World Stunned by Discovery of Biblical Text
In late August of this year, a young goatherd named Erol sought refuge from the blazing noonday sun in a tiny cave near his home not far from the West Bank. As his goats sweltered outside, Erol was drawn deeper into the cave by the increasingly cool air. At one point, tripping over a rock, Erol’s IPod unclipped from his belt and flew off into the darkness, making a surprisingly loud clattering sound. By illuminating his cell phone, the goatherd discovered his IPod resting amid shards of broken pottery, from which he plucked an ancient text that had not been seen by the eyes of men for almost two thousand years.
Thinking the ancient paper might prove useful, Erol tucked it into the outer mesh pocket of his North Face backpack and forgot about it. A month later, his uncle, a biblical archaeologist from Gothenburg University in Sweden, spotted the decaying document and, immediately recognizing its value, rushed the manuscript to his lab for study.
Such is the story of what is now called “IPod Fragment A.” Further trips to Erol’s cave produced additional documents, believed to have originally been hidden by a community of early Christians, to avoid confiscation by Roman soldiers. The fragments comprise a redacted version of the Book of Job. Believed to have been written within one hundred years after the death of Jesus, this revised Book of Job is a verbatim recounting of the original Hebrew text, but with major additions to the “epilogue.” At this point in the Book of Job, friends and relatives gather to celebrate the return of Job’s family and wealth. Upon leaving the party, each gives him a coin or gold ring, and then Job is left alone. Suddenly, a figure materializes from the ether and introduces himself as Cyrus, a time-travelling Gnostic Christian. Their conversation is produced below, in the first English translation of the now infamous “IPod Fragments.”
JOB: Is it by the power of God, or of some devil that enables you to visit me across the impasse of time?
CYRUS: It is by my own power that I travel thus, to save you from misery.
JOB: Ha! Well, you’re a little late for that, Cyrus. Where were you when my family was taken from me? Why did you not come to me when I was sitting on a pile of garbage, scratching my boils with a potsherd? Now you appear, when all is as it should be, my family has been restored, and I sit with my lap full of coins and gold rings!
CYRUS: It is for you to understand that potsherds and boils are no different from coins and gold rings – they are all of this earth, and as such, equally evil.
JOB: You equate God’s blessings with God’s curses? I am aghast!
CYRUS: Because you do not yet see that gold and boils, blessings and curses are one and the same. Surely you have recognized that your word “barakh” means both to bless and to curse. Do you think this accord is by accident?
JOB: Perhaps not, but I do not believe that God curses man and blesses him at the same time. Ever since God and Abraham entered into the covenant, God has promised to bless those who honor Him (and His laws), and to curse those who do not.
CYRUS: That is certainly the view your friends espoused, if I remember correctly. Did not Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all proclaim that your misery was due to some sin you had committed, perhaps unwittingly? They believed you were being justly punished by God, although you argued otherwise. Well, I have come to tell you, Job, that Abraham’s covenant is between mankind and an evil God. This is why even His blessings are curses. All is punishment.
JOB: All is punishment … to be honest, there have been times when I thought as you describe. When my miseries were heaped upon me – a load heavier than any man could bear – and I had done nothing to offend God, it was then I accused God of being indiscriminate, of singling me out for no reason.
CYRUS: But you think differently now?
JOB: In the depths of my despair, when I came close to cursing God, He spoke to me about my anguish. It changed my understanding of God, and of myself. Before, I had accused God of placing hedges in my path, and of regarding me as “dust.” That was the word I used. But God turned me from my fascination with myself, telling me to look upon the world, and to understand the role that even dust must play in the enormity and magnificence of His design. He spoke of creation and destruction in such a way that I finally understood no animosity on His part toward any element of His creation. After hearing His words, I was able to take comfort in the knowledge that “I am dust.”
CYRUS: Ah Job, you stand so near the truth – it is almost in your grasp – but it is as if you cannot see, you cannot feel! You are right in turning away from the fascination of self. That is one step on the Gnostic path toward the light! But I must impart to you a key component of the truth, which robs your God of his honor. He is not the only God! There is a Supreme Being of Light, a God of whom you are ignorant. I know this is a shattering idea to you, but you must try to at least imagine the possibility, and what it might mean.
JOB: After what I’ve been through, I try to always keep an open mind. So let me hear what you have to say, but remember that I all my life I have worshiped this God you are now calling evil.
CYRUS: I will try to be sensitive to your beliefs, friend. But I must share with you what has been revealed to me. First of all, you might remember that in your conversation with God, He never mentioned anything about life after death. You may not have considered that this omission is because this God has nothing to do with that realm. My people call your God a demiurge, or the Father of Darkness, and we believe he is solely concerned with the earthly realm, which is His creation. Our bodies are merely the cells within which our souls are imprisoned.
JOB: This sounds rather far-fetched.
CYRUS: Trust me, I am not making it up.
JOB: Well, let me ask you, who created the demiurge?
CYRUS: We call Him the Supreme Being, or the Father of Light. And though He also created our human souls, He is remote to us, and we cannot communicate with Him from our earthly prison, even though our bodies long to forgo this world and fly to Him. The Supreme Being is perfect. But the demiurge is flawed, and could not prevent evil from spreading throughout his creation.
JOB: But what about the book of Genesis and its story of creation? Genesis says that evil was caused by man.
CYRUS: Read it again, closely. Notice that the account of creation does not contradict what I am saying – the Supreme Being is nowhere present; only the demiurge is there to create the world from the void. As for evil, it says right there in Genesis that evil existed prior to man’s “fall.”
JOB: I have read this text many times, Cyrus. It clearly says that Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She then shared that fruit with Adam.
CYRUS: But please, Job, notice that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was already in the garden. I say again, evil was already in the garden! Eve did not create it. The serpent tried to warn her that the demiurge was hoping to trick her into blaming herself for evil. Ironically, also in the garden was a secret knowledge that could have set Eve and Adam free.
JOB: Where was it?
CYRUS: Specifically, it resided in the Tree of Eternal Life. But as we understand this knowledge today, it is located only in the minds of the enlightened.
JOB: So, you have come to share this secret knowledge with me?
CYRUS: If you will be receptive to it, yes. Remember, after Eve and Adam ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were cast out of the garden, lest they also eat of the Tree of Knowledge – they were cut off from the secret knowledge that could release them from the bondage of earthly evil. But the Supreme Being has aided humanity, by implanting in our minds the mechanism for perceiving this knowledge. For men who use this gift of intellect and intuition, that knowledge can be attained. Did the demiurge try to impart this to you when you spoke with Him?
JOB: God told me many things, some of them very difficult for my mind to grasp. But the most important message I gleaned was that man tends to think of himself as the center of the universe, and this is his undoing, his “sin,” if you will.
CYRUS: Now you have come very close to the message I am here to impart, the message at the heart of what my people call the Zohar. This wisdom has everything to do with how you view the world, and yourself. In order to commit the “sin” of self-centeredness, how must a man’s mind work?
JOB: I can’t say.
CYRUS: It must be adept at separating. It must separate what is “self” from what is “not self,” and place higher value on the former.
JOB: Yes, I think this is what God was explaining to me.
CYRUS: Not only does such thinking separate one man from another, but it divides mankind from the world, and disconnects the world from the Supreme Being. This is the way men think, it is the reality they believe in. It is in this process of separation (which, like Adam, men perform in their minds) that splits their soul from that of the Supreme Being.
JOB: Oy! Oy! That is the precise message I took from my conversation with God – I mean, with the demiurge.
CYRUS: Aha! The demiurge is not pure evil, but is simply evil because He is imperfect. That does not mean that He does not grasp the truth, or that he tries to hide the truth from men. The world provides the method – for deceiving the self, or for grasping the truth. And the Zohar says that the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the tree of Eternal Life, are actually the same tree! So do you see how the Garden of Eden contained not just the sin (of separation), but the redemption (of union)? Do you see how coins and gold rings might serve to imprison you in self-centeredness? And can you grant that boils and broken pieces of pottery could help to drive the sin of separation from your mind and heart?
JOB: I am certain now that none of these things have the power to mislead or to edify – such power is in my perception of such things, and the value I place on them.
CYRUS: And with this perception, and these values, hardship can encourage right thinking. Death itself need not be feared, because it does not promote further separation, but facilitates union. This is the secret knowledge of my people that I bring to you with love.
JOB: Thank you for coming to me, Cyrus. I will take what you have said to heart, as it is in keeping with my faith, and provides an insight that will bring peace to me throughout my remaining years on this earth.