The discovery of the Gospel of Judas has not only given as an insight into the formation of present day Christianity, but has also exposed the non-spiritual techniques the Church Fathers have used to promote the Gospels they favoured.
Why do these conclusions continue to be drawn by biblical scholars, as if the canonical gospels are any more accurate (or “peerless”) theologies and histories than the non-canonical gospels? All these texts are theologies, and whether or not they are “peerless” depends upon where you are standing. None of our texts are histories, let alone accurate histories. And how much historical information we can actually reap out of any of them, and the procedures for doing so, are questions more problematic than not.
As for the accuracy of the Church Fathers’ descriptions. Their accuracy is not how I frame any discussion of a normative debate. The Church Fathers passed on false information, ill-informed interpretations, and fabricated stories in their struggle against those forms of Christianity that they hated. As the old saying goes, “All is fair in love and war.”
As scholars, it is our job to stop buying into the normative rhetoric, and figure out what was really going on on the ground. The Gospel of Judas helps us tremendously in this venture. We can see that it was not connected with Cain or the Cainites as some of the Church Father testimony suggests. It is written by Sethians, for whom Cain was an evil Archon! The evidence from the Gospel of Judas leads me to conclude that the Cainites were a fantasy of the Church Fathers, a result of their war to become the dominant form of Christianity.[Short Article on Gospel of Judas]
While Biblical scholars claim that the Bible is not history, the more Catholic than the Pope types like Max Muller have used the Bible to produce imaginary dates for the composition of the Vedas based on the creation of the world sometime in 4000 BC. Unfortunately those imaginary dates are still taken seriously.
4 thoughts on “Historical Fabrications”
I am not sure what you mean by the non-spiritual techniques of the Church Fathers. The Gnostics made up lies about Jesus, even the author you quoted admits this (she says “We must keep in mind that this gospel is not a historical representation of what happened between Jesus and his disciples, but is a historical representation of the opinion of the Sethian Gnostics about the apostolic Christians”).
So what is wrong with the Apostolic Church Fathers denouncing those who lied about Jesus? Isn’t it a good thing to denounce those who lie?
How do you know Gnostics made up lies aboutn Jesus?
The Canonical Gospels ad the gospels of the Gnostics are opinions of two different groups. One of them got official approval and the other did not. Both versions should co-exist and the attempts by the Church Fathers to supress the ones they did not like was wrong.
Well, for one, the canonical gospels came first, they are consistent with the Jewish background of Jesus, and they aren’t based on “secret teachings.”
Just casually reading the gnostic stuff reveals that they are mythological. Many people claim the real gospels are mythological, but you don’t realize how down-to-earth they are until you read the mythological treatment of Jesus given in the gnostic material.
Why didn’t the gnostic gospels get approval? Because they weren’t true! Why should a false picture, an historical lie, be kept alive? If the claims about Jesus are even a little bit true, getting the story accurately is very important!
Both canonical and gnostic gospels are interpretations of history by people with some agenda. You cannot say what is truth, but just say you like one other than the other. Both of them contain mythological stuff and just because the canonical ones contain less mythological stuff does not mean that that can be accepted.
There are many ways to theology and explaining something the mythologically is also fine and that cannot be a reason to put down a gospel.
“So there is less confidence extracting history from them – although most scholars remain confident about extracting history from canonical texts, even though these stories are graced with virgin births, feeding miracles, walking on water, healing miracles, visions of the dead on high mountains, and the pinnacle of all, the physical resurrection of Jesus. How are these stories any different from the young Jesus making clay birds and clapping his hands, bringing them to life?”
“As for whether or not the non-canonical materials provide us with alternative ways to interpret Christ – this is a contemporary theological concern, not a historical one of mine. A person’s desire to deny the possibility of alternative interpretations seems to me to reflect his or her desire to maintain the status quo of the Christian tradition today. This is an issue of self-preservation, not history. Do the non-canonical texts provide alternative interpretations of Christ? Certainly. But whether or not a person finds those meaningful today, is a theological question controlled as much by church leaders as it is by the flock.”