πετροστελος

April 29, 2009

The Gospel of Judas vs. the Acts of Paul

Around the time that we started Palabre, I created with Dr. Jeremy Barrier Acta Pauli.  In the meantime, on April 23, I launched the Committee for the Inclusion of the Acts of Paul in the New Testamet Canon.  For many years I have suggested this particular idea to people partly to promote my own scholarship and fame, and they just took it as a kind of a joke.

Now compare this with the media treatment of the Gospel of Judas, published from a fourth century Coptic papyrus.  It is purported to be translated from a Greek original and representative of the Gospel of Judas attested by Irenaeus, haer. 1.31.1 (ANF 1):

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.

If the newly published Gospel of Judas is a version of the Cainite one, then we clearly have the work of a 2nd century gnostic sect.  This is an exciting discovery for scholars of early Christianity, but the media latched on to this document in order to attack the Christian view that Judas betrayed Jesus.  Thus, to a media so gullible and inaccurate in its attempt to challenge ruthlessly the Christian faith, I propose the Acts of Paul, also known largely through a later Coptic MS in an even more lamentable state than the codex of the Gospel of Judas, with probably more than half of the text completely lost–this fragmentary nature of the Acts of Paul alone should create a media stir.  But in defense of the Acts of Paul, unlike the Gospel of Judas, it has actually been used by the catholic church: chapters III and IV of the Acts of Paul (a.k.a., The Acts of Paul and Thecla) were at an early date separated from the whole and used in the cult of Thecla and read on her feast day.  The  Acts of Paul XIV (a.k.a., The Martyrdom of Paul) was likewise separated to be read on Paul’s feast day.  Thecla, who was a hearer of Paul through the window of her house in Iconium, embraced a life of chastity and rejected her fiancé Thamyris, much to the chagrin of her impoverished mother.  There is actually considerably more evidence for the historicity of this story than there is for the alternate version of Judas Iscariot that is promoted by the drive-by media.  Why don’t we promote this document as equal to the NT canon?  Why so much attention for the Gospel of Judas?

Therefore, I wrote up a press release for media use, “Cambridge-trained scholar calls for Extension of the New Testament Canon“, with blank fields where they can add the names of their authors, their media outlets (CNN, New York Times, AP, AFP, etc.), and just publish as their own.  Surely this would suit the media’s penchant these days for publishing news stories without doing any investigative journalism.  I’ve provided everything they need to make this story happen.  The press release has some characteristic errors, but according to my friend Jim Leonard it was obviously written by a scholar, since it contained too few errors compared to a recent BBC article on Codex Sinaiticus–but there the errors seem to be gratuitous and not an attempt to attack the Christian faith.  In other words, the drive-by media is capable of bad journalism for its own sake; they don’t need the excuse of attacking Christians.

My prognosis for the Committee is bleak.  Serious Christians are likely to view me as some sort of crackpot.  I may get some interest from nominal and liberal Christians until they read the thoroughly orthodox Acts of Paul; the exaltation of women prophets and a female apostle will of course attract some feminists, but at the end of the day, liberals will reject it because it extols the beauty and the virtue of sexual chastity, and after all, the world must be protected from Christian bigots who would impose limits on sexual freedom.

You may join the Committee for the nominal fee of $10,000 US per annum (charter members exempted; $15,000 CDN; or 20,000 euros or pounds sterling).  All are welcome, we make no discrimination regarding race, sex, creed or academic credentials.  Even journalists are allowed.  Please make cheques payable to Peter W. Dunn.  Later, Acta Pauli will be offering free 1-year memberships to promote the website.

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