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Holy Spirit Interactive: The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas and Other Nonsense

The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas and Other Nonsense

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Judas Code

Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza is also on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center. This is what he has to say about the Gospel of Judas, in an article published in the National Post:

In the year 4006, an enterprising team from Global Geographic announces that experts in late second-millennium languages and data retrieval have pieced together an authentic copy of the longrumoured-to-exist Da Vinci Code.

Religious experts say that the discovery challenges traditional Christian doctrine, as the widely circulated document shows that early-21stcentury Christians believed that Jesus was not divine, had married Mary Magdalene, founded a royal dynasty, etc … It is believed that early fourth-millennium Vatican officials suppressed the sacred text.

That is more or less the story of the much-ballyhooed Gospel of Judas. It is, no doubt, a remarkable historical find - an apparently authentic fourth-century copy of a second-century document. But it tells us no more about Christian doctrine than does Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

About 180 A.D., St. Irenaeus of Lyons referred to the document in his arguments with the heretics of his day. So likely there was a group in the mid-second-century that was peddling false gospels. It wouldn't be the last time.

During the Holy Week, at every Catholic Mass in the world, St. Mark's account of the passion of Jesus was read. About Judas, Jesus says, "For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born" (Mark 14:21). That addresses rather forthrightly the claim that Judas was not a traitor but a clandestine saint.

For those of a more conspiratorial mindset - then and now - even the most direct statements can be turned inside out against their plain meaning. So leave aside the claims that the Gospel of Judas is supposed to advance. What remains interesting is why there should be such interest in it.

The first reason is that Christianity is a historical religion. It depends on actual events in history. Like our elder brothers the Jews, our faith is not about abstract principles or mythical stories. It is about the gritty stuff of history. From the promise made to Abraham to the empty tomb, the Christian faith depends on what happened to the God who became man and walked among us. That is why the historical record matters; it is why Christians are interested in archaeology and ancient documents.

The second reason for Christian interest is that Christianity is a scriptural faith - the sacred texts matter.

Christians are not, strictly speaking, "people of the book," for our faith is in a person, Jesus Christ, who left no writings whatsoever. Yet the sacred Scriptures are indispensable and venerated precisely as the word of God.

The Christian faith is not an antiquities obsession, however, pursuing this or that fragment to shed light on the faith. Christians read their scriptures in an ecclesial context; i.e., it is the Church that gives rise to the Scriptures, determines their canonical status, and meditates upon them. It could not be otherwise: The Church comes before the Scriptures, for the Church is necessary to recognize the existence of the Scriptures in the first place. It is the faith of the Church that distinguishes between the canonical gospels and the ersatz. Without that ecclesial context, the author of the Gospel of Judas, or Dan Brown, for that matter, could present himself as a instrument of divine revelation.

A third reason - and I suspect the most powerful - to explain Christian interest in the Gospel of Judas is that it addresses a great question: What happened to Judas? The Catholic Church, for her part, does not definitively declare anyone to be in Hell, as she does with the saints in Heaven. Yet the clear weight of the tradition is that Judas is in fact condemned. Such is the horror of condemnation that the believer instinctively recoils from that conclusion.

That conclusion is not obligatory for Christian believers, but the apparent condemnation of Judas underscores another important Christian reality, namely the personal nature of salvation. Judas is not some cog in a providential machine, required to do X so that Jesus could do Y. No one is arbitrarily sacrificed in the plan of salvation, and Judas remains free until the end. The Bible is full of repentant sinners, from King David to Saint Peter. The sin of Judas lies not in his betrayal, which could be repented of, but in his refusal to repent unto the Lord. He insisted on remaining alone with his sin, and his sin destroyed him.

Even at a distance of 20 centuries, the devout Christian wishes that it had been otherwise - not for Jesus' sake, but for Judas.


Blogger barrabas said...

Soy editora de libros desde 1965, y desde entonces, he observado que a los escritores les cuesta trabajo sentarse... todos tienen pegada una cola de pavorreal.
Por la tonta arrogancia de ser mencionados, de que alguien pronuncie su nombre sn capaces de la mayor idiotez o la traiciòn mas escandalosa:La Traicion a Dios.
En este asuntito del Còdigo, lo mejor es ya no mencionarlo, porque es como seguir inflando un globito que no vale nada excepto por nuestras protestas escandalizadas.

April 23, 2006 5:08 AM  
Blogger Ashok Saldanha said...

After going through a lot of material available on the net regarding the "Gospel of Judas" and also reading what National Geographic had to say, I find that the "Gospel of Judas" is pure, unadulterated gnostic bunkum.

What I liked in your article and which clearly brought forth what many Christians feel are these words:
"The sin of Judas lies not in his betrayal, which could be repented of, but in his refusal to repent unto the Lord. He insisted on remaining alone with his sin, and his sin destroyed him.

Even at a distance of 20 centuries, the devout Christian wishes that it had been otherwise -not for Jesus' sake, but for Judas."

I see that Christianity is one religion that does not balk at being criticised, or talked about - this only strengthens it- I wonder, if other religions like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., could withstand being under this perpetual scanner as Christianity does, and still come out stronger than what it was.

April 23, 2006 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Mario F said...

I agree with ashok, if something like this happened in islamic or hindu circles, that person would be hunted and persecuted.

Dan Brown wrote his novel as a way to increase his popularity and his public profile. I wonder what he would say if he knew that muslims also consider Jesus to be prophetical and revere Him.

Many priests in western countries do not help in propagating Christianity with their indicretions, and doubtful decisions which tend to make people doubtful of the faith. Despite all this, and a never ending barrage of criticisms and doubters, Christianity has survived into the modern world.

May 14, 2006 11:19 AM  
Blogger Afrat Ali said...

I have read and also seen the movie "The Da Vinci Code". It IS a work of fiction even though Dan Brown stresses otherwise.
I was born a Muslim, and have now converted to Roman Catholicism and hence it was a little harder to digest it.
Even before the "Da Vinci Code" hit the market, I wonder if people have realized that Mohammed in the Koran too has said something to the same effect even though in a different context. Mohammed denied the cross of Jesus and said "Jesus "appeared" to die on the cross" and even though he called the Christ "a great prophet" he did everything to demean Jesus same as Dan Brown seems to be doing today.
Though Dan Brown does not call Jesus "a great prophet", like Mohammed he seems to be taking great pleasure in trying to change history for petty gain.

June 14, 2006 10:26 PM  
Blogger ashok saldanha said...

Afrat Ali, congratulations!!! I hope you did not have any problems with your ex Muslim bretheren when you hugged the One True Living God. Muslims are know to execute or harm Muslims who leave Islam.

Coming to think of it, you are right, there is not much difference between Dan Brown and Mohammed is there? They both seem to be taking great pride in changing history to suit their own ends.

June 18, 2006 12:32 PM  
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