Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 11th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Daniel McClellan’s take down of a puff piece on the “Lost Gospel”

English: Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene

Honey, I’m home! English: Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A puff piece on Jacobovici and Wilson’s book, “The Lost Gospel,” has appeared where there are plenty of erroneous statements made. Personally, I don’t want you to have to read it so I have taken Daniel’s comments.

A few issues with some of the comments in this article:

1. It is simply not true that Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor has been gathering dust for 150 years. An edition of the Syriac manuscript was published in 1953, and several years ago it was digitized and put online here: https://archive.org/stream/Bro…. Prior to that the Syriac was translated into Latin and published in 1886 and 1924. Several other manuscripts containing the Joseph and Aseneth story in Greek, Latin, Arminian, Slavonic, and Middle English, have been published since the nineteenth century. The story is very well known, which is why translations of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor frequently omit that portion. See a bibliography of publications on the text here:http://www.markgoodacre.org/as…

2. The early Christian church clearly read the tradition as an allegorical reference to Jesus and the Church (his metaphorical bride), but Wilson and Jacobovici are not actually pioneers in their reading. Others have suggested before that it can be read to refer to Jesus and Mary Magdalene (see here, for instance: http://www.themirroredbridalch…. As with that website, however, the assertion that Mary Magdalene is in view is utterly arbitrary. There is no evidence of this. It is just an assertion the reader must decide to accept. The notion that the “tower” refers to Magdala, and therefore Mary Magdalene, is fanciful speculation, as the New Testament scholar to which the above article referred so dismissively has shown in his own thorough peer-reviewed scholarship.

3. Many scholars have no problem whatsoever with the notion of Jesus being married. I personally have no aversion at all to it. I think it would be a fascinating and welcome dynamic to add to the tradition, but the simple fact is that there is no evidence of it at this point, and scholars must make claims based on evidence, not on what will rile up the status quo. Mr. Jacobovici is fond of insisting that the scholars who disagree with him are experiencing “theological trauma” because his claims disagree with their “Pauline” theological outlook, which is completely absurd. His critics have come from Jewish, atheist, agnostic, and a variety of Christian perspectives. Their concerns are with his cavalier and arbitrary methodologies, not with the trouble he causes for their theology (or lack thereof).

4. No one ever mocked Jacobovici’s kippah. One scholar wrote in a critical review that, “Winston Churchill once described Russia as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ Simcha Jacobovici’s claim of the discovery of the ‘Lost Nails of the Crucifixion’ is speculation wrapped in hearsay couched in conspiracy masquerading as science ensconced in sensationalism slathered with misinformation and topped with a colorful hat.” In response to Jacobovici’s previous complaints about anti-Semitism, that scholar––who regularly speaks at synagogues––has replied: “I’ve never made fun of Mr. Jacobovici’s religion. Rather, I’ve spent my lifetime and career studying Judaism, understanding Judaism, teaching about Judaism, lecturing about Judaism, and publishing about Judaism. But Mr. Jacobovici wants to see it as ‘making fun’ because it helps him rhetorically.”

5. No one is jealous of Simcha Jacobovici’s ability to engage in pseudo-academic sensationalism.

Historical book about Jesus may find traction with Jewish readers | The Canadian Jewish News.

If you do read the story, see if you get bingo.

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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