I’ve grown increasingly interested in the Gnostic Gospels. I only came to know of their existence and contents in the past year or so. These curious gospels, banned by the “Christian Church” around 200 A.D., present another side of the Christian experience. The newly translated Gospel of Judas
raises even more profound questions.
I watched a well-done program about the Gospel of Judas last night on the National Geographic Channel. I found it so interesting,
I watched it again (given that it was immediately repeated). I believe Peter Coyote was the narrator.
Before Constantine, before Catholic Doctrine became the official religion/doctrine of the Holy Roman Empire, Christians came in a wide variety of flavors and sentiments. The Gnostics and Essenes practiced very different, very spiritual hybrids. The Gospel of Judas sheds a bit of light on this. In this Gospel, Judas is presented as the most favored apostle, the most pure, innocent and brave. For this reason, Christ selected Judas to play the fateful role of "betrayer." In one passage, Christ pulls Judas aside and whispers that he will reveal the truth about the kingdom of Heaven...but only to him. He then whispers that it resides inside each of us. Take a moment...breathe this in. Isn’t this what Buddha taught?
Other Gnostic Gospels raise additional interesting questions. For example, the Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) presents a far different picture of Mary than current Christian characterizations. She is not Mary, the repentant whore. She is Mary, a beloved apostle and confidant...an equal.
It’s my understanding that about thirty gospels once constituted the Christian canon but, since the 2nd century, only four gospels were retained in the New Testament. I find this all so thought provoking. Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I find it…convenient
…that the four gospels retained by the church stress an acceptance of the cruelties of life in expectation of a better afterlife. The four retained gospels stress submission to a higher power. Women, once again, are relegated to second-class status. Mary Magdalene an apostle? No, the patriarchal church elders would have none of that. The four gospels glorify the Resurrection of the Christ. The Gospel of Judas doesn’t mention the Resurrection at all. The message of Judas’ gospel is that Jesus sought to be freed from his mortal coil…to become, once again, the infinite spirit…the spirit residing within each of us.
The Holy Roman Catholic Church proved well suited as an instrument of social control, a tool of empire. How different would this world be if we dedicated ourselves to finding God/Heaven solely within ourselves? Buddhists, by and large, are a peaceful and contemplative bunch. So, too, I would guess, were the Essenes and the Gnostics. Unfortunately, these tribes were slaughtered, exiled and left behind in the dust of history. Have we missed something important here?
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Interestingly (coincidentally) enough, Bernice opened my eyes to a beautiful poem today, just as I was trying to marshal my own thoughts. I think it fits quite nicely.From Blossoms By Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
this brown bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
Oh, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
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By the way, the very BEST peach I ever had came from a roadside stand in Vermont. I had been criss-crossing New England on another one of my periodical hajj's
when I stopped at a small fruit stand in the Vermont mountains. I bought a peach, just slightly smaller than a basketball, and...when I bit into it...the juices flooded my mouth, my shirt, my consciousness, my very soul. I remember that exquisite peach well. We all deserve to feast on a peach like that, if only once in our lives. It is a good thing to taste, and experience, jubilance.
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