Friday, April 07, 2006

Page One News Flashes for the Oregonian

Here are two front page news flashes I pass on to The Oregonian* for whatever use they might be:

1. Earliest gospel fragment backs traditional Judas account

A papyrus fragment, currently in the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, dates a copy of the Gospel of John to the first half of the 2nd century. The original is thought to have been written in the first century, about 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion.

The fragment from the Gospel of John was copied about a century and a half before the 4th century copy of the Gospel of Judas found in the late 1970's and recently reconstructed with help from the National Geographic Society.

In the much earlier Gospel of John, Jesus did indeed ask Judas to do his work of betrayal--but clearly said Judas was doing it as an enemy not a friend.

John 13: 21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."

25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"

26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

"What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, 28but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.
[emphasis mine]

Jesus did tell Judas to act quickly, but according to the 1st century account, Jesus described the act as hostile rather than done out of friendship.

2. Gospel of Judas Causes New Reflection on Nuremberg Trials

A newly restored 4th century copy of the 3rd century Gospel of Judas has raised some questions on the traditional view of Nuremberg defendants like Hermann Goering, Julius Streicher, and Wilhelm Frick.

Judas has not been traditionally credited with the possibility that his act of betrayal was really intended to help Jesus find spiritual liberation through crucifixion. The National Geographic report puts the issue as follows:

In the key passage Jesus tells Judas, "'you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.'"

Kasser, the translation-project leader, offers an interpretation: "Jesus says it is necessary for someone to free him finally from his human body, and he prefers that this liberation be done by a friend rather than by an enemy.

"So he asks Judas, who is his friend, to sell him out, to betray him. It's treason to the general public, but between Jesus and Judas it's not treachery."
This new understanding of Judas has some wondering whether leading Nazi activists should also have their actions re-evaluated. The Gospel of Judas clearly implies that helping send someone to a horrible death may actually be done out of friendship.
*unfortunately this link will only be good for a week because The Oregonian doesn't link to specific front pages

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