Friday, July 4, 2014

An Essene "Gospel of Peace?"

Is the Catholic Church hiding an ancient Essene "Gospel of Peace" in its dark vaults - an ancient Aramaic manuscript preserving the original teachings of Jesus - hidden away for 2,000 years? Yes, according to Edmund Bordeaux Szekely, its alleged "discoverer." In the late 1920s, Szekely made the bold claim to have discovered and translated this ancient manuscript while doing research in the “secret archives” of the Vatican. Unfortunately, Szekely’s ancient manuscript has never been seen. No photographs have ever been taken. There are no handwritten facsimiles, transcriptions, or original notes on the text. And there are no references to any Gospel of Peace in any ancient historical sources. 

What are we to make of all of this? Barring any sudden new discoveries, it seems clear that Szekely just made the whole thing up. He admits as much: "I myself wrote and published a number of books on the Essenes, most of them some twenty years before the discovery of the first scroll in 1947. Starting in 1927, these books were based on certain historical sources . . . and on manuscripts in the Archives of the Vatican." 

  Szekely wanted to expose Christianity as “one of the greatest deceptions in human history.” Dismissing biblical scholarship as “hopelessly sterile in substance as it is monotonous in form,” its methods “grounded upon falsehoods,” and its conclusions “either childish or obscure, or else so extravagant as to be almost laughable,” Szekely describes the Gospels as “literary fabrication” and Christianity “the product of innumerable forged documents.” Szekely failed to see the irony in accusing others of forgery.

   Szekely wrote a new "Gospel" for a "New Age" because he wanted Jesus to advocate peace, vegetarianism, organic food, reverence for the earth as our Mother, and regular colonic treatments. Szekely used this genuine photograph of the Copper Scroll from the Qumran caves in the inside book-jacket of a later re-addition of his "Essene Gospel" in order to lend mystique and credibility to his claims. The problem is that the Copper Scroll was not discovered until the 1950s, twenty years after Szekely’s "discovery."

   While "The Essene Gospel" is ignored by biblical scholars as historically useless, it illustrates the public milieu in which ideas about Jesus and the Essenes have developed. These writings may have also played an indirect role in the general public’s suspicion that the Church has “covered up” valuable information, a conspiracy theory revived during the delay in the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In fact, a small industry of New Age books about Jesus and the Essenes has emerged in recent years, many of which show signs of being influenced by this fictional Jesus, a "Gospel" that continues to be regarded as authentic by contemporary "Essene," "Essene-Nazarene," and “neo-Essene” communities.