Friday, April 07, 2006

A reading from the Gospel according to... Judas?

I'm not sure quite what I think about this... regardless, it is absolutely fascinating...

The Judas gospel, in 1,000 fragments before it was recently assembled and translated, includes conversations between Jesus and his disciples about angelic hierarchies, cosmology, the underworld and Creation. Judas is given star billing in this account as Jesus' chief confidant among the disciples, contrary to the portrayals in the four canonical Gospels.

"Judas is presented as the one to whom everything is told," said Gregor Wurst, a German scholar who helped translate the document. "Judas was an anti-hero."

It claims that Jesus and Judas planned Jesus' Crucifixion so that the death of Christ's weak, earthly body could release His spirit to enjoy the glories of heaven.

[...] "There is no independent historical tradition behind this text," said the Rev. Donald Senior, president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. The writers of the Gospel of Judas, he added, "made its characters to be mouthpieces of their own theology."

Marvin Meyer, a Bible and Christian studies professor at the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., called the document a "mystical portrayal" combining Jewish mysticism and Platonism, which sees matter, including the human body, as imperfect, transitory and less than the ideal world of the spirit.

The 26-page codex, or manuscript, had a circuitous route to discovery. Scholars knew of its existence because of its mention in "Against Heresies," a treatise written in 180 by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon. Irenaeus called the account "a fictitious story."

The document remained a legend until a copy -- in the ancient Coptic language, native to Egypt -- was unearthed sometime in the 1970s near El Minya in upper Egypt.

In 1978, it was sold to an antiquities dealer in Cairo, who spent several years trying to sell it, but his asking price was too high for interested scholars. In 1984, the manuscript was stored in a Hicksville, N.Y., bank safe-deposit box where it stayed until 2000, when Zurich antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos purchased it.

From what I've heard about this new gospel so far, it doesn't change too much of anything as far as the Catholic dogma... Jesus was still betrayed, was crucified, died, and rose again three days later. What Jesus and Judas' motives were as far as their role in instigating his "betrayal", I don't think has any effect on the message of the New Testament. The role of "mysticism" in this new Gospel is interesting, but as the reverend said, there's nothing to support that this is actually what it purports to be.

Still, I'm gonna TiVo the National Geographic Channel's show on this new gospel Sunday. Maybe I'll get to it between Sopranos and Desperate Housewives...