Jesus, Morton Smith, and the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM 13.1-734)

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The late Morton Q. Smith's innovative interpretation of PGM 13.1-734 as containing not merely two but three different versions of the Eighth Book of Moses (hereafter MosesVIII) was built on assumptions which have not been critically examined either in scholarship on that text or in critical discussion of Smith's use of the magical papyri in his book Jesus the Magician. Critical examination of those assumptions would suggest that Smith's negative evaluation of MosesVIII's world-view exercised inappropriate influence both on his translation of the text and on his views concerning its sources and literary structure. As a critical alternative to Smith's views, the present article provides new lines of support for holding, in agreement with pre-Smith scholarship, that only two versions of MosesVIII are present in PGM 13.1-734. A comparative analysis of the two versions is also offered, wherein version B (lines 343-734) is seen as representing the earlier stage in the development of the tradition, and version A (lines 1-343) is contextualized as a fourth-century CE Christianized redaction that belongs in part to the reception history of the New Testament Gospels and Acts. © 2011 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-159
Number of pages26
JournalJournal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • 'magic'
  • Eighth Book of Moses
  • Leiden Papyrus J 395
  • magical papyri
  • Morton Smith


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