Monday, April 17, 2006

Some Resources on "The Gospel of Judas"

A number of folk have asked for some reliable things to read in getting up to speed on The Gospel of Judas media flap. Here's a brief introduction and some resources. I understand that Peter Jones is writing a NewsCWiPP about it.

The news media have beeen trumpeting the publication of a "long lost" and "suppressed" ancient document, called The Gospel of Judas for the last few days (remember: it's Easter Time, when the mainstream media has to indulge in its homage to the gods of modernty by "debunking" historic Christian faith and doctrine). The National Geographic Society announced the publication at a major media event, just in time to boost publicity for its Sunday night special on the National Geographic Channel.

Al Mohler says: "According to some commentators, the publication of this new document will force a complete reformulation of Christianity and our understanding of both Judas and Jesus. In reality, nothing of the sort is in view. The document is highly interesting, however, offering an ancient and authoritative source into the thinking of heretical groups who offered alternative understandings of Christianity."

"The document purports to be written by Judas, even though it certainly was written long after Judas's death. Nevertheless, the very existence of this document, rooted in the third century after Christ, indicates something of the struggle Christian leaders confronted in defining and defending the authentic Gospel against heretical groups such as the Gnostics."

"A quick look at The Gospel of Judas reveals the contrast between this document and the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The English version, edited by Rudolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, presents an accessible and readable version of the portions of the Codex Tchacos now available. The most remarkable feature of this text is its thoroughly Gnostic character. The substance of this gospel bears virtually no resemblance to orthodox Christianity--a fact which explains why the early church recognized this writing for what it is, and rejected it as neither authoritative nor authentic."

Al also quotes this helpful observation, from of all places The New Yorker magazine (which I mentioned and read from in the Sunday morning sermon on Ephesians 4:14-16).

"Adam Gropnik of The New Yorker takes a few shots at "fundamentalists" and the concept of biblical authority in his review of the story, but he also makes some essential points in these two paragraphs:

Obviously, "The Gospel of Judas" appears at a time of a new fashion, not to say rage, for "alternate" Gospels and revisionist retellings of the Jesus story. These are not the egalitarian, feminist versions of the story that were among the first fruits of the Nag Hammadi discovery. Instead, the new obsession is to introduce, or reintroduce, into Christianity something hidden, strange, and cultic--to reveal a deliberately suppressed story. And yet an odd double rhythm is at work. By making the Gospel story more occult, one also drains it of its cosmic significance; making it more mysterious makes it less mystical. (If Dan Brown or the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" are right--and they aren't--then Jesus is reduced from the Cosmic Overlord to the founder of a minor line of Merovingian despots.) "The Gospel of Judas" turns Christianity into a mystery cult--Jesus at one point describes to Judas the highly bureaucratic organization of the immortal realm, enumerating hundreds of luminaries--but robs it of its ethical content. Jesus' message in the new Gospel is entirely supernatural. You don't have to love thy neighbor; just seek your star. The Gospel of Judas is, in this way, the dead opposite of the now much talked of Gospel of Jefferson, the edition prepared by the third President, in which all the miracles and magic stuff are deleted, and what is left is the ethical teaching.

Orthodox Christians will point out, correctly, that there is no new "challenge" to the Church in the Judas Gospel, much less a crisis of faith. This is an ancient heresy, dealt with firmly, not to say brutally, throughout Church history. The finding of the new Gospel, though obviously remarkable as a bit of textual history, no more challenges the basis of the Church's faith than the discovery of a document from the nineteenth century written in Ohio and defending King George would be a challenge to the basis of American democracy. There are no new beliefs, no new arguments, and certainly no new evidence in the papyrus that would cause anyone to doubt who did not doubt before.

Al Mohler commentary on "The Gospel of Judas"

Al Mohler blog on "The Gospel of Judas"

Al Mohler radio interview on "The Gospel of Judas" with Darrell Bock

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