The First Bath

Shepherds, magi, the ox and the ass… how can you say anything new about the Christmas scene? Through much of Christian history, there was actually a lot more to the story, mainly derived from the second century “Infancy Gospel of James,” the Protevangelium. This told elaborate stories of the birth, many involving the midwife, Salome. [Read More…]

Becoming Mary

In a recent post, I looked at the mysterious figure of the “Woman clothed with the Sun,” depicted in the Book of Revelation. I suggested that she was likely to symbolize New Israel or the Church, although later generations have usually connected her with the Virgin Mary, and the Revelation passage has largely shaped later [Read More…]


I have been working on the fate of alternative scriptures in the millennium or so following the early Christian era – say, between 500 and 1600. My argument is that, in that long period, many or most of the old alternative texts that were so popular in the early church continued to thrive and to [Read More…]


I recently posted about the historic devotion to the Virgin Mary, and the range of alternative writings and even pseudo-gospels that it inspired. These texts made Mary a close facsimile of Christ, with a comparably miraculous story of conception, birth, death and (in a sense) resurrection. Mary’s birth-story is described in the Protevangelium, and the [Read More…]


I have been tracking the ancient “lost gospels” through the Middle Ages, when these alternative scriptures continued to exercise a remarkably wide influence. This was especially true in the cultures of Islam, which emerged in a largely Christian world fascinated by apocryphal writings. Even in the fifth century, Arabia was proverbially haeresium ferax: the breeding [Read More…]


I have been working recently on the survival of ancient alternative gospels and other scriptures through the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. Ireland especially was a staggeringly rich treasury for “lost” early Christian texts. This would be so important because of the critical role that Irish monks played in the conversion of England and [Read More…]


Not long since, there was the Gospel of Judas, then there was Jesus’s Wife, and pretty soon, no doubt, we’ll have claims about another new gospel and its explosive revelations concerning early Christianity. When you wonder how to respond to those claims, I would like to offer you a very powerful rhetorical weapon. Remember the [Read More…]