Archive for February, 2007

The Jesus Tomb and the Acts of Philip II

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

The argument for the identification of the Mariamne e Mara of the Jesus Tomb with Mary Magdalene based on the Acts of Philip is clarified by Simcha Jacobovici in a short video on Youtube and an article in the Jerusalem Post. Perhaps “clarified” is too strong. Jacobovici appeals to the 1970 edition of Acts of Philip by Francois Bovon in which, Jacobovici claims, Mary is referred to as “Mariamne” and is characterized as an apostle, a healer, and a leader. The Post article also mentions Bovon’s edition:

Francois Bovon, professor of the history of religion at Harvard University, says that "Mariamene, or Mariamne, probably was the actual name given to Mary Magdalene," and that this is the name given to Mary Magdalene in a non-canonical text called the "Acts of Philip," which mentions the apostles and Mariamne, sister of the apostle Philip.

The excerpt from the Acts I posted (HERE), in which the only Mariamne identified is Mary of Bethany and sister of Philip, is from M. R. James’ edition. I do not have Bovon’s at hand but can anyone clarify this? Are both the Post and Jacobovici misrepresenting the text?

On-Line Review of Elliott’s Synopsis

Monday, February 26th, 2007
The latest Review of Biblical Literature features a review of J. K. Elliott's A Synopsis of the Apocryphal Infancy Narratives (reviewed here previously) by Nicole Kelley.

The Jesus Tomb and the Acts of Philip

Monday, February 26th, 2007
In an interview with James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici on the Today Show (see the interview here), it was revealed that Acts of Philip is instrumental in determining that the Talpiot tomb holds the remains of the family of Jesus. The two stated that the identification of the ossuary of “Mariamne” as Mary Magdalene was vital to their theory. According to Cameron and Jacobovici, Mary Magdalene’s “real name” is revealed in the Acts of Philip to be Mariamne. The problems with this assertion should be obvious. First, the Acts of Philip is a dubious source for identifiying first-century figures. Second, as far as I am able to determine (the best books are not at hand at the moment), the Mariamne of Acts of Philip is not Mary Magdalene but Mary of Bethany. Here is an excerpt:

94 It came to pass when the Saviour divided the apostles and each went forth according to his lot, that it fell to Philip to go to the country of the Greeks: and he thought it hard, and wept. And Mariamne his sister (it was she that made ready the bread and salt at the breaking of bread, but Martha was she that ministered to the multitudes and laboured much) seeing it, went to Jesus and said: Lord, seest thou not how my brother is vexed?

The Jesus Tomb

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Tomorrow in New York there will be a press conference for the release of the book The Jesus Tomb by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino. I have known about this book and its claims for some time now (James Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty provides hints to its contents) but I did not think it appropriate to mention on a blog dedicated to apocryphal literature. And then I read Amazon’s synopsis of the book (emphasis mine):

Were the remains of Jesus's body found over 25 years ago and the truth hidden? Now, The Jesus Tomb tells the shattering story of what may very well be the greatest archaeological find of all time — the discovery of the Jesus family tomb. The Jesus Tomb is the most exciting real-life archaeological detective story ever told. In 1980 a crypt was accidentally discovered in Jerusalem. Inside were ossuaries (bone boxes) with inscriptions bearing the names of Jesus of Nazareth, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Judah, the son of Jesus. The artefacts were recorded and catalogued and then locked away for over a quarter of a century. But the tomb itself wasn't destroyed — it's under the foundations of a modern apartment. In 2005, documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici gained permission to break the floor and re-enter the tomb. Together with top forensic archaeologist Charles Pellegrino and the team involved in the original discovery, he started an earth-shattering investigation that will shock the Judeo-Christian world. In a rollercoaster narrative combining history, archaeology and cutting-edge science, the book reveals: The startling connection between these tombs, 'Tomb of the 10 Ossuaries', and the famous 'James Ossuary', the apparent remains of Jesus's brother discovered in 2003. The gripping account of the DNA testing on the remains of the bones in a New York crime lab, plus residues from the inscriptions on the tombs. They prove that statistically, there is a 1 in 10 million chance that this is a family other than the Holy family. The latest research on how the 'forgotten' gospels, e.g. the Gnostic gospels and Gospel of Mary, hint at the truth of this discovery.

Please, make it stop…

Update on Oxyrhynchus “Hoax”

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Stephen Carlson of Hypotyposeis has provided a helpful update on the Oxyrhynchus story. He provides a link to Daniel B. Wallace at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts who has this to say:

The sensational report in the school newspaper of Bighham Young University about a new ending for Mark 16 in an early papyrus has circulated the Internet rather rapidly. Other publications have picked it up and the news has continued to spread, with scholarly speculation over what the ending might be.

All of this is premature, however, and in fact is based on faulty reporting. The scholars involved in the “discovery” have written a disclaimer and have asked me to post it. The three professors working on multi-spectral imaging of ancient manuscripts at BYU are Thomas Wayment, Roger Macfarlane, and Stephen Bay. I contacted Professor Macfarlane because of my interest in the discovery. He told me that it was a journalistic mistake. I would simply ask that the scholarly community recognize that not only is there no such manuscript to speculate about, but that the reputations of these professors should not in any way be impugned by this unintentionally false report of their findings. Please read their retraction for yourselves to see what has actually transpired. As all of us who teach know, our students don’t always hear exactly what we are saying. This is simply just another classic case of that, but the ramifications for the reputation of these gentlemen could have been unfortunate if they had not published a retraction of what was written. Please read the pdf file for yourselves. It’s simply called “retraction.”

And from the retraction:

We have not found a new text of Mark 16 for either the shorter or longer ending. In fact, we are not with any manuscripts or papyri of Mark 16. We have not found missing text associated with Luke, although we are working with new images of P.Oxy. 2382, which does demonstrate that Luke 22:43-44 are missing in an important early papyrus witness. Other significant errors include the claim that we have “found” an unidentified Christian apocryphal gospel and that we are working on a different version of two verses of Philemon.

Electronic Edition of the Infancy Gospel of James

Friday, February 23rd, 2007
Mark Goodacre at NT Gateway reports the creation of an electronic edition of the nine major Infancy Gospel of James manuscripts by Chris Jordan and Ali Welsby, students at the University of Birmingham. The edition was created as part of their MA in Editing Texts in Religion.

New Sybilline Oracles Blog

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Gordon Lyn Watley (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) has started a blog called Sibylline Leaves, which concerns “the Jewish & Christian Sibylline Oracles & related literature.”

News on the Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Hype or Hoax?

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Last week Stephen Carlson of Hypotyposeis and other bloggers mentioned an article from the BYU (Brigham Young University) web site about new technology that could aid in reading some of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (“Mysteries of Ancient Egyptian Papyri Revealed,” Feb. 14). It appears now that the article was either a case of an overzealous (and confused) reporter or an intentional attempt to mislead readers. The article has been removed from the web site but here is the excerpt that appeared on Carlson’s blog:

Three BYU professors have uncovered mysteries in ancient Egyptian writings aided by new technology that allows people to see inscriptions invisible to the naked eye.

The professors Roger Macfarlane, Stephen Bay and Thomas Wayment, have been working on deciphering these writings on papyrus found in an Egyptian dump where an ancient city known as Oxyrhynchus previously existed. The papyri are now housed at the University of Oxford in England and studied by various scholars around the globe.

The technology developed by BYU called multispectral imaging, can penetrate through dirt, stains and other material on the papyri, making it possible to expose obscured lettering.

. . .

Specific material in these texts include an unidentified Christian apocryphal Gospel, a new ending to the Gospel of Mark, a different version of two verses in the book of Philemon, and a missing section in Luke 22:43-44. In the King James Version, these verses in Luke talk about Christ shedding blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.

When I first read the article I thought the “discoveries” made using this technology too good to be true. A new ending to Mark? Justification for including the infamous tears of blood scene in critical editions of Luke? (if that is what is implied) This sounded to me like the Christmas wish of a King-James Fundamentalist. So I decided to wait on the news for a few days before posting it here.

It seems I was wise to do so. The Ars Technica web site features a discussion of a related (and similarly overzealous) article published in The Independent several years ago. Here is an excerpt:

Decoded at last: the 'classical holy grail' that may rewrite the history of the world

Scientists begin to unlock the secrets of papyrus scraps bearing long-lost words by the literary giants of Greece and Rome

By David Keys and Nicholas Pyke (17 April 2005)

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure – a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The author of the post raised some important questions about the report including that it implies the Oxyrhynchus papyri are a horde of texts that are intact but simply too filthy to read, when in fact the problem with the remaining unpublished papyri is piecing the many fragments of them together to form coherent texts.

Another article, this time from the Washington Post, confirms that there is indeed a BYU team using multispectral imaging on the Oxyrhynchus papyri, after having used it successfully on the horde from Herculaneum, papyri which were carbonized by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. The results from using the technology on the Oxyrhynchus papyri will be rather small, recovering lines of text from underneath dirt rather than entire texts or considerable portions of “lost” texts. The Oxyrhynchus On-line site also describes the BYU project and includes an example of the dramatic results of the technology.

Perhaps the BYU reporter combined news of the Oxyrhynchus project with the information about Herculaneum and his own wish list of lost texts. For now, at least, there is no new apocryphal gospel from Oxyrhynchus. And this story should be seen as a cautionary tale when it comes to reading (and transmitting) unsubstantiated news about manuscript discoveries that are too good to be true.

New Apocryphon on the Funeral of Jesus?

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

While viewing the contents of a manuscript listed in a catalogue I came across a fragmentary text which appears to discuss the funeral of Jesus. The text begins: "…he was greatly afraid. He said to Joseph: 'I give you, Joseph, the body of Jesus.'" It ends with: "…of the misery of those who do not wish to do good to those faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ…".

Does anyone recognize this text? 

Ehrman vs. Bock on the Gospel of Judas

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Bart Ehrman and Darrell L. Bock (author of The Missing Gospels) are interviewed on The Things That Matter Most (based in Dallas) about the Gospel of Judas. For a recent on-line review of Bock’s book see Mike Aquilina’s The Way of the Fathers Blog.