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

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  939 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Two gnostic gospels experts weigh in on the meaning of the controversial Gospel of Judas. When it was published by Nat'l Geographic in 4/06, it received extraordinary media attention & was heralded as a major biblical discovery that rocked scholars & laity alike. Pagels & King are the 1st to reflect on this text & its ramifications for telling the story of ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Viking/Penguin Group (NYC) (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
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
David Radavich
Aug 21, 2015 David Radavich rated it it was amazing

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'
Jun 18, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 11, 2010 Michael rated it it was ok
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
Aug 07, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2015 James rated it really liked it
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 16, 2013 Rod rated it it was ok
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
May 03, 2016 Banbury rated it it was ok

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
Feb 13, 2015 A. rated it liked it
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
Kaine Andrews
Mar 29, 2016 Kaine Andrews rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2015 Martin rated it it was ok
I used to really love Elaine Pagels and I'm not sure what's missing in this book. Some of the other reviews I've read have blamed co-writer Karen King for either making the tone either shrill or dull. My biggest problem was that it rehashed much of what I have already learned from Pagels or other such authors who write extensively on the gnostic gospels. Or maybe it is because there is so little of the actual Gospel of Judas, as it was damaged irreparably over the course of decades while its own ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Ed rated it really liked it
I have read and admired Pagels's work for some time, but I was unfamiliar with Karen King (Harvard Divinity School.) I have to agree with the commenter below who suggests that King must have had an effect on Pagels's writing, because here it is drier and less involving than in her other books. Perhaps it has more to do with the nature of the book, which is more of a scholarly analysis of the lost Gnostic Gospel of Judas than an discussion of the early Christian era. (Although the authors never p ...more
Sarah Derosier
Mar 31, 2016 Sarah Derosier rated it liked it
fairly short but interesting read. I personally was glad that I got this on audio book it was a lot easier to listen to then i feel it would have been to read it.

Since it did seem to jump around some.

A lot of the stuff in the history part of it did seem kind of to me like common knowledge about early Christian history but how the book put it was interesting how things that seemed commonly known I don't think for me I would have seen his from the point of view that it was written. Unless I heard
Keith Beasley-topliffe
The "Gospel of Judas" was discovered in the mid 20th century and then badly preserved while the discoverer tried to get a bunch of money. So a book that had survived 19 centuries was badly damaged in a few decades. But the discovery lets us see an early alternate Christianity previously only known in its condemnation by Irenaeus. The book is fascinating and strange. Elaine Pagels and Karen King prepare one for reading Judas with context in both the eventual winning branch and other early alterna ...more
Jan 26, 2014 David rated it it was ok
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
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
Mark Russell
Jan 08, 2012 Mark Russell rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2011 Meredith rated it it was ok
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
Apr 09, 2012 Kendra rated it really liked it
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
Erik Graff
Oct 08, 2014 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
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
Jun 26, 2009 Cappy rated it it was ok
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
Mar 28, 2010 Brian rated it liked it
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
Feb 21, 2012 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
Lacey Louwagie
Jul 15, 2009 Lacey Louwagie rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2009 Heather rated it liked it
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
May 10, 2012 Steven Monrad rated it really liked it
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
Jul 23, 2012 Phillip rated it liked it
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
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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
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