have arisen about the group of scholars who collaborated with National
Geographic in its recent T.V. special about the “discovery” and
contents of the alleged Gospel of Judas, which attempts to portray
Jesus’ betrayer in a positive light.
Elaine Pagels is a feminist who has written several books against the Catholic Church, such as “The Origin of Satan,” written with the initial help of her colleagues at the Hebrew University of Tel Aviv. With the assistance of the openly pro-abortion MacArthur Foundation, she researched and wrote “Adam, Eve and the Serpent,” in which she accused Christianity of offering a distorted image of women.
Pagels admits she was raised an atheist and that her father taught her that religion was “a children’s fantasy.” Her opinion, which was posted on the National Geographic website, is that texts like the Gospel of Judas are “changing the way in which we understand the beginnings of Christianity.” According to Pagels, the story of the betrayal of Judas gave birth to an anti-Semitic sentiment among Christians.
Pagels support for the exhibit “Art, Religion and Resistance,” which featured Andres Serrano’s blasphemous “Piss Christ,” is well known. In an interview, she defended Serrano in the wake of a scandal in the U.S. Senate over the use of public funds for art exhibits, saying, “Any person who studies what I study is doing that (same kind of work) also.” “Serrano comes from a devout Catholic family,” she claimed.
Christians as anti-Semites
Another of the scholars sought out by National Geographic was Amy Jill Levine, a member of pro-abortion feminist groups as well as the Anti-Defamation League. She believes Christians have been generally anti-Semitic since the time of Jesus, as evidenced in a talk she gave entitled, “Christians say the craziest things (about Jews).”
She participated in an analysis of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”—before the movie was actually filmed—in which she claimed the movie was anti-Semitic. Levine, who calls herself a “Jewish feminist Yankee,” said at that time that “Hollywood can easily change the truth,” in reference to Gibson’s film.
Levine claimed that those who composed and copied the Gospel of Judas “challenged the traditional characterization of Judas as a villain, espoused a stricter sexual ethic than the canonical gospels, and offered an alternative theology to both the proto-Orthodox church and the Synagogue.
Judas, the closest friend of Jesus
Another expert for the project was Bart Ehrman, head of the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In works such as “Does Historical Evidence for the Resurrection Exist?” and “Lost Christianities,” which present information from the Gnostic sects of the first centuries, Ehrman casts doubt on the very existence of Jesus.
He has also written “Truths and Myths of the Da Vinci Code” in which he attributes some truthfulness to the Dan Brown novel. He exempts Jews from guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus and blames the Romans alone because he says Jesus represented a threat for the empire.
Ehrman told National Geographic that the text portrays Judas as “not the evil, corrupt, devil-inspired follower of Jesus who betrayed his master; he is instead Jesus' closest intimate and friend, the one who understood Jesus better than anyone else, who turned Jesus over to the authorities because Jesus wanted him to do so.”
Marvin Meyer is another scholar who collaborated with National Geographic. Several of his works, including “The Gnostic Discoveries”, “The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus”, “The Unknown Sayings of Jesus”, “The Gospels of Mary and Secret Gospels: Essays on Thomas” and “The Secret Gospel of Mark”, were used by Dan Brown as an influence for “The Da Vinci Code”.
Meyer is Griset Professor of Biblical and Christian Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California, and director of the Chapman University Albert Schweitzer Institute.
Stephen Emmel, another expert, contradicted himself regarding the age of the Gospel of Judas during a National Geographic press conference. Initially he said the text dated to 400 A.D., but later he said it was written in 300 A.D. The program however, claims the text was penned in 200 A.D.
Emmel is a professor of Coptology at the Institute of Egyptology and Coptology at the University of Münster in Germany. “We can all be grateful to the National Geographic Society for its effort to rescue this unique artifact for the good of science and for posterity," he said.
Craig Evans and Francois Gaudard are two other experts who collaborated with National Geographic. Evans, who has taught a various universities, denies that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus or in his miracles and has written several works on the Gnostic sects in which he refers to the supposed anti-Semitism of Christians.
Gaudard, an Egyptologist and research associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, told National Geographic, “This text not only seriously challenges one of the most firmly rooted beliefs in Christian tradition, but also reduces one of the favorite themes of anti-Semitism to nothing."