by PETER FLOOD
This is an unfortunate book in the sense that it strives after academic precision and ends as mere fantasy. The author, visiting the Orthodox monastery Mar Saba, found what purported to be a letter of that versatile and discursive, though not always accurate, Clement Alexandria.
This writing was shown to be probably copied in the eighteenth century. it referred to alleged secret teachings of Jesus in an addition to the Gospel of St Mark, which of course stems from the preaching of St Peter. The publisher's blurb says that it suggests "that Jesus himself baptised, that he did so always at night and accompanied by erotic rites. This was why he was arrested in Gethsemane and why early Christians were persecuted, for these rites were illegal."
The author in his text does not quite say this,. but he does seem to insinuate it! He seems to have made a study of magic and its various rites and imports this knowledge into his fanciful consideration of this document.
It is a pity we have not the original of this alleged copy, for apocryphal literature abounded in the centuries that preceded the peace of Constantine, and even after it.
With so poor a judgment which ignored all that the approved writings of the time provided — for the Church had to separate the good from the bad, the latter being often very bad — it is not surprising that in an obvious reference to the Transfiguration the author attempts to minimise what was an outstanding event, calling it one of Jesus's illusions.
Our Lord's miracles are listed as just examples of magical events common to all "magicians". And later the author suggests that the stories of the Resurrection are contradictory, apparently not having made any study of-the prac tice of evidence. .
Incidentally, he likes to label certain happenings as examples of schizophrenia, and he suggests that the Disciples suffered from this and that St Paul, whose writing he never seems to understand, "caught the contagion in Jerusalem; his first serious attack occurred while on the way to Damascus; he later spread the symptoms through Asia Minor."
And so this almost blasphemous work goes on. It is not a book for any professing Christian or for people of poor judgment who jump to conclusions from irrelevant data, nor is it valuable for a study of genuine schizophrenia, about which he appears to be poorly informed.