“Lost” Gospel May Be More Familiar Than You Think
SEATTLE, WA: In a news conference sure to become a landmark in the already-controversial world of biblical textual studies, a team of scholars at Southeastern Pan-Religious University have revealed the existence of an early gospel text heretofore only known through the most
roundabout of means.
According to Professor of Textual Divinity Georgianna Bennett-Helmsford,
the text, known as the Gospel of Murgatroyd, has a most unusual
history. According to Bennett-Helmsford, the early Latin manuscript was
acquired in the mid-1960’s, on a whim, by Ray Ennis, then a member of
the pop band the Swinging Blue Jeans (probably best known for their sole
1964 hit single “Hippy Hippy Shake”), who purchased the manuscript for
an undisclosed sum from an antiquities dealer in Cairo while the band
was engaged on an (unsuccessful) Egyptian promotion tour.
Bennet-Helmsford, in her recent book The Lost Gospel You Already Knew,
quotes Ennis as saying:
I was bumming around this smelly little shop
browsing for an antique hookah and found this seriously ancient book and
it looked all kinda groovy and old and stuff, ya know? I looked at
every page but couldn’t understand any of the words and went, like,
“whoa.” So I bought it.
Ennis, according to Bennett-Helmsford’s interviews, began carrying the
remarkably well-preserved manuscript with him as a sort of personal
totem, bringing it to numerous high-profile celebrity parties and clubs.
It was at one of those clubs where the manuscript came to the attention
of classics scholar Marvin Zdan, who, through his mimeographed underground
publications of psychadelic philosophical musings, had become well-known
in the hedonistic celebrity social circles of the 60’s and 70’s. He
spent a feverish night translating Ennis’ manuscript, after which his
translation, scribbled on the back of a series of cocktail napkins,
accompanied the manuscript on its peregrinations through the world of
late 1960’s and 1970’s pop stardom, where it was a frequent feature at
parties. In another Bennett-Helmsford interview, Zdan says of his
translation, “I was a little obsessive that night, and the atmosphere
was feeling all apocalyptic and King James-y, which may have affected my
linguistic choices in the translation somewhat.”
Zdan’s translation was apparently read by many of the lead songwriters
of the day, leading to the slow but inevitable insinuation of much of
its text, which recounts various nuggets of gnostic wisdom attributed to
Jesus by the second-century Roman prophet Silvius Murgatroidus, into
the lyrics of the popular music of the day. Perhaps the most famous is
the line which reads, in Zdan’s English translation,
Thou mayest not at all times
receive that which thou desireth,
but, through thy intermittent strivings,
thou mayest receive those things
of which thou art most in need.”
Other snippets of this lost gospel also seem to have gained a life in
the pop music of the 1970’s, such as a saying attributed by Murgatroidus
to Jesus upon his realization of Judas’ betrayal: (again in Zdan’s
Leavest not mine heart in sadness;
shouldst thou turn thy
countenance from me,
I shall walk in misery,
for a sundering is indeed
difficult in its accomplishing.
The newly-discovered gospel is also noteworthy for its inclusion of a
psalm attributed to Jesus as a farewell to Mary before the crucifixion:
Shouldst I depart from this place on the next day,
wilt thou hold me in thy remembrance?
For I must now embark upon a great journey,
and multitudinous are the lands to which I must bear witness.
Were I to sojourn in this place with you, O woman,
little could remain as it now is,
for I am now set free, as the fowl of the air,
and such a feathered one thou mayest not alter.
Also noteworthy is this addendum to the famous Sermon on the Mount, in
which Jesus exhorts his followers:
Feedest thou the infants who have
not sufficient sustenance;
shoest thou the children that walk unshod;
give shelter unto those who go unsheltered in the streets,
for truly I say unto you,
for all these things there is a remedy.
On a related sidenote, David Crosby, formerly of The Byrds, continues to
insist that the resemblance between that band’s 1965 hit-single cover of
Pete Seeger’s ”Turn, Turn, Turn,” and the third chapter of Ecclesiastes
is entirely coincidental.
[Note: Any scholars of pseudo-textual studies interested in either identifying the classic pop songs here referenced, or, indeed, interested in posting additional passages from the Gospel of Murgatroyd for identification by others should free free to do so in the comments. Scholars are encouraged to share a link to this blog to others who might be interested in contributing.]
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