Things Noted Here and There
The week's biggest story on the ancient Mediterranean front is probably National Geographic's release of a translation of The Gospel of Judas. For 1800 years, it was known only by the early orthodox Christians' condemnation of it. Discovered by looters thirty years ago, it languished in the antiquarian underground until recently. Like the Gospel of Thomas, it speaks for an early Christian gnosticism that came to be regarded as heretical. The Gospel of Judas is particularly interesting for its radical alternative to the traditional understanding of the relationship of Judas to Jesus. The manuscript will be featured in a museum exhibit, opening on 7 April in Washington, a major television broadcast on 9 April, and two books: The Gospel of Judas, a translation, and The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, the story of the manuscript's recovery. You can read excerpts from it here and about it in today's Times and Post.
Memory of war becomes warring memory in China's expansion of its museum of Unit 731 and the Japanese atrocities committed there.
The new Common-Place is up! April's theme is Money. Joyce Appleby's"Money, Money, Money," a study of the 17th century's effort to understand it, caught my eye, but there are lots of other good things, as well. The March issue of History Now is still up. Women's History Month sets the theme, with good articles by Ellen DuBois, Sara Evans, Ann Scott, and others.
Finally, there's"David Horowitz v. Ward Churchill.""Oh my g_d. What an appalling thought," says Cary Nelson."Maybe the sky will fall on both of them." Rob Capriccioso and Scott Smallwood cover it, so you and Margaret Soltan and I didn't have to be there.
Ben W. Brumfield - 4/7/2006
Pagels provides a highly accessible introduction to Gnostic literature, but not, unfortunately, a very accurate one.
Many novice readers of Pagels get the impression that Gnostic gospels were the only alternatives to the canonical gospels, that their composition was contemporaneous with the canonicals, that the Gnostic tradition possessed equal continuity with the early Judeo-Christian tradition as orthodoxy did, and (most amusignly) that the Gnostic gospels are less sexist, less supernatural than the canonicals.
It's not that Pagels is intentionally deceptive -- she has interesting points to make to those who are more familiar with second and third century literature -- just that she writes so well that people who aren't aware of her omissions think they're getting the whole story.
Jonathan Rees - 4/7/2006
Everything I know about this general subject I know from reading Elaine Pagels, but it kind of shocks me that most people don't know that there any supressed Gospels. Maybe the publicity around this one will change that.
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