Sunday, June 14, 2009

A gospel by Judas?

The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel ~ by James M. Robinson, 2006

Last week I ran across this book and bought it, based on dust jacket information:
"The discovery of a previously lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot has electrified the Christian community. What Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell us about Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, in inconsistent and biased. Therefore, the revelation of an ancient gospel that portrays this despised man as someone who saw his role in the Passion of Christ as integral to a larger plan -- a divine plan -- brings new clarity to the old story. If Judas had not betrayed Jesus, Jesus would not have been handed over to the authorities, crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. Could it be that without Judas, the Easter miracle would never have happened?"
I should have looked it over more carefully, though it has a good publisher (HarperSanFrancisco) and the author (as I already knew) had edited The Nag Hammadi Library. Should have been a book right up my alley. It wasn't. Oh, the subject matter was -- and is -- but the book is misrepresented. Though I've read about the papyrus found decades ago that wasn't published until 2006, this book is really about "peddling" the resurfaced Gospel of Judas that had been condemned by Irenaeus in 180 CE and subsequently supressed by the Church and "lost." Most of Robinson's book, subtitled The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel is about who said and did what, and when, and how he was (mostly) left out of the loop as shady dealers took it from continent to continent. His book was timed to get his information out before the National Geographic special, which was to be followed by three books published by NG. Robinson had not seen this codex and, thus, didn't know anything specific about its contents. How disappointing!

Reading Judas ~ by Pagels and King, 2008

I recommend another book, instead: Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, by Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King. I haven't read it -- yet -- myself, but I will. I wanted to know what was IN the newly discovered scroll, not who held onto it until the fragile papyrus from antiquity until it was almost totally destroyed before National Geographic got access to it. I recommend this book based on my having read works by both of these women; I have read every book by Pagels I could get my hands on since reading her Gnostic Gospels (1979). John Dominic Crossan (I wrote about him last year) wrote favorably about this book in a review for The Washington Post:
"In their slim but excellent Reading Judas, Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King rightly focus on the text's ancient and provocative theology rather than on the codex's modern and tortured history, with King also providing a new and very well annotated translation of this early Christian document."
How would I rate The Secrets of Judas?
Nah, don't waste your time.

P.S. Judas didn't write it, and it isn't what you probably expect a "gospel" to be. In other words, The Gospel of Judas is not a narrative gospel like those that were included in the New Testament.

1 comment:

June said...

I've read several of Pagel's books...enjoyed them all.