Customer Reviews


10 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modifying monotheism
Mind-bending drugs should be taken in small doses - which perhaps explains the brevity of this study. It's certainly challenging, yet surprisingly unfulfilling. The authors examine the recently discovered and painstakingly translated gospel, written about the middle of the 2nd Century CE. They include the entire available text plus commentary on the translation as part of...
Published on 19 May 2007 by Stephen A. Haines

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars FUZZY THOUGHTS SLOPPILY ORGANIZED, POORLY WRITTEN
Even the title demonstrates the lack of a good editor for this book. It does not reflect what the book is about. The book does not delve into "the shaping of Christianity" except by way of some slight background about Irenaeus and his negative views of the Gospel of Judas that are set forth in Against Heresies. Similarly, Pagels and King promise much in their...
Published on 26 Oct 2011 by T. Wasser


Most Helpful First | Newest First

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modifying monotheism, 19 May 2007
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Mind-bending drugs should be taken in small doses - which perhaps explains the brevity of this study. It's certainly challenging, yet surprisingly unfulfilling. The authors examine the recently discovered and painstakingly translated gospel, written about the middle of the 2nd Century CE. They include the entire available text plus commentary on the translation as part of this volume. They suggest it provides a fresh image of early Christianity - things not revealed by the other texts such as that from Nag Hammadi - the so-called "Gnostic Gospels". It demonstrates the many conflicts besetting the movement prior to the imposition of Constantine's "orthodoxy" on Christian society. The Gospel of Judas is most significant for its redefinition of the deity. It's an insightful and compelling account, but raises nearly as many questions as it provides answers.

We [should] all know of the "Judas kiss" purportedly betraying the teacher of a new relationship to the Judaic divinity. According to the four Synoptic Gospels, Judas supposedly sold out his teacher for a few coins, later regretting the act and taking his own life in consequence. This gospel demolishes that old story, replacing it with one in which Judas was directed to perform his act by the victim himself. The reasons for this overthrow many commonly accepted ideas of who the deity was and what was desired of its followers. Judas is portrayed as outside the original group of twelve, and given special recognition by his teacher. So detached was his role, that he's shown to be in serious conflict with his colleagues. The strife was intense enough that Judas, instead of a suicide, becomes the victim of murder by his colleagues.

The themes underlying this gospel are the role of martyrdom and the act of sacrifice. What kind of god demands the ultimate sacrifice? The author of The Gospel of Judas is particularly disparaging of those Christians who accepted, indeed willingly embraced, the martyr's role. He viewed this as a violation of a loving deity, the novel idea Jesus had taught. As a short-cut to Paradise, the author of the Gospel of Judas found martyrdom unacceptable. Innumerable questions arose over what kind of martyrdom Jesus had really suffered, resulting in extensive debate about his human aspects. That debate, of course, hasn't ceased, the Trinitarian concept being but a stopgap. The authors see The Gospel of Judas as depicting Jesus as a special entity, capable of reaching beyond the human body even while living. At one point, he's said to leave the group of disciples to enter Paradise directly, and enabling Judas to do the same. Martyrdom need not be endured if the proper faith is exercised. If Judas could achieve it, so could anybody who understood what Jesus' message conveyed.

If martyrdom was a misleading idea, what of the role of sacrifice? Jesus own death, often depicted as a sacrifice, was anathema to many, often blocking potential conversions. Human sacrifice was becoming seen as deplorable even in pagan societies. Animal sacrifice was a substitute, but did the deity view it that way? In their discussion of this and other offering practices, the authors show that the monotheism we consider essential to Jesus' teaching wasn't truly in place in that era. The Great Invisible Spirit referred to in the Judas Gospel was merely the highest in a confusing hierarchy of deities, angels and other spirits. The world wasn't created by Elohim, as the Jews generally taught, but by Saklas, a lesser deity. Another god was in charge of the sun, while yet others guided the planets and stars. The monotheism of Genesis is overturned in this Gospel. Instead of one creator, an array of over 360 "luminaries", each taking a particular role is depicted. Jesus own death is decreed by one of these, a "false god", to which the disciples, excepting Judas, make sacrifices. Jesus' taught Judas to bypass these unreliable spirits to reach the Great Invisible Spirit.

While the authors successfully demonstrate that Christianity was a hotch-potch of beliefs and practices, particularly as the author of The Gospel of Judas recognised, their own statement of how the text should now be considered is little short of staggering. They contend that elevating the text from its historical value to one of theological teaching "is not useful - and beside the point". The long history of the Synoptic Gospels being used in many faiths as the "standard" overrides whatever contribution either the Judas Gospel or the spectrum of "Gnostic" writings might make. Given that each of these has its own version of both Jesus and the deity who supposedly spawned him, this seems bizarre. We are left, after all these centuries of still wondering which deity should command our attention and worship. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarship not intended to divide people, 15 Oct 2007
Jesus taught a message of acceptance so it should come as no surprise that Pagels and King present here:

1) inclusive concerns that cuts across the "liberal" versus "conservative" divide that is used to to steer readers away in advance from reading works from a presumably "other camp".

2) a Christian teaching that is neither strictly orthodox nor Gnostic, that does not depend on any argument for an earlier dating of the text, and which addresses issues that Christians faced in the 2nd century including persecution and martyrdom.

3) A work by two knowledgeable and gifted women at a time when discrimination by gender still persists, at times blatant, within not only society at large but within Christian denominations, churches and schools.

This book is divided into two parts:

1) A general presentation, "Reading Judas", on which Pagels and King collaborated.

2) King's translation of this gospel and her fine-grained comments on that translation.

Pagels and King help us to understand a time when there were genuine Christian concerns that the theme of sacrifice and appeals for martyrdom were being manipulated by many early church leaders.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking at history turned upside down, 25 Sep 2010
This review is from: Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas (Paperback)
Elaine Pagels has devoted her research and her profound scholarship to unearthing and interpreting the evidence for the "lost " gospels which were rejected by the earliest Christian authorities. "The Gospel of Judas" seems the most unlikely and the most heretical of all of these. Existing in a fragmentary text, already copied from a lost and disputed original, the outcast Apostle is revealed as an outraged critic and denier of the mainstream New Testament tradition.

The text of this gospel is hard to understand, let alone interpret; Judas is accusing the other Apostles of leading Christian men and women to death and destruction, and to blasphemy of Christ's teaching. Elaine Pagels explains why this revolutionary history as told by a 2nd century writer attacks the legacy of Christianity in this way. Her explanation is in many ways shocking.

But in four outstanding chapters of explanation before the gospel translation itself, Elaine Pagels lays out an extraordinary new look at the history of early Christianity, of how difficult it was for the first Apostles and their converts to establish a unified church and body of doctrine, sweeping as the new faith did across the world, coming up against the traditions of other cultures. At the same time, they were coming to terms with the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ.

Elaine's books are radical, rely on the best scholarly evidence, and are profound and searching in their quest for meaning. They demand courage and thoughtfulness from the reader. You may reject her view of what happened to the early Christian views that were banned as heretical; but you will find yourself examining your own in depth.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A very moving gospel., 23 Mar 2013
By 
Mrs. Marilyn J. Sutcliffe "the disciple" (Burnley, Lancs. UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas (Paperback)
Thsi was a very moving read. Elaine Pagels and Karen King have done a first class job of translating and interpreting this gospel which is both scholarly and compassionate in its treatment of the gnostic gospel of Judas. It shows the words of Judas in light of the background events of the first century of Christianity which most of us are inclined to view as a time of deep brotherhood and agreement within the early christian community. This book reveals the full extent of the divisions and traumas within this community which tore them apart in many ways. One feels a deep understanding and empathy with Judas as revealed within this gospel, whether or not Judas was the author of it( unlikely). If you value an open and developing mind and spirit, you will benefit greatly from the experience of reading this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars FUZZY THOUGHTS SLOPPILY ORGANIZED, POORLY WRITTEN, 26 Oct 2011
By 
T. Wasser (Pittsburgh, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Even the title demonstrates the lack of a good editor for this book. It does not reflect what the book is about. The book does not delve into "the shaping of Christianity" except by way of some slight background about Irenaeus and his negative views of the Gospel of Judas that are set forth in Against Heresies. Similarly, Pagels and King promise much in their Introduction:

"Much of the Gospel of Judas is filled with Jesus's brilliant teaching about the spiritual life. Why, then, the author's rage? What matters so deeply? And most important, what hope does the author offer to redeem his anger? The answers to these questions lead deep into the agonizing controversies and exultant visions of God that would ultimately come to shape Christianity and capture the hearts and souls of people for millennia to come. These are the matters we address in Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity."

p. xiii. But the only one of those questions they address is about the author's supposed rage. Personally, I do not see the alleged rage in the text of the Gospel of Judas, but perhaps that is caused by my lack of knowledge of the ancient Coptic (originally Greek) and/or the then extant literary traditions. The question of "what matters so deeply" seems to be merely rhetorical filler on the part of Pagels and King. As to what they say is the most important question, about anger, one cannot help but ask why an individual is required to "redeem" his anger? Is anger a transgression of some sort? Pagels and King imply they will go deep into agonizing controversies; if they do, such depth is not in this book. Perhaps the depth is in the other books by the same authors that they cross-sell by footnote. Given the explicit discussion of the nature and origin of immortal "spirits" of some humans in the Gospel of Judas, perhaps it just muddies the waters to discuss the "hearts and souls" of people in this imprecise (are hearts different than souls?, is either immortal?) manner.

One does not need to perform a close examination of the text to see that the organization of the book is problematic--even on a physical level it is apparent. King provides an English translation of the Gospel of Judas, with numbered references to endnotes that are set forth in the following section of the book, called "Comments on the Translation." But then, there are endnotes to these endnotes! Thus, one is trying to mark three pages in the book simultaneously--the page where one is reading the text of the Gospel, the page referred to in the "Comments," and the page referred to in the "Notes" section. A good editor should never have allowed endnotes to endnotes.

There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to which points receive endnotes and which do not. Their random nature suggests an undergraduate sticking in footnotes willy nilly in order to show his professor that he has done the requisite reading, rather than to clarify a point or to give credit where credit is due. For example, the notion that the "Ancient astronomers believed that mathematical descriptions of the universe prove that divine intelligence, not chance or necessity, pervades the universe..." (p. 153) rates an ancient quote and an endnote. But the proposition that there was an "ancient belief that doing certain acts helps to cultivate corresponding inner attitudes" (p. 127) is simply asserted with no authority. The lack of consistency shows that this work was merely cobbled together.

Even the chronology implied in this book is wrong. There is a discussion concerning Irenaeous and Tertullian and the way they extolled martyrdom; then Pagels and King state that what they "hear in the Gospel of Judas is a sharp, dissenting voice." (p. 56). Yet it is almost certain that the Gospel of Judas came before the works of Irenaeous and Tertullian, and that Irenaeous was responding to the Gospel of Judas. (p. xii, and pp. 169-70, n.2). It is not logical to say that Judas was dissenting to opinions that had not yet been promulgated. Perhaps Pagles and King were merely using these three authors as exemplars of the many voices of early Christianity, but that is not how they are presented.

This supposedly scholarly book is larded with mushy (in two senses of the word) language:

"...the pattern of ruling and serving is established as one that is not only good and natural but divine. The entire universe was ordered this way by God's command--both the divine realm above and the world below. Ruling and order display God's goodness."

(p.149). There is no mention of "God's goodness" or any other goodness in the passage of the Gospel of Judas that this quote seeks to explicate. It is a mere logical leap from ruling and order to goodness. Is the goodness just presumed because it arises in the context of God? If so, then what has goodness to do with ruling and order? Is there goodness implied in the original Coptic text? If so, it was not set forth in King's translation of the text. Most likely, King and/or Pagels just had a throw-away sentence that sounded "nice," and just put it in--meaning be damned.

The authors make much of the mystical significance of the number twelve as represented by the number of Jesus's disciples and how their number reflects the twelve angels that were set by God to rule over the lower world. (p. 134). This may well be true, but even as a casual reader of the Bible, I cannot help but think that the twelve disciples reflect the twelve sons of Jacob and the resulting twelve tribes of Israel. Given the prominence of those themes, it seems odd there is not even a mention of the Old Testament connection to the number twelve.

If you want an orderly account of the Gospel of Judas, then read The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot by Bart Ehrman, and skip the chaos of the Pagels/King book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas, 12 Jun 2010
This review is from: Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas (Paperback)
I like the way mrs. Pagels argues her case. Clear and lucid.
This doesn't mean I now understand Judas' Gospel message.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange, 11 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Author appears a little muddled and for a University Lecturer I was surprised regarding the comments on the Gospel Writers. Maybe the author needs to re-read what is written in what is published with her name on.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 15 Aug 2014
This review is from: Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas (Paperback)
Yep
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pandering to Polytheism, 15 Aug 2009
By 
J. G. Knebel (Matlock, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Elaine Pagels and Karen King have produced a very balanced account of this contentious gospel and their observation that its theological (but not historical) value is of little merit is fairly unremarkable given the content of the Gospel of Judas. It is because the pantheon of deities and sub deities it promotes, one of many such competing and mutually incompatible Gnostic pantheons, is in such stark contrast to the monotheistic non-dualistic universe inhabited by the synoptic gospels, that the latter have survived and the former has not. We human beings get a bit dazed and confused (if not a little weary) when we have too many deities commanding (or is that demanding) our attention and worship.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So the Apostle Judas of Iscariot may be recovering his honor, at least non-canonically, 4 Sep 2008
By 
Masayoshi Ishida "Non-Materialist" (Tokaimura, Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I read several years ago Pagels' "Beyond Belief," which is very helpful in understanding the so-called Gnostic Gospels. And this time too this book is very interesting; hence five stars. However, Judas of Iscariot remains still being the betrayer!
However the problems with these studies based on the archeologically old Christian documents are that (1) these documents were written well after the supposed year of Jesus' departure from this physical dimension, and (2) these documents may be very much distorted by the authors based on their beliefs. And because of these problems academic studies on Gnostic Gospels may continue for a long time to come for seeking the true story of Jesus. Is there any other way to know the true story? I think there is at least one way: psychical approach! Probably people interested in psychical research well know that the non-physical entity "Seth" talked about his controversial story of Jesus through the late American write-poet Jane Roberts (1929-1984) in his first book "Seth Speaks (1972)" in the last Session 591 of the book on 11 August 1971. Seth said to the effect that (a) Christ, the historical Jesus Christ, was not crucified, (b) He had no intention of dying in that manner; but others felt that to fulfill the prophecies in all ways, a crucifixion was a necessity, (c) the historical Jesus Christ did not take part in it, (d) There was a conspiracy in which Judas played a role, an attempt to make a martyr out of Christ; a deluded man who believed he was the Christ was chosen to be crucified. So in the Seth's story, the very Judas was the man who saved Jesus' life contrary to the canonical story of Judas being the meme of "Historical Betrayer." This may be a possible story as well, and I take the Seth's story because I believe the scientific study on "human reincarnation" by the late Prof. Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) as well as "the Great Memory" existing non-physically in other dimension as purported by F.W.H. Myers through the late Irish medium G. Cummins in the book "The Road to Immortality (1932)."
Maybe we can discover the true story of Jesus by the studies of academic people like Dr. Peagels, and also by psychical methods as well.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas
Used & New from: 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews