Tag Archives: Simcha Jacobovici

Anthony Le Donne and Taken by the Lost Gospel T-Rex

Um… so…. read this review.

THE LOST GOSPEL is not the worst book ever written. I once attended a party where I was subjected to an excerpt of dinosaur erotica. It was a lovely gathering otherwise, but my ears were assaulted by pages from Taken by the T-Rex. I will say no more for fear that I will corrupt you, gentle reader. The silver lining of my turpid tale is that I now have a new barometer for beastly books. While The Lost Gospel is no match for dinosaur erotica, it is equally daring.

via Gronking Jesus | The Los Angeles Review of Books.

It really does not get better than this.

James Charlesworth responds to (calls out?) “The Lost Gospel”

jacobovici giorgio the lost gospel

The book is written by Barrie Wilson and Simcha Jacobovici; the title is The Lost Gospel. Should we not ask if something “lost” has been found and is it a “gospel”?

In Jacobovici’s video, I stressed that his alleged “lost gospel,” Joseph and Aseneth, is a Jewish pseudepigraphon (a work written in honor of a biblical hero) composed by a Jew in the first century CE (or about then). The document was expanded by Christians who edited it and transmitted it to us in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Latin (2 versions), Serbian Slavonic, Modern Greek, Rumanian, and Ethiopic. There is evidence that an Arabic version once existed. Clearly, the Romance found many homes and libraries; but no one has claimed or imagined it was a romance between Jesus and the Magdalene. The claim is novel. When I was interviewed, twice (once in Jaffa and once in the Old City of Jerusalem), I said that I totally disagreed with the claim that the composition,

Joseph and Aseneth, could conceivably be a cryptic story of Jesus’ alleged marriage to Mary of Migdal. My resistance has to do only with the narrative of Joseph and Aseneth.

You can find the entire paper here:

Has Lost Gospel Been Found Proving Jesus Married Mary of Migdal? | James H. Charlesworth – Academia.edu.

Charlesworth has previously defended Jacobovici’s claims, so this break is important. One thing Charlesworth mentions is he believes it is clear Jesus and Mary were “intimate.” His position is not because he doesn’t like to think of Jesus as married. He even goes on to say this present novel is more researched than Dan Brown’s book of similar storyline.

Rather, Charlesworth is clear. He echoes well-known scholar, Dr. Robert Cargill, in essentially saying The Lost Gospel is neither lost nor a gospel.

Charlesworth also answers (his own) the question about whether or not The Lost Gospel is indeed an allegory of the marriage of Jesus.

NO. Despite the claims in The Lost Gospel, and the misleading notes to the Syriac translation, Joseph is not a cipher for Jesus. Aseneth is not a veiled Mary Magdalene.

I cannot help but notice the adjective “misleading.”

Personally, I don’t think the canonical gospels, nor the earliest non-canonical (Thomas, specifically), reveal any such marriage of Jesus and Mary. Yet, as some who studies this particular portion of the past, I would find it stranger to believe Jesus lived and died a 33-year-old virgin than to accept his marriage.

To be honest, I sort of picture it as an early death of his wife, in childbirth.

But, if I were to wax romantically, I would suggest Jesus was married to a woman who was later killed by a Roman soldier, Pantera, who raped her and left her for dead. I would then suggest this is what drove Jesus into the desert, where in his insanity, he heard a voice from the heavens telling him he was the messiah, the one to free Israel from Rome.

I mean, the only that separates my fiction from Wilson, et al.’s, is that I will plainly tell you I’m pulling it out of thin air.

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.

Did Wilson, et al, unwittingly reveal Morton Smith’s literary sources for the “Secret Gospel of Mark?”

Admittedly, Wilson, et al,’s book “The Lost Gospel” is a midrash of fantasy, but sometimes there are crossovers in fantasy worlds. So is the case, I speculate, between Wilson, et al, and Morton Smith.

In “The Lost Gospel,” Wilson, et al, suggests a literary connection between Joseph and Aseneth and The Secret Gospel of Mark. On the surface, and because that is all this blog post requires, it looks like a solid case. For those of us who study literary sources (mimetic criticism), the closeness is seen easily enough. Of course, we don’t have the original Secret Gospel because it was never presented. It is another “lost gospel,” I guess.

While there are some scholars who accept Smith’s testimony, there are plenty of others who do not. Those who do not suggest Smith created this forgery.

So, where did Morton Smith get his close-to-real story? Perhaps he simply invented it wholesale, the story of Jesus’s esoteric relationship with a naked young man in the Secret Gospel of Mark. But, if he took the time to design the letter in such a way as to remove himself from the picture, then he was careful enough to insure the story was similar to others, right?

I can only speculate — Smith used Joseph and Aseneth, resting on the idea as presented in Wilson, et al, and the fact that we know Smith had at least once delved significantly into Joseph and Aseneth.

Odd….

 

 

Eucharist? Not bloody likely — The Gospels, Didache, Joseph and Aseneth, and Reality “#thelostgospel”

Pollen Comb of Honeybee Hive
Jewish bees? Gentile bees? If they are pollenating, one is Jesus and the other is Mary Maggie-pie. Pollen Comb of Honeybee Hive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long before the “lost gospel” was found, Dr. Mark Goodacre had a webpage devoted to the pseudepigrapha tale. You can find it here.

In Wilson and Jacobovici’s book they declare, without regard for logic, that the story in Joseph and Aseneth 16 is the “First Holy Communion Ever.” One would think that this audacious statement would be backed up with well supported facts. One would think…

This is how chapter 16 reads,

And the man said to her, “Bring me, please, a honeycomb too.” 2. And Aseneth said, “Let me send someone my lord, to my family estate in the country and I will get you a honeycomb.” 3. And the man said to her, “Go into your inner room and you will find a honeycomb there.” 4. And Aseneth went into her inner room and found a honeycomb lying on the table; and the comb was as white as snow and full of honey, and its smell was like the breath of life. 5. And Aseneth took the comb and brought it to him; and the man said to her, “Why did you say, ‘There is no honeycomb in my house?’ And lo, you have brought me this.” 6. And Aseneth said, My lord, I had no honeycomb in my house, but it happened just as you said: did it perchance come out of your mouth, for it smells like myrrh?” 7. And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you; and blessed too are those who give their allegiance to the Lord God in penitence, for they shall eat of this comb. 8. The bees of the Paradise of Delight have made this honey, and the angels of God eat of it, and no one who eats of it shall ever die. 9. And the man stretched his right hand out and broke off a piece of the comb and ate it; and he put a piece of it unto Aseneth’s mouth. 10. And the man stretched his hand out and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced eastwards; and the path of his finger became like blood. 11. And he stretched out his hand a second time and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced northwards, and the path of his finger became like blood.

Now that you have read it, let me post it again with portions in bold,

And the man said to her, “Bring me, please, a honeycomb too.” 2. And Aseneth said, “Let me send someone my lord,  to my family estate in the country and I will get you a honeycomb.” 3. And the man said to her, “Go into your inner room and you will find a honeycomb there.” 4. And Aseneth went into her inner room and found a honeycomb lying on the table; and the comb was as white as snow and full of honey, and its smell was like the breath of life. 5. And Aseneth took the comb and brought it to him; and the man said to her, “Why did you say, ‘There is no honeycomb in my house?’ And lo, you have brought me this.” 6. And Aseneth said, My lord, I had no honeycomb in my house, but it happened just as you said: did it perchance come out of your mouth, for it smells like myrrh?” 7. And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you; and blessed too are those who give their allegiance to the Lord God in penitence, for they shall eat of this comb. 8. The bees of the Paradise of Delight  have made this honey, and the angels of God eat of it, and no one who eats of it shall ever die. 9. And the man stretched his right hand out and broke off a piece of the comb and ate it; and he put a piece of it unto Aseneth’s mouth. 10. And the man stretched his hand out and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced eastwards; and the path of his finger became like blood. 11. And he stretched out his hand a second time and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced northwards, and the path of his finger became like blood.

Let me take them in order.

  • Honeycomb is the Torah, the words of God (see Sirach 24)
  • Myrrh, is associated with the Wisdom of God, which is the Torah (See Sirach 24)
  • Shall never die – language connected to Genesis 3.22 and the honeycomb which gives life.

These three things are all connected to the Wisdom tradition of the Jewish and then the Christian people. In this tradition, Wisdom is the Torah and it is the Torah that gives eternal life. Wisdom plays a significant part in deuterocanonical literature, such as Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, as well as in Jewish mysticism and developing Christian theology. You can see this in Hebrews and John. Why are these two latter books so important? Because Wisdom becomes Jesus Christ. If Christians understand Wisdom as Christ (this is apparent in Paul as well), then it is unlikely such an imagery could get so mangled as to produced what is suggested in the “decoded” allegory. Rather, what is better sensed in chapter 16 is a conversion story where one food (or Law) is replaced by another (in this case, a pagan food for the Torah).

But, what about the sign of the cross and the eucharistic symbology? I think it is possible to see a connection there, although we may run into parallelism, which Wilson and Jacobovici have done, if we believe this language is a code. The meal imagery is easily explained as a conversion process, yet, there is a nagging parallel to Christian practices as developed late in the 4th and 5th centuries. How late? Around the time this document was no doubt written.

Possibly, there are two “liturgical” images here:

  • Eucharist
  • Sign of the cross

If you are Orthodox, you will recognize a similarity to the Epiklesis of the Divine Liturgy.  It evolved from the Apostolic Tradition usually attributed to Hippolytus (c. 215). What is most interesting is that the section on the Eucharistic prayer is commonly thought to be a later addition, perhaps even from the 4th century (albeit with earlier layers of tradition). At the time of Hippolytus, however, sign of the cross-as-invocation was still performed upon the forehead (as found in Tertullian). It wasn’t until the 5th century we begin to see the connection between signing the cross on the holy bread and the turning of that bread into the body of Christ:

With regard to other points of theology, we may note that Cyril very strongly insists on the Real Presence and on Transubstantiation, of which he gives a most accurate definition: “That which seems bread is not bread but the Body of Christ; that which seems wine is not wine but the Blood of Christ.” “It is not ordinary bread (ἄρτος λιτός), but the Body of Christ.” “As Christ changed water into wine, so does he change (μεταβάλλει) wine into his Blood.” Christians who receive holy communion become “of one Body and of one Blood with Christ” (σύσσωμοι καὶ σύναιμοι Χριστοῦ) and are “Christbearers (Χριστοφόροι).” Transubstantiation takes place, he says, “by the invocation of the Holy Ghost.”5 The holy Eucharist is a “spiritual sacrifice” and a “sacrifice of atonement.”1

Today, the rite looks like this:

(The Priest signs the Holy Bread with the sign of the Cross, saying quietly:) And make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ:

(The Priest makes the sign of the Cross, saving quietly:) And that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of thy Christ:

(The Priest makes the sign of the Cross over both the Holy Gifts, saying quietly:) Changing them by thy Holy Spirit: Amen, Amen, Amen.

Again, we are fluctuating between the 3rd and 5th century, with a date of the 4th century as probable for the inclusion of this specific invocation (over the bread, with the sign of the cross) into the liturgies of the various Sees. But, what does the first images of the Eucharist look like?

If we go to the Synoptics (no earlier than 73 with Mark), we get the image of a traditional Passover seder. Once we turn to Acts (I would place this work into the early 2nd century), the “breaking of the bread” becomes an event to celebrate the growth of the Church. However, if we turn to Paul and 1 Corinthians 11.23–26 (mid 50’s), we see a communal rite, sacred nevertheless, that is supposed to harken back to Jesus. Some could see the revelation of this rite to Paul as a spiritual vision, rather than Paul taking up an already standing tradition. It would be difficult to argue this position, as the meal was already present among the Jews, albeit with different intentions.

The earliest non-canonical detailing about the sacred meal comes from a first century document called The Didache. This preserves the Eucharist like this:

9.1 Now this is how you should engage in giving thanks, bless God in this way.
9.2 First, at the cup, say:
We give thanks to you, our Father,
for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you have made known to us.
Through Jesus, your servant, to you be glory for ever.
9.3 Then when it comes to the broken loaf say:
We give thanks to you, our Father,
for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us.
Through Jesus, your servant, to you be glory for ever.
9.4 For as the broken loaf was once scattered over the mountains and then was gathered in and became one, so may your church be gathered together into your kingdom from the very ends of the earth.
Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
9.5 Only let those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord eat and drink at your Eucharists. And remember what the Lord has said about this: do not give to dogs what is holy.

The issue with excluding the Didache has somehow preserving a “truer” (code for non-Pauline) Christianity is that we have enough textual studies between Mark and Matthew and Paul to suggest that the Didache (which used Matthew) recognized Pauline Christianity. (See here, here and here to begin correctly the view that the Didache is “Pauline free.”) Note, the Didache does not use code language, allegory, or otherwise. Unlike 4th century eucharistic rites, it doesn’t include the epiklesis or sign of the cross. Rather, follows Pauline order in the wine and the bread.

Before I leave this alone, let me decode “Pauline Christianity.” For many who use this term, it means the pro-inclusion-of-Gentiles into Israel’s covenant. Note what Jacobovici has said,

“Someone might say to me, why are you finding so many great things, why nobody else? I tell you why. Because I’m Jewish, I’m not Pauline—I don’t think inside a Christian box… I’m not a theologian, I’m not a Christian, and I see that in this world you can look at texts with fresh eyes and see new things.”

While I am not going to answer the racist undertones of that statement, let me point out the false dichotomy of such a view. Paul was Jewish. Many of the people he spoke to and wrote to were Jewish. We have scant evidence Paul was overly successful in converting Gentiles. Indeed, whereas the Epistle to the Romans was written to a Jewish and Gentile audience, Paul didn’t establish this community. To be Pauline is to be Jewish. If you look at the language in Joseph and Aseneth as liturgical and then compare it back to the earliest record of the sacred meal (1 Corinthians 11.23–26), you will even see a Pauline influence!2 But, you have to backwards read and treat it as something more than it is. But this goes further. Many in early Christianity still considered themselves Jewish, still used the synagogues, and still, alongside the Rabbis, brought to life new theology. In fact, real scholarship (usually called “the parting of the ways”) reveals a centuries-long relationship between Jews and Christians that aided both peoples. If anything, by comparing the 4th century Christian liturgical development, 2nd Temple Jewish mysticism, and the 5th century Joseph and Aseneth what could be revealed is a confluence of Jewish and Christian mysticism lasting well into Christendom.

What we should see here is the fallacy established by Wilson and Simcha, but also a chance to see either an interpolation of Christian conversion rites into a Jewish story or still yet a novella that contained Jewish-Christian mysticism recognizable to and aiding both Jews and Christians. It is not impossible the imagery of Joseph and Aseneth provided fodder for developing liturgies, or vice versa. What is impossible is to say that this mystical tale known nearly from its inception “is either lost or a gospel” (see here as well) and that it represents the earliest image of the Eucharistic celebration.

  1. Adrian Fortescue, The Greek Fathers (London; St Louis, MO: Catholic Truth Society; B. Herder, 1908), 157.
  2. Why? Because Paul was a Jewish mystic and the Christianity he left us shares an intimate relationship with Jewish mysticism!