Monday, May 22, 2006

Thoughts on the Judas gospel

As an archaeologist, people seem to think that I must have some strong feelings about the Gospel of Judas, which was recently published in part by National Geographic. At first I pointed out that I'm not a biblical scholar and the gospel was not excavated so I really don't have much to say about it. But having been asked numerous times now, I suppose I have to take a position. But it's not so easy as some may think. There is the whole ethical question.

What ethical question?

The gospel has a very questionable past and it smacks of black-market antiquities deals which archaeologists abhor. We make our livelihood by excavating things in situ and the black-market is the biggest threat to our jobs, let alone the destruction of sites eradicates the usefulness of most artifacts.

But note that I say "most" artifacts.

Yes, I may be an archaeologist, but I'd like to think that I'm also a realist. There are some things that are still useful even without archaeological context and texts are one of those things. The gospel can be dated without statigraphy and what is written is more important that the pottery that may have gone with it. GASP!

So do I think that the AIA and ASOR are correct in refusing to publish all unproven artifacts? Er. Lets not get into that right now, you were asking about the Gospel of Judas.

Is it is real? Yes. But, and it is a big BUT, it is not the actual writings of Judas Iscariot. Honestly people, when was he supposed to write a gospel? The man purportedly hung himself after Jesus was arrested, I doubt he stopped to dictate his memoirs. What we have here is a gnostic gospel written by an observant gnostic Christian in the spirit of Judas. What? you say. Yes, it has happened before - well obviously since the thing is over a thousand years old. The gnostics were an interesting group of Christians that felt that you could, in fact, not only understand God, but all of the characters involved in the Bible, through prayer and possibly several other mystical and now lost practices.

If you are curious, read E. Pagels "The Gnostic Gospels" available through Amazon and wherever such books are sold.

This of course raises a curious question, are any of the accepted gospels other "in-the-spirit-of-the-disciple X"? But that is another discussion all together and one for biblical scholars to debate. I am just a lowly archaeologist, digging in the dirt for her provenienced artifacts.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it clean, don't be mean....