Rare Copy of Forbidden Text on Jesus Found

Written centuries after the First Apocalypse of James was excluded from New Testament
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2017 6:43 AM CST
Rare Copy of Forbidden Text on Jesus Found
A fragment of the First Apocalypse of James, in the Coptic language.   (Oxford University)

A complete copy of a heretical biblical text that purports to describe conversations between Jesus and his brother James has been discovered in its earliest known form. The forbidden writing, dubbed the First Apocalypse of James, wasn't included in the 27-book New Testament established in 367. It was one of 13 Gnostic books uncovered in Egypt in 1945, per a release; all were written in the Coptic language, though the original manuscript would've been in Greek. "We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity," says Geoffrey Smith of the University of Texas at Austin. When he and colleague Brent Landau searched at Oxford University, however, "there they were, right in front of us."

"To say that we were excited once we realized what we'd found is an understatement," adds Smith. He tells Newsweek the neat Greek text, likely written in the 5th or 6th century, "is significant in part because it demonstrates that Christians were still reading and studying extra-canonical writings long after Christian leaders deemed them heretical." Studying, indeed. Landau explains the text is broken down into syllables—a rarity in ancient manuscripts, suggesting it was used to teach students to read and write. News.com.au explains that the text contains Jesus' teachings to James, including his knowledge of heaven and future events, including James' own death. (More Jesus Christ stories.)

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