Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rodolphe Kasser et al eds., The Gospel of Judas (2006)

An English translation of and commentary on The Gospel of Judas, a second century gnostic narrative of that fateful week in Jerusalem around 30 C.E., when the Romans nailed Joshua of Nazareth (nee Yeshua, latinized Jesus) to a cross, which turns Christianity on its head. Although retrieved from the Egyptian desert in the 1970s, this gospel was only "discovered" in 2003.

The significance of this document is not whether it is historically true or not --- like the four gospels of the New Testament, it is not; the significance of this document confirms what we know from other sources that early Christianity was not monolithic and was fractured in its understanding of what to make of Joshua of Nazareth, a man who was not personally known to those who later made him out to be deity. The fractured nature of early Christianity is documented in Richard Rubenstein's excellent book, When Jesus Became God, which describes the theological battle between two priests of Alexandria, Egypt and their respective followers about the actual nature of this man. The special twist here, in the gnostic tradition, is that Joshua really was divine --- a divine offspring of a first tier deity among many dieties, and Judas conspired with him to release him from his human encasement by arranging his death at the hands of the Romans.

It is easy to understand why the 3rd century Catholic powers-that-be never seriously considered this gospel for inclusion in the New Testament: resurrection theology is ruled out in this gospel, and it smacks of polytheism in the finest Greek tradition.

I have never seriously believed that Judas was a traitor to his friend Joshua. That part of the New Testament gospels' story makes no sense, and is easily explained as the creative effort of the early Catholic Church to distinguish itself from Judaism by demonizing Jews and laying the foundation for centuries of anti-semitism. If the early Church had not distinguished itself from Judaism, its efforts at proselytizing and seeking new members among the gentiles might have failed. Judas the traitor was nothing more than a public relations and marketing program. There are even passages in the New Testament that support the view that Judas and Joshua were collaborators in Joshua's grand plan to end his life. The Gospel of Judas makes Judas out to be more of a Dr. Kevorkian, faithfully aiding and abetting Joshua in an assisted suicide, with the only difference being that Joshua does not "die" like an ordinary human.

The Gospel of Judas and the other Christian gospels --- in and out of the New Testament --- share a neo-Platonist/dualist view of the world. There are non-corporeal forms and souls and spirits that comprise one reality, and there are physical manifestations of those forms that make up a separate reality. They coexist. I have commented on other problems with dualism in prior posts (see September 27, 2009 and August 17, 2009 posts). Theology and religion are anchored in a dualist world, and when dualism is rejected, theology and religion must logically be abandoned. Descartes and Leibniz could not abandon a dualist view of the world, because it meant severing ties with church-dominated theistic world of 17th century and sacrificing their material if not pecuniary self-interests. Only Spinoza was bold enough and independent enough to firmly reject dualism, and this led him to espouse a type of panetheism, which to the theist, is nothing more than atheism.

Dualism is a problem of the human mind. When we understand better how the mind works to create imaginary stories about spirits that become part of a collective memory and the evolutionary imperative for doing so, we will finally come to understand what theology and religion really is --- and it will not be the theology and religion that theists have experienced for centuries and claim to understand. And it may well be that there is or will be great resistance to even wanting to know more about how the human mind works in order to avoid confronting a new paradigm of religion.

No comments:

Post a Comment