Not Every "Gospel" is Good News

Since no one has taken a bite from the apple, let me begin the discussion on the "Gospel of Judas."

From the reports I've read and seen, the reconstruction of the text seems to be an impressive achievement that provides further insight into early Gnosticism.

The propaganda blitz and the timing of the release certainly raise questions about the agenda driving the spectacle. A number of those granted access and engaged as commentators seem intent on relativizing the importance of the canonical Gospels and minimizing or ignoring issues of theological substance. Their disposition comes across as the equivalent of: "hey, there are all these stories and you take your pick."

I think that the attitude is the one Robert Bellah in Habits of the Heart termed "expressive individualism." But, before Bellah, Cardinal Newman referred to the "liberalism" for which matters of truth were reduced to mere opinion and preference.

Most of all, however, from a religious point of view, I find the "Gospel" of Judas no gospel at all. Not merely because its literary form is not that of the life death and new life of the Savior, but because it is utterly devoid of Good News. There is nothing in it to call forth faith, hope, and love. Nothing that would arouse Paul to exclaim: "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor 1:23-25).

If the Judas text was not acccepted by the early Church, the issue is not "power,"
but authentic spiritual discernment.

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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