Sunday, August 31, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-31-08

Whoever is near me, is near the fire. Whoever is far from me, is far from the Kingdom.

Didymus the Blind, In Ps. 88.8

Friday, August 29, 2008

What is your ultimate concern?

This week has been rough because we have started up courses. I have been organizing the Coptic seminar and the Mysticism Before Mysticism seminar, which takes quite a bit of energy. So I have been dragging this afternoon and just sat down to go to the next chore when I surfed to my husband's blog to see what he has been writing this week. And I came across his post on Tillich, which made me sparkle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day:8-26-08

Everything which is visible is a copy of that which is hidden.

The Teachings of Silvanus 99.5-7 (Alexandrian, second century)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-25-08

Rice is starting classes today. I warmly welcome back the students with these words of Jesus:

"I say to you, as for what you seek after and you enquire about, look, it is in you!"

Dialogue of the Savior 16

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A letter from Israel Knohl addressing some of the issues I raised about the Apocalypse of Gabriel

Israel Knohl sent me an e-mail message addressing some of the issues I raised in an earlier post about the Apocalypse of Gabriel. He has asked me to post the entire correspondence, which I gladly do. By the way, in another exchange I also asked him about the status of ink testing. It has not yet been done because it would mean destroying some of the letters.

It is my feeling that in this age of "perfect" frauds, it is absolutely essential to test scientifically whenever possible these types of finds, especially when their archaeological history is unknown. So I hope that the owner of the Apocalypse of Gabriel will agreed to this ink testing, and the sooner the better. Otherwise the Apocalypse of Gabriel will go the way of the James' ossuary and the Secret Gospel of Mark. Knohl also told me that writing on stone with ink is known in the Dead Sea area. There is an example from Qumran and many examples from Zoar, at the southern end of the Dead Sea. I have not studied these examples yet, so I cannot comment on them here.

Here is a copy of Knohl's letter:

Dear April,

I have read with interest your learned comment on my recent article in BAR and would like to respond to it.

You are absolutely right that ancient artifact should be checked by experts from various fields in order to establish their authenticity. In fact this is exactly what was done with regard to the Gabriel Revelation: The stone itself was checked by Prof. Yuval Goren, head of the Archeology department of Tel Aviv university. The script was checked by Dr. Ada Yardeni who is the best expert of the paleography of the Hebrew script of this period and the Languish was checked by Prof. Moshe Bar Asher, President of the Academy of the Hebrew languish. All three experts confirmed the authenticity of the artifact!

By the way, Ada Yardeni who was the first to read and publish this text agrees now with my reading of the crucial line, line 80 of the text where we have the words "In three day live, I Gabriel". She expressed her agreement with my reading in a letter to Hershel Shanks which is now published as an appendix to my article in the BAR website, under the title "web extras".

Finally, I would like to respond to your comment about the apocryphal writings that I have referred to in my article. You are of course right that these Jewish writings were later on edited by Christians thus there is a possibility of later Christian additions. In fact, I have dealt with this issue in length in my scholarly article at the April issue of the Journal of Religion. However, I do believe that the fact that "Ephraim" is mentioned in the Gabriel Revelation, which is clearly pre-Christian text, beside "My servant David" supports the view that these are not later Christian interpolations.

I would be happy if you could my response in you website.

Thank you in advance and best wishes,

Israel Knohl

Israel Knohl
Yehezkel Kaufmann Professor of Bible
The Hebrew University

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My questions about the Apocalypse of Gabriel

Professor Knohl's new article in BAR has been posted HERE. I have also put a link to it on my growing index for the Apocalypse of Gabriel HERE.

I am a bit disturbed about Knohl's argument in the BAR piece, since the second temple passages that he quotes as evidence for a Jewish suffering messiah are from texts that have clearly been revised by later Christians.

How can we tell if the expectation of the suffering messiah in these late sources is pre- or post-Christian? One way to solve this dilemma is to notice HOW MUCH of the early Christian literature is devoted to apology for the fact that the Messiah Jesus suffered and died, and how this was a "stumbling block" to the conversion of Jews. Why would the Christians have so much explaining to do if there existed a common Jewish expectation of a suffering messiah prior to Jesus? This is a question that is absolutely necessary for us to face, and it suggests that IF the expectation already existed, it was not well-known or well-liked. Or the expectation grew as a result of Christians explaining the historical experience of their crucified Messiah Jesus.

So nothing is as "sure" as Knohl's argument suggests.

It is necessary that we approach this new apocalypse cautiously, especially until we determine its authenticity. This is the FIRST step, something that National Geographic Society recognized about the Tchacos Codex. The Society did the right thing by authenticating the Gnostic codex through scientific methods. I am concerned about the Apocalypse of Gabriel, however, because it is unusual to have ink on stone for a literary document. How sure are we that it is not a fraud?

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-21-08

If people appoint you as their heads, be like tails.

`Abdallah ibn Qutayba, `Uyun al-Akhbar 1.266 (The Muslim Jesus)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fall 2008 courses

I'm in the process of putting together syllabi for my fall 08 courses. Here are my two course descriptions:

Reli 309/593: Reading Coptic Texts
This is the third semester of the Coptic language. It has three goals: to read Coptic texts; to become familiar with Coptic dialects; and to review immediate grammar, syntax and vocabulary. This seminar is meant to be as flexible as possible, recognizing that students will be at various levels of competency. Our goal is to bring everyone to reading fluency with some ability to deal with different dialects by the end of the semester. Each student will be responsible for at least one Coptic text, creating a complete chrestomathy of that text.
Reli 483/583: Mysticism Before Mysticism Seminar
What is mysticism? How does it differ from esotericism and Gnosticism? Is there no mysticism in the west before Pseudo-Dionysius? Is there no mysticism without Plato? This course will explore pre-Dionysian mysticism within Jewish and Christian traditions. Two questions will drive the seminar: (1) what mysticism looks like within Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity; (2) how mysticism emerges in different communal contexts in this period. The subject matter – mysticism in early Judaism and Christianity – has yet to be mapped, because traditionally it has been understood to have begun with Dionysius the Areopagite and envisioned as the product of (Neo-)Platonism. Any article or book on ancient mysticism will engage this period in terms of useful “background” to the “genuine” mysticism following Dionysius. The faults with this paradigm will be explored and a new paradigm put into place.

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-20-08

Everyone who is weary and heavy-laden, come to me and I will give you rest. For my burden is light and my yoke is gentle.

Pistis Sophia 2.95 (fourth century Gnostic text)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-19-08

She said, "Blessed is the belly that carried you and the breasts from which you were fed."

Jesus said, "Blessed is he whom God has taught his book and who dies without having become haughty."

Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Zuhd, p. 143 (no. 470) (The Muslim Jesus)

Dutch translation of The Thirteenth Apostle

Upon returning from vacation this morning, I found a package on my desk. I opened it and found inside a real surprise. My book has been translated into Dutch by W.G. Hurkmans. Here is the cover. The same artwork was maintained which I like.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-13-08

Let the person who possesses power renounce it and repent.

Dialogue of the Savior 20 (second century, Syrian text, encratic)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-11-08

He is everywhere, both under the earth and above the heavens and also indwelling us. He is everywhere.

Macarius, Homily 12.12

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-10-08

You are everything, and everything is in you. And you are what is, and there is nothing else that is except you alone.

Martyrdom of Peter 10

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-9-08

Jesus said, "Place your treasures in heaven, for the heart of a person is where his treasure is."

Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Zuhd, p. 95 (no. 313) (The Muslim Jesus)

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-6-08

Indeed this path of great commandments leads to the house of the Lord and enters into his bridal chamber.

Liber Graduum 19.36 (fourth century Syrian church handbook)

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-5-08

"You will clothe yourselves in light and enter the bridal chamber.

Dialogue of the Savior 50 (second century Syrian Christian text)

Commentary: Today is my eighth wedding anniversary and so I post this in celebration of one of the most wonderful days of my life.

Jesus, the Apostles and the Zodiac

As I finish writing my Codex Judas Congress paper for the forthcoming volume, I have become interested in ancient depictions of the apostles as the Zodiac signs. The substitution of the patriarchs and also the apostles was not uncommon in ancient Judaism and Christianity. In Christianity, the idea was that once baptized, you were no longer ruled by the old Zodiac signs, but you were reborn and had a new fate controlled by the apostles (=church?). The Zodiac was a powerful image, even found in religious buildings like this sixth century synagogue.

If you know of any ancient art depicting especially the disciples substituting for the Zodiac signs, please share this in the comments, and I'll try to post this information.

6th c., Zodiac on synagogue floor of Beit Alpha, Beit She'an Valley.

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-3-08

So what else is there to name it apart from "God," since it is everything. Even if it is given numberless names, they are spoken simply as a reference to it, since it transcends every word, every voice, every intellect, every thing, and (even) every silence.

Tripartite Tractate 129.15-25 (Valentinian late second century text)

Mosaic: third century, Vatican grottoe under St. Peter's Basilica, tomb of the Julii, depicting Christ (?) as the sun-god Helios or Sol Invictus riding in his chariot.