Thursday, September 18, 2008

What I Read on my Summer Vacation

I spent a lovely week by a lake up in the 1,000 Islands region of Ontario, Canada this summer. It was a rainy summer there, but lucky for me, not to wet while we were there.

I spent one sunny afternoon snoozing and reading on the dock. I had been wanting to read Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, by Elaine Pagels, for some time, and this was my chance. I won't give a long review here, but I will say this: I wish I had seen that the primary text (the Gospel of Judas) was at the back of the book - before I got there! I kept wanting to check the text whenever the author quoted it, and though I usually spot these things, I just didn't see it until too late. And I didn't feel like going back and re-reading all the commentary again. So it all felt backwards.

But, I enjoyed the book. And it more firmly convinced me of two ideas I've had about my religious belief:
1) that the early Christian Church (or "Christian Movement" as many scholars call it) was not a monolith, but a fractured, fractious group of people trying to muddle through a very scary, emotional time, and doing the best they could.
2) that Judas was a pawn, God's agent of change. Yes he betrayed Jesus, but I think God had that as part of the plan all along (I mean, really, what happens in this life WITHOUT God's knowledge?!?) and Jesus knew it too. Why else would he be so upset in Gesthemane, right before Judas showed up. HE KNEW what was about to happen.

There's also a whole section of Judas' Gospel where he dances - which reminds me of the "whirling Dervishes." It's fascinating.

So, I recommend it. There's a v. good interview with Elaine Pagels on Salon.

Thanks to Menachem for the beautiful Caravaggio image - I hope the painting turns up!!!

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