Thursday, April 06, 2006

Get ready for it - the Gospel of Judas!

With superbly timed marketing, slap in the middle of the run up to Easter, in the wake of the Da Vinci Code book, and in anticipation of the film, the Gospel of Judas hits the streets in book, film and magazine formats!

Sadly, in the journalistic hype the overlooked details of this case are plentiful and significant. Hardly 'unknown' the text has been known about for decades (although not translated). It isn't a complete text. The manuscript itself dates to around 300. The text it contains was possibly written up to a century after the New Testament Gospels - and not by Judas. And it fits perfectly with other Gnostic texts in its complete lack of interest in the real physicality and historicity of Jesus.

I can already hear the sound of money pouring into publishing bank accounts... and the equally load groans of boredom from the poor sods who buy the thing expecting a STUNNING NEW REVELATION about the REAL JESUS who MARRIED MARY MAGDALENE!

Well sorry, no such luck.

Turns out the early church was pretty discerning in what it decided constituted a good account of the life and significance of Jesus, and what was just away with the faeries... (ok, not fair on gnostics - the text is another useful insight into second century gnostic belief, I should aim my frustrations as the publishers)

The more interesting story is the manuscript's journey through the black market and the attempt to flog it for $10 million. Thankfully the views of genuine scholars are slowly reaching the press (although always just too late...).

Speaking personally I've always been extremely moved by Judas' tragic story and his repentance by suicide. Judas is scarcely more hostile to Jesus than Peter denying his friend outside the High Priest's house. I blame Dante for popularizing the image of Judas frozen in the devil's mouth in the depths of hell.

For the interested a quick sample:
Judas said, “Master, as you have listened to all of them, now also listen to me. For I have seen a great vision.”

When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him, “You thirteenth spirit, why do you try so hard? But speak up, and I shall bear with you.”

Judas said to him, “In the vision I saw myself as the twelve disciples were stoning me and [45] persecuting [me severely]. And I also came to the place where […] after you. I saw [a house …], and my eyes could not [comprehend] its size. Great people were surrounding it, and that house a roof of greenery, and in the middle of the house was [a crowd—two lines missing—], saying, ‘Master, take me in along with these people.’”

[Jesus] answered and said, “Judas, your star has led you astray.” He continued, “No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen, for that place is reserved for the holy. Neither the sun nor the moon will rule there, nor the day, but the holy will abide there always, in the eternal realm with the holy angels. Look, I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom [46] and I have taught you about the error of the stars; and […] send it […] on the twelve aeons.”

Nice change to find a laughing Jesus, though.

For those who want a more extensive free peek, or a look at some of the surrounding press comments.

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