Response to Prof. Bauckham’s critique of The Lost Gospel

Assessing The Lost Gospel, part 2.

Noli Me Tangere – Battista (16th century). Jesus touching Mary the Magdalene. Metaphor or history?

Noli Me Tangere – Battista (16th century). Jesus touching Mary the Magdalene. Metaphor or history?

Prof. Richard Bauckham from St. Andrews University has been posting scholarly reviews (two parts) of the book I wrote with Prof. Barrie Wilson: The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene.

So far, I’ve responded to his part 1. Here I’ll respond to part 2. To review, Prof. Bauckham agrees with our understanding of Joseph and Aseneth as a Christian manuscript i.e., he agrees that the document we call a “Lost Gospel” is, indeed, a Christian, not a Jewish writing. In other words, Prof. Bauckham has parted ways with those who refuse to admit that this is a Christian text, because they are afraid of the implications of this interpretation. Basically, Prof. Bauckham believes that he can have his cake and eat it too i.e., admit that it is a Christian document but, then, conclude that it doesn’t mean anything. By the way, by calling it a “Christian document” Prof. Bauckham joins a long list of scholars who reached a similar conclusion, including the scholar-priest Pierre Batiffol (1889), E.W. Brooks (1918), Rivka Nir (2012) and Ross Shepard Kraemer – arguably the top academic on the subject today (1998 and 2006).

In his “critique” of our book, Prof. Bauckham also agrees that the “Joseph” character in our manuscript is – typologically speaking – a stand-in for Jesus: “The Syriac Fathers, who read the Old Testament in pervasively typological terms, took Joseph to be a type of Christ”. So far so good. We are in wild agreement with each other. But now Prof. Bauckham turns to the “Aseneth” character in our manuscript, and argues against our reading that she’s a stand-in for Mary the Magdalene. Let’s go step by step and see if his rejection of this point makes sense.

(1) Aseneth is a type of the Church

In our book, we state that Aseneth is a “type of the Church”. Prof. Bauckham agrees with this. He calls it “uncontroversial”.

(2) Mary Magdalene is a type of the Church

Again, Prof. Bauckham agrees, stating that writers such as Ephrem (4th century) stated that Mary the Magdalene “was like the Church because she brought the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.” Again, so far so good. We’re in wild agreement. In the logic classes I once taught, if A = B and C = B, then A = C. In other words, Mary the Magdalene is a stand-in – typologically speaking – for Aseneth. But here is where Prof. Bauckham has a problem: he states that “Other women of the old testament, such as, Eve, Rachel, The Queen of Sheba and Esther were also treated as types of the church, but it does not follow that they therefore represent Mary Magdalene.” Well, it actually does. I refer Prof. Bauckham to the little chart above, with the A’s and the B’s and the C’s.

Put differently, if an “Old Testament” character is seen by a community as typologically representing the Church and if Mary the Magdalene is seen by the same community as also typologically representing the Church, then the biblical character in question could very well be a stand-in for Mary the Magdalene. So Queen Esther, for example, could be a Mary the Magdalene avatar. It doesn’t mean that she is, it just means that she’s available to an author that’s trying to encode a text concerning Mary the Magdalene.

So how do we know when a biblical character is a stand-in for Mary the Magdalene? We have to look at the text. Is she interacting with someone who is a typological stand-in for Jesus? In the case of our manuscript, she is. Not only that: in our story, her Jesus-like husband makes the sign of the cross in blood on a honeycomb and feeds it to her in a communion-like ceremony. Sure sounds Christian, doesn’t it? More than this, if Prof. Bauckham knows of any text where Eve, Rachel, The Queen of Sheba or Esther are called “The Daughter of God” or the “Bride of God” as Aseneth is called in our text, I ask that he contact me right away because he may have an encoded Gospel on his hands.

Finally, Prof. Bauckham argues that when Ephrem writes that Aseneth “had many children by the Crucified” he was talking metaphorically of Christian believers “born” to Jesus and his bride the Church. That’s all very nice, but in our manuscript Joseph – a.k.a Jesus – has “intercourse” with Aseneth. The Church? I don’t think so. I think here, clearly, an all-too-human Jesus is having real sex with a human being – not an institution. Accepting Prof. Bauckham’s “metaphor” conjures up images that I dare not describe.

In conclusion, at the end of the day there isn’t very much separating Prof. Wilson’s and my interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth from Prof. Bauckham’s. He accepts that the text is Christian, he accepts that Aseneth is a stand-in for the Church, he accepts that Mary the Magdalene is a stand-in for the Church, he accepts that there is a marriage ceremony and that children are born as a result of their “intercourse”. Our only difference seems to be on our interpretation of the latter activity.

See also: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simcha-jacobovici/jesus-marriage-to-mary-th_b_6225826.html

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  • Emory Taylor

    Addressing Assessing The Lost Gospel
    Emory Taylor

    My Introduction
    My name is Emory Taylor. I am a Christian, and I am an ordained Priest, holding
    membership in both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. I do not
    automatically take a side in a disputed issue. I assess the varying positions
    (aka points of view), and, based upon that assessment, determine on which side
    of the disputed issue I stand. In this paper, I am considering Robert
    Bauckham’s paper named “Assessing The Lost Gospel, Part 1: The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor – Content and Context.” Here, The Lost Gospel refers to the book The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson.

    Names and More
    I will use the following.
    · Second Zachariah refers to Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor.
    · The Lost Gospel refers to Jacobovici’s and Wilson’s book The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene.
    · Assessing refers to Bauckham’s paper named “Assessing The Lost Gospel, Part
    1: The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor – Content and Context.”
    · Anonymous Finder refers to the anonymous person who found the book Of Aseneth in a library, and sent it to Moses of Ingila, along with a request for Moses of Ingila to transcribe Of Aseneth from Greek to Syriac and provide an explanation of its inner meaning.
    · Since Second Zachariah changed the name of the book “Of Aseneth” from Of Aseneth to The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth His Wife, the name Joseph and Aseneth refers to The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth His Wife and it refers to Of Aseneth.
    · In what follows, all bracketed statements are added by me.

    The Big Surprise
    I find that the crux, which Bauckham establishes as the basis for his argument
    against The Lost Gospel, is flawed; therefore, Bauckham’s argument against The
    Lost Gospel is untenable. As you might be surmising, and will shortly discover, Bauckham’s argument does not even survive his introductory paragraph.

    The crux, which Bauckham himself establishes for his argument against The Lost Gospel, is as follows.
    “ … several aspects of Pseudo-Zachariah’s work and of the context in which Joseph and Aseneth [aka Of Aseneth] occurs in it are important for assessing the claims made in The Lost Gospel.

    The Un-foreseen (Anti-woman-ism and Anti-woman-ites)
    My experience has been that most of the Christians whom I have encountered seem to be blissfully unaware that Anti-woman-ism exists, let alone knowing its
    definition. Anti-woman-ism is the position expressed by the Apostle Paul in 1
    Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14.
    1 Corinthians 14:34-35
    34 Let your women keep silence
    in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded
    to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
    35 And if they will learn any
    thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to
    speak in the church.

    1 Timothy 2:11-14
    11 Let the woman learn in
    silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to
    teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    13 For Adam was first formed,
    then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived,
    but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    15 Notwithstanding she shall be
    saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with
    sobriety.

    I want to especially point out the following from the Anit-woman-ism expressed by
    the Apostle Paul, as it plays a major role in the issue at hand — the crux,
    which Bauckham establishes as the basis for his argument against The Lost Gospel.
    1 Timothy 2:12
    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    My experience has been that most of the Christians whom I have encountered do not know the following.

    Without exception, even if an individual does not realize it, all Christians (male and female) who believe in both the Bible and its infallibility are Anti-woman-ites — those who hold the position of Anti-woman-ism as expressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

    (Un-numbered) Intro Point
    Bauckham criticizes Jacobovici and Wilson because they chose to make use of “the Syriac version [of the book Of Aseneth as found] in the late sixth-century manuscript of the Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor (British Library MS Add. 17202), instead of studying any of the Greek recensions of the work.”

    It seems as if Bauckham wants his readers to disregard the “case [made by Jcobovici and Wilson] that Joseph and Aseneth [aka Of Aseneth] is a coded history of Jesus and Mary Magdalene”, because of the choice Jacobovici and Wilson made for making their case.

    Second Zachariah chose not to use the name “Of Aseneth” for the book Of Aseneth when he including it in his chronical named “A Volume of Records of Events Which Have Happened in the World.” Second Zachariah instead chose to use the different and longer name of The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth His Wife. The short nick-name for this different and longer name is Joseph and Aseneth.

    Bauckham, instead of simply referring to the book Of Aseneth by its name “Of Aseneth”, refers to the book Of Aseneth by using the short nick-name Joseph and Aseneth for the different and longer name Second Zachariah used in his Chronical instead of using “Of Aseneth.”

    It is obvious that either Bauckham
    · has no clue of why Second Zachariah chose not to use the name “Of Aseneth” for the book Of Aseneth, or
    · is deliberately referring to the different and longer name used by Second
    Zachariah so that he does not have to refer to Of Aseneth … a work about a woman — if that gives you a clue about the true “context” in which Joseph and Aseneth is used in the Chronical by Second Zachariah.

    Bauckham belittles and attempts to bamboozle his readers. He does this by speaking of the “inner meaning” of Joseph and Aseneth as if the readers of Anonymous Finder’s letter to Moses of Ingila are stupid, so stupid they cannot figure out that for Anonymous Finder “inner meaning” and “hidden wisdom” were the same thing.

    Maybe Bauckham does not here want to use the word “wisdom” in conjunction with Joseph and Aseneth, maybe because that would
    · elevate Joseph and Aseneth to something more than a story about the Biblical patriarch Joseph and his non-Jewish wife, and
    · would attribute “wisdom” to Aseneth …. a woman — if that gives you a clue about the true “context” in which Joseph and Aseneth is used in the Chronical by Second Zachariah.

    Finally, in this (Un-numbered) Intro Point, Bauckham states the crux of his argument against The Lost Gospel, saying the following.
    “… several aspects of [Second] Zachariah’s work and of the context
    in which Joseph and Aseneth occurs in it are important for assessing the claims made in The Lost Gospel.”

    Bauckham is absolutely, right about this but(!) there is a problem.
    Bauckham has made it obvious that he does not know (does not have a clue about) the true “context” in which Joseph and Aseneth occurs in the Chronical of Second Zachariah — of course, Bauckham thinks he knows the true “context”, but (we know that) in fact he obviously does not.

    The true “context” in which Of Aseneth (aka Joseph and Aseneth) occurs in
    the Chronical of Second Zachariah is the “context” Second Zachariah put it in,
    a “context” Bauckham is completely unaware of because he does not even know
    that he is an Anti-woman-ite, one who holds the position of Anti-woman-ism (as
    expressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14,
    especially noting 1 Timothy 2:12 as it plays a major role in the issue at hand
    — the crux, which Bauckham establishes as the basis for his argument against
    The Lost Gospel).

    Second Zachariah deliberately did not use the name “Of Aseneth” for the book Of Aseneth, and deliberately used the name The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth
    His Wife, because he wanted to protect Of Aseneth and its “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) from the Anti-woman-ites. Remember I specifically pointed it out.
    1 Timothy 2:12
    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    By making “The Switch” of changing names from Of Aseneth to The Story of Joseph the Just and Aseneth His Wife,
    · Second Zachariah (did what was in his time considered to be the unthinkable) protected the woman Aseneth from the Anti-woman-ites (which in his time were Catholic Clergymen), and
    · Second Zachariah preserved Asenethism, the “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) within Of Aseneth, for future generations.

    This is the true “context” in which Of Aseneth (aka Joseph and Aseneth) occurs in the Chronical of Second Zachariah — a “context” about which Bauckham seems not to have a single clue.

    The crux, which Bauckham himself established as the basis for his argument against The Lost Gospel, is un-correctible flawed; therefore, Bauckham’s
    argument against The Lost Gospel is untenable.

    The Hero of Asenethism
    Remember, Second Zachariah had in his possession and read originals and/or copies of 1) Anonymous Finder’s letter to Moses of Ingila, 2) the response letter from Moses of Ingila to Anonymous Finder (even if part of it was missing), and 3) the book Of Aseneth. As there is no reason to assume that Second Zachariah was an ignorant man, we can surmise

    · that Second Zachariah knew (from the letters) Anonymous Finder was convinced there was “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) in Of Aseneth, and
    · that he knew Anonymous Finder told Moses of Ingila this “hidden wisdom” (“inner
    meaning”) was different from Nestorianism, and different from Monophysitism,
    and different from the Orthodox or Chalcedonian View, and
    · that Second Zachariah knew Moses of Ingila stated point blank that the book Of Aseneth contained “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”).

    Given these facts, I do not see how Second Zachariah could have failed to deduce the “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) within Of Aseneth.

    Second Zachariah knew the name of the “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) was to be Asenethism
    · since Second Zachariah knew the “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) was something new (not Nestorianism, not Monophysitism, and not the Orthodox or Chalcedonian View), and
    · since he knew the “hidden wisdom” (“inner meaning”) was contained within the book Of Aseneth.

    In addition, remember, Second Zachariah opted to include in his Chronical the three
    items of 1. Anonymous Finder’s letter to Moses of Ingila, 2. the response
    letter of Moses of Ingila to Anonymous Finder (even if part of it was missing),
    and 3. the book Of Aseneth. Second Zachariah never would have done this if he was an Anti-woman-ite, which means he was, according to the Roman Catholic Church, a heretic. Of course, we should expect to find Asenethism (heresy,
    according to the Roman Catholic Church) within Second Zachariah’s
    Chronical.

    Given all of this, how else are we to consider Second Zachariah except as the Hero of Asenethism (an Aseneth-ite).

    Finally
    Even though
    · I disagree with some of what Jacobovici and Wilson did in route, and
    · I disagree with some of what they have said, and
    · I believe Jacobovici seeks to destroy Christianity as opposed to advancing
    Christianity,
    I want to think all those (from the anonymous author Of Aseneth to Auguste Pacho), including Jacobovici and Wilson, whom the Lord called upon in order to return the Gospel of Asenethism to those of us who believe.

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