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

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  1,012 Ratings  ·  95 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?
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Penguin (first published 2007)
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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
Jul 27, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Mar 11, 2010 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
David Radavich
Aug 21, 2015 David Radavich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is another fine, lucid volume by these two great scholars of religion. The recently discovered and translated Gospel of Judas, combined with other newly studied non-canonical gospels, radically alters our understanding of the origins of Christianity. Elaine Pagels and Karen K. King are careful and balanced in their methodology, never claiming too much while also exploring profoundly different understandings of early church events and beliefs. I have always felt, even as a child, that Judas'
Aug 04, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
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
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
Jan 25, 2015 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to this over two days on CD. A thought provoking and somewhat creepy text. Although it did have a very spiritual take on the scriptures and God's relationship with man. I am looking forward to reading/listening to more of her work.
May 03, 2016 Banbury rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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 t
Mark Russell
Jan 21, 2009 Mark Russell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2015 A. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review: Reading Judas by Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King

This work is divided into two parts, one by each author. The second part, by Dr. King, is a translation of the Gospel of Judas with important notes to the translation. The first part is Dr. Pagel’s essay on reading the Gospel of Judas.
The Gospel of Judas is a second century work falsely ascribed to the infamous Judas Iscariot in order to gain acceptance of the work, just as the Epistle to the Hebrews was falsely ascribed to Paul, as well
Jun 18, 2009 Cappy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
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
Apr 05, 2011 Pearl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erik Graff
Nov 29, 2012 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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
Kaine Andrews
Mar 16, 2016 Kaine Andrews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As anyone with any knowledge of me is aware, I love Judas lore and anything that casts doubt on the image of happy-shiny-always-friendly religion, so my opinion on this particular book may be a bit biased, but I'll try my best to keep my fanboyism in check.

So, what is it? Well, the core of it is a (reasonably, given what's available, at least) complete translation of the Gospel of Judas, that lovely bit of apocrypha that has been called Gnostic, heretical, insane, stupid or redemptive at assorte
Lee Harmon
Jan 19, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 28, 2011 Meredith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 28, 2010 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Steven Monrad
May 10, 2012 Steven Monrad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
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
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
Alethea Bothwell
The actual English translation is 14 pages, the rest is commentary and notes - and thank goodness! I wouldn't have made head nor tails of it without all the help. And as it is, I have only a vague idea of what the message was - I gathered that there would be no resurrection of the flesh, for one thing, no immediate paradise for martyrs for another. And to get sacrifice right requires a delicate mental balancing act. But there is much more curious stuff here - hierarchies of gods and angels, fals ...more
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
Dec 08, 2016 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Judas raises compelling issues......about the nature of God, the meaning of Jesus's death, the suffering of martyrs, and much more. These issues are as important today as they were nineteen centuries ago. This passionate, insightful book plunges us into the heart of Christianity itself. I have always been interested in how the books of the Bible, especially the New Testament. Why were the books that were included chosen? Who chose them? What is the nature of those books? Why were some bo ...more
Lacey Louwagie
May 31, 2009 Lacey Louwagie rated it really liked it  ·  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
Nov 23, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is fun to read the Gospel of Judas on its own just to get a glimpse of the medieval religious paradigm. It is amazing how much Christianity has changed since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It is sad that mysticism and magic have all but disappeared in mainstream Christianity. Modern Christianity denies the worshipper mind-expanding visions of another part of our consciousness. Reading the Gospel of Judas is often beautiful and wonderfully non-Cartesian. Our authors explain Judas histo ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Rebecca Cooper
Jan 15, 2016 Rebecca Cooper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gnostic, non-fiction
This book has the translation of the gospel itself, as well as excellent discussion on what the author of the gospel's perspective may have been, the importance of the events happening around the time it was written, and what the gospel itself likely means. The text would not have been half as fascinating without the accompanying commentary to put it into perspective.

The only thing I didn't agree with... The author briefly brings up the question of whether or not Christians should rethink what
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
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Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community whose scholarship has earned her international respect. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, she was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim & MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years.
As a young researcher at Barnard College, she changed forever the historical landscape of the Christian r
More about Elaine Pagels...

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