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April 7, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

HERESY OR GREED?....Is National Geographic "peddling heresy"? Stephen Bainbridge investigates.

Kevin Drum 8:26 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (94)

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Comments

Actually, Nat'l Geographic is peddling a competing fairy tale. "Heresy" is nonsense, gibberish for the feeble-minded.

Posted by: joshua on April 7, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Is this a joke? Are we now to take the Church's word as the last on any gospel?

Posted by: Boronx on April 7, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

My sentiments, exactly. And we're expected to choose between fairy tales. I expect that the good Rabbi Jesus would laugh at what people have done with his memory. Or cry.

Posted by: Slideguy on April 7, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

The link is like a a pre-enlightment time warp.

Posted by: Boronx on April 7, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Judas Gospel; Jesus walking on ice, not water; and the walking fish fossil.

Three fearful newsy threats to the right wing fundamentalist voter in the space of a few days? Hmmmm.

Da Vinci bandwagon, or pre-Nov. '06 "rally round the cross" propaganda?

Posted by: ferd on April 7, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

That's the funniest fucking thing I've ready all day. I mean, seriously, to get your panties in a wad over that. A little four centuries ago, you think?

Posted by: Morat on April 7, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

No one is arguing that it's not a gnostic text. It's a rather old one at that (2d century). The fact that it's "judas'" gospel seems to be freaking everybody out (check out Americablog, for instance).

Everyone seems to be billing this as earthshattering, when really, it's just one of many such texts to emerge in the past 50 years. The history of the gnostic heresy is well known. This document adds very little to that history.

Posted by: gfw on April 7, 2006 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

What am I missing here? The document is apparently genuine. It's discovery sheds light on the early days of Christianity. I am no Gnostic, but neither do I fear truth. And the truth is that in the second century A.D., there was a group of people who had a different take on things. I think they were wacky. But sharing this incredible document is not "peddling heresy". It is adding to our knowledge base. I am amazed, and a little sad, that a law professor of law could say something so monumentally stupid.

Posted by: Bob Miller on April 7, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bainbridge is engaged in unbridled spin. You hardly have to read the news coverage "carefully" to discover that it is considered heterodox by mainstream Christianity, or even that it associated specifically with Gnosticism (see, for instance, the coverage in the San Jose Mercury-News.)

And releasing a translation of a long-lost document is hardly "peddling" the beliefs it contains. Claiming that it does is simply engaging in anti-intellectualism; his speculation that the release is timed to coincide with the Da Vinci Code movie is beyond stupid -- its not like National Geographic has been holding on to the translation for years and suddenly decided to release it because a Da Vinci Code movie was being released.

Bainbridge presumably isn't an actual idiot, but this post sure shows him doing a good imitation of one.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 7, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Wacky"? Because they lost a political struggle and didn't get included in the canon?

Do people get this irate when new Greek mythos characters are found?

On that note, why won't Stargate SG1 touch christianity? Or are they saving that for a series finale?

Posted by: Mushuweasel on April 7, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why wouldn't Bainbridge be an actual idiot?

Posted by: SqueakyRat on April 7, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

"The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover." The account goes on to relate that Jesus refers to the other disciples, telling Judas "you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me."

There are disturbingly similar passages in Nikos Kazantzaki's "The Last Tempatation of Christ".

Posted by: Boronx on April 7, 2006 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

The history of the early church is fascinating, even for atheists. The fight over which texts were 'approved' and the ceaseless squabbling about heresy make for entertaining reading.

I recommend you all go to Eusebius' history of the church for an entertaining read. Seriously.
He was pretty scandalous, himself.

Photius wrote:

"Of the Objection and Defense of Eusebius two books have been read; also other two, which although differing in some respects from the former two, are in other respects the same with regard to both diction and thought. But he presents certain difficulties with regard to our blameless religion as having originated with the Greeks. These he correctly solves, although not in all cases. But as regards his diction, it is by no means either pleasing or brilliant. The man is indeed very learned, although as regards shrewdness of mind and firmness of character, as well as accuracy in doctrine, he is deficient. For also in many places in these books it is plain to be seen that he blasphemes against the Son, calling him a second cause, and general-in-chief, and other terms which have had their origin in the Arian madness."

http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/TOC.htm

Posted by: winna on April 7, 2006 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Likewise, Reuters quotes Bart Ehrman,"

I just last month read Ehrman's book, Lost Christianities, in which he discussed the wide variety of "Christianities" that existed in the two or three centuries after Jesus' death. Gnosticism is just one of them. "Orthodox" Christianity "won" primarily because it had the power of the state behind it after Constantine's conversion.

Posted by: arkie on April 7, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

There's a reason so many competing versions of the Jesus story are possible.

He didn't exist.

Posted by: Brian Flemming on April 7, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

This manuscript and the earliest manuscripts of the canonical gospels are from approximately the same period. References in and to the latter put their ages between 60 and 150 AD. The lack of references to "the gospel of Judas" in early Roman literature is negative evidence. It could have been written just as early as the canonical gospels in some form. Gnostic themes and the use of the word "savior" are a pretty weak for determining the earliest possible date it was written.

I suppose Mark and Luke were heretical to the Gnostics. As an atheist I don't really give a fuck. It's a shame religious zealots have burned so many books through the ages.


Posted by: B on April 7, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm OK with it, as long as there are snacks.

Posted by: IOKIYAR on April 7, 2006 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reading Ehrman right now (Misquoting Jesus). He gives a fascinating peek at the art and science of textual criticism, but it's not exactly shocking to learn that there are several competing versions of the verses that got into "the" Bible. The newly rediscovered Gospel of Judas is a tantalizing bit of religious history. Regardless of its historical accuracy, it's an early Christian text and thus important to anyone who wants to know more about the development of Christianity. As for its being "peddled" by National Geographic, I'm sure the magazine's editors regard it more as a good story rather than as new "revealed truth". And it is a good story.

Posted by: Zeno on April 7, 2006 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Bainbridge: Once again, the liberal media is persecuting us christians.

Posted by: jerry on April 7, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Steven Braindead convinces me! Some guy 2000 years ago didn't care for it, so, heresy, it is! And you know what we do with heratics, don't you?

Would it be irresponsible to burn the National Geographic at the stake? Indeed, wouldn't it be irresponsible not to?

Posted by: Gen. Jack D. Ripper on April 7, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

The editors of National Geographic must be excommunicated, post haste!

Jesus Christ. So to speak.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 7, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

My bad! Make that "Some guy 1826 years ago didn't care for it, so heresy it is!"

Posted by: Gen. Jack D. Ripper on April 7, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the Byzantine Empire! We must track down and imprison all Arianists and Coptic Christians!

If anyone here is a doctor, and Bainbridge comes to you for treatment, please just give him some leeches or something.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 7, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

As an early teen, I had many doubts about the teaching of orthodox Christianityto many holes in logic for this fan of Mr. Spock.

One such hole was the Judas betrayed our Savior meme. After all, Jesus raison d'etre was to fulfill prophesy, get nailed to a cross, and etc.

He needed Judas to do exactly what he did.

Imagine the disappointment, much less the historical implications if Iscariot had decided to go to Samaria to get laid insteadJesus left there in the garden, frustrated, tapping his fingers on that rock, muttering Oy vey!

Posted by: Keith G on April 7, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

I hope Bainbridge realizes he's taking the word of a dead frenchman as gospel.

Posted by: B on April 7, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

Brian Flemming--

I'm not a believer in Christianity, but I can't agree with you that competing versions are evidence of Jesus's non-existence. After all, the Judas Gospel (and other) are theoretically about the same space in time from Jesus as we are from the Founding Fathers. There are some differing versions of them and of the "real" nature of the Constitution around too. Does that prove that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and the Constitution don't exist? Of course not. Play "telephone" with any story for 250 or 1000 years and see how many versions there are.

What I think is funny is how freaked out the Catholic Church seems to be about it. The big reported change is that Judas goes from bad guy to favorite guy. Well...big deal. Jesus is still the main guy, right? Who cares who was teacher's pet? I mean, when I'm writing the bluewave gospel, I'm sure not going to be the bad guy in my own story. It's too bad that when people read the Bible they don't parse it critically, thinking about who had a particular interest in THAT particular version of the story and why.

But, since the Bible is the divinely inspired and inerrant word of God, we couldn't be havin' that now, could we?

Posted by: bluewave on April 7, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

I've read a great deal on the gnostic gosples (atheist here with strong buddhist inclinations).

I find it interesting that most Christians haven't a clue how the bible came to be. Who chose which texts, etc.

The Gospel of Judas is as good as any other unless proven otherwise.

Posted by: T.R. Elliott on April 7, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

rather

I hope Bainbridge realizes he's taking the word of a dead frenchman as to what is a gospel.

Posted by: B on April 7, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

B on April 7, 2006 at 9:19 PM:

It's a shame religious zealots have burned so many books through the ages.

Yup. Consider the history of The Library at Alexandria, including the actions of Theodosius I. If only people knew their history better...

I'm not quite sure that the Wikipedia entry on Theodosius I is entirely complete, however.

Posted by: grape_crush on April 7, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

PS

But this kind of freak-out is what happens when you build something around the cult of personality and magic instead of ideas. If Christianity's (and particularly the Catholic Church's) focus through the years had been on the ideas Jesus taught, as opposed to his divinity, his mother's virginity, etc., then discoveries of this nature threaten exactly nothing. But instead of "Do these things because the world works a whole lot better and you'll be happier if you do", they went with "Do these things because magic guy says so, and if you do and you believe in him you can live in Candyland forever, and if you don't he's going to smite you with his flaming sword and you'll be really really sorry."

Kind of like the Republican party these days. Built on the cult of personality rather than ideas. And GWB thinks he's magic guy.

Posted by: bluewave on April 7, 2006 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bainbridge presumably isn't an actual idiot...

You'd think, but every time I follow a link to his site, that seems to be where all the evidence points.

Posted by: tom on April 7, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

We must track down and imprison all Arianists ...

Leave Ms. Huffington out of this.

Posted by: tom on April 7, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Can't leave well enough alone with all the athiesm and the spewing.

The fact of the matter is, there's nothing new here. It's all accounted for already in the Bible. When Jesus says to Judas, "Go now and do what you must do," this is what he means.

Posted by: egbert on April 7, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Tom-

Very punny.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 7, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

We must track down and imprison all Arianists ...

Followers of the Little Mermaid....?

Posted by: Windhorse on April 7, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, egbert. It's all accounted for. Four official accounts, in fact, all of which contradict each other.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 7, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm reading Ehrman right now (Misquoting Jesus). He gives a fascinating peek at the art and science of textual criticism, but it's not exactly shocking to learn that there are several competing versions of the verses that got into "the" Bible."

Right. The synoptic gospels weren't even written down until decades after the events they describe supposedly occurred. They're not even first-hand accounts. They're full of inconsistencies. And they represent only a subset of all the accounts of Jesus Christ's life and teachings that were actually written by his followers around that time. They have canonical status only because their supporters won a bitter political war over which texts to include.

And yet Christians, even many intelligent ones who really ought to know better, obsess over every word and sentence in Matthew thru John, as if they are reliable historical accounts, down to word-for-word accurate transcriptions of conversations that took place half a century earlier. It's so utterly wack. One more reason to conclude that religious faith just destroys any capacity for reason and logic and common sense.

Posted by: Atheist on April 7, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Right. The synoptic gospels weren't even written down until decades after the events they describe supposedly occurred. They're not even first-hand accounts. They're full of inconsistencies. And they represent only a subset of all the accounts of Jesus Christ's life and teachings that were actually written by his followers around that time. They have canonical status only because their supporters won a bitter political war over which texts to include.

And yet Christians, even many intelligent ones who really ought to know better, obsess over every word and sentence in Matthew thru John, as if they are reliable historical accounts, down to word-for-word accurate transcriptions of conversations that took place half a century earlier. It's so utterly wack. One more reason to conclude that religious faith just destroys any capacity for reason and logic and common sense.

Preach it, brother! As a fellow athiest, I can appreciate what you say. But rather than saying faith destroys reason as you do, I'd prefer to frame it as mankind's tendency of avoiding cognitive dissonance and/or paradigms where one has the burden of thinking and making fine judgements for oneself.

Posted by: Gen. Jack D. Ripper on April 7, 2006 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

In school we had opportunities to read all sorts of books but in sunday school we got the same damn one over and over. If they 1) let us read some alternative gospels, 2) taught us how to read a little greek and coptic, and 3) got into the history and archeology aspects -- they would have held my interest for a bit longer.

Posted by: B on April 7, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it Jehova who set up the whole sacrifice/atonement deal? Isn't the "betrayer" God?

Posted by: trueblue on April 7, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Of course. To keep Yahweh happy, somebody, or something has to be killed. Bloodthirsty bugger, don't you think?

Posted by: Slideguy on April 7, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

A classic gnostic work, including the dual Gods, this world being created by the evil material god, also identified with the Old Testament God, as opposed to the higher spiritual God responsible for Jesus. One reason why it was heretical back in the day is this two Gods thing, which corresponded to a general gnostic desire to get rid of or ignore the OT books altogether (no 10 commandments to hang on the wall, if they had had their way, for example).

It sounds to me like Judas plays a stock gnostic role of initiate into secret knowledge; the script sounds familiar from other gonstic scriptures.

I've been irritated by comentators who claim this Gospel of Judas somehow counters the anti-semitic uses of Judas as traitor over the years; gnostics were not pro-semitic necessarily in any simple way. In fact less so if one considers their attitude toward the Jewish heritage of the Old Testament. . .

If one wanted to write a meaningful blog critique of the coverage, one could start with something like that . . .

And, while Prof. B is clearly an idiot in the post, I do think the timing of this release has something to do with the movie. If you read about the complex and expensive transactions behind the production of this translation, it's hard not to come to this conclusion. That doesn't at all negate the value of the discovery, but it is part of the context of the announcement . ..

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Posted by: DIANGE JI on April 7, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I don't find that it is Christians that go ape over so called discoveries of "lost Christianities".

Consider: I didn't read "The Da Vinci Code" and I don't know any other Christians who read it. I did hear it was a very compelling story, but it seemed that there was a little more driving its popularity than just the strength of the story. It seems to me part of its popularity is it seems to poke holes in the Christ story. Too bad its completely historically inaccurate.

Also I notice that any posts about religion on this liberal site with many agnostics and atheists generate a huge number of comments.

Many non-believers tend to spit out very derogatory attacks against religion even when no one is attacking them.

The reality seems to be that the whole world believers and non-believers is obsessed with Jesus.

Don't you see that for us who believe, the very fact that this man who lived over 2000 years ago is the obsession of the whole world only serves to be make us firmer in our belief.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 7, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I e-mailed Bainbridge:

NG is NOT a religious magazine. Of course, since IDers obviously, as Dover demonstrated, don't know the difference between science and religion, or deliberately obscure the difference, or both, you either are too clueless to grasp that NG is not a religious magazine or else you are engaging in more Dover-type tactics.

In short, Professor Bainbridge, in either case you are again engaging in intellectual dishonesty.

Steve Snyder
Master of Divinity, 1992

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 7, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

MM is right about Gnostic dual gods. In fact, some Gnostic writings claim Thomas/Didymas (Aramaic and Greek for "twin") was Jesus' twin.

And many postulate his first name as Judas (Jude), as in the brother of Jesus associated elsewhere with the biblical book (unless you're an orthodox Catholic rejecting Jesus' brothers).

And, this Jude/-as is in some writings considered to be "that" Judas. Remember, Paul's authentic letters were written before any of the "orthodox" gospels.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 7, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

I find it interesting that most Christians haven't a clue how the bible came to be. Who chose which texts, etc.

Posted by: T.R. Elliott on April 7, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

I would challenge that. I think nowadays, with the DaVinci code being out for a while quite a lot of Christians who should know have had to do their homework.

I don't think this adds a lot that is new:

- Jesus knew he was going to be betrayed. He kissed the guy who would betray at the Last Supper. Prayed about it in the Garden.

- Judas was always the treasurer which is in some ways a postion of authority

I guess asking Judas to do it is new but very inconsistent. Why did Judas kill himself after, try and give back the money?

Anyway, if you insist on accepting it as real. Jesus still went to his death for others and had the massive foreknowledge to know his death would trigger a worldwide transformation...

This goes back to the Liar, Lunatic or Lord argument.

With all that power and foreknowledge, how is that consistent with Liar and Lunatic?


Posted by: McA on April 7, 2006 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

Bainbridge is great for a laugh. I first visited his site sometime in the last year, and it didn't take long to notice a pattern: Every couple of weeks he'll run a post about how Bush has screwed the pooch, how he's "betrayed conservatism" (the preferred method for distancing oneself these days), how the federal budget is a wreck, and so on. And invariably, within the same post, or another one soon after, he'll say, "But Kerry would have been worse. I can't really say how, but I just know it."

If you make a point of mentioning how hilarious you find this practice, he'll ban you from commenting, which he did to me. The Personal Responsibility Party seems to get a bit touchy when you point out how Bush is their boy, and that his antics shouldn't come as a surprise any longer....

Posted by: sglover on April 7, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it Jehova who set up the whole sacrifice/atonement deal? Isn't the "betrayer" God?

Posted by: trueblue on April 7, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

And if there was no sacrifice, people would take that as a sign sinning until the last second and deathbed conversion is OK.

Critics criticise:

-The nature of the sacrifice as blood thirsty

-Or say God is too forgiving in that his Christians aren't perfect examples of Sainthood

When God is forgiving, he's too tough. When he demands a price for sin, he's mean to his son.
At the end of the day, if you have anger issues with him, just admit it.

The sacrifice is part of the message. Sin hurts someone. People who love you may forgive you. But sin hurts someone.

Imagine if you cheated on your wife. She may forgive you. But someone is still hurt.

Posted by: mcA on April 7, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Heretical in reference to what? What is National Geographic supposed to take as the "gospel" truth? Why?

Posted by: cowalker on April 8, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

This goes back to the Liar, Lunatic or Llama argument.

With all that power and foreknowledge, how is that consistent with Liar and Lunatic?

I've done the liberty of editing your post, in order to make it make more sense.

Posted by: zimzim uralala on April 8, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Two points: I haven't seen much of a peep out of the Catholic Church about this the hysteria above not to the contrary; the canonical gospels are generally dated at 55 (Mark) - 90 (John) AD, several generations prior to the earliest claimed date for the "Gospel of Judas."

And it does seem pretty unlikely that the announcement of this research wasn't timed to coincide with Easter and the DaVinci Code movie's release. But, hey, that's just my suspicious mind.

If you're a person of orthodox faith, you believe that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, determined what writings were truly inspired by God. If not, you can go ahead and adopt whatever theories you want.

Posted by: sj on April 8, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Never trust a guy who includes "professor" in his URL and even registers it as a service mark. Two clear symptoms of tiny dick syndrome.

Posted by: ogmb on April 8, 2006 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

Well, it does strike me that there's just an awfully lot of very convenient content in the new Gnostic gospel -- the counterintuive secret of Judas's "real" role, the talk about being "clothed" in the flesh. It's almost as if Jesus was himself a Gnostic, apparently devilishly fooling his other apostles as to what's really going on.

Now probably a lot of convenient fabrication went on with the other gospels too -- the story of Peter's milder betrayal seems pretty contrived, to my ears. But at least the other disciples seem to have squared their stories with each other.

And could it be that the gospel of Judas is just his way of rewriting history? What's the guy going to say? "Sure, I did it. Those pieces of sliver were so shiny"?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 8, 2006 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Does this Gospel of Judas refer to duel Gods? I was under the impression this was produced by Gnostics who practiced monotheism?

Posted by: padcrasher on April 8, 2006 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

Well upon further reading it does have the other disciples praying to a "lesser God" whereas Jesus reveals to Judas the "true God". No wonder it had to go..LOL

Posted by: padcrasher on April 8, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

One of the interesting things about the bible is the way the apostles, who went on to die as martyrs and great evangelists after the holy spirit descended, looked silly.
Peter the the leader was the denier, and took someone's ear off.

If you ask yourself Cui Bono (who profits), its tough to assign a motive to the lives of the apostles other than they believed Christ.

The Judas gospel sounds like other Gnostic heresies, revealed by angels, by Enochian angels, whatever. The make the sect look good and play to man's secret urge to be smarter than God.

The fruit in the Garden of Eden is the Fruit of Knowledge.

Posted by: McA on April 8, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I love watching this establishment vs. gnosticism wrangle continue to play out right into this millenium! Has Elaine Pagels been heard from yet? Bainbridge is beyond embarrassing.

Best of all, walking fish, gnosticism justified, the ice on the sea -- all in the same week! It's like getting our national intellect and sense of humor back after five years of bile and testosterroneous oppression.

Posted by: PW on April 8, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Imagine if you cheated on your wife. She may forgive you. But someone is still hurt.

But she'll feel better after you torture a kitten to death to appease her.

Posted by: cowalker on April 8, 2006 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Good Grief, is there actually someone posting here who is so stupid as to think that animal sacrifice was invented by the Hebrews?

The general tone of this thread is so hysterical as to lend credence to the wingnut idea that liberals throw their brains out the window when the topic is religion, especially the Christian religion.

Somebody got it right toward the beginning: The Gospel of Judas is simply one more Gnostic text, from the point of view of Orthodox Xianity; and it is another ancient text, a wonderful thing to have, from the point of view of historians.

That's about all that is useful to be said.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 8, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

i'm a deist, so i don't believe jesus was the prophesized messiah. he's one in a long line of jewish prophets, from elijah to karl marx and alan ginsburg.

and i thought that jesus' crucifixion was part of the plan.

bainbridge and others may scream heresy, but they can't stop it. the first amendment, and all that.

they remind me of the soviet union, where any discouraging word about the socialist workers' paradise led to punishment. 2-1 says christians like bainbridge sure as hell wouldn't mind persecution of "heretics."

this is one reason this progressive/
liberal/kinda lefty doesn't trust organized christianity. some of its adherents think you're going to hell if you don't believe that jesus is the messiah, you're going to hell.

if you say this, you insult every jewish citizen of the u.s., to say nothing of buddhists, moslem, agnostics, and so forth ... to say nothing of christians who aren't, say, catholic or baptist or whatever your demonination is.

finally, it would be interesting to read what amy sullivan has to say about all this. she's a professed christian.

Posted by: harry near indy on April 8, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

some of its adherents think you're going to hell if you don't believe that jesus is the messiah, you're going to hell.

if you say this, you insult every jewish citizen of the u.s.,

Posted by: harry near indy on April 8, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

So belief in no religion is required for political correctness?

------------------

Imagine if you cheated on your wife. She may forgive you. But someone is still hurt.

But she'll feel better after you torture a kitten to death to appease her.

Posted by: cowalker on April 8, 2006 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Like I said, even with Christ's sacrifice some people refuse to accept Christianity because it would extend grace to some nasty people if they were sincere.

View it in that perspective.

Posted by: mcA on April 8, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I've been irritated by comentators who claim this Gospel of Judas somehow counters the anti-semitic uses of Judas as traitor over the years; gnostics were not pro-semitic necessarily in any simple way.

I agree with your first sentence, but I don't think the sentence is a good reason for it; the real problems, as I see it, are: (a) the presumption that the discovery and translation of a text that was known at the time of the canon and rejected as heretical will magically shift perceptions in its direction, and thus transform mainstream Christians view of Judas, and (b) the further presumption that, despite the role the canonical version of the Judas story played historically in the development of anti-Semitism among Christians, that current Christian anti-Semitism, where it exists, is particularly tied to the Judas story, and (c) the idea that even if the perception of Judas did shift, and the perception of Judas was a major current focus of Christian anti-Semitism, the anti-Semites just wouldn't shift their focus and push harder on, say, the role of the Sanhedrin and the Jewish mob later in the drive to crucifixion.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 8, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Mushuweasel: Stargate SG-1 did touch on Christianity, though only indirectly (the Goa'uld fashioned himself on Satan after reading about Christian beliefs, rather than being the source for the Satan myth as is the usual thing).

If you're familiar with the show's "universe" this makes sense, though, since Christianity began long after the Goa'ulds were expelled from Earth. So as far as the show has explored things, no aliens we know of had anything to do with the origins of Christianity. I suppose in the Stargate universe they assume that some religions can rise on their own, just as we would generally hypothesize nowadays. Christianity obviously arose Judaism, which likely was influenced by even older myths. Stargate did touch on ancient mesopotamia at one point...

Anyway, I think what's more important than directly attacking some modern day religion is getting at the fundamental flaws of religion, and in that way Stargate seems to be taking on Christianity much more directly now with the new foes the Ori...

Posted by: Adam Piontek on April 8, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

The thing that annoys conservatives is that reading about this makes it clear that Christianity was constructed, not 'revealed'.

Posted by: cld on April 8, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

"If you're a person of orthodox faith, you believe that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, determined what writings were truly inspired by God."

Yet when the Church, say, tortured heretics and slaughtered infidels a bit later, that had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, of course.

Mighty convenient, that Holy Spirit guy, isn't he? He pops up just when you need him.

Posted by: Atheist on April 8, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I'm no expert on heresy (although the text sure seems to be written by someone trying to counter canonical accounts). No comment there.

But the Professor's final graph is ridiculous.

So why is the National Geographic peddling heresy at this precise moment in time? I'll give you a hint: May 19, 2006. It looks like a cheap attempt to cash in on the Da Vinci Code phenomenon just as the movie is about to be released.

Seems a lot more likely that it was timed to coincide with April 9th (Palm Sunday), April 14th (Good Friday), and April 16th (Easter). Our local paper has an article on rabbits this weekend. Multipronged heretical conspiracy by satan worshipping atheists in Holywood, local newspapers, and the national geographic society -- or timely articles concerning upcoming holiday? You decide.

Posted by: toast on April 8, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose if you're a fundamentalist, the uncovery of the gospel of Judas might freak you out.

For normal, well adjusted Christians, though, I can't see why it should.

To put it in perspective, no one gets all freaked out over the fact that there were several drafts of the declaration of independence, or upon discovering that the "founding fathers" argued and bickered over the form of government for the US and that the constitution is a result of compromise, not unified vision (well, no one except perhaps Scalia. And you could probably call him a religious fundamentalist, too. Hmm, maybe there's a connection?)

Posted by: moderleft on April 8, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, well I'm relieved to know that the determinations of the Church Fathers around 180 C.E. are supposed to define my dogma & beliefs. Here I was thinking I had to engage in lengthy Biblical scholarship, read different versions, pray for guidance, consider critically the degree to which the Bible is divinely inspired, and familiarize myself with some of the thousands of brilliant books written by the Christian thinkers of the last 1,920 years. But I was just being heterodox & heretical!

P.S. From what I know the Gospel of Judas, it actually doesn't bring much that will influence my thinking. But the other blog's writer clearly would not approve of the Gospel of Thomas, which shows he's a pro-heirarchy goon.

Posted by: MDtoMN on April 8, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh, well I'm relieved to know that the determinations of the Church Fathers around 180 C.E. are supposed to define my dogma & beliefs. Here I was thinking I had to engage in lengthy Biblical scholarship, read different versions, pray for guidance, ..."

Yes, I'm sure that works just as well as praying for people to recover from heart surgery.

Posted by: Atheist on April 8, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yet when the Church, say, tortured heretics and slaughtered infidels a bit later, that had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, of course.

Mighty convenient, that Holy Spirit guy, isn't he? He pops up just when you need him.

Posted by: Atheist on April 8, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Actually he does, once you let him.

The Catholic Church went through a bad patch and bad stuff did happen when it was a de facto government. And pretty much any government back in that time would be by modern standards, big on real torture and zealous death penalties.

Churches are made up of human beings. Imperfect as they are. I haven't seen many secular entities do better when they hit that scale and that many years.

Posted by: McA on April 8, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I'm sure that works just as well as praying for people to recover from heart surgery.

Posted by: Atheist on April 8, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, how come the nuns knew who had more complications and were able to concentrate their prayers on their group, even though the scientists were randomly allocating?

This was discussed in an earlier thread.

But as an atheist, you need every reason you can to deny him. Even a study whose conclusion is no statistical significance.

If you really didn't believe in him, you would be less emotional. Why waste time pushing your point of view on other people's fantasies?

Overcompensating by loud denials won't help. Settle up with him if you don't want to be afraid.

Posted by: McA on April 8, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

"For normal, well adjusted Christians, though, I can't see why it should. To put it in perspective, no one gets all freaked out over the fact that there were several drafts of the declaration of independence, or upon discovering that the "founding fathers" argued and bickered over the form of government for the US and that the constitution is a result of compromise, not unified vision"

People don't tend to try and convince themselves that the Declaration of Independence is The Inspired Word of God, or that it was Written Under The Guidance of the Holy Spirit, or that they should build their lives around the teachings of characters that appear in the Declaration of Independence.

That might have something to do with the difference. Call it a hunch.

Posted by: Atheist on April 8, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

The Inspired Word of God, or that it was Written Under The Guidance of the Holy Spirit...

Posted by: Atheist on April 8, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

So why do you care? I'm not big on Tooth Fairies. I don't run around protesting the Tooth Fairy. If it serves a purpose of distracting kids from the pain.

Not like going to Church means the Inquisition is back on. So the history thing doesn't matter.
And a moral foundation more solid than because of your 'consience' and 'just because' might not be a bad thing for society.

So my kids will think Atheists are stupid. So do I. A logical Atheist would save his energy and not make a deal out of it. Or worse, be totally amoral.

Posted by: McA on April 8, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

(Reposting what I write on the Bainbridge site;)


The problem with monotheism in the first place is that the absolute isn't one. It's zero. So the spiritual absolute wouldn't be an apex or point of reference from which we fell, but the essence out of which we rise. To the extent reality has form, it is a matter of balanced opposites, ie, yin/yang, matter/anti-matter, male/female, up/down, conservative/liberal, yes/no, good/bad, etc. When humanity was a tribe in the wilderness, leadership was simply a function of whomever was most effective. When we settled down and established a social order, those at the top had to justify their position. The two most effective ways to do this were; one: To present themselves as representatives of a higher order, rather then simply the highest point reached. Our current president still believes in this logic. Two: To focus on an enemy to define the us from the other. Osama bin Ladin and George Bush need each other.
The alternative is to understand the dualistic nature of reality. There are always two sides of the coin, even if we only can see one at a time. It is interesting we should have this seventeen hundred year old example of people trying to understand both sides of a situation when even today so many people are still being controlled by one track thinking and leaders playing on fear and claiming their own divinity.

Posted by: brodix on April 8, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

When are people going to figure out that Gnosticism was simply the Scientology of the 4th century? Do you think people in 1500 years will be giving L Ron Hubbard such respect?

Posted by: Tony A on April 8, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

"When are people going to figure out that Gnosticism was simply the Scientology of the 4th century?"

What a stupid analogy. Scientology is not an alternative form of Christianity, it's a completely different religion. The relationship between the Gnostic and dominant strains of Christianity in early Christian history was more like the relationship between the Protestant and Catholic strains of Christianity during the Reformation.

Posted by: bruce on April 8, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The politics of religion are highly interesting.

Most of the Old Testament is based on Chaldean texts (almost all of Genesis) that came to be known by the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity. Most of the "New" Testament is what survived the political struggles of those determined to sell out their beliefs for a bowl of cold Roman porridge and power over the rubes with Centurions to enforce it. In fact, the Catholic Church is just all the paganisms of the Mediterranean and Europe glossed over by turning this or that local "god" into a plaster statue of a "saint" so the local populace could be "converted."

And then we get to the most-political, least-accurate translation of all these previously politically-chosen texts, the King James Version, which the fundamentalists worship as the "inerrant word of God" when it was just a collection of hackery by asskissers working for the King to justify his Kingship and provide authority to put down the Catholics of the Scottish highlands he was leaving behind.

As to Bainbridge being an idiot or not, he's just your standard issue "conservative" who proves by his existence that the word is a synonym for "cretin."

Posted by: TCinLA on April 8, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Not like going to Church means the Inquisition is back on. So the history thing doesn't matter.
And a moral foundation more solid than because of your 'consience' and 'just because' might not be a bad thing for society.

So my kids will think Atheists are stupid. So do I. A logical Atheist would save his energy and not make a deal out of it. Or worse, be totally amoral.

Well, we could do the obvious, and cite the many sceptics and freethinkers who've lived lives that are exemplary, by pretty much anyone's standards. Just for yucks, we could contrast those with the far larger assortment of notorious characters who brought nothing but ignorance and cruelty to the world, in the name of "faith".

But that's easy. It's more interesting to point out that here's where the religionists show their hand. For all their talk about morality and virtue, they can't seem to imagine that these impulses come from within. One gets the sense that, were the church not telling them to do otherwise, people like McA might be up to all kinds of mischief and depravity. So instead, it haunts their dreams....

Posted by: sglover on April 8, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Is National Geographic "peddling heresy"?

How could they "peddle heresy?" They aren't a Catholic publication, so they can't possibly be heretics. They are peddling a worldview that slaps Stephen upside the head, but then again he is perfectly within his rights not to buy the magazine.

Posted by: Jay on April 8, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce,

That's absolute crap. Do you even know what Gnosticism is all about? Gnosticism: The God of the Old Testament is evil, and this guy created the world. Hence matter is evil. The real God cam to rescue our spirits from matter, which just traps our soul. (This is why they think Jesus was just a spirit, or a ghost if you like, as since the body was evil, he couldn't have a body) Look at Scientology: evil galactic warlard Xenu traps thetans in human bodies, and thetans need to escape. This is nothing more than Gnosticism dressed up as science fiction. And don't forget-- Gnosticism professes that only a small elite have access to this hidden "knowledge". Same with Scientology-- reach OT levels if you pay lots and lots of money and don't dare tell anybody about what we really believe!

Posted by: Tony A on April 8, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Tony A,

The Gnostic Gospels, which include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas, are an additional set of Christian gospels that describe very different versions of the nature, life and teachings of Jesus Christ than the canonical gospels, and that are central to the Gnostic tradition of Christianity. Scientology is not a tradition Christianity at all. It's a completely different religion. That's why your comparison is so absurd.

Posted by: bruce on April 8, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce,

You are missing the point that not all forms of gnosticism are Christian. Examine Zoroastrianism, and there were also Jewish gnostics. Tony A is trying to make a case that Scientology is gnostic in its fundamental outlook and that may be so. It would't be surprising to me since most religions that have their roots in American culture are gnostic. Read the American Religion by Harold Bloom.

Posted by: Stuart on April 8, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, of course there were other forms of Gnosticism. But Gnosticism wasn't "the Scientology of the 4th Century." The Gnostic Gospels are a set of Christian texts. Scientology is a distinct religion, not a tradition or version within another religion.

Tony A isn't trying to make any kind of serious point, he's just trying to discredit gnostic Christianity by associating it with a contemporary religion that is widely considered to be phony and disreputable.

Posted by: bruce on April 8, 2006 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce, I think the point is that gnosicism and scientology are both bullshit.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 9, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

And gnosticism too.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 9, 2006 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously, Tony A thinks Gnostic Christianity, but presumably not the more common variety, is bullshit, and he wants other people to think that too. He just can't seem to come up with an actual argument to support that proposition.

Posted by: bruce on April 9, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

The basic argument for the bullshit of gnosticism vs. orthodox Xianity and Judaism, is that its a dodge from responsibility, "Oh, this isn't the real me molesting this child; it's my filthy body. The real me is spiritual and untainted by the evil world. My goal is to escape my body and the world and be one with the All (or something.)"

As far as I can tell, Scientology is such bullshit it doesn't even make this much sense,

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 9, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

"The basic argument for the bullshit of gnosticism vs. orthodox Xianity and Judaism, is that its a dodge from responsibility,"

Huh? Do please quote the passages from the Gospel of Judas, or any other gnostic text, that you think teaches people to "dodge responsibility."

There are certainly plenty of morally troubling teachings in the canonical gospels, from the prohibition of divorce and remarriage to the doctrine of eternal damnation for sin.

Posted by: bruce on April 9, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

A absolutely think Gnosticism is bullshit, as I think all creation, including the human body, is good. To assume otherwise is patholigical. I also hate the horrible elitism inherent in Gnosticism.

Even you you are a non-believer, face facts: "orthodoxy" is what the church believed from the beginning. Gnosticism died out because people smelled the bullshit, not because of anything Constantine did. Believing Dan Brown on the history of Christianity is akin to believing George W. Bush on weapons of mass destruction!

Posted by: Tony A on April 9, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

bruce, i gave you the argument for how gnosticism seeks to avoid responsibility; you'll have to take the responsibility to read and understand it. Tony A. says it again: gnosticism despises the physicality of life and seeks to deny it.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 9, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ace Franze,

You didn't give an argument, you made a claim. I asked you to back that claim up with a quote from the gnostic texts. You haven't done that.

Posted by: bruce on April 9, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Tony A,

"Even you you are a non-believer, face facts: "orthodoxy" is what the church believed from the beginning."

"Orthodoxy" is merely the version of Christianity favored by the sect that prevailed in the political infighting between different groups of Christians in early Christian history and institutionalized by the Roman Empire. That obviously doesn't mean it's the most true or most historically accurate version of Christianity. It doesn't mean it's true at all. As Elaine Pagels puts it:

"the unexpected discovery at Nag Hammadi in 1945 of more than 50 ancient Christian texts proved what church fathers said long ago: that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are only a small selection of gospels from among the dozens that circulated among early Christian groups."

Posted by: e1 on April 9, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Well, since atheism has decided to champion Gnostic heresy. I would suggest you all
begin avoiding 'this world'.

If you all think Christianity tells you what to do, you should try the hair shirts & floggings.

Posted by: McA on April 10, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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