Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gospel of Judas and critical scholarship

I watched National Geographic’s special on the Gospel of Judas last night (April 9, 2006) and was stunned. To understand my reaction, you need to understand something about critical scholarship and the biblical gospels.

For years critics and skeptics have argued incessantly that we really can’t trust the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, because they are supposedly filled with decades of encrusted tradition (To get the effect you need to emphasize the part about decades of encrusted tradition as if 40-70 years were an eternity)!

The Gospel of John especially falls under the critics’ scorn since it was written last, probably 60-70 years after Jesus’ death, and is more theological in nature than Matthew, Mark and Luke. The infamous "Jesus Seminar," for example, dismissed almost the entire Gospel of John as being unhistorical.

Enter the Gospel of Judas. Unlike the biblical gospels, the Gospel of Judas takes Jesus out of his historical Jewish context, is even more esoteric in nature than the Gospel of John, and was written 30-80 years after the Gospel of John—100-150 years after Jesus death! Surely any scholars who were so skeptical of the biblical gospels would have much more reason to be skeptical of the Gospel of Judas, wouldn’t they?

Although I suspected that this program was going to be a snow job (it was) I was still amazed to see scholars who are so critical of the historical reliability of the biblical gospels, treating the Gospel of Judas as if it should be taken seriously! In fact, one scholar who spoke so glowingly about the Gospel of Judas had actually been a member of the same Jesus Seminar that did such a hatchet job on the biblical gospels! Could it be that something other than objective scholarship is going on here? More specifics on this tomorrow.