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: 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…]

Alternative Scriptures and Necessary Amnesia

It is difficult to think of a modern “radical” theory about Christian origins that was not pretty standard and mainstream in the decades before the First World War. [Read more…]

L is for Lazarus

John’s Gospel tells the unforgettable story of a family who lived at Bethany: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, while his sister Mary anointed Jesus, and washed his feet with her hair. As I have discussed in earlier columns, John’s story has many similarities to versions in other gospels, but also differs substantially in detail. [Read More…]

Mani and the Giants

Last time, I described the Book of the Giants. Probably written in the third or second centuries BC, this text is closely related to the Book of 1 Enoch and its story of fallen angels begetting monstrous offspring on human women. The book probably originated and circulated in the Jewish world, probably in the sectarian [Read More…]

The Book of the Giants

No, whatever the title suggests, that is not the name of a forthcoming novel from Neil Gaiman. The Book of the Giants is an ancient Jewish text, part of the pseudepigrapha, the “falsely titled” writings usually attributed to some ancient sage or prophet. Although it is not well known by non-specialists, the Book of the [Read More…]

Scripture and Sedition

The Hasmonean rulers of the independent Jewish kingdom (165 BC – 63 BC) were the subject of many writings, usually in the form of veiled pseudo-prophecies. Taken together, they provide us with a strictly contemporary commentary on a critical period. The ruling Hasmonean dynasty had many enemies, and from various perspectives. Originally aligned with the [Read More…]

Pseudo-Prophets and Real Kings

The independent Jewish kingdom of the second and first centuries BC – the Hasmonean state – had a turbulent and bloody history. That story is extensively commemorated in various pseudo-scriptures, although we can’t be exactly sure about the correspondence between historical events and literary representation. But some of these texts exercised enormous power over later [Read More…]

Enter Adam

In the mid-first century AD, St. Paul wrote some hugely influential words about Adam, the Fall, and original sin. As I have argued, these ideas seem  at variance with earlier Biblical traditions and Jewish thought, in which Adam’s story made little impact. Around Paul’s time, though, that saga was attracting increasing interest. Paul, oddly, was [Read More…]

Sons of Light and Sons of Seth

I discussed Dylan M. Burns’s book Apocalypse of the Alien God, an account of the influential early Gnostic sect called Sethians. Burns’s arguments resonated because of work I have been doing recently on the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and the influence of the sectarian Judaism we know from Qumran and the Dead Sea [Read More…]