The Trouble with Judas

The trou­ble with Judas is that if he was car­ry­ing out God’s plan, was he real­ly evil? The point has been made every­where from sem­i­nar­ies to Jesus Christ, Super­star, but it sud­den­ly became more urgent with the redis­cov­ery of a puta­tive Gospel of Judas in 2004. Reli­gious schol­ars Elaine Pagels and Karen King have a new book out on the sub­ject (reviewed this week in the New York Times). Read­ing Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shap­ing of Chris­tian­i­ty seems to take a mid­dle-of-the-road approach, argu­ing that the gospel (writ­ten in the third cen­tu­ry AD, not by Judas him­self) takes a crit­i­cal posi­tion against the hege­mo­ny of the ear­ly Chris­t­ian church. Whether that vin­di­cates the most famous betray­al in nar­ra­tive his­to­ry is a tough one–Pagels and King argue that it all depends on how attached Jesus real­ly felt to his body. To find out more, check out this pod­cast Pagels and King gave at San Fran­cis­co’s Grace Cathe­dral, or lis­ten to their inter­view with Ter­ry Gross on NPR.

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