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  • The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson
  • Richard A. Freund
Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson. The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene. New York: Pegasus Books, 2014. 544 pp. $21.30. ISBN-13: 978-1605986104.

Pseudepigrapha is a well-known Jewish form of writing in which an ancient Jewish author used a “front” for writing about a very sensitive topic in his own time, by using a biblical name or setting the story in a different period, in order to obscure the real issue and yet explore the topic or tradition more fully. Many biblical scholars, for example, think that the book of Ruth, which was set in the time of the Judges in approximately the eleventh century BCE and dealt with the conversion of the Moabitess Ruth (who we are told in the end of the book is the ancestor of King David), was really written down in the time of Ezra (fifth century BCE), as a counterbalance to the edicts against intermarriage in that latter period. The use of this literary device is a well-known form of writing both in antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages that allowed Jews to write about difficult topics (both within Judaism and from without) without running the risk of being censured from within Judaism or from the local non-Jewish authorities. “Stand-ins” included biblical characters or small changes of letters in names or “nicknames” that would be hard to identify exactly. The most famous example of this phenomenon is in the Dead Sea Scrolls in which the authors went out of their way to conceal the time period and the names of the people who they were criticizing; titles like “the man of Belial,” “the Lion of Wrath,” “the Wicked Priest,” and the “the Man of Lies” were Hasmonean and Herodian period leaders in Jerusalem and enemies of the Qumranites who were already persecuting them.

The latest book, The Lost Gospel by Simcha Jacobovici, an orthodox Jewish filmmaker and investigative documentarian, and Barrie Wilson, a Christian religious studies professor at York University, exposes one of the most explosive “secrets” of Jewish history, which was hidden in plain sight, in an unusual manuscript that sat on a shelf at the British Library for the last 150 years. It was assumed by most scholars to be an obscure Jewish story of the biblical Joseph and his marriage to Aseneth, the daughter of an Egyptian priest that is based upon a few fleeting lines in the book of Genesis. This book is important for scholars interested in historical Jewish identities because it points out that ancient literatures that appear to write about one issue are often really writing about something completely different. Jacobovici and Wilson’s book also shows that while Jews used this literary device to conceal major controversial issues, it was used by ancient Christians who apparently also needed to use this literary device to disguise controversial internal theological discussions in the first centuries of Christianity. Joseph and Aseneth were stand-ins for what the authors contend was an ancient Christian tradition (which was preserved in the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels) in which a very human (and very much alive) Jesus is married to Mary the Magdalene, and they have two children. The ancient “Joseph and Aseneth” story is the “Lost Gospel” and the 4th century CE author uses the biblical narrative story of Joseph and Aseneth from the book of Genesis as a cover to write to those who accepted this ancient tradition about the details of their marriage and family life. Needless to say, [End Page 221] the book has created an enormous worldwide stir amongst traditional Christians. Jacobovici is no stranger to this type of controversy. He has produced two major films (and accompanying volumes) that have championed a similar line of interpretation based upon discoveries in the Talpiyot, the Jerusalem tombs that he dubbed the “Jesus Family and sympathizers Tombs (sic).” The films include archaeological evidence of a married Jesus, Mary the Magdalene, and even a possible heir to the mantle of Jesus...


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