What Really Happened When the Angel Appeared to Mary?

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation- so I thought I would dig a little deeper (thank you, CNN and Discovery Channel and History Channel for your awesome research archives!) and find out what Mary REALLY said.  It turns out that she wasn’t quite so fearful as Luke would lead us to believe.


I’m so glad we live in a time when our tv networks want us to learn and not just be entertained or titillated.

Live DVR Delayed Blogging ‘Finding Jesus’ – The Judas Episode

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.

Why Is there So Much Talk About the Bible Lately in the Media?

News outlets and websites and tv channels are only talking about the Bible because it’s almost #Easter and they only  #WantToCashInOnChristianity.

Make no mistake: they have no interest at all if their interest is part-time except in making a quick buck off gullible Christianity.  They also have no interest in the facts.  In fact, the more sensational and idiotic the claim or portrayal, the better the networks, websites and news outlets like it.  Nonsense sells.  That’s the bottom line.

If you really want to put an end to all the misrepresentation and misprision, don’t shop anywhere that advertises on one of the aforementioned specials and write the news network, tv channel, or website that features them to express your disdain.

Luther Makes Slate…

Who knew anyone at Slate had so much as heard of Luther, much less had become familiar with the long-known (in learned quarters) Insult Generator.

The Lutheran Insulter has been around since 2012, but has not yet gotten the attention it deserves. It’s a database of spicy, withering trash talk taken from the disputatious writings of Martin Luther, who invented Protestantism and called the pope a “fart-ass.” Below are some examples, but please also visit the site for yourself.

Welcome on board the delights of Luther, Slate.  Better late than never.  But, ‘invented Protestantism’?  Please take a history course.

This Sunday’s ‘Finding Jesus’ Will Have to Do Some Really Heavy Lifting In Order Not to Be an Utter Disappointment

CNN describes the episode thusly:

In 1978 the gospel of Judas was discovered in the Geneva antiquities black market among ancient Greek and Egyptian manuscripts. The relic was hidden in a bank vault for the next two decades, but many pages were lost and broken into more than a thousand fragments due to poor care of its fragile papyrus.

Black market unprovenanced materials are useless for historical reconstruction.  It’s that simple.  That’s why the show will have to do some really heavy lifting in order not to be an utter romp in the land of folly.

By 2006, the fragments were authenticated, restored, and translated, shedding new light on Jesus’s teachings and the treacherous events before his death.

Well let’s not be hasty.  Authenticated?  That’s not true at all. Maybe restored (but how would they know if they didn’t know the full form of the document in the first place?).  And translated (ok whatever).

This Sunday, experts explain how the gospel of Judas gives us a different take on history’s most hated traitor. You won’t want to miss it. http://cnn.it/1DaeDXk‪#‎FindingJesus‬

It doesn’t really give us a different take on history’s most hated traitor (that’s just sensationalism).  It just gives us an unimportant unprovenanced inauthentic something or other that has no bearing either on Church history or Christian theology (since there’s no way of asserting with any sort of certainty that the thing is what we’re told it is).

You may want to miss it.  I’ll DVR it and go through it Monday.  I hope it doesn’t turn out to be what I expect it will.  I hope the talking heads will point out all the problems with it.  But given the episodes that have already aired, there’s bound to be 50% ‘it’s the real thing and we should really care about what it says’ representation.

This Made Me Sad

Mark is more than just a CNN consultant.  He’s a very solid scholar who has written several important books on Q and Thomas.  He’s an expert in New Testament and Historical Jesus questions.  But Biblical Archaeology Review doesn’t care anything about that.  Instead, they have chosen to ‘market’ Mark only in terms of a special presently airing on CNN.


BAR has, in my opinion, debased Mark and he deserves better treatment than that.  If the ‘selling point’ for the lecture series isn’t what Mark has written, how interested, really, is BAR in scholarship and how much in profiting from a high profile name?

Mark is being mark-eted and it’s offensive.