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A Faith Tailored Just for You

The hoopla over the Gospel of Judas is both absurd and revealing.
2006This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

When the Gospel of Judas was unveiled in April, much of the American press and public were bowled over by this "lost" Gospel's claims that Judas was Jesus' favorite, that he was the only disciple who understood Jesus' mission, and that Jesus told Judas to hand him over to the authorities, so that Judas would "sacrifice the man that clothes me."

Little was reported of what the 13-sheet Coptic manuscript had to say about the heavenly kingdom of Barbelo, the 72 heavens, the 360 firmaments, and the confusing array of demigods who inhabit them.

Fortunately, some members of the press saw how ridiculous it all was. Newsweek's David Gates took aim at the hoopla manufactured by National Geographic and others who had a financial stake in the Judas Gospel: "Can the lipstick tie-in be far behind?"

More importantly, the best liberal scholars admitted up front that this find "tells us nothing about the historical Jesus, nothing about the historical Judas." Those are the words of James M. Robinson, lead scholar of the team that investigated the last great find of Gnostic Gospels, the Nag Hammadi library. Or as Adam Gopnik told New Yorker readers, "The finding of the new Gospel … no more challenges the basis of the church's faith than the discovery of a document from the nineteenth century written in Ohio and defending King George would be a challenge to the basis of American democracy."

The latest Gnostic gospel may tell us little about Jesus or Judas, but the credulous public fascination with it tells us something about the spiritual state of America. Our nation continues to be enamored with a version of religion—Gnosticism—that is little more than a reflection of the self.

You're okay—I'm special

Gnosticism taught that ...

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