The text, lost for over 1,400 years, was discovered at the Egypt Exploration Society’s archives at Oxford University and mentions a ‘brother’ named James.
Biblical scholars from the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) have discovered an original copy of a heretical manuscript containing Jesus’s secret teachings to a certain James who he calls ‘brother’. The text was discovered by religious studies researchers at The University of Texas at Austin while looking through the archives of the Egypt Exploration Society at Oxford.
The script, believed to be about 1,400 years old is part of a set of texts called The Nag Hammadi library. It is a part of a collection of 52 texts, in 13 leather-bound volumes that were discovered back in 1945 by local farmers near Egypt in the town of Nag Hammadi.
Geoffrey Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies at UTA, was elated with the discovery.”To say that we were excited once we realized what we’d found is an understatement,” he said. “We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us,” he said, pleasantly surprised.
Written between the 2nd and 6th Century CE, the texts belong to a heretical tradition of ‘Gnosticism’ – an early, mystical form of Christianity, about which much is not documented. “The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’s life and ministry by allowing us access to conversations that purportedly took place between Jesus and his brother, James – secret teachings that allowed James to be a good teacher after Jesus’s death,” said Professor Smith.
Indeed, the text does make mention of a ‘brother’ by the name of James, but before you question everything you know about Jesus, it should be said that nowhere does it imply ‘fraternal brother’. The more interesting part is the language it is written in – Greek. This is strange because all the other pieces that have survived from the Nag Hammadi library are translations in a language called ‘Coptic’ – a traditional language was written and spoken in Egypt for many centuries.
Another interesting point about the text itself is the way it is written. Scholars say that the text is mostly broken down into syllables with dashes and dots, which leads them to believe that it could be a tool used for teaching back in the day. “Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts,” says Brent Landau, lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Texas.
Although most texts from the time are small snippets, the fact that the newly discovered one is a complete translation could indicate that whoever wrote it had a special interest in the text. The discovery of the text is likely to throw new light on the development of Christianity in its early stages, which is not that well documented in the pages of history.