Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pseudo-Matthew: the flight to Egypt.

Last year around this time I published chapter 4 and 5 from the Gospel of Pseudo-Mathew and I will now continue with chapters 18 and 19. Actually, I became aware of its existence from a Catholic school book with Latin texts for girls. Of course men too are allowed to read it.
The gospel of pseudo-Matthew is the only apocryphal gospel exclusively in Latin. It dates from the seventh century and it is unknown whether it is a translation of a lost work or an original work. As the New Testament has little to say about the infancy of Jesus, a number of gospels were composed to fill this lack. Theologians of the Early Church had their misgivings about this, but these texts were immensely popular amongst the common people. The following 2 chapters tell about the flight of Joseph and Mary with the little Jesus to Egypt.
The flight to Egypt only occurs in Matthew 2:13-23 and is complete fiction. The writers of the gospels wanted to portray Jesus as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophesies - as will be apparent from the text below too – and Matthew is elaborating on Hosea 11,1: `When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.’ It is literally a pia fraus. Not that the writers of the gospels were fraudulent as such, but they had a different mind-set and another way to approach history. For them history was guided by the hand of God and the hope for salvation must have touched them deeply.
Egyptians, both Coptics and Muslims are very proud of Jesus’ flight to Egypt and they still can point out all the places where the Holy Family has rested. `A landmark in the history of Egypt’ I read on a site. Well, let’s say that nations need some mythology now and then.
In the canonical gospels the flight took place with a single mule, but the writer of this gospel imagines a complete caravan with lions and other wild animals to lead and accompany him.
The Latin is very easy.


     Cumque pervenissent ad speluncam quandam et in ea requiescere
vellent, descendit Maria de iumento, et sedens habebat Iesum in
gremio suo. Erant autem cum Ioseph tres pueri et cum Maria quaedam
puella iter agentes.  Et ecce subito de spelunca egressi sunt multi
dracones, quos videntes pueri prae nimio timore exclamaverunt. Tunc
Iesus descendens de gremio matris suae, pedibus suis stetit ante
dracones; illi autem adoraverunt eum, et cum adorassent abierunt.
Tunc adimpletum est quod dictum est per David prophetam dicentem:
Laudate dominum de terra dracones, dracones et omnes abyssi.  Ipse
autem infantulus Iesus ambulans ante eos praecepit eis ut nulli
hominum nocerent. Sed Maria et Ioseph valde timebant ne forte
infantulus laederetur a draconibus.  Quibus Iesus ait: Nolite
timere, nec me considerate quia infantulus sum: ego enim semper vir
perfectus fui et sum, et necesse est ut ferae omnes silvarum
mansuescant ante me.

spelunca: cave
iumentum: a beast of burden, mule, ass
gremium: lap, bosom
iter ago: to travel (iter itineris (n.) journey)
praecipio praecepi praeceptum: to admonish
per David prophetam dicentem:  Psalm 148, 7 `Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: ‘
noceo nocui: to harm
forte: by chance
laedo laesi laesum: to hurt
quia: as
fera: wild animal
mansuescere mansuevi mansuetum: to become tame


     Similiter leones et pardi adorabant eum et comitabantur cum
eis in deserto; quocumque Maria et Ioseph ibant, antecedebant eos,
ostendentes viam et inclinantes capita sua adorabant Iesum.  Primo
autem die ut vidit Maria leones circa se venientes et varia ferarum
genera, vehementer expavit.  Cui infans Iesus laeto vultu in faciem
eius respiciens dixit: Noli timere, mater: non enim ad iniuriam
tuam sed ad obsequium tuum venire festinant. Et his dictis
amputavit timorem de cordibus eorum. Ambulabant autem leones cum
eis simul, et cum bobus et asinis et sumariis qui eis necessaria
portabant, et nullum laedebant quamvis simul manerent; sed erant
mansueti inter oves et arietes, quos secum de Iudaea adduxerant et
secum habebant.  Inter lupos ambulabant et nihil formidabant, et
nullus ab alio laedebatur.  Tunc adimpletum est quod dictum est per
prophetam: Lupi cum agnis pascentur, leo et bos simul paleas
vescentur. Erant autem duo boves et plaustrum, in quo necessaria
portabant, quos leones dirigebant in itinere eorum.

pardus: leopard
comitor: accompany
antecedo antecessum: to precede
expavesco expavi: to become terrified
ad obsequium tuum: to serve you (obsequium: obedience)
festino: to hurry
bobus: from bovibus (bos bovis: cow, rind)
asinus: ass
sumerius: horse for carrying goods (non classical Latin) 
ovis ovis (f.): sheep
aries arietis (m.): ram
formido: to fear
per prophetam: Isaiah 11, 6-7; 65, 25:
pascor pastus sum: to eat, pasture
palea: straw
vescor: to eat
plaustrum: cart, wagon


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 052.jpg

The flight to Egypt by Rembrandt.

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