01 December 2007

Oh By the Way: The Gospel of Judas

Do you remember last Easter? The popular "discovery" about the Christian faith at the time was the newly discovered Gospel of Judas, featured in a National Geographic television special and numerous magazine articles.

At least I think it was last April. I get the whole Gospel of Judas hulabaloo mixed up with the "just discovered tomb of Jesus, James and Mary Magdalene" melee and all the new discoveries that tend to make the covers of TIME magazine and the schedules of Discovery Channel during Christianity's most precious holidays, Christmas and Easter.

The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece today by Rice University's April D. Deconick which provides a vital 'second opinion' to the claims of Judas promoters.

After examining the evidence herself (which was a difficult task, considering that NGC slapped nondisclosure requirements on the scholars it quoted in the show, and it refused to share life-sized facsimiles of the documents to non-contracted Bible scholars.

Anyway, these are some of the mistakes Deconick finds in the NGC translation:
  • NGC had implied that the Judas of the 3rd-centruy Gnostic gospel that bore his name was a hero. In fact this character is a demon.
  • NGC had claimed that the documents called Judas a 'spirit.' In fact, the documents use the word daimon for Judas (which we translate as 'demon;' the Greek word usually for 'spirit' is pneuma.
  • I know as a teacher of German that pronouns are hard to translate, but the key NGC claims had related Judas to a "holy generation," of which he was a part because he had a predestined role to lead Jesus to his own, messianic destiny. But the NGC had claimed that Judas was set apart for this generation, when the accepted translation shows that the demonic Judas was separated from it.
  • NGC has already, since the airing of the documentary, admitted that the gospel in no way associated Judas with a holy generation; but the only explanation Deconick can find for such a mistranslation is that "the [NGC] scholars altered the Coptic original."
So will we see a TIME magazine cover this Christmas (or next Easter) that will admit all the chicanery that masquerades as New Testament scholarship these days? In recent years we have unearthed the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Thomas, the hypothetical "Q" Gospel, and many other works of more-questionable origin. These have led us no closer to the real Christ than we could find in the Gospels; no closer to the true, orthodox Christian church than the writings of its founders, Paul and James.

For all the archaeology and pseudo-science that goes into a study of Christianity, we still have no better sources for the life of Jesus than the Gospels. These sources received plenty of vetting and scrutiny by scholars in the 200-odd years prior to the establishment of the Christian canon. If you want to learn about Jesus, turn off Discovery or National Geographic, and get into the Bible.


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5Gustos said...

It's SO true. I like what you said: "If you want to know more about the Bible, turn off the Discovery Channel, History Channel", etc. I get so annoyed by those documentaries. What really steams me are the false evolutionary teachings. They're everywhere and you can't get away from them! Their theories don't hold water. Everything scientific can be explained by the global flood and a Creator God. The flood accelerated everything into appearing to be what it's not. It all makes sense though, if they would only open their eyes! And if they would stop fabricating evidence to support their theories, we would be getting somewhere. But then again, we're not supposed to think for ourselves, but follow blindly without asking questions.