Professors discover copy of Jesus' secret revelations to his brother

November 30, 2017, University of Texas at Austin
A piece of the Coptic translation of the First Apocalypse of James from the Nag Hammadi Codex V. Credit: Nag Hammadi Library, Oxford University.

The first-known original Greek copy of a heretical Christian writing describing Jesus' secret teachings to his brother James has been discovered at Oxford University by biblical scholars at The University of Texas at Austin.

To date, only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library—a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in 1945 in Upper Egypt—have been found in Greek, their original language of composition. But earlier this year, UT Austin religious studies scholars Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau added to the list with their discovery of several fifth- or sixth-century Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, which was thought to have been preserved only in its Coptic translations until now.

"To say that we were excited once we realized what we'd found is an understatement," said Smith, an assistant professor of . "We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us."

The ancient narrative describes the secret teachings of Jesus to his brother James, in which Jesus reveals information about the heavenly realm and future events, including James' inevitable death.

"The supplements the biblical account of Jesus' life and ministry by allowing us access to conversations that purportedly took place between Jesus and his brother, James—secret teachings that allowed James to be a good teacher after Jesus' death," Smith said.

Geoffrey Smith (left) and Brent Landau take a closer look at the Greek fragment identified as the First Apocalypse of James. The fragments--and rights to published images of them--are owned by the Egypt Exploration Society. Credit: Geoffrey Smith, UT Austin.

Such apocryphal writings, Smith said, would have fallen outside the canonical boundaries set by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his "Easter letter of 367" that defined the 27-book New Testament: "No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them."

With its neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, the original manuscript was probably a teacher's model used to help students learn to read and write, Smith and Landau said.

"The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts," said Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies.

The teacher who produced this manuscript must have "had a particular affinity for the text," Landau said. It does not appear to be a brief excerpt from the text, as was common in school exercises, but rather a complete copy of this forbidden ancient writing.

Smith and Landau announced the discovery at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Boston in November and are working to publish their preliminary findings in the Greco Roman Memoirs series of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

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18 comments

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doogsnova
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 30, 2017
Talmud Jmmanuel. End of story.
a_rae
3.8 / 5 (10) Dec 01, 2017
Yeah, I have a really old copy of Hansel and Gretel as well.
Whydening Gyre
3.2 / 5 (9) Dec 01, 2017
1st sentence was;
"Don't drink the Kool-Aid...
Bart_A
1 / 5 (7) Dec 01, 2017
Heretical. Nothing to get excited about.

michbaskett
4.8 / 5 (12) Dec 01, 2017
Heretical. Nothing to get excited about.


Heretical according to whom? Youm? Some bishop in the year 367? One cannot help but whonder what Jesus actually taught people and what was supperssed later by people who had an agenda of their own. I'm sure there are glaring differences and the whole story has been twisted to be almost unrecognizable form reality.
Shootist
3.6 / 5 (7) Dec 01, 2017
Heretical. Nothing to get excited about.


Heretical according to whom?


Heretical according to the Councils of Nicea. Those bishops decided the rules necessary to be Christian. Anything, everything else is heretical.
Captain Stumpy
3.9 / 5 (8) Dec 01, 2017
One cannot help but whonder what Jesus actually taught people and what was supperssed later by people who had an agenda of their own
one first has to wonder if he actually even lived

there is absolutely no evidence to support that he existed

.

Heretical according to the Councils of Nicea
@Shooty
he was referring to the council fo Nicea when he referenced 367, roughly the years of the first councils which started in AD 325

.

however, just FYI to everyone - There is no record of any discussion of the biblical canon at the council [ Ehrman 2004, ].
The development of the biblical canon took centuries
rustolio
3.5 / 5 (6) Dec 01, 2017

Those bishops decided the rules necessary to be Christian. Anything, everything else is heretical.


Even the words of Jesus
gculpex
1 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2017
Good article with lots of information!
FM79
5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2017
Misleading title, but nevertheless interesting to understand the Gnostic sects.
Da Schneib
4 / 5 (4) Dec 01, 2017
Censorship existed in 367 AD in the Byzantine Empire. Knowing that "Byzantine" is a byword for political corruption of religion, and religious corruption of politics, is anyone surprised?
rrwillsj
3.9 / 5 (7) Dec 01, 2017
The Concept of Clean Hands is that when you accuse others, that you yourself are not guilty of their crimes or worse.

Those Byzantines were certainly victims of the incompetencies typical of theocratic states.

However their destruction was at the bloody hands of the "Good Catholic Christian" soldiers of the Fourth Crusade. Who were too cowardly to attack Saladin and his Khurd armies.

Instead, driven by their greed and innate violence. The crusaders, with the blessing of the Catholic hierarchy. Betrayed their Byzantine hosts with slaughter and pillaging. Rape and torture and stealing anything the Crusaders could get their claws on. Reducing that once great city on the Bosporus, to a depopulated ruin.

Eventually to be conquered by the Ottoman Turks. As Instanbul became the center of their empire.

Twice now, that location has risen and fallen. Maybe it''s just bad luck for hubris?
Jayarava
5 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2017
There's a still the mystery of what an ancient Greek text was doing in Oxford.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Dec 03, 2017
From the estate of a private collector ??
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2017
Fanmade bullshit. Always dislike.
political corruption of religion
Oxymoron.
leetennant
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 03, 2017
"Professors discover copy of Jesus' secret revelations to his brother"

Professors discover text written much later in a different language that imagine a conversation between two mythical figures, one of which the church claims did not exist.

I guess that's a little wordy.

Misleading title, but nevertheless interesting to understand the Gnostic sects.


Yes, absolutely. I find the Hag Nammadi absolutely fascinating. But it's a social and cultural study of historical religion, not some revelation.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2017

there is absolutely no evidence to support that he existed


As leetennant notes, a much later text imagining a conversation between myth figures. The find lowers support for these myth figures having existed, since they add to the myth texts always being written far later than the claimed - and completely empty - contemporary record.
Anonym707243
not rated yet Dec 27, 2017
I'd like to know what these secret revelations are. I'm surprised the article did not present them. Where must one go to read these revelations? tx

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