Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Judas thing

I have not yet read the text of the papyrus gospel that the National Geographic Society has been hyping. I can't get excited about it. Prior to this discovery, no less than sixteen noncanonical gospels were known, some of them for centuries. For wxample, the Protoevangelion of James was used by Giotto when he started to paint the celebrated frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua shortly after 1300 CE.

Of course most acknowlege that the biographies ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were probably not composed by those writers. Ditto the seventeen who are not admitted into the canon. I agree that there is value in erasing the bright line that many still observed between the Fabulous Four and the others. However, the noncanonical gospels cannot simply be added to the canon, or substituted for it. The Jesus Seminar now prints the Gospel of Thomas as a fifth "regular" gospel. Some, like the feminist Elaine Pagels, treat the "other" gospels as a kind of cafeteria table, from which one can pick dishes to form a new Christianity. Or rather an old one, since we encounter the belief that these were major strands of primitive Christianity, an assumption hard to substantiate.

There is an interesting reference to homosexuality in the Judas gospel. It is not approving. Among those whose tributes are not acceptable are "those who sleep with men"--along with fornicators, slayers of children and others tainted with pollution, lawlessness, and error.


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