Friday, April 07, 2006

New Gospel Discovered!

Last fall, I spoke on the phone with a certain archaeologist friend who had just gone out to lunch with a couple other biblical scholars and Dr. Craig Evans*, the evangelical Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament scholar/author. Dr. Evans secretly told them, under dim lights and the din of a bistro lunch crowd, that an ancient document has been uncovered in Egypt, a lost document that we have only heard referred to in other sources, namely Josephus, but have never actually found. It's a document that relates to Jesus, and will make a big impact on the archaeological/biblical literature world, according to Evans. But being under a confidentiality agreement, he could not share any detail. He said it would be publicized in the Spring.

Well, it is now Spring, and this morning as I was enjoying my orange juice and whole wheat English muffin with strawberry jam, I picked up the Ottawa Citizen and smack on the front page I saw it: "Ultimate Traitor Redeemed: Judas did as Jesus asked. Ancient document suggests Christ requested 'betrayal'." There it was. A 1,600 year old papyrus manuscript found in the Egyptian desert has been translated and authenticated as the lost Gospel of Judas (click to explore the document).

Now, we have many gnostic gospels out there, all very ancient, but obviously bogus, like the Gospel of Joseph where little Jesus helps his carpenter father fix a measurement mistake by 'stretching' a plank to be the right size. Or the Gospel of Thomas where young Jesus yells at his friend which actually kills him, only to raise him back to life so he wouldn't get in trouble. He also entertains all his playmates by making birds out of clay which then fly away into the sky. Every aspiring writer in the first few centuries wanted to contribute to the Jesus phenomenon. Kind of like the Da Vinci Code. How many rip-offs are there now? 200? A heard a publisher say that they receive numerous Da Vinci Code style manuscript submissions every single day, which they just cast aside. Should it surprise us that there are false gospels? Not at all.

Craig Evans was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen: "The gospel of Judas turns Judas's act of betrayal into an act of obedience," said Craig Evans, professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, N.S., who helped interpret the document. "The sacrifice of Jesus's body of flesh in fact becomes saving. And so for that reason, Judas emerges as the champion and he ends up being envied and even cursed and resented by the other disciples."

Wow. Andrew Lloyd Webber apparently had his own copy of this document because that is exactly the premise of Jesus Christ Superstar! Judas the Hero. I'm not at all surprised by the content of this papyrus. It's nothing new, we've heard it all before. Now what would be really interesting is if archaeologists found Paul's real 1st letter to the Corinthians. In our 1 Cor. he alludes to the other letters he's already written. Imagine finding more instruction from the Apostle? Maybe I should write a false one and make a hit Broadway rock opera out of it!

Anyway, you can read today's breaking news article here.

*Craig Evans has written
  • Jesus and the Ossuaries, of which I have a signed copy
  • The New Internat'l Biblical Commentary of Luke, of which I have signed copy
  • Who was Jesus: a Jewish-Christian Dialogue
  • Jesus and Empire: the Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder
  • Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Christian Beginnings And the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith
  • plus many other commentaries and books, etc., all of which I'd like to have signed copies.