The ancient text that describes Jesus as a shape-shifter

In March 2013 when reports flooded the headlines about a newly deciphered Egyptian text, dating back almost 1,200 years, which controversially described Jesus as having the ability to change shape.

Written in the Coptic language, the ancient text written in the name of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a distinguished theologian who lived during the fourth century, tells part of the crucifixion story of Jesus with apocryphal plot twists, some of which have never been seen before. They have been revealed thanks to a translation carried out by Roelof Van den Broek of Ultrecht University in the Netherlands, and published in the book ‘Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem On the Life and the Passion of Christ: A Coptic Apocryphon’.

The ancient text explains why Judas used a kiss, specifically, to betray Jesus. According to the canonical bible, the apostle Judas betrays Jesus in exchange for money by using a kiss to identify him leading to Jesus’ arrest.

Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man …

This leads Judas to suggest using a kiss as a means to identify him. If Judas had given the arresters a description of Jesus he could have changed shape. By kissing Jesus, Judas tells the people exactly who he is.

The Judas Kiss - 'Capture of Christ' by Cimabue, 13th Century AD
Artist Cimabue (1250–1302) Italian painter and mosaic artist The Judas Kiss – ‘Capture of Christ’ by Cimabue, 13th Century AD

According to Van den Broek, the explanation of Judas’ kiss is first found in Origen, a theologian who lived 185-254 AD. In his work, Contra Celsum, the ancient writer, stated that “to those who saw him [Jesus] he did not appear alike to all.Van den Broek is careful to note that he is not suggesting that Jesus was in fact shape changing but only that some people in early Christian times may have thought he was.

The text is one of fifty-five Coptic manuscripts that were found in 1910 by villagers digging for fertilizer at the site of the destroyed Monastery of Archangel Michael of the Desert near Al Hamuli in Egypt.

Passion story of Jesus. Image courtesy The Pierpont Morgan Library
Here, part of the text from the manuscript holding the newly deciphered Passion story of Jesus. Found in Egypt in 1910 it was purchased, along with other manuscripts, by J.P. Morgan in 1911 and was later donated to the public. Credit: Image courtesy The Pierpont Morgan Library

Apparently, during the tenth century, monks had buried the monastery’s manuscripts in a stone vat for safekeeping. The monastery ceased operations around the early 10th century, and the text was rediscovered in the spring of 1910. In December 1911, it was purchased, along with other texts, by American financier J.P. Morgan. His collections, and the text described, are now housed in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

Given such a variety of versions, you can call into question the very existence of these historical figures.

Via ancient code

Below is a description of sources

 Cyril of Jerusalem

Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the passion pilate link to book

Link two

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