Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Commonweal: Judas and Jesus ...

An interesting piece by Jack Miles ("Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God") in the latest Commonweal, on just what Gnosticism was, and how the Gospel of Judas might (or might not) fit into the mix. The main thrust seems to be here,
And yet, just as cultural faux pas invariably teach us something about deep cultural differences, so the ways in which Jewish and Christian ideas were ripped out of context and put to use eccentrically in gnostic polytheism teach us something about those original ideas and their first expression. Thus, for example (and examples are easily multiplied), the canonical Gospels do not infer that God was Jesus’ enemy from the fact that God, in some sense, put Jesus to death on the cross (“not my will but thine be done”). But take a step back from the canon, and that inference cannot be called exactly illogical, can it? It is what we call an understandable mistake, what Harold Bloom would describe as a creative “misprision.” Similarly, although Jesus was God incarnate, and although, therefore, God in some sense put himself to death, the canonical Gospels do not infer that God simply wanted out of his human body. But, again: Would that inference be illogical? Finally, though, the idea whose native strangeness we can most clearly see afresh by the light of the Gospel of Judas is that of the immolation of God by God-an act so radically out of character for Yahweh Elohim that it cannot fail to bring his very identity as God into crisis.
Basically, the canonical texts can (and were) be interpreted in a variety of different ways, including the interpretations that found their way into the Nag Hammadi documents. I guess this just builds on Miles assertion that Yahweh and Jesus' Father are so radically different "characterologically" (is that a word?) that in that difference, which orhtodox Christianity resolves by the doctrine of the Trinity, a variety of interepretations could be made.

On first, hurried, perusal, I'm not sure what to make of this. The other point is quite clear -- that the Gnostics never aimed to be an alternate canon, and form a material (as well as a spiritual) union the way the orthodox Christianity did. In that sense, we're really not talking about "diverse Christianities" duking it out in those early days.

Yup. Agreed. :)

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