Segment One- Last night CNN aired the ‘Gospel of Judas’ and it begins – sadly – with an idiotic claim. To wit – “Now new evidence rewrites the story of Jesus and Judas”. Um, NO, it doesn’t. But of course that won’t dissuade our narrator from claiming so.
Moss and Goodacre state the facts regarding Judas. And then ‘The Lost Gospel of Judas’ shows up with David Gibson claiming that ‘why Judas betrayed Jesus is the question of the Gospels’. Um, NO, it isn’t. Witherington suggests that Judas may have been the first of Jesus’ disciples.
[Note- the program writers should have consulted Schweitzer, who understood Judas better than CNN ever can hope to].
The wasted perfume features in the segment too. For the CNN folk it’s the event which drives Judas to betray Jesus. The tensions of Passover are also discussed and described and not wrongly. CNN manages not to get everything wrong (when it has actual scholars doing the talking).
Segment Two- The motive of Judas is examined. It probably wasn’t greed (according to Martin). Maybe Judas was a zealot and he wanted to push Jesus to act more radically. McCane stands in the Crusader period ‘traditional site of the Last Supper’ without bothering to point out the impossibility of identifying the place as such. The reenactment of the Last Supper is off base- Jesus and the group sitting at tables…. sitting. At tables…. But it’s an ominous time.
Gethsemene is next. The Presbyterian says Jesus is in such agony that he’s ‘sweating blood’. A common misunderstanding but totally inaccurate. The Gospels never say he sweated blood. Oh well… The arrest and the rest of the story brings the segment to a close. The third will bring our attention to the ‘lost’ ‘Gospel of Judas’ which will shed ‘new light’ on events.
Segment Three- Black market antiquities… the ‘discovery of the codex’ and the attempt to sell it which doesn’t happen until 2 decades later. The whole segment describes the terrible nature of the document’s treatment and the way it was handled and frozen and stored. It’s a real ancient manuscript (apparently) and it made its eventual debut in 2006. It paints a different picture of Jesus (so of course Pagels has to appear). Only Judas has the courage to speak to Jesus and to whom Jesus speaks as a special friend and all sorts of secrets the other disciples are not privy to.
Segment Four- The author of the so called ‘Gospel of Judas’ is angry at the leaders of the church in the second century. The ‘Gospel of Judas’ is a critique of mainstream Christianity and clericalism.
[So of course Pagels loves it because, like its ancient author, she too dislikes the Church].
Segment Five- History still refuses to appreciate Judas. Why is the text called the ‘Gospel of Judas’? Because the author wanted to be controversial and highlight the figure which the early Church despised.
[Which makes it sound more like something that John Spong would write in order to get publicity and attention].
The return to the Gospel account of Judas ends the episode. Judas rejects the blood money he’s been given and then he exterminates himself. This is the most tragic story of all (opines Martin). The Presbyterian feels ‘sorry for Judas’. And Witherington suggests that while we can’t rehabilitate Judas we can have empathy for him.
In all, a fairly good episode in spite of various stumbles along the way. The ‘Gospel of Judas’ wasn’t misrepresented and its place in Church history was described accurately. The talking heads provided no surprises, each doing what we would expect. I.e., Goodacre and Martin and Moss simply stating the historical facts. Pagels and McCane offering their ‘we love anything gnostic’ viewpoint, and the Presbyterian being very pious if not always biblically literate.
I have to confess, I actually didn’t hate it. So, next week’s episode will, hopefully, not be wretched.