Ancient forbidden Christian text of Jesus’ ‘secret teachings’ to his ‘brother’ found

Biblical scholars have discovered the first-known original Greek copy of an ancient forbidden Christian text that purportedly describes Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James, an early leader of the Church. Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau, religious studies scholars at The University of Texas at Austin, located the rare text in Oxford University archives earlier this year. The experts found several fifth- or sixth-century A.D. Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, one of the books from an ancient collection known as the Nag Hammadi library. Previously, the text was thought to be preserved only via translations in the Egyptian Coptic language. Only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library, a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in Egypt in 1945, have been found in Greek, their original language of composition. Also known as the “Gnostic Gospels,” the books are seen as key documents for understanding Gnosticism, an ancient belief system. The First Apocalypse of James, like the other books in the Nag Hammadi library, was deemed heretical or forbidden by the church because it fell outside of the fourth-century religious boundaries that defined the 27-book New Testament. Experts were thrilled by the discovery of the ancient fragments, which are owned by the Egypt Exploration Society. “To say that we were excited once we realized what we’d found is an understatement,” said Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies, in a statement. “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 document is said to describe Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James. Details of the “heavenly realm” and future events, such as James’ inevitable death, are revealed, according to The University of Texas at Austin. “The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’ life and ministry,” Smith added. There are a number of interpretations of references to Jesus’ siblings in biblical texts. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, for example, refer to Jesus’ brothers, including James. James, also known as “James the Just” was a leader of the early church – one interpretation of “brother” may thus be a close spiritual relationship as opposed to a fraternal biological link. The First Apocalypse of James describes James as not Jesus’ brother “materially.” Other interpretations describe James as Jesus’ step-brother or cousin. The manuscript, which uses neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, was probably a teacher’s model used to help students read and write, according to the experts. “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, in the statement. Landau notes that the teacher who produced the manuscript likely “had a particular affinity for the text.” The document, he explains, appears to be a complete copy of the forbidden ancient text.

Fascinating!!    🙂

Religion: The Shroud of Turin, Authenticated Again

A new study released last week included new evidence that links and further authenticates two holy relics that millions of Christians believe offer physical proof of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But before we explore the research and the relics, let us recall a New Testament passage concerning faith in Christ and the need for physical evidence. I mean the familiar story of “doubting Thomas” (John 20:24–29). The apostle Thomas was absent when the resurrected Christ appeared to some of the apostles. On hearing the astonishing news, Thomas declared, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hand and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later, Jesus appeared, giving Thomas the physical proof he demanded. Then Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” If in your faith walk you identify with Doubting Thomas, keep reading. Remarkably, two ancient pieces of cloth, the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo, are extant today. Both are revered as relics, and each bears the name of the city where it currently resides. First and foremost is the Shroud of Turin. Secured in a vault in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, the Shroud is believed by millions to be the burial cloth of Jesus. It is a fine linen cloth, measuring 14.5 feet by 3.5 feet, and mysteriously displays a finely detailed negative photographic image — front and back, head to toe, of an anatomically correct man who appears to have been tortured, beaten, and crucified. Note that, in their accounts of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, all four Gospels mention a “fine linen cloth.” Perhaps it is a coincidence, but clearly seen on the body of the crucified man in the Shroud are gruesome markings consistent with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s Passion. You can count over 100 whip marks, possibly from scourging by Roman flagra, and identify on his wrists and feet obvious wounds that could have been from large spikes. Other markings are compatible with what could have been a crown of thorns. On closer examination, you can spot bruises (from beatings?) on his face, knees (from falling?), and the back of his shoulders (from carrying a heavy cross?), and a large bloody mark (from a spear?) in his side. Like the crucified Jesus in Gospel accounts, the man in the Shroud had no broken bones. The Shroud, the most studied, analyzed, and tested religious relic in the world, has spawned a vast, global field of scientific study, called “sindonology,” but still baffles scientists. Its mysteries are many and complex. For brevity’s sake, I will only scratch the surface (so to speak). First among the major mysteries is how the image was made. Second, what is the substance constituting the image, which can be scraped away with a razor blade? The substance is undetermined — all man-made materials have been ruled out — and only rests on top of the cloth; it does not penetrate the cloth’s linen fibers. The third mystery is related to the second: Blood from the crucified man penetrated the cloth, as one would expect, but also preceded the impression of the man’s image. “Blood first, image second” is a mantra of Shroud researchers. This order is logical if the “man in the Shroud” was in fact Christ, who would have been wrapped in the linen Shroud days before the electrical event (see below) that accompanied his resurrection and resulted in the human image. The only evidence that would conclusively authenticate the Shroud against naysayers and claims of forgery is Jesus’ DNA. It would be matched against the blood — type AB — found on the Shroud and considered rare. Enter the Sudarium of Oviedo. It resides in the Cathedral of Oviedo, in Spain. The Sudarium is a piece of linen cloth, 34 by 21 inches, thought to have been used to cover the head of Jesus immediately after the crucifixion (John 20:7). Unlike the Shroud, the Sudarium does not display an image. The Sudarium contains male blood of type AB, however, which matches the blood on the Shroud. Moreover, the patterns of blood flow on the Sudarium are consistent with those of a crucified man. Indeed, the Sudarium and the Shroud covered the same person, as Juan Manuel Miñarro, the author of a study sponsored by the Spanish Center of Sindonology, recently concluded. “We have come to a point where it seems absurd to suggest that ‘by happenstance’ all of the wounds, lesions and swelling coincides on both cloths,” said the center’s president, Jorge-Manuel Rodríguez. “Logic requires that we conclude that we are speaking of the same person.” The study’s conclusion was no surprise to Sudarium expert Janice Bennett, author of Sacred Blood, Sacred Image: The Sudarium of Oviedo, New Evidence for the Authenticity of the Shroud of Turin (2001). Bennett, who has been studying the Sudarium since 1997, tells me that, “Although Miñarro stops short of linking the two cloths to Jesus, ample research has yielded staggering evidence. For example, both linens show bloodstains on the head, in approximately the same position, that were formed by sharp objects, similar to what thorns would produce. Jesus was the only person in recorded history to have been crowned with thorns before crucifixion.” Bennett explains as well that the Shroud and the Sudarium are consistent with Jewish burial customs of Jesus’ day.

Fascinating!!  The Air Force did a study on the Shroud, and there is an exhibit in the chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs dedicated to the Shroud.  It’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area.  Anyway, to read the rest of this compelling article by Myra Adams, click on the text above.    🙂