Found: Missing Link, Missing Gospel
The National Geographic Society unleashed two big news stories yesterday: they’ve found the “missing link” evolutionists have been seeking for years, and they’ve uncovered yet another lost gospel – the Gospel of Judas.
The “missing link” is a new species of fish, fossils of which were found in the Canadian Arctic. Researchers uncovered three nearly complete fossils measuring up to nine feet long. The fish has leg-like fins and “other features characteristic of land animals, including ribs, a neck, and nostrils on its snout for breathing air.”
So the “Darwin fish” you see on the bumpers of cars – the fish with legs – is apparently a reality.
The Gospel of Judas was all over the news yesterday (here’s the NPR story, and here’s the National Geographic website about it). From the New York Times news story: “In this version, Jesus asked Judas, as a close friend, to sell him out to the authorities, telling Judas he will ‘exceed’ the other disciples by doing so.”
You can download the English text as a 7-page pdf document at the National Geographic site.
I’m very interested in seeing what biblical scholars make of this new gospel, especially since it contains elements that sound homophobic (at least upon a first reading).
In the text (manuscript pages 38 to 40), Jesus asks his disciples what the temple priests are like. The disciples then list several sins they accuse the priests of commiting: “[some] sacrifice their own children, others their own wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name].” Jesus tells the disciples that they are just like those priests, and he then repeats the list of their sins, including “those who sleep with men” (listed just after “slayers of children”).
This shouldn’t be too surprising in a text that apparently comes from the Sethian sect of Gnostics (equating Adam’s son Seth with Christ, which the Gospel of Judas explicitly does on manuscript page 52). They had a very dualistic view of spirit as good and matter, including the physical body, as evil. In fact, that’s why Judas is seen as good – Jesus tells him “you will sacrifice the man that clothes me,” i.e., his physical body (manuscript page 56).
Those of us who believe in the traditional Christian view of the incarnation do not view Jesus’ body as evil, nor do we view our own bodies as evil. Our bodies are the temple of God, not the prison of the soul as the Sethian Gnostics believed.
The Sufi tradition also affirms the sacredness of the body. Hazrat Inayat Khan, the teacher who brought Sufism to the west, said, “This is not my body, this is the temple of God.” He also affirmed the holiness of nature, God’s physical creation: “There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature.”
So while the story of this lost gospel is fascinating – and as a theology geek, I’m sure I’ll watch the two hour special about it on the National Geographic Channel Sunday night – it’s hardly an affirming text for those of us who believe in the holiness of the physical body.
The photo above, from the National Geographic Society, shows the last page of the codex. The final words read “Gospel of Judas.”
Addendum: Once again I've had to change the settings for this blog to only allow comments that I have moderated and determined to be appropriate. Here's what's not appropriate (and what I've deleted): incoherent rants; lengthy, badly-written sermons [my blog is not your pulpit]; off-topic posts about the evils of The Da Vinci Code. Also, I will not approve any anonymous comments. I value feedback from serious readers of this blog, and I apologize to them for any inconvenience.