Thursday, May 03, 2007

Using Judas to Push an Agenda

Tomorrow's Church Times (it's still Thursday in America as I write, watching the British election coverage, where it is the middle of the night) features a review by Robin Griffith-Jones on two recent books about the Gospel of Judas:

Using Judas to Push an Agenda
by Robin Griffith-Jones

The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A new look at betrayer and betrayed
Bart D. Ehrman
Oxford University Press £12.99

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus
Tom Wright
. . . .Ehrman has in mind, I think, readers who have been prompted by the Gospel of Judas to investigate the canonical stories about Jesus which they have not encountered for ages, if ever. Such readers will find Ehrman’s book well judged and informative; but perhaps fewer would bother with it if the publishers had put on the cover the one sentence (tucked away on page 145) that addresses the only question on such readers’ minds. “This Gospel appears to be using Judas to advance an agenda, and is probably not reliable as a historical source, however interesting it is for under-standing how later Christians portrayed Judas.” To make that a sensible summary, just remove one word: “probably”.

Tom Wright is impatient with the whole Gnostic industry. He reckons some people are out to make a great deal of money, and far more are deluded by America’s left-wing selective neo-Gnosticism. Of Dr Wright’s many readers, those who dislike and distrust the noisy propagation of that creed will find themselves vindicated by his short and trenchant book. I wonder, however, whether others will feel handbagged by his rhetoric . . .
I must admit that I hadn't realized that Tom Wright had written a book about Judas. Someone once told me that his scholarly books are by "N. T. Wright" and his popular, devotional ones are by "Tom Wright", and this one is therefore one of the latter kind.


Anonymous said...

Here in the US, Wright's book on Judas is published with author "N.T. Wright."

Deirdre said...

Do you mean "sandbagged" rather than "handbagged" by N.T.Wright's heavy handed approach? Doesn't "handbagged" mean "sacked?" I myself confess to feeling "sandbagged" and "hornswoggled" after reading N. T. Wright.

Whit+ said...


That is an interesting comment about N.T. vs. Tom. I had never heard that. I will check it out and see if it holds in the U.S. market.

Andrew Criddle said...

Wright's book on the Gospel of Judas make's an interesting claim that IMO may well be true.

He suggests that the modern sympathy for Gnosticism is based largely on works such as the Gospel of Thomas which are atypically reader-friendly for a modern audience.

Faced with an arguably more typical Gnostic work such as Judas the modern reader is much more likely to be repelled.