YCAS 2015 Profiles 2: Brent Landau

This is the second in a series of profiles of the presenters at the upcoming 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium to be held September 25-26 at beautiful remote York University in Toronto. Remember, if you register for the symposium, you will receive drafts of the papers in advance, thus enabling you to participate more fully in the discussions that follow. For registration information, visit the YCAS 2015 web site (HERE).

Brent Landau HeadshotToday we focus on Brent Landau, my partner in the planning of the conference and frequent collaborator. Brent received his doctorate from Harvard Divinity School in 2008. He is currently Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has previously taught at the University of Oklahoma, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston University.

Brent’s chief interests within the field of Christian Apocrypha are: infancy gospels, papyri fragments of noncanonical writings, apocryphal texts preserved in Syriac, and the reception history of the Christian Apocrypha, particularly in the contemporary world. His dissertation was a critical edition of and introduction to the Revelation of the Magi, which purports to be the Magi’s first-person testimony about the coming of Christ. He is revising and enlarging this study for publication in Brepol’s Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum. In addition, his article on the use of the Revelation of the Magi by contemporary New Age groups and UFO enthusiasts will appear in the first issue of GNOSIS: Journal of Gnostic Studies, a new peer-reviewed journal published by Brill.

Alongside of his ongoing research on the Revelation of the Magi, Brent is actively involved in several other projects. He co-wrote with Stanley E. Porter the entry on Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 210, an apocryphal gospel fragment, for the first volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, of which he is the co-editor with Tony Burke. He is currently preparing a new critical edition of P.Oxy. 210 that utilizes a digital microscope to improve upon previous editions. His edition of a hymn in praise of the Cross will appear in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, volume 82, and he is also in the process of editing several other fragments of unknown early Christian writings.

Abstract:

“Under the Influence (of the Magi): Did Hallucinogens Play a Role in the Inspired Composition of the Pseudepigraphic Revelation of the Magi?”

This paper examines the Revelation of the Magi, an apocryphal Christian text preserved in Syriac and ostensibly narrated by the Magi of Matthew’s Gospel, with a focus on understanding better the pseudepigraphic composition process of this text. After providing a brief introduction to the writing, it will assess how likely it is that the visionary experiences of the Magi in this writing actually represent the lived experiences of some early Christians. I argue that there is indeed sufficient evidence to regard these textualized events as derivatives of “real world” religious experience that were then pseudepigraphically attributed to the biblical Magi. The paper examines several of the stranger and more distinctive practices and experiences in the Revelation of the Magi: the Magi’s ritual of silent prayer; Christ’s manifestation to them as both a star and a small luminous human being; and perhaps most significantly, their ingesting of an unspecified substance that leads to polymorphic visions of Christ.

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