Jesus as Shapeshifter - Text from Morgan Library

The ancient text that describes Jesus as a shape-shifter

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It was in March last year when reports flooded the headlines about a newly deciphered Egyptian text, dating back almost 1,200 years, which controversially described Jesus as having the ability to change shape. But just as quickly as the story made its way through major news sites around the world, it disappeared and has hardly been mentioned since. Why has the study and research surrounding this text faded into oblivion? Why has there been virtually no scholarly debate on the subject?

Written in the Coptic language, the ancient text written in the name of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a distinguished theologian who lived during the fourth century, tells part of the crucifixion story of Jesus with apocryphal plot twists, some of which have never been seen before.  They have been revealed thanks to a translation carried out by Roelof Van den Broek of Ultrecht University in the Netherlands, and published in the book ‘Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem On the Life and the Passion of Christ: A Coptic Apocryphon’.

The ancient text explains why Judas used a kiss, specifically, to betray Jesus.  According to the canonical bible, the apostle Judas betrays Jesus in exchange for money by using a kiss to identify him leading to Jesus' arrest. This apocryphal tale explains that the reason Judas used a kiss, specifically, is because Jesus had the ability to change shape.

Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man ...

This leads Judas to suggest using a kiss as a means to identify him. If Judas had given the arresters a description of Jesus he could have changed shape. By kissing Jesus Judas tells the people exactly who he is.

The Judas Kiss - 'Capture of Christ' by Cimabue, 13th Century AD ( Wikimedia Commons )

This understanding of Judas' kiss goes way back.  According to Van den Broek, the explanation of Judas’ kiss is first found in Origen, a theologian who lived 185-254 AD. In his work, Contra Celsum, the ancient writer, stated that "to those who saw him [Jesus] he did not appear alike to all."

Van den Broek is careful to note that he is not suggesting that Jesus was in fact shape changing but only that some people in early Christian times may have thought he was.

The text is one of fifty-five Coptic manuscripts that were found in 1910 by villagers digging for fertilizer at the site of the destroyed Monastery of Archangel Michael of the Desert near Al Hamuli in Egypt. Apparently, during the tenth century, monks had buried the monastery's manuscripts in a stone vat for safekeeping.  The monastery ceased operations around the early 10th century, and the text was rediscovered in the spring of 1910. In December 1911, it was purchased, along with other texts, by American financier J.P. Morgan. His collections, and the text described, are now housed in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

While headlines at the time of the announcement were quite sensationalist and described the text as containing Christianity-shattering information, the publishing scholar never claimed anything of the sort.  It is also clear that the text is not a hoax but a genuine item published by a respected scholar by a notable academic press (E. J. Brill). So why hasn’t such a fascinating text led to further research, interpretations, or discussion among scholars? 

Featured Image: Fragment of text from Morgan Library. Photo credit .

By April Holloway

References

Shape-Shifting Jesus Described in Ancient Egyptian Text – LiveScience

Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem On the Life and the Passion of Christ – by Roelof van den Broek

Treasures from the Vault – the Morgan Library

Guest Post: Roelof van den Broek – Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem, On the Life and the Passion of Christ

Cyril of Jerusalem - Wikipedia

Comments

I have put together a series of attributes of Jesus that makes more sense than he actually being a real person.  There is no physical evidence of his existence and his story fits in the narrative and the proof and evidence is plain to see even in these times.  I would like to share it with you, but not in this public setting at this time. I am working on another book that this will be the central theme and I want to keep it to be exposed there publicly. I would like to use this article as another piece of evidence to my narrative.  How can I get your official permission? 

 

larry

Jesus is God. Why couldn't he change shapes? He changed and became a man.

luvartifacts1's picture

April, this is a stunning research and remarkable article. Well wrttten and provides much innovative and new interesting information. Simply brilliant.

Lewis Hales

           

God said he made man in his image. I don't understand the concept, but I accept that He did it and that it means white, black, different shapes, etc. Why, then, is it difficult to believe that Jesus, the son of God, a Holy Spirit in the form of a man, could appear to different people in different colors and form?

The 1611 KJV bible in Genisis states We will make them in our image so God made them jn his image... We? Our?...

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