.- The fictional novel, “The Gospel of Judas,” was presented yesterday at the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome (PBI). Responding to reports in various media outlets, Jesuit Father Stephen Pisano explained that neither the Holy See, nor the Pope nor the Institute of which he is rector endorses this work of fiction.
“I want to underscore that allowing this book to be presented here does not imply that the PBI itself, or the Vatican or the Pope have in any way accepted it. We simply want to provide a place for academic discussion about one aspect of the New Testament and we have Father Moloney to guide this discussion,” he said.
“The Institute, as an academic institution, has nothing to do with modern novels. The only reason why we have allowed this book to be presented is because of the presence among us of Father Francis Moloney, a renowned expert and scholar of the New Testament.”
Moloney is currently superior of the Salesian religious order in Australia and has been a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission since 1984. The priest, however, is well known for some rather unorthodox views on the life of Christ. In an interview with the Times of London, the priest said he has become convinced that some of Jesus’ miracles were invented by the early Church.
Turning water into wine at a wedding feast came "out of a profound desire to show that Jesus, like the God of Israel, is the messianic giver of all good things." Likewise, Moloney told the Times, Jesus’ walking on the water and calming the Sea of Galilee never happened either. In his opinion the miracles were “created” from a desire to prove that Jesus had the same mastery over nature as the God of the Hebrew Bible.
While the rector of the Pontifical Institute said Father Moloney is qualified to explain various aspects of the life of Jesus, Father Pisano said he was aware of the “risk that the Institute is taking” by hosting the presentation as “our name could be used to market the book. This is a risk we must take.”
Indeed several news sources, from London to L.A. have picked up on the story and noted the Catholic Church’s so called “support” for the book.
However, Father Pisano said the Institute’s interest is “the Bible itself, and if this discussion encourages people to read the Bible, to read it with intelligence and with a spirit of prayer, then maybe we can say that the presentation of this book is justified.”
He also expressed his fear that the book’s method of mixing fiction with biblical texts “could create certain confusion in the people about what came from the Bible and what came from the author. Above all I worry that people think that everything that is written here is part of history, but it is not. This is a novel!”
Written by Jeffrey Archer, the novel was published in eight languages and has a glossary that clarifies which biblical quotes are authentic. The glossary was compiled by Father Moloney. The book’s story is told from the perspective of a fictitious son of Judas, Benjamin Iscariot, who says his father did not commit suicide, but retired instead to a Qumran monastery where he was crucified by Tito’s soldiers.