Monday, March 26, 2007

Judas, Jews, Judgment

Here are some excerpts from a new take on Judas:-

The subtext of recent accounts is that Jesus wasn't all he's made out to be, that Judas alone saw through him, and that it was this, not the betrayal, that has made him a hate figure in Christianity ever since.

...Judas has become one of the most instantly identifiable characters in Christianity and beyond, the personification of wickedness and the original fifth columnist.

This week that enduring fascination took a fresh turn with the publication of Jeffrey Archer's book, The Gospel According to Judas (Macmillan).

...Judas, the insider who was also the outsider, provides rich pickings for those wanting to debunk the claims of Christianity.

...The Gospel of Judas has not proved the last word, as Archer's book flamboyantly demonstrates. One problem is that the rediscovered manuscript dates back only as far as AD150-180. Was this a later edition of an earlier text in which Judas had told "my own story", or was it simply part of the Apocrypha, the writings about Jesus from the first and second centuries which didn't make the cut for the New Testament? of Judas' assumed identities over the centuries, especially in Christian-inspired literature, has been as the archetypal Jew.

In medieval times, in particular, Judas the Jew was regularly portrayed as sinking to new depths of depravity as a way of reinforcing and justifying Christianity's witch-hunt of Jews in Europe. So, in the 13th century, in The Golden Legend the Dominican priest, Jacob of Virragino, gave Judas a chilling fictional back story as a serial murderer whose victims include his father, killed so that Judas can have sex with his mother.

The link between the wicked Judas and anti-Semitism has more recent form too, as the Jewish historian Hyam Maccoby showed in his 1992 book, Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil. Among Nazi propaganda from the 1930s are depictions of Judas as a sinister Jew. Maccoby's book inspired novelist Howard Jacobson's 1993 film, Sorry Judas, a debate between 12 theologians staged round the Last Supper table.

Judas' supposed collusion with dark forces, prompted above all by his image, second only to the Devil, as the Bad Boy of the New Testament, has also made him popular in the horror and science fiction genres. The American sci-fi writer, George R.R. Martin, author of the best-selling Song of Ice and Fire series, has published a short story, The Way of Cross and Dragon, that describes a secret religious sect who meet to worship Saint Judas in pseudo-Satanic rituals...

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