2013 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium Profiles: Brent Landau

This year's York Christian Apocrypha Symposium, “Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier: The Christian Apocrypha in North American Perspectives,” is only a few months away (September 26–28, 2013; mark your calendars). In the weeks leading up to the event, I will be posting here and on the the Symposium web page short profiles of the conference participants. For more information, see the Symposium web page (HERE).

Brent Landau, “The ‘Harvard School’ of the Christian Apocrypha”

The Revelation of the Magi (for Brepols’ Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum) expands upon his earlier popular work on the text for Harper Collins (2010). Landau, whose dissertation provided the first annotated English translation of this third-century apocryphal text, has theorized the Revelation is actually a first-person account of early Christian visionary experiences.

“The Revelation of the Magi is absolutely fascinating,” Landau says, “because it claims something that no other early Christian text does: that the Star of Bethlehem was actually Jesus himself, who is able to change his form at will. It also has a very strange story about the star producing some ‘food’ for the Magi that allows them and the people of their country to see visions of Jesus’ life on earth. I wonder whether some early Christians might have taken their own visionary experiences (possibly involving the ingesting of some hallucinogenic substance) and wrote them down as if they were the Magi themselves.”

Landau received his Doctor of Theology from Harvard University in 2008. The program, often dubbed “the Harvard School,” is known for its ground-breaking discoveries, as well as the influence of Helmut Koester, whose controversial work on the Gospel of Thomas and other texts has shaped the way scholars approach the Christian Apocrypha. “Studying the Christian Apocrypha at Harvard was fantastic,” Landau says, “because its faculty and graduates have included some of the brightest and most prolific scholars of this literature.”


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