Archive for August, 2010

Full Article on “Heresy Hunting” Published in SR

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

The short article I wrote for the JBL Forum a few years ago entitled "Heresy Hunting in the New Millennium" (read it HERE and some reactions and discussion HERE) has now appeared in its original longer form in the latest volume of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses (contents and abstracts available HERE).

Dispute Between the Cherub and the Thief

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Mark Bilby (University of Virginia) pointed out to me this edition by Sebastian Brock of a fifth-century Syriac poem entitled The Dispute Between the Cherub and the Thief. The poem is related to the Decensus traditions in which the one good thief of Luke 23: 39-43 attempts to enter Paradise.

Conference on Infancy Gospels

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The Infancy Gospels Research Program is hosting three conferences in Switzerland this fall. You can check out the program HERE. The events feature surprisingly few North American scholars and also little on apocryphal texts (though see the final day, which features papers by Sever Voicu and Jean-Daniel Kaestli among others).

The Beheading of John the Baptist by Euriptus, the Disciple of John

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

I have just added this text to the More Christian Apocrypha page on my main site ( It's a curious text, as it reports some events of John's life and death differently from other Baptist-related texts and traditions. Here Herod's wife is named Polias (Paula?) and Elizabeth does not die in John's youth, but remains alive to bury her son along with Zechariah, whose body, which went missing after his death according to the Protoevangelium of James, reappears late in the narrative.

It is appropriate to be adding this text to the page after the news reports of the last few days about the discovery of relics of John the Baptist in Bulgaria (see HERE). Of course, likely these are just as authentic as the numerous other relics of John known throughout Christian history (including several heads and arms).

Review of Aasgard’s The Childhood of Jesus

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Jim Davila at Paleojudaica pointed out this review of Reidar Aasgaard's study of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009).

Manuscript Hunter Part 2: The Results

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I have returned from my trip to the US to photograph a handful of Syriac manuscripts. The work went quite well, with only a few minor problems accessing the material. Here's a brief rundown of the trip.

I arrived in New York City Sunday night. Princeton Theological Society was scheduled for one o'clock the following afternoon. So, after a short stroll through Central Park Monday morning, I headed off to Princeton. When I arrived, a fire alarm was going off in the library (due to construction) and I had to wait a little while for that to be resolved. I speedily photographed the manuscript (Speer Library Cabinet C, Ms. 40). I was under the mistaken belief that this was a copy of a manuscript from Urmia (Urmia 43) that was now lost. In fact, however, it actually is Urmia 43. So, one mystery solved. Documents in the library suggest that the other two Urmia manuscripts (38 and 47) are indeed lost, though the Royal Asiatic Society Ms published by Budge is virtually identical to Urmia 38.

On Tuesday, I made it to Union Theological Seminary to photograph UTS Syr. 32, a fragmentary Life of Mary Ms of only forty or so pages. Upon arrival I was told I needed a temporary library card from Butler library, which was four blocks down the street. Sigh. After a quick run in terrible heat, I was back to complete the job.

And on Friday, I spent a few hours in Harvard's Houghton Library photographing Mss. 168 and 82. Houghton is somewhat more regimented than the other two libraries. Besides the elaborate security one has to get through, I could not use my tripod. I was also slowed down by some hem-ing and haw-ing over the manuscripts. They could not understand why the library itself could not photograph them, despite my insistence that I was told that the library informed me these could not be photographed because they were too delicate. After clearing everything with the curator, I was given the go-ahead. I also got a look at Titterton's very extensive catalogue of the Syriac manuscripts.

And now I am back in Waterloo, cropping and organizing the photographs so that I can print them out in the next few days. I still don't know how valuable the manuscripts will be: Houghton Ms. 168 I have collated already, so it holds no surprises, but the other three may very well be Life of Mary manuscripts that do not contain the Infancy Thomas material, in which case they are not particularly useful to me, but may be for others interested in the text. At the very least they will be incorporated into my description of the Life of Mary manuscripts, which have been terribly confused in previous studies of the material.