Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"... JUDAS IS AS EVIL AS EVER" in the Gospel of Judas. So April DeConick on her new Forbidden Gospels Blog. There seems to be an emerging counterconsensus on this issue, originated by Louis Painchaud and now with April and Einar Thomassen on board.

April also has a meditation on postmodernism inspired by Thomas the Tank Engine. Really. I quite agree with her conclusion (which actually sounds pretty postmodern): "the historian cannot privilege one set of texts over another, or one position over another." That said, I also would say a word in the defense of postmodernism, or at least poststructuralism. I have found deconstruction and intertextuality to be very helpful for getting my head around the fact that the meaning of ancient texts (and, particulary, ancient scriptures) has been a moving target throughout history and changed, often radically, as times and cultural contexts changed. This does not mean that we can apply whatever meaning we want to ancient texts. Rather, it means that we need to read each text in a repeatedly new context and new light as we study its meaning during the course of its transmission.

UPDATE: April DeConick e-mails:
Jim, I noticed on your post today that you included Einar and me, but also there is John Turner of Nebraska. He is a very important scholar of NH and Coptic, especially Sethian Gnosticism. Einar and Louis had contact in the summer and their opinions may have influenced each other. But John and I worked through the text independent of Louis and Einar. I didn't have a clue what Louis' position was. In fact, when I went to the Sorbonne, I was very nervous about my paper because I thought that I would be a lone voice critiquing the NG translation and interpretation. I think that our independence is important because it is not a bunch of scholars jumping on the counterposition bandwagon started by one person. What has emerged is a counterposition that has developed independently by Coptic scholars across the world.
This is what I had meant to get across, but April has expressed it more clearly.

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