It strikes me as curious when I hear the very same people who demand (as we all should) the strictest accounting of the truth in the Hello Garci wiretapping scandal or the May 2004 election fraud controversy require lesser standards when it comes to the truth of the so-called lost Gospel of Judas (or Dan Brown’s fiction-marketed-as-fact bestseller, The Da Vinci Code).
Shouldn’t we use the same standards in ascertaining the truth in these religious controversies? I’m afraid, though, that the very word "religious" is seen as license for muddling through. Either that, or our standards betray our priorities.
The notion the eminent Randy David entertains in his column today, that the Judas text makes Christianity more "interesting," seems to me to fall far short of truth’s highest standards.
Strictly from a sociological standpoint, I think the discovery of the Gospel of Judas makes Christianity a far more interesting religion than what centuries of metaphysical theology has made of it. It restores to it a powerful historicity. It makes it less dogmatic, and it creates room for more interpretative readings of the Scriptures.
I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that Christianity never lost its powerful, almost overwhelming sense of historicity; I think the prominent sociologist (and leading anti-Arroyo critic) misappreciates the "dogmatic" value of a third- or fourth-century Coptic copy of a second-century Greek original (compared with the first-century New Testament texts); I believe he waxes overly romantic about the possibilities of "more interpretative readings" of the Scriptures.
If we demand to know exactly what happened in the 2004 elections or how the Garci wiretaps came to be, we should also demand (or require) of our selves and the relevant institutions exactly how the Scriptures came to be. The rigor of knowledge is different from the cozy, please-feel-right-at-home expansiveness of "interpretation."
PS. Today’s Inquirer editorial reaches the conclusion that the gospel of Judas is not Scripture precisely because of what’s missing: the resurrection story.
In other words, if a gospel is correctly understood as a faith account, the Judas text accounts only for faith in Judas. The Jesus who appears in the gospel of Judas is a lesser figure — quick to laugh at his disciples’ ignorance, quicker to share supposed secrets with a favorite. (One of those secrets, not coincidentally, is that he is only an angel. No wonder the early Church fathers condemned the text.)
We are asked to believe in Judas, but at Jesus’ expense.