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The Gospel of the Savior

The most recent Gospel to be discovered is called the Gospel of the Savior. It poses real difficulties for translator and reader alike, since so much of its text has been destroyed (i.e., there are numerous holes in the manuscript). Nonetheless, it was obviously once an intriguing account of Jesus’ life—or at least of his last hours. For the surviving portion of the text recounts the final instructions of Jesus to his disciples, his prayer to God that the “cup” might be taken away from him, and then a final address—to the cross itself. Whether this Gospel originally contained an entire account of Jesus’ life and death cannot be determined.1 There are numerous differences between the surviving passages of this Gospel and the parallel accounts in the New Testament. One of the most striking is that when Jesus asks his Father to “remove this cup from me,” he does so not in the Garden of Gethsemane, but in a vision in which he has been transported to the throne room of God himself. In addition, this account records God’s replies to Jesus’ requests. But probably the most intriguing aspect of this hitherto lost Gospel is its ending, where Jesus (who is called “the Savior” throughout the account) speaks directly to the cross: “O cross do not be afraid! I am rich. I will fill you with my wealth. I will mount you, O cross, I will be hung upon you.” It appears that the unknown author of this Gospel made use of earlier Christian texts, including the Gospels of Matthew and, especially, John, and the book of Revelation. He evidently produced his account sometime in the second century, although the Coptic manuscript that contains it dates from the sixth or seventh century. The original language was Greek. We do not know where the text was originally written. The surviving manuscript was discovered in Egypt and acquired for the Papyrus Collection of the Berlin Museum in 1967; but it remained unnoticed there until an American scholar, Paul Mirecki, came upon it in 1991. He and another scholar, Charles Hedrick, published the first edition of the text; an authori­

1

See the comments in Ehrman, Lost Christianities, 50–51.

Translation by Stephen Emmel, “The Recently Published Gospel of the Savior,” (“Un­ bekanntes Berliner Evangelium”): Righting the Order of Pages and Events,” Harvard Theological Review 95 (2002) 45–72; used with permission.

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