Monday, August 14, 2006

TED WAITT, the man who funded the restoration and preservation of the Gospel of Judas, is interviewed by Copley News Service. He gives some interesting background information on the negotiations. He seems well informed about the practical issues, although less so about the historical ones. His understanding of the origins of the canonical four gospels and the apocryphal gospels is pretty mixed up:
Imagine this. Let's say you died about 2,000 years ago, and your friends told their stories about you to their children and friends for approximately 100 years after you died. And then someone decides to write these stories down. And then they get translated from one language into another. And there's as many as 30 different versions written down. And someone picks just four as the only ones anyone should see, renounces the others, and all this happens approximately 150 years after you die.

Would you expect them to all be the same? Would you be happy with just those four that some person who didn't know you selected? Maybe, maybe not. But what about the other 26 versions of events? Maybe they were true, maybe not. Maybe they had other things in them that actually happened or that were important to you. No one really knows for sure. But odds are, there's something in the 26 that you might have supported, and maybe something from the four that you might not have. The key is in understanding the general tone and intentions of your life in all of them, and making some important observations from that.
The four gospels are generally agreed to have been written 40-80 years after the crucifixion, and we have them in their original language (Greek). They are not the best of historical sources, but such information as we have about the historical Jesus comes almost entirely from them. Other gospels (some surviving only in translation) continued to be produced from the later end of this time range and for centuries thereafter, but those that survive are not of historical value for the first century. The possible exception is The Gospel of Thomas. It is the only one with a serious claim to contain early material that could go back to Jesus himself, and it itself may be quite early, but both of these issues are stridently debated by specialists.

It's disappointing to see Waitt holding and passing on these misunderstandings, but he did do a lot of good by helping to save the Gospel of Judas and he deserves plently of credit for that.

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