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Re: ESSENE Gospel of peace
 
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Published: 15 years ago
 
This is a reply to # 195,346

Re: ESSENE Gospel of peace


FYI, there is quite a bit of controversy concerning the author of the Eseene Gospel of Peace. I myself have read the gospel and think it quite nice, especially because it fits in with alot of our ideas concerning health and lifestyle, however everything must be taken with a grain of salt, even if it does fit in with our ideas and beliefs.

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Edmund Bordeaux Szekeley

Szekeley is the most difficult case of all of these to resolve. Notovitch was quickly exposed as a fraud; Ouseley never claimed to have anything more than a "channeled" work. Neither of these quick expedients are available in Szekeley’s case.

The Essene Gospel of Peace which he published is similar in its basic themes to claims found in other modern gospels. The Essene Gospel of Peace identifies several familiar themes: vegetarianism, natural living, a theology of the Earth, and so forth. Szekeley claims to have found the manuscripts in various locations, including the Vatican Library, the Royal Archives of the Hapsburgs in Vienna, and the monastery at Monte Cassino. Szekeley identifies Hebrew, Aramaic, and Old Slavonic versions of the manuscript.

There are three problems with Szekeley’s claims. The first and most significant point is that no one has actually seen any of these manuscripts except Szekeley. The second is that there are serious inconsistencies and other problems in Szekeley’s description of the manuscripts. The third is the content of the manuscripts themselves. Taken as a whole, we can say that not only is there no evidence that the manuscripts are genuine, but that most likely Szekeley’s claims are fraudulent.

There are several different editions of the Essene Gospel of Peace. The first was published in 1937, then a second in 1977. The 1977 version is titled The Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One has a foreword in which Szekeley states that the contents of the book are only about one-third of the total he found (the next two-thirds presumably being those volumes subsequently published by him as "Book Two" and "Book Three"). He says:

"The content of this book represents only about a third of the complete manuscripts which exist in Aramaic in the archives of the Vatican and in old Slavonic in the Royal Archives of the Hapsburgs (now the property of the Austrian Government). We owe the existence of these two versions to the Nestorian priests who, under pressure of the advancing hordes of Genghis Khan, were forced to flee from the East towards the West, bearing all their ancient scriptures and ikons with them. The ancient Aramaic texts date from the third century after Christ, while the old Slavonic version is a literal translation of the former."

Szekeley claims to have found the Aramaic manuscript at some time between 1923 and 1924, and during a visit to Monte Cassino he also claims to have found Hebrew fragments corresponding with the Aramaic text. However, no one has ever seen any of the physical documents which Szekeley claims he drew the text from. Per Beskow (in Strange Tales About Jesus) says that when he asked the National Library of Vienna about the Old Slavonic text, the reply was sent that there is no such text, that a number of people have made inquiries about the text, and the general opinion was that Szekeley made it up. A similar negative answer came from the Vatican as follows: "Dear Sir, Thank you for your letter of 25th May inquiring about Edmond Bordeaux Szekeley. This author’s book is known to me and I can assert categorically that no such manuscript of an Aramaic Gospel is possessed by the Vatican Archives. Moreover, Szekeley’s name has not been found in the card index of scholars admitted to the Archives." Finally, the Monte Cassino monastery was, as is well known, destroyed by being bombed during the Second World War. Szekeley made no mention of the Hebrew fragments found at Monte Cassino until after the war.

There are also internal inconsistencies and problems in his account. For example, Szekeley claimed to have known a number of languages, but never even claimed to know Old Slavonic, and there is no evidence (aside from his own claim) that he actually knew Hebrew or Aramaic either. When the book was first published in 1937, it had the title The Gospel of Peace by the disciple John, which in the 1977 edition has been changed — without explanation — to The Essene Gospel of Peace. For the 1937 edition, Lawrence Purcell Weaver is listed as a co-editor, but in later editions he was dropped. In the 1937 edition, he states that the text published is only about one-eighth of the total; but in 1977, this has changed to one-third of the total. In the 1937 edition, the Aramaic is dated to the first century; in the 1977 edition, to the third century. There is no indication of how Szekeley knows that it was either the first century or the third century — did he use carbon dating, analysis of the manuscript style, or what? And why did Szekeley change his mind about the age of the manuscript? We are left without any clues. In fact, the 1937 preface is substantially different from the reprint of the 1937 preface in the 1977 edition in several ways, even though it is still dated "1937."

Astonishingly, Szekeley says almost nothing about the physical condition of the manuscripts in the Vatican — for example, whether it was a scroll or a codex (a bound volume similar to modern books). This seems to be a clearly contrived story: a mysterious manuscript, of no particular description, which no one except Szekeley has ever seen, which Szekeley quickly and effortlessly translated, and which the libraries at the Vatican and in Vienna deny having, is supposed to have fabulous revelations about Jesus? This can’t be taken seriously as evidence about Jesus.

But let us take Szekeley at his word. Perhaps the Vatican, and the library at Vienna, destroyed the manuscripts or are covering them up in an effort to suppress the truth, and Szekeley really saw these manuscripts, knew the Aramaic, Hebrew, and Old Slavonic languages thoroughly, and quickly produced a competent and scholarly translation. What then?

Looking at the manuscript, we see that it is obviously a hopelessly romantic, nineteenth-century idea of what Jesus should have been like, embedded in health ideas which are clearly modern. For example, Jesus is quoted as advocating enemas, complete with a graphic description of how to perform them! In fact, Jesus says that unless you perform these enemas, you cannot come into God’s presence: "No man may come before the face of God, whom the angel of water lets not pass" (p. 16). Enemas were probably practiced in ancient times, but there's no connection of them with any religious practice in any other ancient Christian writings, whether heretical or orthodox; the emphasis on colonics and enemas is a modern concern championed by naturopaths and other advocates of a natural way of life. Jesus also gives practical health advice, saying "Shun all that is too hot or too cold" (p. 58). Jesus is quoted as having said what was in Paul’s celebrated letter I Corinthians 13 — "though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am nothing" (p. 23-24). Jesus advises us to obey both our Heavenly Father and our Earthly Mother, with the idea that our Earthly Mother is the physical earth — "The hardness of our bones is born of the bones of our Earthly Mother, of the rocks and of the stones" (p. 8).

All of this seems to underscore health ideas of "natural living" which were common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Even if Szekeley is telling the truth, in the absence of any other physical evidence, the conclusion would inevitably be that these are later documents. Someone who knew Aramaic, Old Slavonic, and Hebrew, wrote such documents espousing such "natural living ideas" in modern times, attributed them to Jesus, and then secreted them in libraries in the Vatican, Vienna, and Monte Cassino, and left them for Dr. Szekeley to discover later. This would still be of no particular historical value; though written in ancient languages, they would derive from (at the earliest) the nineteenth century.
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