April 15, 2006
There was a lot of commentary last week about the National Geographic special on the "Gospel according to Judas," some papyrus scrolls that were found in Egypt and recently rediscovered in someone's bank vault. The Washington Post explains the background of the writings which may be interpreted as a self-justification by the disciple who betrayed Jesus, or else, more likely, by someone else with his own theological agenda to promote. Donald Sensing took a hiatus from his hiatus to comment on this, and concludes that there's just not much there to get excited about. He explains for us lay people (he is an ordained minister) how it was that the bishops of the early Christian church decided which documents were considered valid and which were not.
There seem to be a lot of parallels between the "Gospel according to Judas," and the "Gospel according to Thomas," the apocryphal writings of the apostle who doubted the divinity of Jesus. Both Thomas and Judas are revered by the Gnostics, a little-known offshoot of Christianity that emphasizes occult knowledge as the path to salvation. It is a message that is clearly contradicts the teachings of Jesus according to the four canonical gospels. In other words, it is heretical. I was surprised to learn in graduate school that there are many adherents of gnosticism even today in parts of Latin America. I myself have seen Gnostic temples in Lima, Peru and San Jose, Costa Rica, but I couldn't tell you what they are up to.
UPDATE (Apr. 16): Thanks to Phil Faranda for linking to this post. To see a photo of the "Gnostic Institute of Anthropology" in San Jose, click on the camera icon below. You thought I was just making that up?