The Essene Gospel of Peace
“Strange Tales about Jesus, A Survey of Unfamiliar Gospels”,
Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1983, 1985, by Per Beskow, (1926- ),
Associate Professor of Patristic Studies at the Swedish Council
for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Lund, Sweden.
Chapter 12: The Diligent Dr. Szekely.
(p.82) Two complete manuscripts are said to exist: one in Old Slavonic belonging to the national Library of Vienna; the second in Aramaic belonging to the archivo secret, the secret archives of the Vatican, which contain large collections of manuscripts. Furthermore, some Hebrew fragments are said to have existed in the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino in Middle Italy.
(p.83) anyone who tries to find these manuscripts in ordinary catalogues, is likely to do his research in vain. All information about the manuscripts comes from only one person, a health-food minded doctor of Hungarian and French extraction. his name was Edmond Bordeux Szekely. …. Szekely also published about sixty books mainly about health food.
When the book (The Gospel of Peace) was first published in England in 1937, it bore the title “The Gospel of Peace by the disciple John”. … Szekely said in the preface of the 1937 edition that it was only part of the content of the manuscripts, but that publication would continue. nothing more was published, however, until 1974 (!) when two more volumes appeared. … in the American edition all three volumes are called “The Essene
Gospel of Peace”. …. Who then is this Dr. Szekely, who claimed to be a paleographer, a
philologist and a health food specialist in the same person, and who showed such impressive diligence at his desk during his long career ? … He was the son of a Transylvanian of Unitarian beliefs and his French Catholic wife. He stated that his
grandfather was the Hungarian poet Alexander Szekely, Unitarian Bishop of Cluj ((Rumania)), and among his forefathers he also reckoned the well-known traveler and philologist Alexander Csoma de Koros. Szekely was sent to a catholic school, run by
the Piarist order; with the help of the headmaster, Monsignor Mondik, he continued his studies in Rome with Monsignor Angelo Mercati, who was at that time the prefect of the
secret archives. It was here that he claims to have discovered the Aramaic manuscript some time between 1923 and 1924; during a visit to Monte Cassino he also claims to have found Hebrew fragments corresponding with the Aramaic text.
[[ Beskow’s footnote No 110, p.128 : The account of the ((Vatican Aramaic)) discovery appears in a most astonishing way, namely as a side issue to the find of the Hebrew Monte Cassino fragments: “I had found the Source: Hebrew fragments of the Essene gospel, the Aramaic version of which I had just read (!0 from the shelves of Mnsgr. Mercati’s locked room”, “The discovery”, p.54. This is positively all that is said about the
Aramaic text, which is the basis of the edition of “The Gospel of peace”! ]]
(p.84) … There is no description of the manuscript, and we are not told whether it might have been a scroll or codex.
((Footnote by Errol Smith: In one of the more recent editions I have seen an alleged photgraph of a very dusty scroll which was still rolled up, no text was visible. Presumably this was meant to be a photograph of one of the finds.))
Reading through such a large Aramaic manuscript is a difficult task demanding months of work. The copying is in itself an extensive procedure with many difficulties. Szekely, however never seems to have had any problems with this. he just ‘read” the manuscript in 1923 in Monsignor Mercati’s study, which obviously was sufficient, for shortly fterwards, he tells us, he said goodbye to Mercati and never saw him any more. … Did he carry
photocopies with him in his baggage when he left (something he forgets to mention)? Not even today, with our sophisticated phottechnology, would it be possible to produce useful copies for a scholarly edition in such haste. Perhaps the university of Paris could have provided some information, for Szekely claims to have presented his finds there in 1925, but his dissertation is said to have been lost, and the name of the professor who assessed his research is not known.
((Beskow’s footnote no.111, p.128, “Szekely in Paris; the discovery”, p.45.)
(p.85) The greatest lack of information concerns the Old Slavonic manuscript. When did Szekely go to Vienna to study it? His German translator, who had also translated ((modern forgery)) “The Gospel of the Holy Twelve” into German, and who is not
quite reliable as an informant, states that Szekely found the Old Slavonik version first and later the Aramaic one. … In fact, the Vienna manuscript is not mentioned at all in the book that is intended to answer all questions about “The Gospel of Peace”!
The Hebrew fragments … are never mentioned in the editions themselves… What he tells us there is as nebulous as the story of the Aramaic text; there is no information about how many fragments there were.
Szekely has indeed published a Hebrew text, supposedly that of the Monte Cassiono fragments, although he never mentions the provenance of the text. I do not know of any American edition of this work, but in the English edition of the latter parts called ‘the Gospel of the Essenes”, there are fifteen pages with non vocalized Hebrew text, which prove to be the entire first part of ‘the Gospel of Peace”, although with some omissions and differences. there is no translation, nor any commentary, and nothing indicates that this is a reconstruction from fragments. … If he possessed this fairly complete text ((in 1924)) why did he not use it for his first edition of 1937.
(p.86) I have been helped with my study of Szekely’s Hebrew text by a competent Hebrew scholar, who said that the language of the text is correct Hebrew of a post-biblical period, similar to that found in the Mishnah.
[[ Beskow’s footnote 114, p.128. … My linguistic expert is Mr bolunden, M.A. Lund. his general impression is that the text is fairly late but with some archaisms and expressions from Biblical Hebrew. There is nothing against the theory that it might have been written in our own time.]]
That sounds impressive. But having a Hebrew text is really not the same as possessing a Hebrew original ((manuscript)). … If there exist any persons at all in our time who are willing and able to make translations ((from English)) into Biblical Aramaic or Old Slavonic, they must be very rare indeed. on the other hand, it is not difficult to find a learned speaker of Hebrew who can make an acceptable translation into acceptable
It is perhaps relevant that the Hebrew fragments were found in Monte Cassiono. Szekely cannot have been unaware of the fact that the monastery was bombed and destroyed during World War II, …
Szekely said in his 1937 preface that he had only time to translate an eighth of the text, … in this (1970’s) edition this first part of the work is no longer said to be an eighth of the
manuscript but a third, which implies that the three volumes are meant to contain the entire text of the manuscripts. …
In the original preface from 1937, the Aramaic manuscript is dated to the first century, … but in the 1974 American edition, the manuscript is dated to the third, naturally without any indication that Szekely had some reason to change his mind about the age. …
In the American edition, .. John has disappeared as the author of the first part. on the other hand, the Essenes have made their entry, … The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, …. Volume 2 ((1970’s)) mentions the Teacher of Righteousness, a well known figure from the scrolls.
I have been informed by the National Library of Vienna that inquiries about the Old Slavonic manuscript are not uncommon, but that it is completely unknown there, and the general opinion it was made up by Szekely. … I have received an equally negative letter from Rome ((from)) the present prefect of the Secret archives, … and that Szekely’s name is missing from the card index, where all visitors to the Archives are registered. …
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