Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
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Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  700 ratings  ·  71 reviews
The instant New York Times bestseller interpreting the controversial long-lost gospel

The recently unearthed Gospel of Judas is a source of fascination for biblical scholars and lay Christians alike. Now two leading experts on the Gnostic gospels tackle the important questions posed by its discovery, including: How could any Christian imagine Judas to be Jesus' favorite? A...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Penguin (first published January 1st 2007)
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William
I don't think Karen L. King has been good for Elaine Pagels's prose. I strained thoughout to hear Pagels' distinctive voice and could never quite locate it. Instead the tone seems a little rushed, a little shrill almost, as opposed to Pagels's much more relaxed and considered pace. Second, while the arguments broached here are compelling enough they never seem to go as deep as Pagels' on her own seems to go when writing without a collaborator. If you want to start with a great Pagels book try Th...more
Kevin
This book was overall pretty interesting. I guess, though, I should at least put forth some of my biases: I enjoy the complications in scholarly works on early Christianity, I really enjoy some of the alternative Christianity histories, and I have an affinity toward Pagels work.

That being said, I thought that Pagels section was interesting. She seemed rushed at times and almost to be hitting only a surface-level analysis of the text.

The King portion is pretty analytical in what it conveys, but...more
Dorothy
Just in time for Easter, I've finished this book about the Gospel of Judas. This non-canonical gospel was purportedly found in Egypt in the 1960s or 1970s. Its provenance is somewhat shaky, but the only known copy of the work, in the Coptic language, has been carbon-dated to around 280 of the Common Era, give or take 60 years. It is believed that this is a translation of an earlier Greek work which was in existence at least in 180 C.E. when the influential Christian priest, Irenaeus, spoke out a...more
Rebecca
This is a fairly interesting, if rather short, analysis of a text that I ended up finding not particularly interesting.

A copy of the Gospel of Judas was found a couple decades ago, but handled very badly and nearly destroyed. It's only recently been restored and translated and made available to scholars. The text is a relatively short work in which Jesus reveals secrets of the universe to Judas so that Judas can sacrifice himself by making the necessary betrayal. It appears to be one of the many...more
Michael
The anti-war Gospel?

That's the message of these two scholars of early Christianity in their reading of the Gospel of Judas, of which only tattered fragments remain after a greedy dealer kept it in his freezer for years while angling for a huge sale. An incredible restoration effort has salvaged a healthy amount of the original text, dating probably from the second century CE. The translation provided here runs 14 very short pages, and notes various gaps of missing material of three lines, 15 lin...more
Ben
An interesting book on a fascinating subject. The discovery and publication of (relatively) recently discovered works of early Christianity quite literally force anyone who has every thought about popular Christianity as it exists today to think again. However, as the Gospel of Judas (included in this edition) is very often confusing and at times downright bizarre, the expository essay that accounts for the first half of this volume is extremely useful and illuminating in terms of both laying ou...more
Rod
What a silly little book. The information is amusing - but the importance these so-called scholars attach to it is comical.

Quote in the book:
"This passionate, insightful book plunges into the heart of Christianity itself."

Wow, just wow! I just read N.T. Wright's book: Judas and the Gospel of Jesus. Basically the same theme without all the hype and conspiracy foolishness.

How great would a deity be if he/she left lost Gospel accounts (with numerous parts missing) hidden for centuries and then mo...more
David
Pagels and King present the Gospel of Judas like a retelling of Wicked from Judas' point of view. It's not altogether bad; I was expecting something with a little more scholarly depth. Everything is related back to many of the gnostic materials with some of the oddities that accompany many of the gnostic texts as well. Their focus seems to be more on the book as a contradiction to substitutionary atonement, which if that were the case there's been more than 1200 years of better atonement theolog...more
Mark Russell
When I first decided to read The Gospel of Judas, I considered just buying the translated gospel by itself. After all, I thought, I'm pretty well-versed in the Bible and am a reasonably intelligent person, I should be able to get through this without much help, right? Well, thankfully, I got over myself and bought this book instead. I would not have been able to mine one-tenth of the wisdom and gravity of this long-lost Gnostic text without the authoritative and knowledgeable guidance of Elaine...more
Lee Harmon
This is a fun one. Short and sweet, Karen and Elaine share their unique interpretation of this fascinating discovery. Scholars of the gospel of Judas would never consider it mainstream Christianity ... can any book who paints a Christian villian as a hero be mainstream? ... and yet, there remains a lot of controversy about exactly how to classify that ancient Gospel. Part of the problem, of course, is that it's far from complete; and while that's certainly not the fault of Pagels and King, it do...more
Meredith
I am actually listening to the book on CD (during my lengthy car trips)and I do find it engaging. It is not quite what I thought it would be, though. The authors spend a lot of time reviewing the other gospels and then briefly comparing them to what the gospel of Judas said. I would prefer it if they would just talk about the book of Judas. So far, I've learned that Judas did not think Jesus meant for us to celebrate the Eucharist (Jesus' sacrifice) and that Jesus never intended for his follower...more
Kendra
I enjoyed this book, it's aptly named, as it seems to deal less with the actual message of "Judas"(which is unpopular/confusing in its anger) and more with the motivating forces behind the author's harsh words. It seems he had plenty to be upset about.

Elaine Pagels' books are so helpful for anyone with a Christian background. The power struggle and dividing of the early church tell so much of human nature. The things that divided these early Christians (Jesus, redemption) were the very things t...more
Erik Graff
Nov 29, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: early Xianity fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
Now that my dad has reached his nineties, I stay with him out in East Dundee, Illinois while his younger wife travels overseas. This year she went to Turkey and I to their home.

It being a month before Christmas, I spent part of the time out there searching for gifts. One likely source has been the EBay consignment store on 72, just before the bridge crossing the Fox River. This year was exceptional in that they were preparing for a book sale. It hadn't started yet, but I was allowed a preview of...more
Cappy
This book reads a little like a conspiracy theory and the authors seem so convinced of the merits of their subject that they gloss over the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of Gnostic thought.

"The author of the Gospel of Judas could not reconcile his beleif in a deeply loving, good God with a particular idea other Christians held at the time: that God desired the bloody sacrificial death of Jesus and his followers." (pg. xvi)

"we can now see more clearly that the early history of Christianity was...more
Brian
This was a fascinating book. It is written in three parts. One attempts to both place the Gospel of Judas in a historical context, but also attempts to derive the historical context from the existence of the Gospel of Judas itself. The Gospel of Judas was written more than a hundred years after the death of Christ, so is obviously not written by the "real" Judas. But what does it tell us about the early period of Christianity that an author felt the need to write this Gospel?

The second part is t...more
Pearl
In 2006 The National Geographic finally released a copy of The Gospel of Judas, a manuscript which had been copied into the Coptic from second-century Greek. This Gospel immediately casued a stir. Judas, the reviled betrayer? What could he have to say?

Pegals and King, wonderful New Testament scholars and authors of several books on the Gnostic Gospels, do their usual fine job of putting the Gospel of Judas into its 2nd Century context and then discussing its claims. We don't learn anything about...more
Lacey Louwagie
Jul 15, 2009 Lacey Louwagie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spiritual seekers
Recommended to Lacey by: Jenna
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm always surprised by how compelling non-fiction is when I actually give it a chance--especially non-fiction about Jesus and such.

I appreciated the way this book used the Gospel of Judas to shed light on the controversies, politics, and agendas of the early Church leaders. But I think what I liked most was the non-judgmental tone of this book. She didn't point fingers at early Church leaders as "suppressors" of Sacred Texts, nor did she denounce the non-Canonical Gospels as being invalid or he...more
Heather
I did not like this as much as Misquoting Jesus, as it required having more of a technical background on Biblical text. I loved the premise of having a different perspective of the resurrection, but the execution was disappointing. This book raises questions I'd always had but never voiced (or thought of voicing), including the motivation of Judas' deception, whether Jesus physically rose from the dead (or merely in the spiritual sense), and why the various "mainstream" gospels (Matthew, Mark, L...more
Steven Monrad
Gosh, what we learned in Sunday School was not the whole story after all.

That's not news, but this book is nicely focused on the principal events of Christ's life and reinterprets the main point in a way that does not wander off into other teachings or throw the baby out with the bathwater. Enhancement of the authors' obvious faith rather than a rejection.

Written by two professors, the book is not really dumbed down, just explanatory for the rest of us. They explain the big words.
The point is th...more
Phillip
Having caught just the fringe of any controversy raised by the discovery and translation of "The Gospel of Judas" a few years ago, I was glad when I came across an affordable copy of "Reading Judas" with which I could satisfy my curiosity.

At no time do any of the authors consider this manuscript to be penned by Judas Iscariot. They perceive this to be written in the second century by a writer concerned by some of the developments in the Christian church. However, the concerns he addressed centur...more
Tony
Pagels, Elaine & King, Karen L. READING JUDAS: THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS AND THE SHAPING OF CHRISTIANITY. (2007). *****
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, but I had heard of the Gospel of Judas and wanted to know more. What I found was a clear and cogent explanation of how this ancient document fit in with the early history of the Christian church, its organization and its tenets. The manuscript for this document was found in Egypt and was probably written in about 189 C.E. The...more
Cher
This book emphasizes a compelling point: Judas was Jesus' favorite of his disciples. And if God has a plan, and Jesus knew Judas would betray him, doesn't that mean the lost gospel of Judas, one of the earliest Christian writings, excised from the bible at the Nicene counsel, deserves another glance? This book is excellent with its historical research and explaining the impact on the Christian faith of the Nicene counsel's decisions about which books to keep in bible and which to label "heresy."...more
Aaron Meyer
I seen this book and thought alright another Pagel book .... sweet. Boy was I in for disappointment. In fact, I was already ticked off by page xii in the intro when somebody (not sure who because they don't say who wrote what) stated that the gospel was anti-Jewish and homophobic. I was like, really people, just shut up already. Then they started talking about how Judas was to be killed by the others and the first thing that came into was ummm that was a dream not a reality, you said you transla...more
Barbara Verchot
What an intriguing topic and book. This is not an easy topic, nor easy discussion, and at times the narrative is a bit confusing. I feel I need to brush-up on what mainstream Christianity today teaches. It also makes me want to go back and watch 'The Last Temptation of Christ' again as I felt that was such a powerful film. Part one of this book is a discussion of the writer of the Gospel of Judas' reaction to the promotion of martyrdom by early Christian leaders and their narrow understanding of...more
Larry
Nov 29, 2008 Larry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I'm a Pagels fan.
Profressor Pagels joined the rush to publish after the translation of the Book of Judas manuscript was made public. Although the condition of the papyrus was terrible and the manuscript become enbroiled in a lurid plot of greed and scholastic primacy, the ultimate outcome was to give the world yet another look at the variation on early Christian belief. With her usual deep knowledge and easy prose the author revisits prior scripture and banned scripture to tell a very human tale of a school of C...more
David
Not sure why I bothered to pick this book up. I couldn’t quite get serious about it. It did recite the actual translation of the Gospel of Judas (although Judas didn’t actually write it). The authors of this book, like the authors of the Judas Gospel, were not just religious apologists but Judas apologists. In the end, the only interest to me was its anthropologic amusement. For fun, I was glad to see it challenge canonical verses, but it’s like finding another Egyptian book of the dead or readi...more
Edward
I've read several of Pagels' other studies of early Christianity, and she's always good (this book being no exception) in pointing that the first several centuries of the new faith were turbulent ones, everyone trying to figure out what were the theological implications of Jesus' life and death.
The damaged manuscript of JUDAS, as far as Pagels and King are concerned, tends to emphasize that it is Christ's teaching that bring "eternal life", not his death or his resurrection. "Sacrifice" is downp...more
Mike
The reader of an Elaine Pagels book learns that that much of early Christian literature--whether canonical or gnostic--has an agenda, an idea that the author is trying to promote or argue against. The pseudonymous author of the Gospel of Judas was dismayed by the way the early church fathers celebrated and encouraged martyrdom and so constructed a narrative in which Jesus discourages self-sacrifice in God's name. This was a minority viewpoint, of course, and eventually labeled heretical by the p...more
Liddy Barlow
This was the first selection of the book club I started at work; we had some great conversations about it, which says more about the people who come to book club than about the quality of the book itself. Pagels and King have a great reputation, but I was somewhat disappointed with Reading Judas. It seemed padded with too much material not directly related to the Gospel of Judas, especially observations from other Gnostic gospels. Meanwhile, some of the first-century context was not fully explai...more
Sam
This was a very easy book to read and follow. I can see why it is controversial but it has a very important point to make. It argues that Judas was wrongly vilified for the role he played in Christian history and explores plausible reasons for and against. It came across to me that the gospel of Judas was basically another flavor of the current 4 gospels except it talks more about the follies of martyrdom under the Christian banner. Which, apparently, was a problem at times before the gospels we...more
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Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community whose impressive scholarship has earned her international respect. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Pagels was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years.
As a young researcher at Barnard College, she changed forever the historical landscape of the...more
More about Elaine Pagels...
The Gnostic Gospels Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans and Heretics Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation

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