Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Book Review: The Gospel of Judas

The Gospel of Judas edited by Rodolphe Kasser, Marin Meyer & Gregor Wurst (also includes an essay by Bart Ehrman) ****

If you want to know all the details about the race to preserve this exciting discovery, the science, etc., this book is not the one you want. That is evidently the focus of the companion book to this one, The Lost Gospel by Bart D. Ehrman. If, however, you want the actual translation of the Gospel of Judas with copious explanatory footnotes and essays that put it into some context, I highly recommend this book. One reviewer referred those who are only interested in reading the gospel to the NY Times website; however, the National Geographic site has the whole thing available for download with no registration required. I personally found the footnotes (only available in this book) to be very helpful in disentangling some of the theology and terminology used.

The essays are also well-written and illuminating, especially if the reader is not familiar with gnosticism. (These readers may also find it helpful to read the essays first and then the contents of the manuscript.)

Hype notwithstanding, this discovery is not about to shake the foundations of Christianity, but I hope that it will stimulate interest by Christians in the origins of their faith and the exciting ferment of ideas that existed during the first couple of centuries until all debate was shut down by the new establishment, the official religion of the Roman Empire. For the most part the “secret revelations” given by Jesus to “Judas” are boilerplate gnosticism, although even a glimpse of that system of thought, alien as it now is to most of us, may stimulate readers to learn more. I highly recommend Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels as a readable introduction; although several years old it is still in print. Ehrman’s Lost Christianities is a more recent exposition of the many “Christianities” that fought it out in the early centuries.

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