I recently blogged on a text known as the Gospel of Judas here. This apparently ancient document revisits the story of Judas Iscariot and treats Judas -- who the Gospels describe as a thief and a betrayer -- in a much more favorable light. In this newly discovered Gospel of Judas, Judas is said to be Jesus' most favored disciple who betrays Jesus as part of the will of God, meets with Jesus where he gets forgiveness, and ultimately doesn't kill himself as the true Gospels report.
Now, James M. Robinson, "emeritus professor at Claremont (California) Graduate University, chief editor of religious documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and an international leader among scholars of Coptic manuscripts", has reviewed the Gospel of Judas and given it a big thumbs down as having any type of impact on the veracity of the Gospels. Why? Because while it is old, it is not old enough. According to "Expert Doubts Gospel Of Judas" by Richard N. Ostling:
He says the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of "The Da Vinci Code" -- a fictional tale that centers on a Christian conspiracy to cover up a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
"There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information."
Ah, yes. The Da Vinci Code. How does this soon-to-be-released-major-Hollywood-blockbuster have to do with the Gospel of Judas? Could it be that the reason that this text is being released at this time is, as Dr. Robinson suggests, to take advantage of the release of the film to push book sales? The manuscript translation is due to be released in late April, and the movie is to be released in May. Hmmmmm. Is this coincidence?
Stephen C. Carlson, of the very fine Hypotyposeis suggested that there was different type of link between the Gospel of Judas and the Da Vinci Code way back in April 2005. In a post entitled Gospel of Judas in the News, Stephen made the following observation:
Nevertheless, that did not prevent the article having its Da Vinci Code moment:The Roman Catholic Church limited the recognised gospels to the four in 325 AD, under the guidance of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine.
Thirty other texts - some of which have been uncovered - were sidelined because "they were difficult to reconcile with what Constantine wanted as a political doctrine", according to Mr Roberty.
Not this canard again. The canonization of the New Testament was a long process that began well before Constantine and ended decisively decades after him. As early as Irenaeus in the 180s, the direct precursors of the 4th cen. orthodox Christianity (whom Bart Ehrman calls the "proto-Orthodox") had already limited the gospels they recognized to the four we know today: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Constantine's political doctrines had nothing to do with the selection of the four or the exclusion of the others (many of which did not circulate widely and were not even known to the proto-Orthodox).
So, it appears that the idea of the Gospel of Judas plays nicely into the old canard of questioning the canon by accusing other supposedly equally valid "Gospels" from being left out for political or theological reasons. This is very much the same idea that is behind the plot of The Da Vinci Code as well as any number of other Holy Blood, Holy Grail-type books. The release of the Gospel of Judas around the same time will only play into the idea that there are other equally legitimate Gospels running around that should have been included in the New Testament but for the religious or political leanings of the participants of the Council of Nicea.
I am betting when the text of the Gospel of Judas is realeased, there will be a spate of articles talking about the "other gospels" and writings of the ancient church that were excluded from the canon. It seems inevitable.
Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi