Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alternative Christs

This isn't related to the Revelation of the Magi, but as this blog progresses it will certainly develop broader horizons.

I've just had my review of Alternative Christs published in the Review of Biblical Literature. It's a nice collection of essays about unusual visions of Christ and his significance that have developed over the past 2000 years.

An Amazon milestone

No, this post isn't about the ratings spike on Christmas Eve and Christmas (though that was great fun while it lasted). Rather, I've just received my first one-star review!

1.0 out of 5 stars A One Star Rating is Too High, December 28, 2010
This review is from: Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem (Hardcover)
I found this book to be terribly disappointing. This book is not for any serious student of the Bible or anyone seeking truth about the Magi. Fraught with all kinds of theological errors and discrepancies in its telling,the "Revelation" feels contrived and even fraudulent(i.e. the manuscript). Mr. Landau even states that "...there is nothing in "The Revelation of the Magi" that has filtered into the Christmas story that we know today...", yet he concludes that "The Revelation of the Magi" should be especially relevant to today's world because in this day of religious diversity, there is a "great deal of theological reflection on the place of Christianity among the world's religious traditions and that, according to the "Revelation", Christ appears to say there is room for religious diversity in His plan. Following Christ is a radical calling that, by Jesus's own words(John 14:6), denies that premise. Do we REALLY need to know about "The Revelation of the Magi"? I think not. If you want the indisputable truth, see this The Star of Bethlehem

Actually, I think the Revelation of the Magi would agree quite strongly with John 14:6.

And for clarification, when I post these sorts of negative comments, it's not out of self-pity or some related emotion. Instead, they make me genuinely pleased that people have reacted so strongly to my work. It would be much worse simply to be ignored.

Two more news items

Here's an article from The Oklahoman, the major paper in my neck of the woods, which ran on Christmas Day.

And a fun interview in The Browser, which asked me to come up with a list of five books related to the history of Christmas.

Most widely-read dissertation?

I pose a question to you, inspired by the large number of people who have viewed my dissertation. It made me wonder what have been the most widely-read dissertations (presumably in published form, I would imagine). Any ideas? I'm sure mine doesn't compare, but I'd be interested to know which theses have been the most successful.

More reviews

Quite a few reviews of the book out in the blogosphere, so I wanted to highlight several newer ones.

This one by John Reilly (a commenter on the blog) calls attention to the text's focus on human inability to speak about the divine, and also to the text's positive view of the Watchers, those folks who started the whole Flood mess.

And here's another review from the Patheos website, by Angelica Nohemi Quinonez. I found the following passage particularly beautiful:
"Revelation of the Magi is a testament to God’s communication with humanity. It is not only that God communicates through the Magi through the star, just as it is not that God communicates Himself to humanity through the incarnation or the cross. Rather, God gives himself to us in love. There is an open invitation to allow that unseen resplendent light to guide us. Revelation of the Magi is, perhaps, a story about us–wanderers in expectation of seeing the mysteries reveal themselves before our eyes, walking in faith, open to truth."

Last but certainly not least, a review by Judith Weingarten, an archaeologist whose blog is truly required reading for those interested in ancient history.

Nightline (and Fox News)

The Nightline piece was enormously successful, and ended up being featured on the Yahoo homepage for several hours on Christmas Day.

Here's my favorite comment from the ABC website (and this is a comment I genuinely like!):

"The cave is filled with light," Landau said, describing the transcribed text. "They're kind of hesitant about this, but eventually the star...its light concentrates and reveals the small luminous human being...a star child, if you's Christ." -------------- So Jesus was an alien? Well, that's at least as believable as anything else......

Very late edit: I never included the very nice piece on the book that Fox News ran. So here it is.

Diane Rehm

Having the opportunity to appear on The Diane Rehm Show was absolutely amazing. She had long been my favorite NPR show and one of my favorite interviewers, so it was really one of the high points of this whole experience.

As expected, Diane asked great, provocative questions, and deftly managed callers, emailers, tweeters, etc., getting a diverse sampling of opinions and questions.

Of course, not everyone was happy. Here's the first comment of all from the website:

"Your producers are scraping the bottom for guest [sic].

This writer has no hard facts, only vivid imagination."

I do indeed think the writer of the Revelation of the Magi had a vivid imagination, but I don't think that's what the commentator meant.

Back at it

I've neglected the blog for the past week and a half: partly due to holiday festivities, partly due to several other appearances, but mostly due to my immune system completely abandoning me. The last month has been a tad busier than I'm used to!

If you're just finding this for the first time, welcome! If you're looking to buy the book, go here; if you're looking for the dissertation, go here.

Catching up on media to follow shortly.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Great New Reviews

Several in-depth reviews of the book have just been published.

This one in the LA Times book section gave it five stars and implied that I was a bit like Dan Brown's Robert Langdon. Not really, but it's quite flattering to be compared with the eminent symbologist.

And this one on the Christian Humanist blog had some extremely interesting things to say.

First, my favorite quote: "And to prove that old texts have their own warped sense of humor, there’s even a baby-switch gag in which Mary panics because she sees one of the Magi’s mystical vision of Christ and thinks that he’s kidnapped baby Jesus. Of course, when she finds the real Jesus back where he should be, the infant gives her a long speech providing her anxious soul comfort. (Yes, you did just read that. You really want to check it out now, don’t you?)."

And second, a very insightful critique of one of my major theses (and one that I don't really have a good answer for at present): "Landau’s footnote to this verse as well as the volume’s concluding essay point to this as evidence of an early “theology of the world’s religions” and speculates that the final episodes in RM might have been later scribal addenda geared towards taking the sting out of such an intellectual novelty. The problem I see with Landau’s approach is that he seems to apply a very modern understanding of “faith” without giving any lexical justification. In modern times, of course, phrases like “interfaith dialogue” and “faith-based organizations” are relatively commonplace: “a faith” in this language-game is Islam, Christianity, or something bearing resemblance to them, and there are a plurality of “faiths” in the world. In legal systems that recognize a plurality of incommensurable “faiths” or “religions,” such a use makes perfect sense, but in an intellectual context that knows syncretism but not pluralism, such a move seems strange."

Monday, December 13, 2010

KGOU Interview

The local NPR station here in Norman just aired my interview with them this morning. If you missed it (or just want to hear it again), here's a link to the MP3.

I've only had a chance to listen to the first three minutes, but I've heard from other people who enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

McKnight review and my response

One of the reviews at Patheos that I especially enjoyed was that of Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament and early Christianity at North Park University. His review criticized several of my main claims about the Revelation of the Magi, and I've responded to his critique in this rejoinder.

Reviews on Patheos

A few contributors to Patheos have posted some very thoughtful reviews of the book.

Here's one by Rev. Peter M. Wallace.

And here's Amy Julia Becker's review.

Lisa Hess's review, "Context is Everything."

And Beth Davies-Stofka's "An Encounter of Your Own."

Q & A with United Methodist Reporter

I'm a bit late in posting this, but it's a really good Q&A session with Mary Jacobs from the UM Reporter.

Huffington Post

Friday saw the debut of a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post. Rather than just giving an overview of the Revelation of the Magi, I talked more specifically about the text's understanding of non-Christian religions.

I'm really happy with the piece, but the readers' comments were pretty disappointing overall (and I probably shouldn't have expected otherwise). Lots of proclamations about how Jesus never existed, that Christianity was based on ancient Egyptian mythology, and similarly ignorant stuff.

But, I *loved* this comment, since at least this conspiracy theorist actually read the article:
"The author ignores the possibility that the exclusion of "Jesus" or "Christ" did not appear in the original text, was because those concepts were named well after it was written."

Upcoming TV and Radio

I spent a day in NYC last week taping some segments for ABC's Nightline and for Fox News--pretty exciting! I believe the Nightline piece will air sometime early next week (the week of the 20th). And one of the Fox News pieces was for a Fox and Friends special that's supposed to air Christmas Eve. The other Fox piece is online only, I think. When I have more information, I'll be sure to post it.

But I do know that I'll be on the Diane Rehm Show on Monday, December 20th, from 11AM-12PM EST (the second hour of the show)! I'm thrilled and flattered to be interviewed by Diane Rehm, as she's one of the best in the business and a huge personal favorite of mine.

I'll post again on these appearances once we get a little closer and I have more info.

NOTE: For y'all in Oklahoma, the Diane Rehm Show is on from 9AM-11AM CST, so I'll be on from 10-11. And for those of you in Arizona, I've heard reports that the second hour is on first (??), from 9-10. Beyond that, check your local listings! And if you miss it, I'm sure it will be available at the NPR website in perpetuity.

Interview on Local NPR Station Tomorrow Morning

I've got a lot of news to update, and will be doing so later tonight, but I wanted to get this out first because it's time-sensitive.

KGOU, the National Public Radio affiliate here in Norman, OK, will be airing an interview with me about the book on Monday, December 13th (that's tomorrow) at 11:00AM CST. It will be on the "Oklahoma Voices" program.

So tune in, either on the radio or over the Internet!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Two Completely Awesome Websites

If you're not familiar with ReadTheSpirit or Patheos, you should be. They are absolutely great sites devoted to a variety of religious and spiritual issues.

And you can start by looking at their features on the Revelation of the Magi, here and here!

Were the Wise Men from China?

So asks this article by Michelle Healey in USA Today. Thanks, Michelle!!

And do be sure to take a look at the readers' comments. :)

Blog Reviews

Tony Burke's Apocryphicity, devoted to all things apocryphal, posted a review of the book the day of its release.

A very kind and thoughtful review by "Justin Martyr."

Finally, Roger Pearse summarizes the previous review and adds further thoughts here.

Also Available In Audiobook Format!

If you'd like to listen to a dramatic reading of the Revelation of the Magi, check out the audiobook version by Oasis Audio.

And for the record, listening to a stage actor read my English translation of the Syriac has been by far the most surreal moment of this experience thus far.

Welcome to the Revelation of the Magi!

Hello! My name is Brent Landau, and I'm an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma. I've just released a book entitled The Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem, published by HarperCollins.

To my delight, the book has already generated a fair amount of interest, so this blog will keep track of news stories, reviews, media appearances, and the like.

For starters, here's a link to where you can buy the book.

And if you'd like to browse the book, go here.

Lastly, this book is an adaptation of my dissertation. If you're interested in a more technical, scholarly approach to the Revelation of the Magi, you can access my dissertation here.