Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lesser Known Disciples

This is one of those theology posts, so those of the readership who find them a big snore can scroll on to something else.

I am going to come down on the side of “not surprised” and very nearly “of course” on National Geographic’s recent fuss over the discovery of a Gospel of Judas. I am a big fan of found gospels – the fact of them, that is, because I have to admit I haven’t read any of them in whole. Most of them have not been translated in whole, but even the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I have (translated..not the jars themselves..) but also haven’t read.

The life story of this particular one is even more interesting than The DiVinci Code (in that it takes place over a normal time span, minus the albino).

In sum: The text was first identified in 1983 and viewed by 2 scholars for about 30 minutes. They were certain of its true age, and suspected its importance, but wouldn’t (couldn’t) pay the 3 million being asked by the broker. He and the book disappeared in a fog. The papyrus ends up in a bank vault (I think I saw this movie) until 2000, when a dealer in France purchases it for well under the asking price.

Not much of the manuscript has been translated. It is very brittle, has to be read with tweezers, and large chunks of it have crumpled to dust. The publicity-grabbing headline, that Jesus is reported to have asked Judas to do the deed is supported as much by the accounts we already know (…the hand of him who betrays me is on the table…) as by the line in the Judas text (you will sacrifice the man that clothes me).

I can’t say I am surprised there is a Gospel of Judas; I’d wonder if there were not. What would shock me would be a Gospel of Thaddeus, invisible disciple mentioned only twice in the canon (Matt 10 & Mr 3 – here at Drawing In, we do the work for you).

Judas, on the other hand --- mentioned 33 times. Someone call Dan Brown.

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