I just got my copy of the new book, The Lost Gospel by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson and have spent the past hour thumbing through it carefully in anticipation of giving it a close and careful read. It definitely is a substantial work, running over 400 pages with notes, illustrations, a new annotated translation of a Syriac manuscript of the ancient work Joseph and Asenath and its accompanying letters, bibliography, and index.
My guess is that some who have dismissed the book before obtaining a copy might have cause to reshape their critiques after a careful reading. I plan to do just that over the next week or so and then offer what I hope will be a substantial and respectful review of its main arguments and evidence. Despite the focus on the issue of whether Jesus might have been married to Mary Magdalene it is clear to me already that the book is really about a much broader and more significant agenda–the origins and nature of what comes down to us in the 2nd and 3rd centuries as so-called “Gnostic” Christianity. The authors argue that alongside of Pauline Christianity, and the sort of “Jewish-Christianity,” represented by James the brother of Jesus and the Jerusalem church, is a far more Hellenized Galilean wing of the movement that understood Jesus and his partner Mary Magdalene as representatives of a mystical male/female cosmic union such as that known to us later through the gnostic theology of a figure like Valentinius, with secret rites of initiation such as are hinted at in “Secret Mark,” including Eucharist and baptism rituals that signified the “cosmic ascent,” and thus perfection of the soul. Beyond the text of Joseph and Asenath, the authors find the evidence for such a system of interpretation in various archaeological discoveries including artistic representations of Jesus and his consort as Helios and Artemis. My first question is whether the text of Joseph and Asenath supports such a reading or not, can any of these ideas be reliably traced back to the 1st century CE. Jacobovici and Wilson are convinced such is the case and I am interested to hear them out on their arguments. I will offer my own take on all this in a forthcoming blog post or two, once I have had time to read the book carefully.