Thoughts and Photos from the Desert…
More Mystery Than Ever This Easter…
April 8, 2006
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"What is clear is that the Gospel of Judas has joined the other spectacular discoveries that are exploding the myth of a monolithic Christianity and showing how diverse and fascinating the early Christian movement really was."
– ELAINE PAGELS
Anyone who has seriously looked at Christianity has surely wondered at the diversity, sometimes subtle, sometimes bizarre, that marks the ecclesiastical scene.
Never more than now. Nothing is simple anymore and this is surely true with the church. I read an article in yesterday's paper about the president of the United Church of Christ, the most liberal of Protestant denominations, lashing out against right wing religious organizations coming into and intentionally working within churches in order to turn entire main-stream denominations into Evangelical movements. This is new.
But today's Op Ed section of the New York Times has a piece by Princeton scholar Elaine Pagels that pushes the idea of religious diversity within the church back some 1700 years when "The Gospel of Judas", just discovered by moderns, was written. Read this.
At first blush the idea of many Gospels circulating at roughly the same time in the ancient church is disconcerting. But from the standpoint of human nature, it makes perfect sense. Some great event or personality takes center stage for awhile, passes into history and few can get their minds together and agree as to what actually happened.
I believe it would be a healthy thing for contemporary Christians to read "The Gospel of Judas", "The Gospel of Thomas" and other newly discovered Christian literature that tried to make sense of who Jesus was and what he meant. It would stretch our minds and spirits.
He was obviously more than we thought. And the struggle to figure that out is an ancient one. It wasn't resolved forever, as most of us once thought, by Irenaeus and Bishop Athanasius.
What a wonderful, mysterious gift for Easter.