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Document Details :

Title: The Four World Empires in the Hymn of the Pearl
Author(s): TUBACH, Jürgen
Journal: Journal of Eastern Christian Studies
Volume: 56    Issue: 1-4   Date: 2004   
Pages: 145-154
DOI: 10.2143/JECS.56.1.578699

Abstract :
The Hymn of the Pearl is probably the most beautiful song of the Syriac literature. It has been transmitted to us in the Acta Thomae, an apocryphal history of Thomas' mission to India, which was composed in the first half of the third century, presumably in Edessa. When the apostle was imprisoned in the country of Mazdai, the Indian king, the prisoners beseeched to pray for them. Having complied with their request he strikes a tune, the famous Hymn of the Pearl or Hymn of the Soul.1 The song does not fit into the context. It seems to conclude the intercessory prayer without considering the actual situation of the prisoners. Both the Hymn of the Pearl and the socalled Wedding Song must have been inserted into the acts either by their author or by a redactor. Both are only preserved in two manuscripts, a Syriac and a Greek one. In all other texts the hymns are missing. Their content did not agree with the later orthodox views. Both hymns are ascribed to the apostle Thomas, who played an important role in the world of pseudepigraphic literature. He is thought to have composed several books: a Gospel with 114 sayings of Jesus; a report of his own missionary journey to India; the book of the athletes Thomas; stories from the childhood of the Lord and Hymns. The latter work did not survive as a whole. An anthology of hymns, perhaps selected from a larger corpus, was used by Mani. His disciples inserted it into the Manichaean Psalmbook. Two hymns not contained in this collection found their way into the Acts of Thomas.