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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Enter Judas, Stage Left
Let me give you a small sample of the competing Old and New Testament stories that the early Church had to evaluate. There was the so-called Apocrypha: The First Book of Adam and Eve, The Second Book of Adam and Eve, the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, Testament of Reuben, Testament of Zebulon, the Gospel of St. Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, Biblical Antiquities of Philo. That’s just for starters.The early Church also had to deal with the Gnostic Gospels — the Gospel of Judas is one of these — that preached a co-equal God the Mother and God the Father, a role for Mary Magdalene far superior to that found elsewhere in the Gospels, the belief that the Resurrection should be viewed in strictly symbolic terms, and that the path to God was through self-knowledge rather than loyalty to Church authority.Some of these narratives were rejected by the early Church because they offered interpretations of Christ’s teachings that clashed with those found in a wide variety of other sources. Some were simply not verifiable enough for the Church to accept them as valid, even though they proposed nothing unsound in doctrinal terms. The point is that the early Church did not “cover up” these Gnostic understandings of Jesus’ life and teachings found in the Gospel of Judas; it did not “cover up” Dan Brown’s notions of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The early Church rejected them because they found them to be eccentric, novelties, unfounded. They remain eccentric, novelties and unfounded.

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