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."


  1. Mr. Landau,

    I heard your interview this morning on NPR and it was awesome. I'm not in a place to take a college course in Syriac, but are there good books or online sources to learn the version of Syriac you were discussing this morning?

    Thank you,

    Aaron Shaw

  2. Dear Dr. Landau,

    I am writing to say how much I enjoyed Revelation of the Magi. The text and commentary are not only theologically and historically provocative, but also make a great stocking stuffer.

    If you can bear to read one more layman's review, I have one here:

    Merry Christmas!

  3. I heard your interview with Diane Rehm and promptly bought the e-reader version of your book. Looking forward to spending some time with it. In this time where so many forget that humanities matter, your interview served as a reminder that they do. Thanks for inspiring my curiosity and inviting me to spend some time with your book and the text of the manuscript you translated. It's a great way to be inspired by the past, by texts, and how our interpretations of texts changes over time.

  4. @ Aaron: thanks for your question about Syriac. As you might imagine, there aren't a ton of options for learning Syriac unless you're at a very small range of colleges/universities. And I don't know of any online courses. But there are two textbooks that are quite good if you wanted to try teaching yourself.

    First, here's the one that I learned Syriac from:

    And second, here's the one that a number of my friends used (so I can't vouch for it personally):

    Good luck!


    @ John, thanks again for your review! It was really great.


    @ Jason, thanks so much for your kind words about the project! I'm so glad to hear that it resonated with you.

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  6. Dr. Landau,

    This is Nathan Gilmour from the Christian Humanist. I regret that I'm just now discovering this, but thank you for the mention and the link! Any thoughts in the last spell about my objection?

    [P.S. I left a rather flagrant typo in the original comment, so I'm sorry for cluttering your site with the "comment removed" message.]