Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
November 10th, 2014 by Joel Watts

20th century reading reveals super-secret details of the life of an allegorical novella

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...

“Snow is the air, election days have passed, the leaves are brown and another non-scholar has a book out with a “startling revelation” about Jesus. It’s almost time for me!” English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Date approximate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now, you’ve read that Simcha Jacobovici  and Barrie Wilson are publishing a new book along with a new documentary proving that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had two sons. This was expected, as this book has been on the “on hold” shelf (or whatever it is you want to call) for a while now.

There are two perspectives you need to see first.

One is Dr. Robert Cargill. I stress the doctor part for various reasons. Unlike others, he has the academic chops, prowess, and beard to actually comment on this. In 2013 he wrote,

Anyone attempting an allegorical interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, and arguing for anything other than an apology for why Joseph married a non-Israelite (and the daughter of a pagan priest at that), is grasping at speculative straws, and attempting (like the author of the Syriac text) to stretch the text into something it was never designed to do. Whether it be a gnostic interpretation of the text, or an attempt to argue something truly ridiculous and sensational, for example, that the story somehow represents Jesus and Mary Magdalene (as “Bride of God”, requiring an appeal to separate Gnostic texts like Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip), and that this allegorical representation from sixcenturiesafter the life of Jesus, relying on the weaving together of multiple Gnostic texts composed a full century after the life of Jesus, somehow provides “evidence” of aspects of Jesus’ actual, historical life – such allegorical interpretations are the height of unsubstantiated speculation.

Cargill has a review (since most of the book is now available online) up.

Another is Dr. Mark Goodacre who actually devotes time to literary practices of early Christianity was on Good Morning America.

More ABC US news | ABC Health News

By the way, Goodacre wrote a piece on this in 2013.

One of the reasons this should be dismissed is the dual claim of lost and gospel attached to this story. As Cargill noted in the linked-to piece, the story has long been known and is not actually a gospel. It simply fits as a novella.

Further, other authors long before Jacobovichi and Wilson has noted supposed parallels, such as Edith Humprey’s excellent book on Joseph and Aseneth, 

Certainly, we have no parallel more exact than that of the Christian Eucharist and Chrismation, and yet the book is lacking in unambiguously specific Christian references. The paucity of evidence concerning Judaisms at the turn of the eras (in which earliest ‘Christianity’ is to be situated), and our access to this time through mostly later texts, adds to our difficulty in making sense of such phrases, and may continue to lead some, such as Ross Kraemer, to decide for a later date for our piece. It is becoming clearer that several concepts that we normally associate with Christianity were more broadly acceptable in this time of formation—for example, evidence for belief in ‘two powers’ in heaven, a mystical teaching later proscribed by the rabbis (cf. A.F. Segal, ‘Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity and their Environment’, ANRW, II.23.2, especially pp. 1352–68; idem, Two Powers in Heaven: Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1977]). Such fluidity between turn of the era Judaisms (which included formative Christianity) may possibly apply to liturgical language that we now know only in the Christian context….

And…

our considerations of genre forbid that we see in Aseneth simply a hidden apology for an alternate temple.1

Humprey’s book, unfortunately is not cited. Perhaps it is because of her stern and well-evidenced warning against rampant parallelism, hasty interpretation, misunderstanding of genre (as well as the inability to properly access the context).

(Anthony Le Donne, James McGrath, Jim West, Greg Carey, Steve Caruso, Jim Davila, Jimmy Akin)

By the way, there is now a Bingo game for the upcoming press conference.

  1. Edith McEwan Humphrey, Joseph and Aseneth (Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha; Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 59–61.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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