved of celibacy. This could have been another project of Bardaisan.
‘Thunder’ was obviously written by a literary master in an era when the divine feminine was hated and feared such as the era of Bardaisan when there was the still the memory of the origin of the Sophia Mythos in Egypt. Throughout the piece there is a constant refrain of the speaker being hated, despised, denied, lied about, cast out, disgraced, and cursed. There is no reason to look any further beyond Bardaisan who stood head and shoulders above anyone else in his era with his theological stance of the divine feminine, with his classical education and his literary skills in the perfect historical situation to have created ‘Thunder: Perfect Mind’.