die Gefallenen: die Gefallenen

Monday, November 9, 2015

die Gefallenen

My name is Seth Underwood. I came across die Gefallenen while working on my doctoral studies at Catholic University of America. I thought writing a blog about this text might be a good idea for those interested in such matters.

die Gefallenen was discovered originally in the ruins of 4th Century Christian monastic community in Syria during the summer of 1923 by Otto von Hemrick. von Hemrick brought the texts and scrolls he found back to Germany for future study. As part of the Nazi study of the occult, he began working on translating die Gefallenen. With the help of some Nazi code breakers, he was able in two years to come up with a translation matrix for the text. According to his notes, the main text seems to be some sort of root language common to all languages. He called it the mother language or more specifically “Muttersprache”. Although the cover of the text has clearly written on it a 4th century Coptic script which translates into die Gefallenen or the Fallen (or also the dead soldiers or the fallen soldiers) in English. 

I discovered that die Gefallenen ended up at Catholic University of America as part of a donation from an anonymous U.S. GI. Where the book pretty much sat along with notes from Otto von Hemrick until I came across it while working on my doctoral thesis.

die Gefallenen is not an impressive book except its age. It uses the standard Coptic style of stitching of several pages into a bound text between two pieces of wood as covers. It is clear that at some point during the 4th century, the original texts were re-bound into single book because the interior pages seem to be cut up into pieces from what appears to have been an original scroll or series of scrolls. Unfortunately though, between the ravages of time, and what I suspect was von Hemrick’s own research, the text itself has lost its original bindings and is now held together with some twine around the whole thing. In fact reading von Hemrick’s notes a bit I honestly think the original order (if there was one) has been sort of lost between the 4th Century cut and paste and von Hemrick’s own cut and paste job of putting the book back together. What I can tell is that the text appears to be some sort of diary or recount of events in a person’s life, or possibly a moral tale of some kind. I firmly hold though the text appears to be of the Gnostic or Docetae tradition. At best it would be apocryphal, but does not appear in any of the official apocryphal lists.

Well anyway, as I translate either von Hemrick’s notes on a passage or using his own translation matrix I will make a posting of it. I have had to take some liberties with the wording, as not everything translates that well.