Item description for Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity by Elaine Pagels & Karen L. King...
Overview The author of The Gnostic Gospels and the author of The Gospel of Mary of Magdala evaluate the meaning of the controversial newly discovered Gospel of Judas, illustrating how the text offers an understanding of Judas's betrayal, the apostles' understanding of Jesus's death, and God's role in the crucifixion. Reprint.
Publishers Description The instant "New York Times" bestseller interpreting the controversial long-lost gospel The recently unearthed Gospel of Judas is a source of fascination for biblical scholars and lay Christians alike. Now two leading experts on the Gnostic gospels tackle the important questions posed by its discovery, including: How could any Christian imagine Judas to be Jesus' favorite? And what kind of vision of God does the author offer? Working from Karen L. King's brilliant new translation, Elaine Pagels and King provide the context necessary for considering its meaning. "Reading Judas" plunges into the heart of Christianity itself and will stand as the definitive look at the gospel for years to come.
Citations And Professional Reviews Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity by Elaine Pagels & Karen L. King has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
New York Times Book Review - 03/23/2008 page 24
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Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.74" Width: 5.24" Height: 0.59" Weight: 0.4 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2008
Publisher Penguin (Non-Classics)
ISBN 014311316X ISBN13 9780143113164
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More About Elaine Pagels & Karen L. King
Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of Reading Judas, The Gnostic Gospels--winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award--and the New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Elaine Pagels currently resides in Princeton, in the state of New Jersey. Elaine Pagels was born in 1943.
Reviews - What do customers think about Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity?
false teachers May 18, 2008
What with all the 5 star ratings I see around this book, I wonder where your heads are... especially if you profess to be Christian. If not, then ignore what I say because it's to be expected.
What I see are false teachers, that have dredged up, and are spewing 2000 year old garbage in an attempt to turn people away from true gospel of Jesus Christ. But, that's what false teachers do... falsify information, distort truth, destroy faith, lie, and cause confusion.
Judas had full access to Jesus, night and day, for 3.5 years... then he betrayed the Son of God with a kiss, for 30 pieces of silver. He was a traitor! Nothing more, nothing less.
"The Gospel of Judas" was not written by Judas Iscariot... it was written abt 120 years after his death by another of the many false teachers trying to destroy Christianity at the time. It's not the archeological find of the century... it's a fake.
Misreading Judas Apr 20, 2008
The Gospel of Judas is pretty interesting. The concept of a gospel of Judas takes some getting used to, and the content of this gospel is also best understood by someone with some understanding of writings such as those found at Nag Hammadi.
One must be somewhat dispassionate to read a text like this. Can you read with an open mind? Can you read what's there, and not "read into" the text your assumptions about Judas, your reactions to him?
I'm disappointed in Pagels and King's book, especially with the main body of the text, which Pagels wrote.
She misreads the text badly, and the impression she forms of it is not about the text but about her failure. If she just misread, it'd be only her problem, but then she miswrites, as though she would make her disease contageous by virtue of her authority as an expert on this sort of text.
When she misreads so many things and finds the text's author to be full of anger and rage, I have to wonder whether the anger and rage are located in the text or its author, or whether they are projected by Pagels, her own.
One example of her misreading concerns a vision that Judas has. In a vision he reports to Jesus, he sees the 12 disciples stoning him to death.
Pagels says the author of this gospel accuses the other disciples of stoning Judas. That's not what it says. It says Judas had a vision. It also says that when he reports his vision to Jesus, Jesus informs him that he has been deceived. Since there was additional content in the vision and there are holes in the text, we cannot be 100% sure that Jesus was saying that Judas was deceived in his belief that they would stone him, but it appears plausible.
In any event, this gospel does not say the disciples stoned him. Its author does not accuse them of stoning him, as Pagels says. She cites this as an example of the author's "anger." If the gospel doesn't say what she says it says, where is this "anger" to be found?
There are quite a few errors like this. If you get sucked into thinking this text says what Pagels says it says, you'll miss what it says. The blind lead the blind into the ditch.
The thought expressed in this gospel is subtle. Pagels' misinterpretation is crude. I think she has some sort of inner turmoil that's clouding her vision, as she projects all this anger and hate onto the author.
She stones him... and she misses. Badly.
This is sad. I liked "The Gnostic Paul." I've been disappointed with this book and with her "Beyond Belief."
In spite of these criticisms, I find about a fifth of the book's text to contain information worth reading. And the Gospel of Judas is good reading.
Just don't let her mislead you about what the text says. I'm reading this book through for a second time to pick up whatever things are worth keeping, and I'm seeing that she sometimes cites chapter and verse to back up her assertions about what the text says. When I read them, they do not say what she says they say.
The gospel author's thought is subtle. Her emotional reactions cause her to distort the meaning.
Justifying Judas Mar 29, 2008
In Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, Pagels and King explore the "Gospel of Judas" and the context in which it was written, to create a framework for the translation of the gospel in the second half of the book. Rather than ignore the gospel as heresy, they ask readers to consider the political forces at work. They argue that the gospel presents Judas not as a betrayer of Jesus, but as his greatest disciple. This challenges readers to reconsider traditional views of Judas, Jesus and the Church, perhaps even to forgive Judas and open their eyes to a larger view of Christianity.
Pagels and King explain that through the "Gospel of Judas" we can see that it is not the suffering of Jesus and the persecution of Christians that brings holiness. Rather, Christians must come to understand that Jesus did not die as a blood sacrifice but as a leader showing the way. The physical life is something to be overcome, not mourned.
Essentially, Pagels and King strive to overcome the bias with which we may approach the "Gospel of Judas." We must understand the context to see that the author is not simply trying to be inflammatory but reacting to the religious wars of his time. The book is very approachable, written for those who are not biblical scholars with a heavily annotated translation to help the reader in digestion of the gospel. Pagels and King offer a thorough explanation of the events leading to the gospel's conception as they explore other Christian works which lend support to its radical statements in the second section.
Reading Judas for salvation from Gnostics Mar 28, 2008
Reading the combined, concise and beautiful work of "Reading Judas" by Prof King and Pagels is a pleasure in understanding the diversity and complexity of early Christianity. They explained the background historically, culturally and religiously the different sects in defining the truth and teaching of Jesus Christ. Belief in his death and resurrection started a new religion - Christianity. The Gnostic believed Jesus teaching brings eternal life without the medium of bishop and deacon.
It was a fascinating miracle that Gospel of Judas came back from oblivion after seventeen centuries. It is the lost puzzle in the interesting history of Christianity development. The translated Gospel of Judas offers the other side of story why Judas "handed over" Jesus for helping his lord achieve the mission with hints from the four Gospels. However, it raises the concerns on death and suffering of martyrs and eternal life - a strong motivation to Christians and extreme Moslems.
Reading this book helps reader understand early Christianity in Jesus and Judas, life and death, body and spirit, orthodox and heretics, history and myth, fears and hopes.
biased version? Dec 3, 2007
New York Times
Gospel Truth By APRIL D. DECONICK Published: December 1, 2007
AMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn't betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. Judas's reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.
It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society's transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic's translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.
Several of the translation choices made by the society's scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. For example, in one instance the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a "daimon," which the society's experts have translated as "spirit." Actually, the universally accepted word for "spirit" is "pneuma " -- in Gnostic literature "daimon" is always taken to mean "demon."
Likewise, Judas is not set apart "for" the holy generation, as the National Geographic translation says, he is separated "from" it. He does not receive the mysteries of the kingdom because "it is possible for him to go there." He receives them because Jesus tells him that he can't go there, and Jesus doesn't want Judas to betray him out of ignorance. Jesus wants him informed, so that the demonic Judas can suffer all that he deserves.
Perhaps the most egregious mistake I found was a single alteration made to the original Coptic. According to the National Geographic translation, Judas's ascent to the holy generation would be cursed. But it's clear from the transcription that the scholars altered the Coptic original, which eliminated a negative from the original sentence. In fact, the original states that Judas will "not ascend to the holy generation." To its credit, National Geographic has acknowledged this mistake, albeit far too late to change the public misconception.
So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? It says that Judas is a specific demon called the "Thirteenth." In certain Gnostic traditions, this is the given name of the king of demons -- an entity known as Ialdabaoth who lives in the 13th realm above the earth. Judas is his human alter ego, his undercover agent in the world. These Gnostics equated Ialdabaoth with the Hebrew Yahweh, whom they saw as a jealous and wrathful deity and an opponent of the supreme God whom Jesus came to earth to reveal.
Whoever wrote the Gospel of Judas was a harsh critic of mainstream Christianity and its rituals. Because Judas is a demon working for Ialdabaoth, the author believed, when Judas sacrifices Jesus he does so to the demons, not to the supreme God. This mocks mainstream Christians' belief in the atoning value of Jesus' death and in the effectiveness of the Eucharist.
How could these serious mistakes have been made? Were they genuine errors or was something more deliberate going on? This is the question of the hour, and I do not have a satisfactory answer.
Admittedly, the society had a tough task: restoring an old gospel that was lying in a box of its own crumbs. It had been looted from an Egyptian tomb in the 1970s and languished on the underground antiquities market for decades, even spending time in someone's freezer. So it is truly incredible that the society could resurrect any part of it, let alone piece together about 85 percent of it.
That said, I think the big problem is that National Geographic wanted an exclusive. So it required its scholars to sign nondisclosure statements, to not discuss the text with other experts before publication. The best scholarship is done when life-sized photos of each page of a new manuscript are published before a translation, allowing experts worldwide to share information as they independently work through the text.
Another difficulty is that when National Geographic published its transcription, the facsimiles of the original manuscript it made public were reduced by 56 percent, making them fairly useless for academic work. Without life-size copies, we are the blind leading the blind. The situation reminds me of the deadlock that held scholarship back on the Dead Sea Scrolls decades ago. When manuscripts are hoarded by a few, it results in errors and monopoly interpretations that are very hard to overturn even after they are proved wrong.
To avoid this, the Society of Biblical Literature passed a resolution in 1991 holding that, if the condition of the written manuscript requires that access be restricted, a facsimile reproduction should be the first order of business. It's a shame that National Geographic, and its group of scholars, did not follow this sensible injunction.
I have wondered why so many scholars and writers have been inspired by the National Geographic version of the Gospel of Judas. I think it may stem from an understandable desire to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians. Judas is a frightening character. For Christians, he is the one who had it all and yet betrayed God to his death for a few coins. For Jews, he is the man whose story was used by Christians to persecute them for centuries. Although we should continue to work toward a reconciliation of this ancient schism, manufacturing a hero Judas is not the answer.
April D. DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University, is the author of "The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says."