H.L. Hix

Issue #
May 31, 2016

From the Sayings Gospels

They ask, as Anyone might:
Who are you, what gives you, to say what you say?

Sayer says:
You insist on isolating a self,
some sayer that precedes any saying.
In this you are as they already were,
those most who love the tree but hate the fruit,
or savor the fruit of the tree they hate.

Lightning strikes one tree, but lights the whole sky.

If law were Law, truth Truth, justice Justice,
reward instead of alienation
and hatred would attend a life lived well.

I recognize to Recognition only
one who recognizes the unrecognized.

                                  Who has ears, hear.

They ask, as Anyone might:
Should we pray? Should we give to charity?
What foods should we eat, what foods refuse?

Sayer says:
Fishing in the sea, upon drawing in
a net full of fish, many small, one large,
the wise one returned all but the one fish.

A wise merchant, sorting a consignment,
finding a pearl, sold the rest but bought the pearl.

When others are made weak, I am made weak.
When others are made hungry, I am hungry.
When others must face thirst, I too face thirst.

Only fasting from fasting, only
resting from rest, affords sanctuary

                                  Who has ears, hear.

They protest, as Anyone might:
Yes, but first I must bury my father.

Sayer says:
Leave behind what you must do. Do what you might.

Fair the lion that becomes human,
eaten by a human. Foul the lion
that becomes human, eating a human.

This world will disappear into the next,
and that next into another next.
What will disappear, must. Already has.
The dead do not live, nor do the living die.
When you ate what is dead, you made it live.
Once you come to live in light, what then?
One, you became two. Two, many. What now?

To live we eat what, dead, we are eaten by.

                                  Who has ears, hear.

They ask, as Anyone might:
And if we gentle suffer the ferocity of the fierce?

Sayer says:
Fear no ferocity. The savage savage
only the susceptible-to-savagery,
never the adequate-unto-itself.

Violence thinks it can win sanctuary.
As if sanctuary could be possessed.
Owned, like land, by excluding others from it.

Who curses you, bless. Who slights you, honor.
Who opposes you, help. Who injures you, salve.

Slapped on one cheek, offer the other.
Imposed upon to walk one mile, walk two.
Stripped of your coat, forfeit also your shirt.

                                  Who has ears, hear.

Hearer, hear what Sayer says:

One strong one’s strength keeps many weak ones weak.
That weakness, those weak, sustain the strong one’s strength.

Neighborliness antedates any law.

Match your mercy to unmatched mercy.

They ate, drank, danced, married. Then came the flood.

The thirst, however desperate, of those
waiting for water will not fill the well.

Author’s Note:
“The Sayings Gospels” is not accompanied, like the other translations in this issue, by the text of the original from which it is translated, because it is a redaction and a translation.
The four gospels that the Christian church has recognized as authoritative are not the only extant gospels, and the extant gospels were not the only gospels composed and circulated. Scholars have inferred from study of the synoptic gospels (those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that they shared sources, including a no-longer-extant source that has come to be identified simply as “Q.” There are numerous extant gospels now designated as “apocryphal” (because they were not included by the Church in its scriptural canon), but at the time of their writing and early circulation no clear division between canonical and noncanonical had yet been imposed on the various attestations. Also extant are many “agrapha,” short writings that have survived only as fragments.

From the available evidence, scholars have recognized that the canonical gospels arose from (and took their place in) a literary history in which they were preceded by what are now called “sayings gospels.” That is, the earliest gospels apparently consisted exclusively or primarily of sayings attributed to Jesus, and later gospels “fleshed out” (with narratives about life and activity, and with a theological superstructure) the person of Jesus from (to borrow Frank Kermode’s terminology) an agent into a character.

The portions presented here are part of a project that attempts to re-engage that agent, the Sayer, the-one-who-says-what-must-be-heard. Consequently, it does not simply translate one extant source, but draws on many sources (canonical gospels, apocryphal gospels, agrapha, a hypothesized gospel) from two different languages (Greek and Coptic), reconfiguring them according to the urgency rather than the institutional authority of the originals. The whole project will be presented in a book called Rain Inscription, currently scheduled for publication in 2017 by Etruscan Press, but the compositional process means there is no one original available to present alongside the pieces offered here.

There is no previous item
Go back to Top Menu
There is no next item
Go back to Top Menu