Sister in Law Teresa went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls that were passing through San Diego and found them fascinating. This got me to thinking about all the new things archeologists are turning up using new imaging techniques. Parchment was hard to come by and sometimes people would scrape off what was written on a piece of parchment and then write something new. Now they have methods to see what was previously written.
I don’t think this was true of the Book of Judas. But I started thinking that probably writing the Book of Judas was no small matter. First you had to have the parchment and then you had to be able to write. I wonder how many people were literate in those days.
But somebody must have felt some sort of commitment to writing the Book of Judas. First I thought maybe Judas had some relative who was pissed off about the bad things that were being said about him and that this relative wanted to set straight things straight and clear his relative’s name. But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because a person was not going to reach much of a mass audience with one piece of parchment.
Back then writing a book was sort of like sending a message in a bottle. You wrote it and maybe someday, somebody, somewhere would find it and read it. No publisher was going to pick it up and advertise like: Exclusive! Book of Judas! The Real Story! The Record Set Straight. The author of the Book of Judas was not going to appear on talk shows and tell people why he or she had written it.
So I took a quick look at the Book, and it’s not really about a guy named Judas at all. Rather, Judas is a sort of symbol that is part of a larger more theological issue that runs something like: if Jesus was the son of God, wouldn’t he have known everything that was going to happen and if so how did Judas sneak up on him and betray him like that. So the Book really was an attempt to do some reasoning on a tricky issue.
The Book says that Jesus told Judas to betray him and that in asking Judas to perform this task Jesus was showing Judas a signal honor. You, Judas, are worthy enough to betray me. So Judas did it. And in a way, he was a hero for doing it, since his good name was pretty well screwed for all eternity.
So that settles the theological issue. Jesus did know what Judas was going to do since they ask him to do it. Indeed, God was speaking through Judas.
The downside though is that Jesus comes off seeming like one hell of a PR man. Reminds me of Edward Bernais. The tobacco companies ask him back in the 1920’s to figure out how to sell cigarettes to women (because there was a social taboo against women smoking). The suffragettes were having a parade and Bernais hired a group of socialites to march along and at one moment they all lit up together. Bernais had press on hand and told the socialites to call cigarettes torches of freedom or independence. It was all a set up but the event appeared in papers all over the country as real; consequently the sale of cigarettes to women soared.
Of course, Bernais was not crucified, though maybe he should have been.