YCAS 2015 Profiles 9: Bradley Rice

This is the ninth in a series of profiles of the presenters at the upcoming 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium to be held September 25-26 at York University in Toronto. Only a few weeks away! 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).

Brad Rice HeadshotBradley Rice is the third of our doctoral students presenting at this year’s Symposium. He is a doctoral candidate in New Testament/Early Christianity at McGill University in Montréal. After working for nearly 10 years as associate editor of the Contexticon of New Testament Language (Oxford University Press), he has now shifted his primary research focus to Christian Apocrypha, and has recently contributed a translation of the Dialogue of the Paralytic with Christ for the first volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eerdmans).Rice became interested in Notovitch’s Life of Saint Issa after discovering that the Dialogue of the Paralytic—an early medieval apocryphon extant only in Georgian and Armenian—contains what may well be the earliest mention of Jesus’ travels to India. “These few lines were tantalizing in the extreme,” he says, “and led me to explore the mass of esoteric nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature that locates Jesus in India prior to his public ministry and/or after his crucifixion.” He further remarks that “historically speaking, it is highly unlikely that Jesus ever left Palestine. But if that is the case, why have so many authors imagined that he did?” Rice hopes that his research will offer a window into the cultural contexts behind the production of modern apocrypha in the nineteenth century as well as the twenty-first. With an eye toward the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, he comments: “The question must no longer simply be ‘What do these texts say about Jesus?’ but rather ‘What do they say about us?’”

Rice holds master’s degrees from Boston University (MTS, 2001; STM, 2002) and Harvard Divinity School (ThM, 2004). He is presently working on the Story of Joseph of Arimathea and the Armenian version of the Epistle of James to Quadratus for the second volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. He serves on the executive board of the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature and continues to advise current research for the Contexticon.

Abstract

“The Apocryphal Tale of Jesus’ Journey to India: Nicolas Notovitch and the Life of Saint Issa Revisited”

When Nicolas Notovitch published The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ in 1894, he presented the public with the contents of an ancient scroll which he claimed to have discovered at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas. To the astonishment of everyone, this document—entitled the Life of Saint Issa—described how Jesus had spent most of his formative years in India, sitting at the feet of Brahmins and Buddhists before returning to Galilee to begin his public ministry. Of course, the Life of Saint Issa turned out to be a fake written by none other than Notovitch himself. But his tale of Jesus in India had a significant impact on the development of non-mainstream religious movements throughout the twentieth century, from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to Elizabeth Clare Prophet and the Church Universal and Triumphant. Stories of Jesus in India continue to entice the popular imagination in the present day, and are frequently incorporated into the search for alternative and often syncretistic forms of Christianity. But above all, Notovitch’s Life of Saint Issa and other similar tales may be construed as belonging to a much broader corpus of apocryphal Christian literature which began in antiquity and endures in the present. In my paper, Notovitch will thus serve as the focal point for a larger discussion of modern apocrypha, a body of writings that has generally been neglected in Christian Apocrypha research. I will first consider the historical circumstances and personal motivations of Notovitch himself in order to understand why he forged the Life of Saint Issa at all. I will then demonstrate how Notovitch’s tale and other modern apocrypha not only exhibit literary continuity with other apocryphal Christian writings of past and present, but also offer important perspectives on the cultural contexts out of which they have arisen.

This entry was posted in York Christian Apocrypha. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to YCAS 2015 Profiles 9: Bradley Rice

  1. Are all or just some of the approcropha acrosss the centuries as bogus as “The History of Saint Issis”? Are early approcropha likely to be more truthful in a non metaphorical sense? Is there any verasity in reports of approcropha being found burried in an earthen pot in the courtyard of an Egiption monestary. Any other substantial, proven to your satifaction, discoverie of early approcorpha?
    Are you the Bradley Rice who has been studying the origional meanings of words mistranslated in the bible? If so, Have you written “The Mistranslations of the New Testament. With selected approcripha.” yet? If not, When? We need this! Thanks Rowland

  2. Are all or just some of the approcropha acrosss the centuries as bogus as “The History of Saint Issis”? Are early approcropha likely to be more truthful in a non metaphorical sense? Is there any verasity in reports of approcropha being found burried in an earthen pot in the courtyard of an Egiption monestary. Any other substantial, proven to your satifaction, discoverie of early approcorpha?
    Are you the Bradley Rice who has been studying the origional meanings of words mistranslated in the bible? If so, Have you written “The Mistranslations of the New Testament. With selected approcripha.” yet? If not, When? We need this! Thanks Rowland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *