Thursday, April 06, 2006

Et tu BBC?

Generally I consider myself slightly more high-brow than your average bear, partially by virtue of my choice in news selection. I try to maintain a wide variety of publications from various parts of the world. I'm consistently digging through English translations of Al-Jazeera, Deutsche World, BBC, Christian Science Monitor, and here on campus the NY Time and NY Sun (need to get both sides).

That being said, the BBC is typically among my favorite publication. So it's with a little dismay that I must expose a piece of bad reporting in my prefered news source. It deals with the "Gospel of Judas" - A third century document (which some are claiming to be a mid-2nd century document) which takes a sympathetic view of Judas as a necessary catalyst for Christ's saving action. Lets look at some key portions:

The Gospel of Judas, a papyrus document from the 3rd or 4th Century AD,
tells the story of Jesus' death from the fallen disciple's point of view.

Alleged to be a copy of an even older text, it casts Judas as a
benevolent figure, helping Jesus to save mankind.

The early Christian Church denounced such teachings as heretical.
The 31-page fragile document, written in the Coptic language, was discovered
in Egypt in the 1970s.

First of all, we have plenty of wacky theological treatise from the 3rd and 4th centuries that represent strange Christian sects. Almost by definition the heretical groups were against the bodily aspects of the Christian faith, viewing the body as a prison within which the spirit was trapped. Also, they viewed Jesus' mission as freeing people from the dominion of a Demiurge - a false God with an inflated self-ego who created matter. In the Gospel of Truth, written by the heretic Valentinus (we think)the Genesis account was reversed and the serpent was made the good guy, helping man come to know good and evil against the wishes of the demiurge. Judas is hardly more of a stretch in literary metaphore.

As for "The early Christian Church" - which one? By the time textual decisions were being made the heretical groups normally dubbed 'Gnostic' had pretty much collapsed under their own weight. They'd been de-normalized by lack of self-propogation in both conversions and reproduction (often a result of their theology). Normative Christianity naturally didn't view Judas in a positive light, but we should not mix up the ox and buggey: The early normative Christians believed Judas to be a traitor, therefore they would have rejected sillyness to the contrary, it's not that they rejected a book and thus were misled by not hearing Judas' side of the story. Clearly the book is a work by a person or group with a different First Principle of what the Christian message was. Books don't mean much if that isn't established.

The sands of Egypt are also reknowned as being repositories for preserved heretical writings. Lonely monks. And we have no clue who actually wrote this.

For 2,000 years Christianity has portrayed Judas as the treacherous apostle who betrayed his divine master with a kiss, leading to his capture and crucifixion.

According to the Bible, Judas received 30 pieces of silver for the act, but died soon afterwards.

For 2,000 years which Christians have said this? That's anachronistic. 2,000 years later we can say that the Christian group who taught that Judas was trecherous was the group which later became normative and who took on the current Biblical story as their own, but that's a very different statement from the one above. But the article is inverting the situation: The Bible did not precede the group claiming that Judas was a treacherous disciple.

But the Gospel of Judas puts Judas in a positive light, identifying him as Christ's favourite disciple and depicting his betrayal as the fulfilment of a divine mission to enable the crucifixion - and thus the foundation of Christianity - to take place.

1. The Gospel of Judas puts Judas in a good light? Nooo!
2. They're not appreciating the thoelogical value of these books. Many groups penned their own stories to support pre-existing theologies. It's a war of ideas, not books. Luther wasn't even an unfertilized sperm for another 1200 years; it won't do to think of this as ancient Bible wars! Rather, the article should ask what the theology is that's taking place: Why portray Judas in a good light? Is it a polemic against the existing Christian Gospels? If so why? Why is it in Egypt specifically? What is the vision of salvation being put forth in this book? etc

This view is similar to that held by the Gnostics - members of a 2nd Century AD breakaway Christian sect, who became rivals to the early Church.

Which ones? There wasn't a "Gnostic sect". Gnostics were a variety of sects who didn't necessarily agree with one another. They certain were not "breakaways". They were just different First Principle-based understandings of the significance of Jesus. They were fundamentally different religions both from what we now call normative Christianity and from one another.

They thought that Judas was in fact the most enlightened of the apostles, acting in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Christ.

As such they regarded him as deserving gratitude and reverence.

"They" didn't think anything damnit! Some of them probably thought that, but many definately didn't. IT's NOT ONE SECT GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEADS!

Gnostic writers are believed to have set down their contrasting account of Judas' role in Greek in about 150AD, and some believe that this manuscript may be a copy of that.

"Gnostic writers" set out contrasting accounts of darn near everything for the better part of three centuries. And, they made up all new crap as well.

Records show that the leaders of the early Christian Church denounced that version as heretical in about 180AD.

OK - that's just unredeemable. There's no saving this comment. There was no "Christian Church" in 180AD, there were "Christian Churches" at best, and if we're looking as early as 180AD the Gnostic sects and MArcionites and everyone else under the sun would all have claimed to be "The Church". What would later become normative Christianity lacked the size, organization, official recognition, weight of numbers, and internal unity necessary to "denounce" anything. That would require a Council, which would require being an imperial religion... the Imperial religion was still killing them at this time. This idiot is fantasizing a Pope, St. Peter's Cathedral, and 500 Cardinals back into a time when 'the Church' was a scattered and loosely related group trying to follow whatever they'd been preached about Jesus Christ. They met mostly in house gatherings around snippets of OT Scripture and a local leader. What a moron.

also, what "records" is he referring to? Does this igit honestly think that before 180 AD Judas was a folk hero? Matthew wasn't penned at a Council of non-existent Roman bishops in 180 you know! According to the best contemporary scholarship the writings that are now the Gospels, which were written after the Epistles, were all probably finished by ~75AD, plus or minus ten years, with only John finishing later (~90AD). So even John would have pre-dated this hogwash by a good century. UGH! Idiocy kills me. They really need a religious consultant.


Blogger Ann said...

Wow, this seems to be an intersting trend. There was an article in the current is of Macleans that outline the theory espoused by the holy blood holy grail author that said Jesus never died o the cross, that it was an elaborate hoax...yet more idiocy. This makes me angry when thses things are given space by hte "news" because it lends them credibility they simoply don't deserve.


9:17 PM  

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