The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Ham

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A Prophecy of Ham is mentioned in an obscure and unhappily defective passage of Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis, VI. vi. fin.). He is quoting the heretic Isidore, son of Basilides, and Isidore is speaking of the borrowings of Greek philosophers from Jewish Scriptures. He says: "For indeed I think that those who claim to philosophize, if they could find what is the meaning of the winged oak-tree and the embroidered mantle upon it, and all that sacred allegory that Pherecydes devised, drawing his material from the prophecy of Ham ..." (the sentence is imperfect).

This is quite cryptic as it stands, and no great amount of light is forthcoming. In the same book (ii. 9) Clement quotes Pherecydes as saying, "Zeus makes a mantle great and fair, and on it broiders Earth and Ocean and the house of Ocean," where the words for mantle and broider are those used by Isidore. And a papyrus (Grenfell and Hunt, Greek Papyri, Series II, No. 11) has given us a little more of the same passage of Pherecydes; but it does not explain the winged oak-tree.

The best opinion that is current so far about the prophecy of Ham is that of Eisler (Weltenmantel, etc., 1910), who connects it with the literature that went under the name of Hermes Trismegistus. The writers of that school and the alchemists who came after them (we have a good many Greek alchemical writings) professed to see a connexion between the name of Ham (Cham) and their science of Chēmeia: and Chēm figured as an interlocutor in some of the written dialogues, and is mentioned under the name of "the prophet Chymes," or "Chemes." The symbolism employed in such circles is likely to have been strange and obscure: it probably conveyed in esoteric fashion their views on cosmogony.