The modern translation of an ancient Gnostic text.
In 1923, German archaeologist (and Nazi) Otto von Hemrick found a lost manuscript in a fourth-century Christian monastery in Syria. The Book of Zuriel (die Gefallenen) was composed in a cryptic language von Hemrick referred to as “the mother language,” the translation of which required the help of Nazi code breakers. Apparently, the work is part of a larger assemblage of spiritual texts that belonged to Simon the Lesser. St. Peter may have transported those manuscripts to Antioch, which were subsequently buried during the Syrian Genocide of 1915. After World War II, an American soldier brought the Book of Zuriel, along with von Hemrick’s notes, to the Catholic University of America, where Underwood found them. The Book of Zuriel bifurcates into two sections, one devoted to the Old Testament and one to the New Testament. Presented in this volume is the section following the Old Testament, though many literary allusions are made to the New Testament as well. The author reproduces the text here—some of the translations are his, and some belong to von Hemrick—and often refers to von Hemrick’s commentary. A prefatory chapter offers the manuscript’s historical context, discussing its Gnostic qualities as a doctrinal competitor to other forms of early Christianity. The book itself can be fascinating and covers a wide range of issues, like the nature of marriage and the relationship between the material and the spiritual. Some parts of the text are illuminating as a kind of commentary on the Bible—one section considers the Book of Job, opening up new vistas of discussion regarding the extent of Job’s devotion to God. The text, however, is often difficult to understand for the layperson, even one familiar with the Bible (“Early on, the Akamu attempted to cover up their ervah with the use of chagowr, but Adonai sent forth the Uri to teach the Akamu to make or-kuttoneth”).
An enthralling but exasperatingly esoteric scholarly discovery.