by Gene Edward Veith
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not enough for many denizens of the twenty-first century. In their search for a more palatable Jesus, novelists such as Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code, feminist theologians such as Elaine Pagels, and their acolytes in the media and pop culture are turning to the apocryphal gospels of the early heretics. These are alleged to contain a valid, alternative version of early Christianity, one that can support today’s feminism and moral permissiveness. But comparing the New Testament Gospels to those written centuries later only confirms that these writings are works of history.
Do you remember the furor over the recent discovery of an ancient manuscript entitled The Gospel of Judas? The media reported that the document presented Judas as a good guy who turned Jesus over only because Jesus told him to. The reports implied that the church had gotten it wrong over all these centuries, that Judas was no sinister betrayer but a leading disciple to whom Jesus imparted special knowledge. The media coverage indicated that we would now have to re-evaluate our knowledge of Jesus. The translation became a best-seller and National Geographic, which was behind the publication of the text, made a TV documentary on the subject.
But have you heard the rest of the story? The media that hyped The Gospel of Judas has not been as vigilant in reporting how scholars have been shooting down all of these claims, to the point of accusing the National Geographic of “scholarly malpractice.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, though, has shown how genuine scholarship got hijacked by media sensationalism, pop-culture superficiality, and commercial temptations.
The media left out the little detail that the manuscript had Judas not turning in Jesus at His request to atone for the sins of the world; rather, Judas was bent on sacrificing Jesus to a demon named Saklas. So much for this being an alternative Christian tradition…
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