Sunday, October 08, 2006

BART EHRMAN is interviewed by the Charlotte Observer about his new book on The Gospel of Judas:
Who was Judas?
UNC professor's book explores provocative gospel's message about apostle, Jesus

Special to the Observer

The National Geographic Society caused an international stir in April by publishing an English version of the Gospel of Judas, a mid-3rd- to early 4th-century Coptic translation of a Greek manuscript dating from about A.D. 150. The controversy centered on the text's perspective of the apostle Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus.

Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, was one of a handful of scholars National Geographic asked to authenticate the manuscript.

This week marked the release of his book, "The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed" (Oxford University Press, 224 pages, $22). Ehrman spoke with Observer special correspondent Jeanette Leardi about what the gospel contains and what it might mean to Christians today.

What is important about the discovery of the Gospel of Judas?

It's the first gospel we have that tells the story of Judas' betrayal from his own perspective. Rather than being portrayed as the villain of the story, it turns out that he's the hero. I would say it's the most important discovery of a Christian text in the last 60 years.

This interpretation has now been challenged by Professor Louis Painchaud of Laval University, as noted here. The interpretation of poorly preserved ancient texts is frequently very difficult and the meaning of The Gospel of Judas and Judas' place in it will have to fought out in the specialist journals and monographs. But I certainly agree with Ehrman that it is an extremely important discovery -- for the history of second-century Gnosticism rather than for first-century Christian origins.

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