Brent Landau

The Revelation of the Magi is the longest and most complex ancient Christian apocryphal writing devoted to the Magi. In this paper, after discussing the basic issues surrounding the interpretation of this text, I explore the popular reception of the text after my publication of it in 2010. This popular reception has been dominated by New Age and ufological (that is, the theorizing of unidentified flying objects) interpretative perspectives. Rather than viewing these interpretations as anachronistic, the paper argues that they may have far more in common with the circumstances that gave rise to the Revelation of the Magi than might initially be supposed. Ultimately, the Revelation of the Magi can be profitably characterized as a “gnostic” text—despite its lack of a demiurge—because of its strongly countercultural religious outlook, an outlook it shares with much New Age religious thought.

Series:

Brent Landau, Adeline Harrington and James C. Henriques

Abstract

Reading fragmentary and damaged papyri can be extremely challenging for even the most gifted of editors, and as a result, many important texts have multiple editions with divergent transcriptions. A new tool, however, can be useful for adjudicating between different transcriptions: a digital microscope can take high-resolution photographs of individual letters under magnification, and some models also allow for photography in the ultraviolet and infrared light spectra. This paper examines the use of a digital microscope for studying three fragmentary early Christian writings: P.Oxy. 210 (a possible fragment of an apocryphal gospel); P.Oxy. 4009 (which may or may not be part of Gospel of Peter); and P.Oxy. 4469 (an amulet containing part of King Abgar’s letter to Jesus). For each of these manuscripts, the co-authors were able to use a digital microscope to revise previous transcriptions. This article aims to make more specialists in ancient manuscripts aware of this extremely promising tool.