By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 04, 2008
Remember the Gospel of Judas media sensation timed to coincide with Easter 2006? At the time the headlines blared that a newly-deciphered ancient Coptic text portrayed Judas as a good guy, with the implication that the real story had at last come to light. Thomas Bartlett's article in the current Chronicle of Higher Education shows how the National Geographic Society assembled a "dream team" of academic popularizers to contrive a suitably newsworthy "decipherment" and shill for it in the media. It appears that the novelties the Dream Team dreamed don't stand up to more rigorous scholarly examination, and several of the dreamers themselves have subsequently backed away from their claims. Some of the names may sound familiar:
This year DeConick held a conference on the Gospel of Judas at Rice. Many of the marquee names in biblical scholarship were there, including Meyer and Pagels. It was a cordial event, no thrown books or postlecture fistfights. Still, it was hard to miss the tension. When Meyer spoke, DeConick could be seen shaking her head and whispering to a colleague. One scholar referred to Meyer's defense of the original translation as "desperate" -- causing him to laugh good-naturedly, if a bit defensively, too.
At one point, Pagels grabbed the microphone to say that she did not wish to be associated with Ehrman's positive take on Judas. She also, strangely, distanced herself from the book she had written with King. The word that the National Geographic team translated as "spirit" King translated as "god" -- a choice Pagels said she now regretted. Even so, Pagels, like Meyer, pushed for a middle ground between a good Judas and a bad Judas, saying that interpretations that "eliminate the positive and emphasize the negative are no more adequate to interpreting the text as a whole."
I've no doubt Jeffrey Archer agrees entirely. The last sentence is especially poignant:
Pagels did not make herself available for an interview with The Chronicle, despite multiple requests over several weeks.
Probably just a coincidence.
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