Thursday, April 06, 2006

Religious Conspiracy Buffs - Rejoice!

The net is awash in articles about this news: The Gospel of Judas has been found, restored, translated and released. This long-sought text details a conversation between Jesus and Judas in which Jesus asks Judas to betray him as part of a Mystery shared only by both teacher and student.

A few links:

National Geographic will be playing a new show, The Gospel of Judas, on Sunday, April 9, at 8 PM EST (and I'm sure quite a few times afterwards), and at their site, you can download a PDF of the coptic transcription of the codex (not that most of us can read coptic, but it's cool nonetheless). Also, ABC's Primetime and Nightline will be reporting the news tonight (Thursday) at 10 PM and 11:35 PM EST respectively.

So, what does this all mean? At least that things are about to get very interesting in the Christian world. Though undoubtedly the Christian establishment will reject the new Gnostic gospel, it nevertheless raises some very hard and interesting questions about the established account of Jesus' last few days. According to this new account, in which Jesus actually asks Judas for the act for which the man has been condemned for some two millenia, turns the whole characterization on its ears, putting Judah not as a betrayer, but as Jesus' closest disciple, the one with whom the teacher shares a gnostic mystery by the uttering of the words, "you will sacrifice the man that clothes me," referring to the act that will liberate Jesus from his physical flesh.

So what does this mean to me? I'm not Christian, so ultimately it means nothing beyond the historical importance of such documents. However, I grew up as a Catholic, and my family is still Catholic, so there is some sort of interest in such a story. While I was still a (if only nominal) Catholic, I always felt the establishment was way too rigid and had lost some of the essential message of the Rabbi from Nazareth. Much later on, after I had begun my journey into Judaism, I learned about the gnostic tradition, and over the years I have come to realize that the gnostics were perhaps a lot closer to what I consider a truer version of Jesus' message, based especially on the knowledge I have (however small) of Rabbinic teachings of the 2nd Temple Era.

Ultimately the greatest realization this new finding should bring to all is that we do not know everything that happened, and at best, we are trying to decipher the picture by looking only at its shadow. As a Rabbi-Historian I heard a lecture from once said (and this should be a t-shirt), "Lack of proof is not proof of lack." As time goes on we will make new discoveries that will force us to re-evaluate everything we have held as fact for so long, and I truly believe that eventually, that path will lead us towards a better understanding of humanity and of the true nature of G-d, eventually to the time when "He will be One, and His Name will be One."

On a less serious note, though, I am now officially starting the wait for the next Dan Brown-esque writer to mine the new revelations from this gnostic codex for the next blockbuster novel. Maybe Dan Brown himself will write a sequel to The Da Vinci Code based on this.

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