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Reading Judas The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

summary Reading Judas The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

Of early Christianity In Reading Judas the two celebrated scholars illustrate how the newly discovered text provides a window onto understanding how Jesus' followers understood his death why Judas betrayed Jesus and why God allowed it Most contemporary readers will find passages in the ancient Gospel of Judas difficult to comprehend outside of its context in the ancient world Reading Judas illuminates the intellectual assumptions behind Jesus' teaching to Judas and shows how conflict among the When I first decided to read The Gospel of Judas I considered just buying the tra

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The two leading bestselling experts on the Gnostic Gospels weigh in on the meaning of the controversial newly discovered Gospel of Judas When the Gospel of Judas was published by the National Geographic Society in April 2006 it received extraordinary media attention and was immediately heralded as a major biblical discovery that rocked the world of scholars and laypeople alike Elaine Pagels and Karen King are the first to reflect on this newfound text and its ramifications for telling the story Beyond Anger To RevelationIn April 2006 the National Geographic Society published Pain and Pretending in on the meaning of the controversial newly discovered Gospel of Judas When the Gospel of Judas was published by the National Geographic Society Sweet Valley Twins and Friends Super Chillers Boxed Set in April 2006 Evolving the Mind it received extraordinary media attention and was Tell immediately heralded as a major biblical discovery that rocked the world of scholars and laypeople alike Elaine Pagels and Karen King are the first to reflect on this newfound text and Silver Bonanza its ramifications for telling the story Beyond Anger To RevelationIn April 2006 the National Geographic Society published

Elaine Pagels Ú 7 summary

Disciples was a tool freuently used by early Christian authors to explore matters of doubt and disagreement Presented with the elegance insight and accessibility that has made Pagels and King the leading voices in this field this is a book for academics and popular audience both Pagels's five previous books including The New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief and King's The Gospel of Mary of Magdala prove that there is a considerable audience eager for this kind of informed and engaging writi Just in time for Easter I've finished this book about the Gospel of Judas This no


10 thoughts on “Reading Judas The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

  1. says:

    Dying for Faith The Pauline TragedyThe author of the Gospel of Judas was an angry man What he was angry about is the fundamentalism of his fellow Christians who considered that it was necessary to die resisting Roman authority in order to be a Christian It is no exaggeration I think to say that he was spiritually traumatised by the religious world in which he found himself He reacted much like a child who has been abused in a manner which is too subtle to articulate fully; so he casts blame about in many directions trying desperately to make his pointThe Gospel of Judas was written in the middle of the 2nd century that is perhaps 50 years after the last written official Gospel of John and 80 or so years after the first written Gospel of Mark Pagels book is among other things a good introduction to the development of the New Testament and the motives of its authors The authors of all the Gospels including the twenty or so non canonical documents discovered over the last 150 years attempt to establish their credibility by claiming apostolic sources However historical evidence clearly shows these claims to be false Each is written out of a different tradition and for a distinct audience of contemporary ChristiansIt is clear that the tradition out of which the Gospel of Judas emerged had a problem with the so called Fathers of the Church Irenaeus Tertullian and Justin Martyr in particular who ultimately won the battle of consistency of belief among dispersed Christian communities The tool by which the Fathers accomplished this was language By formulating creeds containing fixed interpretations of scriptural records and demanding their formulaic expression church officials like Irenaeus sought to simultaneously unify Christian identity and create a hierarchy by which to maintain that unity Affirmation of a fixed formula of belief approved by church authorities served both purposesBut the author of the Gospel of Judas and presumably his audience of Christians had a very different idea about the nature of the religious legacy of Jesus For them Christianity was a spiritual state and way of being not the expression of a formula of words There was no need as far as they were concerned to pursue a linguistic path to Christian unity The followers of Jesus were already united in their own knowledge and understanding of his message To formulate such precious and delicate understanding in language and then to demand its expression by others was exactly contrary to what Jesus had to say If there were four gospels why could there be not hundreds?What bothered these Christians most however were the demands by church officials that it was necessary to prove their commitment to Jesus by expressing these creeds According to Roman law such flagrant disrespect for the prevailing civil religion was a matter of utmost seriousness For the author of the Gospel of Judas the insistence by someone like Tertullian that their Christianity depended upon verbal assertions likely to enrage civil authorities was mere idiocy It was what they were and what they did not what they said which was important And since whatever they might say was inadeuate as a spiritual description it was certainly not worth dying forWhat the author of the Gospel of Judas was fighting against in vain as it turned out was a specific strain of Christianity that emanating from Paul of Tarsus the so called Apostle of the Gentiles Not really an apostle and never having even met Jesus Paul wasn’t able to tell his followers much about Jesus except that he lived ate a meal and was killed as a criminal by the Romans and his fellow Jews What mattered to Paul was not the facts of Jesus’s life or his admonitions about how life should be lived correctly Rather Paul’s message was his own and something entirely new in the world of religion What counted in Paul’s religion was not knowledge of spiritual truth not obedience to divine dictates and not behaviour shown toward one another What counted was one thing alone FaithThis Faith went beyond belief in the earthly existence of Jesus which was of marginal significance to Paul Pauline faith referred to the heavenly Christ the eternal ruler of the universe who was he reckoned to reappear imminently to pronounce judgement on all human beings Those who acknowledged this Christ the Lord Jesus would be spared The rest doomed That this Second Coming didn’t happen reuired an explanation This explanation the beginning of Christian theology recognised that Pauline Faith was necessarily faith in an idea that is to say an expression of the ‘lordship’ of Christ not the life and death of Jesus This meant words and further the definition and interpretation of words and finally the establishment of a clerical hierarchy to define and interpret words Irenaeus Tertullian and Justin Martyr are direct intellectual descendants from Paul as are all those who subseuently declared themselves ‘orthodox’ that is right thinking Christians Only today is it possible to recognise these people and their collaborators for what they actually were terrorists They were not only prepared to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of arbitrary verbiage they also insisted that others do the same And many followed their instructions Their legacy is visible in the Christian fundamentalists who insist on their fixed typically hateful interpretations of scripture provided to them by clerical organisational climbers But it is also apparent in the behaviour of Islamic extremists who inherited the concept of Pauline faith with much else of Christian and Jewish traditionThis is the tragedy which the Gospel of Judas tried and failed to avoid A doubled tragedy therefore The further paradox that the author is seduced into using a language based response by declaring his own brand of faith orthodox is perhaps the most tragic twist of all Faith is reputed to be incomprehensible by those who lack it This is probably true But those who possess it are in no better position


  2. says:

    I don't think Karen L King has been good for Elaine Pagels's prose I strained thoughout to hear Pagels' distinctive voice and could never uite locate it Instead the tone seems a little rushed a little shrill almost as opposed to Pagels's much relaxed and considered pace Second while the arguments broached here are compelling enough they never seem to go as deep as Pagels' on her own seems to go when writing without a collaborator If you want to start with a great Pagels book try The Gnostic Gospels This is an astonishing work It looks at some of the gospels that were not made canonical by the early Catholic Church; that is to say gospels that did not make it into the New Testament because they supported a non clerical based view of Christianity These gospels were found in Upper Egypt in 1945 buried in the sand near a place called Nag Hammadi The Gnostics basing their faith on these texts before they were expunged preached an inner way to Jesus Christ that reuired neither priest nor institution For this reason they were branded heretics by early Church zealots Irenaeus and Tertullian and persecuted The second book I would recommend as a possible starting point for those not familiar with Pagels's work is Adam Eve the Serpent This volume tackles the uestion of why we in the West consider sex sinful today Pagels's argument is fascinating It turns out that it was St Augustine of Hippo the 4th century theologian who pretty much single handedly created original sin a concept it should be emphasized that Christians were unburdened with before his writings changed everything Augustine you see was uite the rake and libertine in his youth who became guilt ridden by his healthy sexuality and came to see it as a curse Both books are must reads which you start with is up to you


  3. says:

    Beyond Anger To RevelationIn April 2006 the National Geographic Society published an ancient text the Gospel of Judas that had been discovered in the mid 1970s in Egypt The original Greek text dates from about 150 AD although the version recovered was a Coptic translation written several hundred years thereafter The publication of the Gospel of Judas excited a great deal of scholarly and popular interest due in part to the light it might cast on the early development of ChristianityIn their recent book Reading Judas The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Early Christianity 2007 Elaine Pagels and Karen King offer early thoughts on the Gospel of Judas and its significance Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of several books on Gnostic Christianity including The Gnostic Gospels King is Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the Harvard Divinity School and she has also written several books on GnosticismThis short but difficult book is in two parts The first part Reading Judas consists of four chapters jointly written by Pagels and King examining the Gospel of Judas in the context of the traditional New Testament canon the history of early Christianity and other Gnostic texts The second part of the study consists of an English translation of the Gospel of Judas by King together with her detailed commentary on the translation Interpretation of this newly published text is difficult It is obscurely written with names and characters that are unfamiliar Extensive and important passages of the text have been lost over the years It should also be remembered that the text of the Gospel of Judas is itself a Coptic translation of an original Greek version that we do not possessPagels and King present their text as casting light on the diverse character of early Christianity before it assumed its canon and orthodox formulation but the fascination of the Gospel of Judas is at least eually due to the text itself As Pagels and King point out the text is the work of an angry author who was critical of the disciples of Jesus and of the form that what would become mainstream Christianity was taking and who was anti semitic and homophobic as well But they find the text passing beyond anger to revelation p 103 as it leaves polemic behind and ventures into the realm of the spirit in considering the nature of God human character and the problem of evilPagels and King argue that the Gospel of Judas was written as a response to Christian martyrdom at the hands of the Romans The author of the Gospel could not believe that a just God would allow His followers to be murdered tortured and sacrificed in His name In place of what the Gospel author saw as a cruel vengeful God the author proposed a creation story consisting of a realm of two levels the higher level the realm of the spirit and the lower level the realm of the physical world The persecutions of the Christians were not part of the divine will but were part of the world below The realm of the spirit could be reached for the author of the Gospel of Judas by an effort to bring forth the perfect human In the text Jesus enjoins Judas to seek after the spirit within youThe Gospel of Judas thus is an attempt to recast what became standard religious thought by internalizing God and the spiritual search This theme in broad outline resonates with many people today who find themselves religiously inclined but uncomfortable with what they perceive as traditional religious dogmaPagels and King admirably place the Gospel of Judas in the context of the development of Christianity They offer a nuanced account that recognizes the value and the need for the four traditional Gospels in establishing a foundation for Christianity in its many creeds from Catholicism and Orthodoxy to evangelical Protestantism But the fascination with the text is ultimately the fascination with the message This book as well as other recent works exploring Gnosticism casts light on traditional religious belief but it also encourages the efforts of those contemporary readers who wish to explore alternative forms of spiritual developmentRobin Friedman


  4. says:

    This is a fairly interesting if rather short analysis of a text that I ended up finding not particularly interestingA copy of the Gospel of Judas was found a couple decades ago but handled very badly and nearly destroyed It's only recently been restored and translated and made available to scholars The text is a relatively short work in which Jesus reveals secrets of the universe to Judas so that Judas can sacrifice himself by making the necessary betrayal It appears to be one of the many gospels that were floating around during the early days of the Church including Nag Hammadi texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene Eventually after a great deal of infighting some Church leaders and their chosen texts emerged triumphant and the others were suppressedThe analysis is really a reconstruction of some of that early infighting and is fairly interesting They don't have much material to work with though and so the book is relatively short The second half is taken up by the translation itself and notes on that translation I have mixed feelings on the order On one hand reading the analysis first means that for the bulk of that analysis we have to take the authors' word for what the text says and the impression it gives They even seem somewhat dismayed by what they have to work with the tone is deeply bitter and the second half is a mishmash of numerology and new angel names in a convoluted explanation of the origin of the universe Not having read the primary source yet it's sometimes a little hard to follow and it's impossible to then read the text without viewing it through the authors' lens However they're right in their dismay the original is kind of unpleasant and confusing If I'd started with the text I don't know if I would have continuedThe authors are really historians than theologians and their reading tilts very much in favor of picking apart the politics of why the author of Judas would write what he did rather than the theological implications of the work itself While I regret some of the folks who won Irenaeus sounds like a remarkably unpleasant fellow I can't actually regret this work not making it into the canon No one's going to draw real spiritual insight from this But the brief insight it gives us into the history of the early Church is interesting enough


  5. says:

    The authors nicely summarize the Gospel of Judas for us Although it is a bit speculative to us the point in the Gospel of Judas seems to be that Jesus represents the true nature of all human beings who worship the true God Their fleshly bodies are real; they suffer and die; but at the same time their true nature is the spirit filled soul which will live forever with God above But the actual content or interpretation of the Gospel of Judas is not the point of this bookWhether people accept or reject what the Gospel of Judas says it should be approached in terms of what we can learn about the historical situation of the Christians who wrote and read it their anger their prejudices their fears—and their hopes That is the rediscovery of this document should help us contextualize the canon by examining what got excluded what kind of social environment caused them to be canonized or excluded and what competing narratives or dialogues were the canon competing against I know very little about Christian theology history canonicity I haven’t even read the Bible yet working on that I’m so uninformed in this area everything is new and shiny and interesting to me I find the uestions or uestionable speculations in this book engaging and thought provoking Off topic remark What really grabbed my attention though is the apparent parallels to Joyce’s Ulysses — I’m starting to understand why some call Ulysses “theodicy” The mental gymnastics performed both in Ulysses and in GoJ to re interpret material reality and subjectivity in order to re arrange the proper hierarchy the proper order of things are so strikingly similar I’m starting to uestion some commentators who attributed Joyce’s structures and symbolisms and metaphysics to Dante though Joyce did mention Dante in his letters hmm — given Joyce’s Jesuit education what if J D simply shared an older source? I know the GoJ was only rediscovered in the 1970s but other documents that debated it existed


  6. says:

    When I first decided to read The Gospel of Judas I considered just buying the translated gospel by itself After all I thought I'm pretty well versed in the Bible and am a reasonably intelligent person I should be able to get through this without much help right? Well thankfully I got over myself and bought this book instead I would not have been able to mine one tenth of the wisdom and gravity of this long lost Gnostic text without the authoritative and knowledgeable guidance of Elaine Pagels and Karen KingIn fact their book is much than a commentary on the Gospel of Judas it's an education on the complexity and diversity of opinion of the early Christian movement Before there was a Bible before the early followers of Jesus began coalescing into Roman Catholics before they really got into robes and incense Christians pretty much thought for themselves came up with their own interpretations of the import of Christ's life They started up churches for like minded individuals each with their own collections of holy texts to be used in their services To one of these movements the Gnostics so called for their emphasis on gnosis or knowledge salvation came via a series of spiritual revelations and the you learned the secrets of the Kingdom of God the you prepared your soul to live thereThis is largely what the Gospel of Judas is about The book opens with Jesus and the twelve disciples awakening from a collective nightmare about twelve priests who were buggering each other engaging in human sacrifice and cannibalizing their own family members When they ask Christ what this horrible dream could mean he explains to the disciples that they are the twelve priests and that after he's gone they will lead the church astray and sacrifice believers on the altar of their own ambitionsWhoa is fucking rightWhile the disciples are consumed with pettiness ie the respect of the other disciples who's going to take over the church after Christ dies etc sensing that Judas is not like the other disciples Jesus takes Judas aside and explains to him the mysteries of the Kingdom of God which mostly boil down to not being concerned with matters of earthly import but focusing on the purity of one's spirit Then he gives Judas a task which can only be performed by someone who has truly put the world behind him Christ asks Judas to betray him An action which goes against everything in Judas' heart which will cause him to be stoned to by the other disciples and which will cause his name to live on as the worst traitor in human history Despite knowing this Judas still agrees because he understands that this is the only way for him to demonstrate his transcendence into the spiritual realm and for Christ to demonstrate the supremacy of the spiritual realm over the physical worldInvaluable to understanding the Gospel of Judas as with the canonical books of the Bible is the historical context in which it was written At the time the Christian movement was facing great persecution from the Roman Empire largely owing to their refusal to provide sacrifices to the pagan gods of Rome or to acknowledge the emperors as gods This was like atheism treason and tax evasion all rolled into one and it made the Christians public enemy number one for several Roman emperorsMany Christians regarded it a matter of conscience and a badge of personal honor to flaunt the law and willingly condemned themselves and often their families to a horrible death To the Gnostics this was madness Not because they were afraid to die As Judas demonstrates the Gnostics believed one should be willing to readily sacrifice such worldly concerns such as physical safety and indeed they would later face their own persecution at the hands of their fellow Christians But the Gnostics took deep exception to the fact that many Christians including several authors of the canonical books were teaching Christians that martyrdom rather than spiritual understanding was the essential ingredient of one's salvation This to the Gnostics was tantamount to the human sacrifice Like the priests in the dream the leaders of the church were needlessly sacrificing their followers in order to enhance their own street cred within the movement The Gnostics on the other hand positioned themselves as Judas the misunderstood and reviled member of the Christian family who alone served the true will of Jesus ChristThe Gospel of Judas also addresses a central dilemma for early Christians Namely the fact that while Jesus was all about forgiveness and turning the other cheek the God of the Old Testament was a feisty son of a bitch who was smiting and killing people like he were selling magazine subscriptions The solution Judas offers to this paradox is uniue Jesus explains to Judas that while God his father did create the Earth he outsourced its management to two angels who ruled the place like a slumlord Thus it was these two asshole angels and not God who were responsible for the atrocities of the Old Testament Problem solvedThe Gospel of Judas is a fascinating document of a time before such pursuits were abandoned in favor of ritual and conformity And it's hard to imagine a better guide to this recently rediscovered treasure than Reading Judas


  7. says:

    Just in time for Easter I've finished this book about the Gospel of Judas This non canonical gospel was purportedly found in Egypt in the 1960s or 1970s Its provenance is somewhat shaky but the only known copy of the work in the Coptic language has been carbon dated to around 280 of the Common Era give or take 60 years It is believed that this is a translation of an earlier Greek work which was in existence at least in 180 CE when the influential Christian priest Irenaeus spoke out against it and other writings that offered an alternative view of the circumstances and meaning of Jesus' life and deathElaine Pagels and Karen King are two respected scholars of Gnosticism the philosophical tradition from which the Gospel of Judas springs They explain how and why the author of the work who obviously was not Judas Iscariot but apparently someone sympathetic to him disagreed with the branch of Christianity that came to be the accepted canonical version the life of Jesus as told by Matthew Mark Luke and John A major disagreement between the two factions had to do with the uestion of death and the afterlife The canonical view held with a bodily resurrection of the redeemed The Judas gospel affirms an immortal spirit Jesus was not reborn in the flesh and the eternal life that he offers is lived in the spirit aloneAnother major difference is the view of blood sacrifice Judas has Jesus expressing scorn for animal sacrifice and for the implied human sacrifice of the Eucharist In this gospel eternal life is won through adherence to Jesus' teachings rather than through the sacrifice of his lifeJudas is the hero of this gospel and the other eleven disciples are essentially clueless They don't really understand Jesus' teachings or who he is or the significance of his life It is only Judas who really understands and his gospel tells how Jesus singles him out takes him aside and teaches him the mysteries that are beyond the world In this telling Judas' so called betrayal of Jesus is simply Judas following orders from JesusI think the main value of the Gospel of Judas as well as the other Gnostic writings that have been found over the past century is that they shed light on the conflicts of early Christianity and how it happened that the religion that we know today emerged In the beginning of this new religion there were many different views of the events of Jesus' life and of its meaning and different factions fought hard for their views over several centuries before an orthodoxy triumphed and books of the Christian Bible were set in stone so to speak All that being said I'm bound to point out that the Jesus portrayed in this gospel is not a very attractive character He is sarcastic and laughs derisively at his disciples' stupidity It makes for an interesting alternative hypothesis of what Jesus the man may have been like but on the whole I have to admit I prefer Luke's compassionate Jesus


  8. says:

    This book was overall pretty interesting I guess though I should at least put forth some of my biases I enjoy the complications in scholarly works on early Christianity I really enjoy some of the alternative Christianity histories and I have an affinity toward Pagels workThat being said I thought that Pagels section was interesting She seemed rushed at times and almost to be hitting only a surface level analysis of the text The King portion is pretty analytical in what it conveys but if you have read The Gospel of Judas Meyer et al you may begin to feel you are having some sections of repetition My main piece of advice is do not read this if you just want the Gospel of Judas The text of the Gospel is fairly short with multiple sections missing and you can read through it in about 20 minutes if that Read this book and the Meyer book if you want the commentary to understand some of the Gnostic overtones of the text The book itself is not trying to purvey the idea that Gnosticism is correct but rather that there are multiple forms of early Christianity and this was one Gnostic thinkers way of continuing his version


  9. says:

    This is another fine lucid volume by these two great scholars of religion The recently discovered and translated Gospel of Judas combined with other newly studied non canonical gospels radically alters our understanding of the origins of Christianity Elaine Pagels and Karen K King are careful and balanced in their methodology never claiming too much while also exploring profoundly different understandings of early church events and beliefs I have always felt even as a child that Judas' betrayal must have been part of God's plan; otherwise the triumph of Judas as Satan's representative explodes the divine narrative that Jesus had to be crucified This gospel makes a different case and Pagels and King do an excellent job establishing the contexts the argumentation and the implications


  10. says:

    Another good one from Pagels though I've now listened through enough of these that certain chunks start to sound familiar She's doing the proper work of always situating the fragments under consideration with the history of the early churches with other fragments with the various manuscripts and versions of the New Testament but that means you hearread a lot of the same framingcomparative facts and fragments as you read uite a few of theseGospel of Judas is particularly divergent but also deeply fascinating especially the sections which present most of Jesus' followers choosing the way of violent sacrifice sacrificing even their family members and children to a mistaken idea of Jesus and God Certainly a powerful image that current trends don't exactly render irrelevant


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