jueves, 5 de abril de 2007
Lectura de semana santa...
Gospel according to Judas
The recently unearthed Gospel of Judas "contradicts everything we know about Christianity," says religious historian Elaine Pagels.
By Steve Paulson. Apr. 02, 2007
As almost every child knows, Judas was the disciple who betrayed Jesus, selling his life for 30 pieces of silver. If there's an arch villain in the story of Jesus, it's Judas Iscariot. Or is it? The newly discovered Gospel of Judas suggests that Judas was, in fact, the favorite disciple, the only one Jesus trusted to carry out his final command to hand him over to the Romans.
Rumors about the gospel have circulated for centuries. Early church fathers called it a "very dangerous, blasphemous, horrendous gospel," according to historian Elaine Pagels. We now know that the manuscript was passed around the shadowy world of antiquities dealers, at one point sitting in a safe deposit box in a small town in New York for 17 years. Pagels herself was once asked by a dealer in Cleveland to examine it, but he only showed her the last few pages, which revealed little more than the title page. She assumed there was nothing of significance. Finally, the manuscript was acquired by the National Geographic Society, which hired Pagels as a consultant to study it.
More than any other scholar, Pagels has brought the lost texts of early Christianity to public attention. A Princeton historian of religion, she wrote the 1979 bestseller "The Gnostic Gospels" -- the book that launched the popular fascination with the Nag Hammadi manuscripts found by Egyptian peasants in 1945. That book, which won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, was later chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century. Pagels went on to write a series of acclaimed books about early Christianity and, along the way, recounted her own personal tragedies -- her young son's death after a long illness and, just a year later, her first husband's death in a hiking accident. It's no surprise that Pagels has felt compelled to wrestle with some of religion's thorniest subjects, like how to make sense of suffering and evil.
For much of her career, Pagels has straddled two worlds -- the academic and the popular. She's often the go-to expert when a magazine needs a comment on the latest theory about Mary Magdalene or some other bit of revisionist Christian history. But her standing among the scholars who study early Christianity is more complicated. Conservative scholars tend to dismiss the Gnostic texts as a footnote in Christian history, hardly worth all the hype that's been generated by "The Da Vinci Code" and other racy stories. Not surprisingly, these scholars have questioned Pagels' interpretations of early Christian texts.
With Harvard historian Karen L. King, Pagels has written a new book, "Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity." The authors argue that this recently discovered gospel offers a new understanding of the death of Jesus. I spoke with Pagels by phone about the bitter quarrels among early Christians, why it's a bad idea to read the Bible literally, and the importance of this new discovery.
When was the Gospel of Judas written?
As far we can tell, probably at the end of the first or early second century.
So it's clearly not written by Judas himself, or even dictated by Judas.
That's right. And most New Testament scholars would say the gospels in the New Testament -- all of them attributed to disciples or followers of disciples -- were probably not written by the people whose names are on them. If you say, "the Gospel according to Matthew," you might not be pretending to be Matthew if you wrote it. You might be saying, this is the gospel the way Matthew taught it, and he was my teacher. So these are certain followers of Jesus who collected and transmitted his teaching.
Does this Gospel of Judas reveal something new about early Christianity?
Yes, the Gospel of Judas really has been a surprise in many ways. For one thing, there's no other text that suggests that Judas Iscariot was an intimate, trusted disciple, one to whom Jesus revealed the secrets of the kingdom, and that conversely, the other disciples were misunderstanding what he meant by the gospel. So that's quite startling.
It's shocking to suggest that Judas wasn't just one of the disciples but was actually the favorite disciple of Jesus.
That's right. And also the idea that he handed over Jesus to be arrested at the orders of Jesus himself. This wasn't a betrayal at all. In fact, it was obedience to a command or request that Jesus had made.
But how do we reconcile this with all the other stories we've ever heard about Judas? He's the symbol of treachery and betrayal.
Well, he has become the symbol of treachery and betrayal. But once you start to look at the gospels one by one, you realize that followers of Jesus were trying to understand what had happened after he was arrested and killed. They knew Judas had handed him over to the people who arrested him. The earliest gospel, Mark, says Judas handed him over, but it doesn't give any motive at all. The people who wrote after Mark -- Matthew's and Luke's gospels -- apparently felt that what was wrong with the Gospel of Mark was that there was no motive. So Matthew adds a motive. Matthew says Judas went to the chief priests who were Jesus' enemies, and said, "What will you give me if I hand him over to you?" And they agree on a certain sum of money. So in Matthew's view, the motive was greed. In Luke's gospel, it's entirely different. It says the power of evil took over Judas. Satan entered into him.
I think Luke is struggling with the question, If Jesus is the son of God, how could he be taken by a mere trick, by a human being? And Luke is trying to show that all evil power was concentrated in Judas. So they are very different stories. However, other gospels, like John's, suggest that Jesus not only anticipated what was going to happen but initiated it. The Gospel of John says that he told Judas to go out and do what he had to do, which Jesus knew was to betray him. So the Gospel of Judas just takes the suggestion one step further. Jesus not only knew what was going to happen but initiated the action.
There's something else that's striking about the Gospel of Judas. The writer is very angry, and he's especially angry at the other disciples...
[Entrevista completa en: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/04/02/elaine_pagels/]