Researchers have recently found what is believed to be the ‘first-known original Greek copy’ of an ancient heretic Christian manuscript which describes Jesus’ ‘secret’ teachings to his brother James.
The ancient manuscript was discovered at Oxford University by biblical scholars at The University of Texas at Austin.
It is believed that to date, only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library—a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in 1945 in Upper Egypt—have been discovered in Greek, their original language of composition say, researchers.
However, earlier this year, researchers of religious studies at the University of Texas, Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau uncovered several Greek fragments of fifth- or sixth-century Greek parts of the First Apocalypse of James, which was believed to have been maintained only in its Coptic translations until now, explains Science daily.
“To say that we were thrilled once we realized what we’d found is an oversimplification,” stated Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies.
“We never speculated that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James remained from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us.”
The ancient text details the ‘secret teachings’ of Jesus Christ to his brother James. In the text, Jesus reveals details about the heavenly realm, and future events set to occur, as well as James’ inevitable death.
“The text extends the biblical account of Jesus’ life and ministry by allowing us access to discussions that purportedly took place between Jesus and his brother, James — secret teachings that allowed James to be a good teacher after Jesus’ death,” Smith said.
As explained by Smith, such texts would have fallen outside of canonical boundaries set forth by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his “Easter letter of 367” that characterized the 27-book New Testament: “No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them.”
Researchers concluded that the text was most likely a ‘teachers model’ used to help students learn reading and writing, as it is neatly written, with uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables.
“The scribe has distributed most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, though they do show up regularly in manuscripts that were used in educative contexts,” explained Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies.
Smith and Landau published the discovery at the Biblical Literature Society’s Annual Meeting in Boston in November of 2017, and are working to publish their introductory conclusions in the Greco Roman Memoirs series of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.