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The Gospel of Judas: Monster or kitten?

It seems possible that the price of the manuscript has created the necessity of engineering some kind of media event to help recover the cost of the purchase. The announcement of the “discovery” of the manuscript has all the evidence of having been carefully crafted for maximum public impact. First, it came out two weeks before Easter, which is the very event the gospel reinterprets. It’s hard to believe this is pure chance. Second, it came out a month before the much vaunted release of The da Vinci Code film based on Dan Brown’s famous book which uses quasi-historical interpretations of ancient documents to discredit the Bible and historical Christianity.

Without the recent interest in such revelations that The da Vinci Code has generated, it is hard to believe that the Gospel of Judas would have made such a splash. But in spite of Bart Ehrman’s opinion that the fame of this book can only grow, interest is doomed to wane (in fact it already has). Those who take the time to look at the details will soon realize the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. The Gospel of Judas, like most Gnostic texts, is difficult to read and understand and it does not tell us anything about the events described in the Bible. On the other hand, the press coverage is bound to leave its mark. Doubtless, there will be those who remember that “they found a lost gospel”; that Judas was not the betrayer of Jesus, but part of a plot that Jesus himself instigated; that the Bible is not reliable and that there is a crisis in Christianity today because of these things – even if there is no basis whatsoever for the claims.

The important lesson in all of this is that this type of “discovery” will always be announced and promoted with certain distortions and a certain amount of ignorance. First, because the secular institutions that bring us the news don’t care if the Bible is reliable or not, and because of this they will not make the effort to understand the historical complexities of the situation. Second, because it is always more interesting to tell the world about something scandalous than to give a balanced account of it. But if we commit ourselves to understanding the historical context of the Christian faith, we have nothing to fear. There are no monsters in the forest of history, crouching in wait to devour the Bible. On the contrary, the more we know about history the better, because God has acted in history and he has left his traces.

 

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Written in April 2006, this article originally appeared on the Pneuma Foundation website in May 2007. The Pneuma Foundation is the parent organization of PneumaReview.com.

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Category: Fall 2016, Living the Faith

About the Author: Rob Haskell grew up in Argentina as the son of missionaries. He has done college ministry and worked in missions in Latin America, training pastors. Rob has a ThM in New Testament from Regent College. He is author of a Spanish language book on hermeneutics (Interpretacion Eficaz Hoy) and co-editor of Local Theology for the Global Church, a book produced by the World Evangelical Alliance Theological Commission. Currently he makes websites at his company, Intuito Websites, and teaches regularly at his local church in Bellingham, Washington. He enjoys a busy life as a single parent and an avid hiker.

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