ORIGINS OF CHRISTIANITY, including early Christian Gnosticism and Mysticism
The Origins of Christianity Series seeks to present the original teachings of Jesus, as understood by early Christians and illuminated by reference to others of the ancient world. The series is written in an honest and straightforward manner that can be appreciated and enjoyed by ordinary people seeking something deeper than traditional religion, something that can touch the deeps of the soul, providing inspiration and spiritual direction.
Scholars will appreciate how the series explores the metaphorical language of ancient mysticism, especially that of Old and New Testament writings and allied literature. Referring to texts that will be known to them, meanings, interpretations and common threads are drawn together from diverse sources, many from texts previously consigned to obscurity.
The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of His Original Teachings
(1066 pages, Element, 1995; rev. edn., Clear Books, 2004, ISBN 1-904555-14-4)
An inspirational encounter with the world of Christ, an uplifting study of the man, his times, and his teaching. Reveals how the true meaning of Jesus' teachings, as found in the canonical gospels and many of the apocryphal and other early Christian texts, is that of the ageless, eternal and mystic path to God. Exhaustively researched from Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writings of the Greek mystics, the gnostics, the Mandaeans, the Manichaeans and others of Jesus' era, it reflects the yearning of all Christians and seekers throughout the ages to penetrate the unresolved mysteries of their faith, and attain direct, personal mystic experience of God.
Reviews and comments: "In this work, John Davidson has probed the origins of Christianity in a provocative and illuminating way. By carrying us back to our beginnings, we see both the brilliance of essential Christianity and the distortions through which this tradition has been filtered through the ages. It is a gold mine of new insights." .... "Only rarely is a work of this nature published which can be instantly recognized as a classic.... Provides new interpretations of many parts of the New Testament that were previously difficult to understand." ... "This can be a life-transforming book. It certainly transformed mine! For me, it was as if all the confusing jigsaw pieces of Christianity which I just didn't understand suddenly fell into place." More reviews and comments.
The Prodigal Soul: The Wisdom of Ancient Parables
(258 pages, Clear Books, 1995, ISBN 1-904555-07-1)
Everybody loves a good story. Parable and metaphor are the lynch pin of much of the world's greatest literature. We use stories to understand the fundamentals of our humanity, fundamentals so deeply hidden they can otherwise remain unexpressed. The ultimate mysteries of our existence are the stuff of stories and parables: What is man? Why are we alive? How best can we face this mysterious experience we call life?
This inspirational collection of allegories and anecdotes includes seven parables of Jesus (with two little-known ones from the 'fifth' gospel, the Gospel of Thomas), an allegorical interpretation of the Adam and Eve story, and others of a gnostic character from Manichaean and Mandaean sources, the Nag Hammadi library, and New Testament apocryphal writings, including The Robe of Glory (also known as The Hymn of the Pearl). Truly a treasure trove of wisdom.
Reviews: "A wonderful collection of inspirational mystical wisdom. Favourites of this reviewer (each reader will have his or her own preferences!) include Saint John and the Bedbugs, Saint John and the Partridges, Adam Gets a Letter, and the incomparable Robe of Glory."
The Divine Romance: Tales of an Unearthly Love
(187 pages, Clear Books, 2004, ISBN 1-904555-11-X)
Love stories have an enduring appeal, and the ultimate love affair is between the soul and the Divine. Everyone who has known the heartache that goes with being in love will resonate with this wonderful collection of stories from early Christian times that tell of a love surpassing all other loves.
In The Divine Romance, John Davidson shows how these ancient and intriguing tales depict a universal spirituality " the path to divine union. This, the story of the soul's descent and its subsequent return, is told in terms of the divine marriage. The collection includes two parables of Jesus, with interpretations suggested by gnostic texts, and two gnostic parables " one from the Nag Hammadi library, the other from the Acts of Thomas. The rambunctious early Christian classic, Joseph and Aseneth, a tale that has circulated in various forms over the last 2,000 years, concludes this luminous book.
The Song of Songs: The Soul and the Divine Beloved
(280 pages, Clear Books, 2004, ISBN 1-904555-10-1)
On the face of it, the biblical Song of Songs tells the tale of a passionate and worldly love. Yet it contains not one word that speaks explicitly of God or spirituality, though the Song was accepted long go into both the Jewish and Christian scriptural canons. In this enthralling book, John Davidson brings out the spiritual meaning of one of the most intriguing books in the Bible.
Over the centuries, both Jewish and Christian mystics have agreed that the Song should be understood allegorically, not literally , in keeping with the widespread use of metaphor, parable and story among the poets and mystics of the ancient Middle East. Even so, there is only partial agreement regarding the allegorical interpretation of its multitude of colorful and varied images.
From the perspective of a universal spirituality, John Davidson sheds light on many of the Song's obscure passages, uncovering the artistry of its unknown poet. Little by little, The Song of Songs is revealed as a key to the language of metaphor, common throughout the mystic literature of ancient times. The commentary is illuminated by passages from biblical texts and other spiritual literature, including the teachings of Jesus, gnostic writings, Jewish and Christian mystics, and some of the ecstatic psalms found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Reviews: "With the author providing astonishing background and historical facts about the poem, written in Hebrew sometime before the third century BC, this interpretation takes the reader on a journey of ecstatic and exuberant love. The reader is given 'keys' to open a treasure of divine love, creating a book that will enchant you with the symphony of love that the poems weave.... This treasure is waiting to be discovered.... For the reader of Judaeo-Christian background, it can be a revelation to discover that the intoxication of divine love has been expressed in an ecstatic way. And only with a mystical key can this treasure be revealed as a divine love story."
The Odes of Solomon: Mystical Songs from the Time of Jesus
(188 pages, Clear Books, 2004, ISBN 1-904555-06-3)
An inspiring collection of early Christian devotional poems, as vibrant as the day they were written. Lost for nineteen hundred years, but rediscovered by Cambridge biblical scholar, Rendel Harris, in 1908, they are here interpreted for the general reader for the first time by John Davidson.
These intriguing, lyrical and often beautiful poems speak of the soul's experiences as it travels the universal mystic path of the Creative Word or Logos. Written within a generation of Jesus' lifetime, The Odes of Solomon provide precious indications of the true nature of the path he taught.
Reviews: "The name of Solomon refers to what he stood for, spiritual Wisdom. The linguistic style and the metaphors used are very similar to St John's gospel, and echo passages from the Jewish Wisdom literature. The Odes are in essence spiritual teachings, specifically describing the relationship between the disciple and the Master. It is fascinating for the reader of Christian background to realize how close and personal the relationship between the Master and any disciple can be.... The Odes take you through different phases of the spiritual journey of a disciple constantly guided and taught by his Saviour."
The Robe of Glory: An Ancient Parable of the Soul
(178 pages, Element, 1992, ISBN 1-85230-356-5)
For everyone interested in the world's mystical and sacred literature, The Robe of Glory is a fresh interpretation of an ancient Syriac mystic or gnostic poem, found in the 'apocryphal' Acts of Thomas.
This beautiful poem from the early Christian era tells the story - in allegorical form - of the soul, sent out from God into the creation. Passing through the higher heavens, realms or levels of being, it descends to the physical universe, where it falls 'fast asleep', becoming completely unconscious of its divine origin. A divine Messenger is therefore sent from God to awaken the sleeping soul, and - by means of the mystic Word or Voice of God - the soul travels the inner journey homewards, to be reunited with its divine Source.
The Robe of Glory is a beautiful example of the use of allegory in ancient mystical expression, also shedding light on many of the sayings and parables of Jesus, that are found in both the canonical and apocryphal literature.
This book is now out of print, and a revised form has been incorporated into The Prodigal Soul: The Wisdom of Ancient Parables. More reviews and comments.