by George Beres
(Swans - April 24, 2006) As Easter approached, it gained a startling focus with reports of a newly discovered ancient papyrus. The New York Times was among many newspapers to give front page space and a large picture to the revelation by researchers for National Geographic in early April that a so-called Judas Gospel has been discovered among crumbling papyrus in the Holy Land.
Content of the first-century scroll may redefine the Christian Passion Story. It implies the crucifixion was a form of suicide or variation of euthanasia, with Jesus urging Judas to betray him so the "prophecies could be fulfilled." In this context, Judas -- long regarded as the Bible's main villain -- instead would be seen as a martyr, sacrificing himself at Jesus' bidding by identifying him to the Roman authorities who crucified him.
If implications of this Judas parchment were validated, some would view it as a contrived "fulfillment" of the prophecies. Reaction from Christian fundamentalists was immediate, insisting it is untrue. Is it? Independent scholars would describe it as at least as credible as Gospel writings whose original sources are equally uncertain.
It could give revised perspective to church-inspired anti-Semitism. How could Jews be called Christ-killers (already history's chief folly) if it were not a killing, but Jesus' chosen fate, comparable to suicide or a version of what we know today as euthanasia? The institutional church long has acknowledged it is most responsible for the demonization of Jews over the past seventeen centuries. How much more horrific might it be if writings that supposedly gave rise to religion's sin of anti-Semitism were shown to be false?
That would seem as jarring as scriptural revisionism we see in a head of state with a messianic impulse. It becomes disturbing at Easter -- when talk of the scriptural messiah briefly abounds -- as a born-again (stillborn again?) man in the White House uses Christian fundamentalism to claim the role of messianic forerunner -- a John the Baptist of modern times.
It would be amusing -- except for the support of evangelistic Christians who encourage him to lead us along a path to what they describe as "rapture," but which to the rest of humanity would be havoc.
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