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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 3

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 268



Lexicon, s.v. Ἑρμῆς ὁ τρισμέγιστος; Im. Bekker (Berlin 1854).


Hermes the Thrice-greatest.—He was an Egyptian sage, and flourished before Pharaoh. He was called Thrice-greatest because he spoke of the Trinity, declaring that in the Trinity there is One Godhead, as follows:

“Before Intellectual Light was Light Intellectual; Mind of mind, too, was there eternally, Light-giving. There was naught else except the Oneness of this [Mind] and Spirit all-embracing.

“Without this is nor god, nor angel, nor any other being. For He is Lord and Father, and the God of all; and all things are beneath Him, [all things are] in Him. 2

(The source of Suidas, or of his editor, is manifestly

p. 269

[paragraph continues] Cyril, C. J., i. 35 (Fragg. xvi., xvii.), of which a very garbled edition is reproduced. The same statement and passage is also quoted by Cedrenus, John Malalas, and the author of the Chronicum Alexandrinum. See Bernhardy’s edition of Suidas (Halle, 1853), i. 527, notes.) Suidas then continues without a break:)

“His Word (Logos), all-perfect as he was, and fecund, and creative, falling in fecund Nature, yea in fecund Water, made Water pregnant.” 1

After saying this he has the following prayer:


“Thee, Heaven, I adjure, wise work of mighty God; thee I adjure, Word 2 of the Father which He spake first, when He established all the world!

“Thee I adjure, [O Heaven], by the alone-begotten Word (Logos) himself, and by the Father of the Word alone-begotten, yea, by the Father who surroundeth all,—be gracious, be gracious!”

This is not a prayer from Hermes, but three verses (the last somewhat altered) of an Orphic hymn excerpted from Cyril, ibid., i. 33 (Migne, col. 552 C),—lines also attributed to “Orpheus” by Justin Martyr. The last half of the prayer seems to be a pure invention of Suidas, or of his editor, based partially on Cyril’s comments.


268:1 Date uncertain; some indications point to as late as the twelfth century; if these, however, are due to later redaction, others point to the tenth century.

268:2 He is above them as Lord and Father, as Mind and Light; and they are in Him as Lady and Mother, as Spirit and Life.

269:1 This is again, and this time almost verbally, taken from Cyril ibid., i. 33; Frag. xii.

269:2 φωνήν.

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