Friday, 22 June 2007

The Plain Truth and the Judas Gospel

April DeConick is a professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University and a mighty fine blogger as well. In a recent entry she mentions a certain magazine:

Professor Tim Finlay (Azusa Pacific University) has just published a brief but detailed article on the Gospel of Judas in The Plain Truth. Most of his analysis is fairly accurate... but I have to dissent on his conclusion that the Gospel of Judas "confirms that Irenaeus and the early Church were right in what they said about the non-canonical Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John remain peerless from both theological and historical perspectives."

Why do these conclusions continue to be drawn by biblical scholars, as if the canonical gospels are any more accurate (or "peerless") theologies and histories than the non-canonical gospels? All these texts are theologies, and whether or not they are "peerless" depends upon where you are standing. None of our texts are histories, let alone accurate histories. And how much historical information we can actually reap out of any of them, and the procedures for doing so, are questions more problematic than not.

As for the accuracy of the Church Fathers' descriptions... [they] passed on false information, ill-informed interpretations, and fabricated stories in their struggle against those forms of Christianity that they hated. As the old saying goes, "All is fair in love and war."

Straight talk: gotta love it!

Finlay is a former AC graduate. While on the subject of women scholars (last time Amy-Jill Levine, today April DeConick), this coming Thursday I'm planning on attending a lecture by American Lutheran theologian (ELCA) Kathryn Tanner. Tanner's interests fall outside my reading and study experience thus far (Christianity and economics) but it should be a stimulating presentation. Remember the days (if you're old enough!) when a woman's by-line was not permitted in the Plain Truth or Good News? Now the intellectual strength of women writers and scholars is commonplace - and even the dowdy old WCG has ordained women elders.

I, for one, am enormously grateful for the winds of change.


Neotherm said...

DeConick said: "All these texts are theologies, and whether or not they are "peerless" depends upon where you are standing."

There can be no truer words. For DeConick and similar theologians who do not connect with the spiritual core of the canonical scripture, there must be no distinction among these "ancient manuscripts". The whimiscal Tobit is just as good as the Book of Mark. And we may even be able to find some theology in Tobit if we are imaginative enough.

For those who recognize that there is a well defined theology in the canonical scripture, these apocryphal works miserably fail the "fitness" test.

Like DeConick says, "it really depends on where you are standing." My guess is that she is standing in the middle of academic secularism.

Corky said...

The plain truth is that the messianic movement pre-dates the Jesus of the gospels.

"The way" pre-dated first century Paulican "Christianity". The real Jesus was stoned to death and hanged on a tree in 88 BC for blasphemy against the religious authority under Alexander Jannaeus.

It was king Jannaeus that slaughtered the children not king Herod.

The New Century Book of Facts writes:

"It is said that 50,000 perished in this civil strife. He quelled a revolt at Jerusalem by slaughtering 6,000. On his return from a short exile into which he had been driven by the Pharisees, he caused 800 rebels to be crucified before him and their wives and children slaughtered (86 B.C.)."


Anyway, the movement began by Jesus in 88 BC continued after his death and later there was a rumor of his resurrection. Being an underground movement they lost the knowledge of how it all began and all they had was a "sayings gospel" until the time of Paul.

Well, that's it in a nutshell except for the brief emergence of the movement in 6 AD with Judas of Galilee.

Judas' attack on the Roman garrison at the temple and tearing down the Roman Eagle insignia and smashing it to pieces is what the Jesus story of throwing the money changers out of the temple is based upon.

In a way, Judas betrayed the original Jesus movement by drawing attention to them and causing the condemnation by the Jewish authorities and bounty hunters like Saul of Tarsus.

XCGMouse said...

Yes, it does depend on where your standing.

My advice is for DeConick to sit- down when penning her words.

Seriously though, Here is how John C. Collins refers to the historical critical method:
"it too is a tradition, with its own values and assumptions, derived in large part from the Enlightenment and western humanism."

Continuing from the Feb 93, First things Magazine article, John D. Levenson, Author:

The historic confrontation between traditional religion and the new set of assumptions was, according to Collins, "a clash between two conflicting moralities, one of which celebrated faith and belief as virtues and regarded doubt as sin, whereas the other celebrated methodological skepticism and was distrustful of prior commitments."

Levinson goes on to ask: "Why this tradition and not another?"

Yes indeed, why. Why, Gavin, why?

Anonymous said...

As someone who regards herself as being in the "secular" mainstream, my view is that April DeConick's New York Times article on the Judas fiasco is excellent, but note what she says about the Dead Sea Scrolls:

"The situation reminds me of the deadlock that held scholarship back on the Dead Sea Scrolls decades ago. When manuscripts are hoarded by a few, it results in errors and monopoly interpretations that are very hard to overturn even after they are proved wrong."

The consequences of the Scrolls monopoly are indeed still continuing today, in a biased and misleading exhibit taking place in an outrageoulsy biased and misleading "natural history" museum in San Diego. See this article for details:

Thus, I would suggest that the real question confronting us today is whether liberal Christian scholars like DeConick will part company with their Evangelical colleagues and frankly condemn what is going on with the Dead Sea Scrolls in one museum exhibit after another.

I say this not with disrespect, but in the hope of furthering a sincere discussion on the topic.