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This Friday I happened to attend a lecture by Dr. April DeConick (Rice University, Texas) on the subject of the recently discovered gnostic text (Sethian, to be specific) by the name of the Gospel of Judas. As some might know, National Geographic sponsored a team of researchers who were tasked with translating and transliterating the badly mangled papyrii, which had spent decades bouncing from one safety-deposit box to another as seller after seller attempted to cash-in on the texts after their original (likely illegal) unearthing in Egypt.

After about a year's time of working in secrecy, under a strict deadline and a legal gag-order (aka. non-disclosure agreement), the team released its shocking findings (and N.G. made a small mint off of the merchandising deal, which included a DVD documentary). Apparently, according to the lost Gospel, Judas Iscariot was the truest and most beloved of the Apostles, and it had been his task on Earth to free Gnostic Jesus from the unpleasant burden of material flesh. Shocking!

The difficulty, however, is that original translation produced by the National Geographic team has turned out to be a bit flawed. According to the Doctor, for instance, key passages in the Coptic text which referred-to or associated Iscariot with or as a mysterious thirteenth "spirit", actually referred to his being a "demon" -- specifically, a servant of the worst of the Gnostic demons, which happens to be the God of Old Testament, alternately known as Yahweh, the Demiurge, Ialdobeoth, Soclon, Michael, etcetera. Far from being a hero, the Judas of the Gospel is actually being associated with the "evil" pseudo-god who has trapped the spirit (pneuma) of human beings in the awfulness of material flesh. Not much of an epitaph.

Of course, the controversy doesn't end there, and neither does the embarrassment. A few vocal scholars had jumped on the Judas bandwagon, and, in their enthusiasm, had done everything from waxing poetic over the romance over the poor, misunderstood thirteenth apostle, to demanding that the Church overturn the grave injustices of its past by finally recognizing the validity of the gnostic Gospel after centuries of suppressing or ignoring it. As is often the case, the plight of an apparent underdog and the image of innocent victims trampled by monolithic, faceless institutions stirred the hearts of many an university intellectual.

Then the other shoe hit the floor; apparently, the Gospel wasn't so innocent.

Upon further investigation (and re-translation) of the text by Dr. DeConick, some less than innocent passages came to light. Firstly, there was the revelation that not only was Judas Iscariot being painted in the text as a demon-worshipper, but so too were the "other" twelve Apostles -- thereby immediately tainting all lineages associated with them, including the Papacy. Secondly, there was the Gospel's turning of the sacrifice on the cross on its proverbial head. In the revised translation, Jesus of Nazareth does not only condemn his Apostles as demon-worshippers, but states that all of their sacrifices and acts of piety are in fact acts of demon-worship which serve only the purposes of the Demiurge and his lieutenants. This would seem to be a bad enough state affairs. However, the Gospel goes further by describing the crucifixion as a demonic sacrifice conducted by the worst of them all: Judas. While the twelve Apostles had erred by sacrificing animal flesh to demons, Iscariot took demonology to a whole new level by sacrificing human flesh to the Demiurge himself. Things seem to have taken a bit of a dark cast at this point. Even the most hard-headed scholar would likely recognize that rallying behind a text that recasts the story of the crucifixion as a demonic blood-sacrifice would be a little un-P.C.

However, the Sethian polemic against orthodox Christianity doesn't end by merely portraying the crucifixion as a Satanic ritual. If we recall, it is being held that all sacrifices and offerings performed by the Apostles are tainted. The body of Christ, as a demonic sacrifice to the Demiurge, is similarly tainted; only His spirit remains pure and unblemished, and ascends to the Pleroma (long story...). To repeat, the message being transmitted to the reader is that the body of Christ is a tainted refuse of a demonic blood-sacrifice. The Eucharist, for orthodox Christians, is the act of metaphorically ingesting the body and the blood of Christ in a re-enactment of the last supper. What is the not-too-hidden message? Only that orthodox Christians, by partaking of the Eucharist, are eating and drinking the tainted remnants of a demonic sacrifice performed by Judas Iscariot in open worship of the Thirteenth Demon, Yahweh, and are thereby themselves ignorantly partaking in devil-worship.

"Ooops. Maybe adding that Gospel to the Bible wouldn't be such a great idea after all..."

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