Don’t you love the scramble over this news story that yet another book (“gospel”) about the life of Jesus of Nazareth has been sitting around for a while waiting to be exposed. And that Judas, rather than being a rat, was Jesus’ closest friend and the man chosen by him personally to fulfill prophecy?
There goes the “Judas kiss” image. No more Mr. Bad Guy. No more Bad Jew.
Well, hell. All those years the Catholic Church beat up on the Jews? Turns out it wasn’t necessary. I could have told you that. Would have been no need to apologize a couple years ago. What next? No need to apologize for Galileo? For the Inquisition? The Crusades?
Ain’t history a gas? Just fasten your safety belt and sit tight. We all know Woody Allen was right in that it’s just a question of time before we come to learn chocolate is good for you. (Hold it. I’m already moving too slow – we did find out recently that chocolate, at least of the dark variety, is indeed good for you.) Just a question of time now before bacon becomes health food.
People are snarking that this Judas number is just a stunt to promote The DaVinci Code now that it’s finally coming out as a movie, since it has apparently been known since at least 1983. As least that’s what one catholic site said; I’m not sure I follow the connection, since I don’t understand why National Geographic would be working for Hollywood. (It was National Geographic which put The Gospel of Judas out, in case you missed that.) This claim it’s nothing more than PR is even more loudly articulated by U.S. News blogger John Leo, who hates Elaine Pagels for her view there was diversity in early Christianity. As they say in teenager, “Duh!”
Me, I like the argument that the gospels that got chosen by the politicos within that very political organization, Mother Church, were selected because they supported the perspective held at the time that all you need to know about Jesus is that he existed and that he told us what to do. The reason so many other stories were not selected for inclusion in the Bible is they gave a view that suggests there are other ways of experiencing God. Like all the gnostic views on God and Christ, this one suggests a mystical union with a divinity, and Mother Church had no choice but to take the machete to that possibility or lose its clout. They kept the wolves from the coffers for a while. Lost it ultimately, when their greed and corruption spawned the Protestant Reformation, but convincing people that they could only come to God through the church hierarchy worked as a concept for a while longer.
The church relies for its numbers on people looking for somebody to do their thinking for them anyway, so new “revelations” are not likely to challenge the status quo as much as revelations that priests sometimes diddle little boys and Vatican bankers are not above working with the Mafia.
What will be interesting will be what those poor nice people who think God wrote every word of the gospel himself are going to do with this. “If it is in the Bible, that means God wrote it. If it’s not in the Bible, that means he didn’t,” a born-again once proudly informed me. So much for the possibility that the gospel writer Mark, who paints Judas as Mr. Bad Jew might not have slanted his tale with God’s guidance.
Problem is where the scriptural evidence comes from that shows the politicos who made the selection about what went in and what didn’t were God’s boys. I suppose that’s where faith comes in. But then again, if you need evidence, you’re probably not one of the chosen.
It’s going to be fun seeing where this all goes, though. Adam Gopnik, in the latest New Yorker insists the discovery of the Judas Gospel “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.” Sounds cool. But he’s really wrong. Nobody’s claiming inerrant truth in accounts of the American colonies in the 18th Century. The Bible is loaded with contradictions, of course, but the twits most likely to claim Biblical inerrancy are those least likely to read critically and find such contradictions, so the secret has been safe.
Now, here in the headlines comes the suggestion we have a contradiction so whopping even the most solid dunderheads may have to take notice.
Don’t bet on it.
April 13, 2006