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.
This accessible, engaging book has Princeton religion professor Pagels (The Gnostic Gospels; Beyond Belief) in a dream team pairing with King (The Gospel of Mary of Magdala), who teaches ecclesiastical history at Harvard Divinity School. Together they take on the controversial Gospel of Judas, published in April 2006 after some years of languishing in a safety deposit box after its initial discovery in the 1970s. In their hundred-page introductory essay, Pagels and King date the gospel to the middle of the second century and situate it amidst the deadly persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Such persecution, they say, drove the author of the Gospel of Judas, who could not reconcile his belief in a deeply loving, good God with a particular idea other Christians held at the time: that God desired the bloody sacrificial death of Jesus and his followers. The key to understanding this gospel, they argue, is its relentless unmasking of the triumphant rhetoric of martyrdom. Though the gospel text appears angry and polarizing, Pagels and King have come to realize that they cannot easily dismiss this author as either a madman or a lunatic. Instead, they delve deeply into his theological view that a pure, spiritual realm exists beyond the physical world that we seea Gnostic chestnut that recurs in other second-century texts. Alive to irony and historical nuance, this remarkably concise primer opens readers to a plausible and often persuasive interpretation of the disquieting Gospel of Judas.