About Philip Jenkins

Alternative Scriptures: Theosophy and the Esoteric Tradition

I have been posting about the widespread knowledge of alternative gospels and scriptures that existed in Western culture over a century ago, roughly between 1870 and 1930. Whether we are looking at Gnostic and esoteric views of early Christianity, feminist interpretations of the role of Mary Magdalene, or the influence of Essene doctrine, very few [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Melville’s “Lost Gnostic Poem”

In 1891, Herman Melville published his final book, a collection of poems entitled Timoleon. I want to focus on one of these poems, which initially seems quite mysterious. But it can be understood, if we appreciate the prevailing historical views of the time about heresy and sectarian religion. I also want to touch on a [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus

I have been posting about the quite widespread knowledge of alternative and apocryphal scriptural texts in the early twentieth century, long before most non-specialists would assume that this would have been possible. Today’s post concerns an extraordinary example of this phenomenon. The First World War years witnessed a wonderful flowering of music in Great Britain, [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Finding the First Scrolls

I began this “Alternative Scriptures” series by noting the discovery of a “Dead Sea Scroll” type manuscript in the Genizah of a Cairo synagogue, in the 1890s. Tracing the probable history of that document tells a fascinating story. This “Zadokite Fragment” originated either at Qumran or another site belonging to the same sect, presumably around [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: A Bit Of Bible Long Lost

How an American poet popularized the Gospel of Thomas [Read more…]

Alternative Scriptures: Jesus, the Zadokites, and the Women’s Home Companion

I have been posting on the modern discovery of Biblical Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, and suggesting that such texts were actually widely known and discussed long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or of the Nag Hammadi library. In fact, the existence of these texts was amazingly mainstream public knowledge. How mainstream? Well, how [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Finding Sirach

I have been posting about the astonishing wave of scriptural and Bible-related discoveries at the turn of the twentieth century, and their cultural impact. Although not quite as sensational as the find of a new alternative gospel, one moment in particular demands our attention for what it suggest about the nature of the Bible and [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Beyond the New Testament

Many believe that only in recent times have we rediscovered the extraordinary breadth and complexity of early Christianity, with all the alternative gospels and apocalypses, all the heretical movements that vanished before the rise of the Great Church. As I have tried to show, that perception is just not correct. In fact, the great age [Read More…]

Dr. Who and the Vatican

Last night’s Dr. Who episode, “Extremis,” presented some vicious media stereotypes of Catholicism… well, no, not really. In one scene, the Dr.’s companion Bill (female) is attempting to seduce Penny, a girl she has just met. She tries to explain that there is no reason for her friend to feel guilty about such sexual matters, [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Which Old Testament?

In 1915, the Kansas City Star published a short religion column on the theme of “How the Idea of Immortality Developed” (January 17, 1915). The story was clearly aimed at a general audience, and made no pretensions to academic depth, yet ithe author’s main point was that “The whole doctrine of the future life as [Read More…]