Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Gospel of the Lots of Mary

NEW COPTIC TEXT: Newfound 'Gospel of the Lots of Mary' Discovered in Ancient Text (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
A 1,500-year-old book that contains a previously unknown gospel has been deciphered. The ancient manuscript may have been used to provide guidance or encouragement to people seeking help for their problems, according to a researcher who has studied the text.

Written in Coptic, an Egyptian language, the opening reads (in translation):

"The Gospel of the lots of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she to whom Gabriel the Archangel brought the good news. He who will go forward with his whole heart will obtain what he seeks. Only do not be of two minds."

This looks like a good popular treatment of what looks like a very interesting new text that was published by AnneMarie Luijendijk last year. The text classes itself as a "gospel" in its own title, but by our genre classifications it is not one. Rather it sounds like an example of "Sortilege," a text that uses biblical verses and phrases to give its readers divinatory guidance — sort of a Bible-inspired I Ching. Jeff Childers gave a very interesting paper on some of these texts at the Bible as Notepad Conference last December. In the little I have seen there is not much information on the biblical passages used in this text, but the blurb for the monograph confirms that it is "replete with biblical phrases."

So no, this is not a new apocryphal gospel. But it is a new late antique Coptic text of considerable interest for ancient divinatory practices, and it is always good to have new texts.