Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Archer and Moloney's Gospel of Judas

This story is extensively reported today, but surprisingly little touched on in the biblioblogosphere. Jeffrey Archer, the notorious British popular novelist-cum-Tory-politician who recently spent time in prison for perjury, has collaborated with Francis Moloney of the Catholic University of America in a new book about Judas:

Archer attempts to rehabilitate Judas
Collaboration with Biblical expert leaves a question: has the Pope read it?
John Hooper in Rome
Wednesday March 21, 2007

One of the fullest articles on it features in Ruth Gledhill's blog over at The Times, with a YouTube interview with Archer, and lots of comments on the article afterwards:

Jesus 'didn't walk on water or turn water into wine'
. . . . I still find it interesting that in cooperation with top theologian and friend-of-the-Pole Professor Francis Moloney, Lord Archer has written a gospel with the endorsement of the RC church that debunks Jesus' 'nature miracles'. In effect, the two authors say, the turning water into wine, the walking on water and the calming of the storm never happened. Of course, as we reported two years ago, the Catholic Church no longer swears by the truth of the Bible in any case. (Update: that last sentence is based on the headline on a story I wrote about The Gift of Scipture document.) . . . .

. . . .Both Father Moloney and Lord Archer told me that they did not include Jesus’ three most famous “nature miracles”, beloved of Sunday School children worldwide, in The Gospel because they “never happened”.
Nor did they include the most famous Judas story of all, where he is reported in the Bible to have betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. The betrayal took place, they say, but Judas thought he was acting as a double agent and that he was in fact saving Jesus’ life. No cash changed hands and Judas did not commit suicide afterwareds (sic).

The idea that some of Jesus’ miracles did not happen and were written to shore up Messianic interpretations of the Hebrew Bible has been common in academic circles for decades. But for many of the faithful it will come as almost as much of a shock as the thought of Jeffrey Archer being the propagator of this new “truth”.

Father Moloney, believed by many to be the world’s greatest living Biblical scholar, drew on years of scholarship to make The Gospel According to Judas as close as possible to those passages thought to be genuine in the three synoptic gospels and the Gospel of St John. But he insisted they leave out verses agreed by scholars to have been made up by the original authors of the Bible . . . .
Several commenters pick Ruth Gledhill up on the "no respectable scholar" point. It may also be a little overstated to call Francis Moloney "the world's greatest living Biblical scholar", with no direspect intended to Prof. Moloney.

One curiosity. It is only a year since the Gospel of Judas was published, with its accompanying National Geographic documentary, but it is not referenced in any of the media pieces I have seen about the new Archer novel. I suppose it shows what short memories people have. It is not clear to me whether the current book has any reference to the newly discovered Gospel either.


Richard Fellows said...

Twenty years ago when I was at Robinson college, Cambridge, I heard a rumour that Jeffrey Archer had asked Morna Hooker (also of Robinson college) to write a fictional gospel so that he could include it in a novel, but she refused. I now suspect this rumour was true.


Anonymous said...

Not only a new gospel, also a new parable? the parable of Jeffrey Archer:

Watch you say (about me), the vilain is never who one thinks.
Even in your Good Book: Juda is innocent, but the Evangelists were spin doctors!

geoffhudson.blogspot.com said...

The paranoia in the NT and the gnostic texts regarding Judas parallels that exhibited in all the interpolated texts of the 'different' Judas's in the works attributed to Josephus. For some reason, Judas was a bogey man.
He was obviously bugging editors way back.

About one of the (interpolated?) Judas's Professor Martin Goodman writes (page 414 of Rome and Jerusalem):"he (that is Josephus) had alleged precisely that the 'Fourth Philosophy' begun by Judas and his accomplice Saddok was responsible for the collapse of Jewish society and the eventual destruction of the temple." Yet Goodman remarks (pages 414/415)that between 6 and 66 CE Josephus never cites the 'Fourth Philosophy' as being implicated in any violent anti-Roman action by Jews. To me that means that Judas was really peaceful and that his theology was the real cause of troubles - troubles which were within Judaism.

geoffhudson.blogspot.com said...

The book The Jesus Family Tomb, and Archer's and Maloney's book The Gospel According to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot? are well timed for Easter sales. Which will be top of the pops? To set the tills really jangling we might have a new Easter song from Cliff.

crystal said...

I noticed a post at the Insight Scoop, the Ignatius Press blog, that gives a somewhat conservative Catholic pov of the novel and its claims of papal blessing :-)

Anonymous said...

The Tablet had a trenchard critique in its book review, in which they said (inter alia):

Descriptions of action come from pulp fiction: “Judas reeled back in horror,” and “charged angrily towards him, fists flying in
every direction”. The closest approach to artistry is a single verse: “Judas wept.” The book’s great virtue is its brevity, at 90 pages.

They also note how "The general level of care is indicated by Dr Tom Wright being called “Archbishop” of Durham."

News to me!

Anonymous said...

I've been following this since the the March 20th radio interview with Frank Moloney. Posts with links to radio interview transcipts have been posted at