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Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

by and

Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity Cover

ISBN13: 9780670038459
ISBN10: 0670038458
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The two leading, bestselling experts on the Gnostic Gospels weigh in on the meaning of the controversial newly discovered Gospel of Judas.

When the Gospel of Judas was published by the National Geographic Society in April 2006, it received extraordinary media attention and was immediately heralded as a major biblical discovery that rocked the world of scholars and laypeople alike. Elaine Pagels and Karen King are the first to reflect on this newfound text and its ramifications for telling the story of early Christianity. In Reading Judas, the two celebrated scholars illustrate how the newly discovered text provides a window onto understanding how Jesus' followers understood his death, why Judas betrayed Jesus, and why God allowed it.

Most contemporary readers will find passages in the ancient Gospel of Judas difficult to comprehend outside of its context in the ancient world. Reading Judas illuminates the intellectual assumptions behind Jesus' teaching to Judas and shows how conflict among the disciples was a tool frequently used by early Christian authors to explore matters of doubt and disagreement. Presented with the elegance, insight, and accessibility that has made Pagels and King the leading voices in this field, this is a book for academics and popular audience both. Pagels's five previous books, including the New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief, and King's The Gospel of Mary of Magdala prove that there is a considerable audience eager for this kind of informed and engaging writing.

Review:

"The Christian Gospels are surprisingly ridden with conflict. Each one — whether officially part of the New Testament or not — contains a sometimes acrimonious debate about faith or practice, theology or authority, this leader or that one.

In the recently published 'Gospel of Judas,' for example, that archetypal traitor becomes the only true believer, the one who 'lifted up his eyes... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"[T]his elegantly written book makes clear the relevance of a centuries-old text for a contemporary audience." Booklist (Starred Review)

Synopsis:

This author team, writing in an engaging, accessible style, is the first to reflect on the recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas and how that text provides insight into explaining how Jesus' followers understood his death, why Judas betrayed Jesus, and why God allowed it.

Synopsis:

The instant New York Times bestseller interpreting the controversial long-lost gospel

The recently unearthed Gospel of Judas is a source of fascination for biblical scholars and lay Christians alike. Now two leading experts on the Gnostic gospels tackle the important questions posed by its discovery, including: How could any Christian imagine Judas to be Jesus' favorite? And what kind of vision of God does the author offer? Working from Karen L. King's brilliant new translation, Elaine Pagels and King provide the context necessary for considering its meaning. Reading Judas plunges into the heart of Christianity itself and will stand as the definitive look at the gospel for years to come.

About the Author

Karen L. King is Winn Professor of ecclesiastical history at Harvard Divinity School and the author of four books on Gnosticism.

Elaine Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Professor of religion at Princeton University.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

dchendri, April 18, 2008 (view all comments by dchendri)
great book. easy to read and understand.brings light to an often dark subject.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Michelleyevshky, June 6, 2007 (view all comments by Michelleyevshky)
I am still coming to terms with this book. This book is the translation (by Karen King) of one of the newest Gnostic discoveries, the Gospel of Judas, accompanied with an interpretation of it by Elaine Pagels.

The book's layout is, in my opinion, sketchy. First comes Pagels' interpretation, followed by Kings' translation, followed by nearly 50 pages of notes and references. I dislike reading something after being told what to believe about it so after realizing I disliked the layout turned immediately to the Gospel of Judas.

My first impression of the Gospel of Judas was laughter. It was a bit ridiculous in a mean-spirited sort of way. There was homophobia and what could be dumbed down as racism and anti-Semitism, even anti-Christian sentiments. It was originally written in Greek in the first century C.E. although the translated version was from Coptic and the fourth century. The writer was not Judas, but presumably some early Christian. The setting is eight days before Jesus' death and the synopsis is that of Jesus picking Judas out from amongst the twelve to be given the Mysteries of the Kingdom. A great deal of the text has, unfortunately, been lost.

The notes were comprehensive, though very nitty-gritty. I went through the Gospel again with the aid of King's historical context and etymology. This helped sort out some of the places in which I found myself at sea.

Then I allowed myself to read Pagels' interpretation. She sees the writer as responding to the early Christian concept of martyrdom and sacrifice. There were those, like Irenaeus, who saw martyrdom as a gift from above, and the only way to obtain eternal life. The Gospel of Thomas, as Pagels reminds us, calls some victims "empty martyrs...testify only to themselves." (This brings to mind the likes of Eichmann. Surely if there ever were a martyr to a cause Eichmann would be one, though few Christians believe he might also obtain eternal life.) With this argument in place Pagels reiterates the Mysteries of the Kingdom which Jesus imparts to Judas, claiming that this anonymous first century writer was claiming that it is through becoming part with "divine spirit" that eternal life is obtained, not through martyrdom.

I found this to be a frustrating, enlightening, and interesting read. The Gospel of Judas itself, masterfully translated and torturously placed in context with history and etymology, was after all, only boorish bunk. Very old boorish bunk, granted, but still boorish bunk. I thought Pagels' explanation of early Christian histories fascinating and wonderful, but thought her explanations of what the anonymous author meant sometimes probable and often far-fetched. I don't think we CAN know what the writer meant, any more than we can know what the rest of the gospel writers meant. Her attempts to try came across at times too confident in her own knowledge, of which she is no doubt one of the most knoweldgable alive today.

I am not giving this book a rating because of an assumption formed off two facts.

Fact One: I dislike books on religion and only read them to understand the history of the world and why it is the way it is today and to come to terms with my own evangelical upbringing.
Fact Two: Elaine Pagels and Karen King are both competent scholars and good writers/translators.

Assumption: I am far, far, far from an objective reviewer, and as an amateur cannot effectively rate this book on a scale from 1 to 5. Any attempt to do so would be inaccurate.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780670038459
Subtitle:
The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Author:
King, Karen
Author:
Pagels, Elaine
Author:
King, Karen L.
Subject:
Christianity - History - General
Subject:
Biblical Studies - Controversial Speculation
Subject:
Church History
Subject:
General Political Science
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20080226
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.48x6.06x.84 in. .76 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

Related Subjects

Religion » Christianity » Apocrypha
Religion » Christianity » Gnostic and Apocrypha
Religion » Christianity » New Testament » General
Religion » Western Religions » Gnosticism

Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 224 pages Viking Books - English 9780670038459 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[T]his elegantly written book makes clear the relevance of a centuries-old text for a contemporary audience."
"Synopsis" by , This author team, writing in an engaging, accessible style, is the first to reflect on the recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas and how that text provides insight into explaining how Jesus' followers understood his death, why Judas betrayed Jesus, and why God allowed it.
"Synopsis" by ,
The instant New York Times bestseller interpreting the controversial long-lost gospel

The recently unearthed Gospel of Judas is a source of fascination for biblical scholars and lay Christians alike. Now two leading experts on the Gnostic gospels tackle the important questions posed by its discovery, including: How could any Christian imagine Judas to be Jesus' favorite? And what kind of vision of God does the author offer? Working from Karen L. King's brilliant new translation, Elaine Pagels and King provide the context necessary for considering its meaning. Reading Judas plunges into the heart of Christianity itself and will stand as the definitive look at the gospel for years to come.

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