"Gospel of Judas" Coverage Betrays Media's Lack of Theological Literacy

April 9th, 2006 7:25 AM

Friday's enraptured major-media roll-out of a purported "Gospel of Judas," which claims that Judas was actually Christ's best buddy, betraying him only so he could slip out of his awful human body, drew harsh words from conservative bloggers. At The Volokh Conspiracy, media critic David Kopel whacked away (Hat tip: Instapundit):

This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid. The Judas gospel is interesting in its own right, but the notion that it disproves, or casts into doubt, the traditional orthodox understanding of the betrayal of Jesus is preposterous...

Suppose that sometime around the year 3,800 A.D., someone wrote a newspaper that began: "According to a recently-discovered document, which appears to have been written sometime before 1926, Benedict Arnold did not attempt to betray George Washington and the American cause, as is commonly believed. Rather, Benedict Arnold was acting at the request of George Washington, because Washington wanted Arnold to help him create a dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of private property."

A reader who knew her ancient history would recognize that the newly-discovered "Arnold document" was almost certainly not a historically accurate account of the relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold...

In the March 2 issue of USA Today, ancient Egyptian documents expert James Robinson correctly predicted that the owners of the Judas Gospel manuscript would attempt to release it to coincide with the publicity build-up for "The DaVinci Code" movie, but explained that the "gospel" was part of a genre of pseudo-gospels from the second century onward, in which the authors simply made up the stories. In contrast, virtually all serious scholarship about the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) believes that they were written much closer to the events they describe--sometime in the first century a.d.

The influential Christian bishop Irenaeus, in his treatise Against Heresies, written in 180 a.d., denounced the Gospel of Judas as the product of a gnostic sect called the Cainites. (Book 1, ch. 31, para. 1.)

It's doubtful that network TV producers were paging through their dog-eared copies of Ireneaus to assemble their good-Judas stories. Catholic apologist and blogger Mark Shea suggested the roll-out displays the theological illiteracy of the media and our culture in general:

In a culture so theologically and historically illiterate as ours--a culture that takes the Da Vinci Code with utmost seriousness--it goes without saying that the selfsame people who are exacting to a degree when it comes to the canonical gospels will drink in the Gospel of Judas without a dram of critical thought. You've seen it all before. "Mark place two angels at the tomb, but Matthew only notes one! The witnesses are hopelessly contradictory and worthless!" Likewise, if you point to the overwhelming testimony of the early church on the apostolic origins of the four gospels, you get nitnoid "analyses" of this or that Greek word which somehow is supposed to prove that the gospels are fabrications without any relation to the apostolic testimony.

But when somebody drags out an *obvious* second century document bearing every earmark of a typical gnostic school of thought (Jesus jabbering about "the man that clothed me" and all the typical stuff that went with the whole "spirit=good/body=bad" mindset so foreign to both Jesus and the apostles, credulous gulls in the MSM are ready to treat the notion that this is a genuine record of an eyewitness as settled fact.

The most hilarious irony of all of this is that many of the hedonists and "sacred feminists" who are so eager for the gnostic Jesus would not want to have touched a real gnostic with a barge pole. After all, when your religious theory tells you that matter is a prison and women are the means by which spirit is imprisoned in matter, this tends to give rise to a rather low view of women.

One of the great favors some historian is going to have to do us all one day will be to compare the status of women in the early Church, not with the ludicrous notions of the Idealized Pre-Christian Sacred Feminine Paganism of Dan Brown and his research drudgewench Blythe, but with the average life of women in pre-Christian paganism and Judaism. I have no illusion that the lot of women vastly improved with the dawn of the gospel, just as the lot of slaves did not not immediately improve. But the notion that everything was just peachy for women until the Evil Church suddenly instituted patriarchy and crushed Woman underfoot is something that, well, only a culture as historically and theologically illiterate as ours could believe.