P is for PR campaign

fsttmsdvdThe anonymous scribe “Diogenes” over at Catholic World News’ Off the Record blog doesn’t have much to say that is positive about “The Gospel of Judas” and its pre-Holy Week publicity blast. There is, for example, this link to a dissection of a Dallas Morning News story in the wave of coverage.

The key themes, once again, are obvious. The gnostic gospels are not new. The Gospel of Judas is not new. This manuscript does apppear to be an important document, for those interested in gaining insights into the oral traditions linked to the gnostic Christians around A.D. 200 to 300, as opposed, let’s say, to the older oral traditions that the early church insisted were rooted in the teachings of the disciples of Jesus.

The Judas campaign is an important event for those who believe that the gnostics were, and are, right and traditional Christianity was, and is, wrong. This includes the usual suspects writing in the usual places.

But all of that is old news.

The Diogenes post is zooming around the Net today because of its snarky little satire of this whole affair — a mainstream press report about the discovery of “The Gospel of Skip and Muffy.” The cultural roots are not hard to spot:

“The Gospel of Skip and Muffy” is an extended dialogue between two young theologians who take a startling new approach to the faith. The document suggests that young Christians of the 1970s generation did not accept Church teachings on some controversial moral issues. B.F.D. Zeitgeist, a Professor of Serious Christianity at Dupont University, said that the Gospel of Skip and Muffy will force Christians to re-examine the nature of Church authority. He pointed to one key passage in the manuscript:

“The Church is — I mean — it’s just a bunch of, like, rules and stuff,” said Muffy.

“Yeah,” Skip replied. “I mean, really. Hey, don’t let that thing go out.”

The Judas affair is one of the most amazing pre-Easter press campaigns I have ever seen. Or maybe this story was timed as a follow-up to the V for Vendetta release. Or, maybe, is there a new DVD edition of Jesus Christ Superstar coming out?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://kevinjjones.blogspot.com Kevin Jones

    Have you all collected the number of “revolutionary” discoveries about early Christianity which conveniently appear in popular magazines around Christmas and Easter? I’d like to see that bibliography.

  • John

    Above and beyond the continuing campaign to undermine the authority of the canonical Gospels and those Christian traditions dating back to them, the Gospel of Judas has the bonus feature of undermining the concept of personal responsibility. Hey, if we can get Judas off the hook, we can justify anybody doing anything!

  • Maureen

    I want to hear people complaining about all the normal Christian material that got lost. I’d much rather have Papias’ oral history materials (he talked to people and got their memories of Jesus and apostolic teaching) than a zillion gnostic Bible fanfics.

    Amazing how things that the Church loved and approved of also got lost. Why, you’d almost think it wasn’t a crazed secret society bent on world domination.

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  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    What could this have to do with V for Vendetta?

    I’ve always been confused about exactly what Judas was supposed to have done that betrayed Jesus. He’s supposed to have identified Jesus (with a kiss) to the Romans, but that only makes sense if the Romans couldn’t have otherwise figured out who Jesus was, which seems a bit weird.

  • tmatt


    The Matrix brothers (siblings now?) are way into the gnostic stuff. I was jokingly connecting that to V.

  • http://www.bluffton.edu/~bergerd Dan Berger

    Avram, Judas told the authorities where Jesus would be and when. And, to the Romans, it’s likely that “one Jew looked just like another” and they were very unlikely (at roughly the platoon level) to be keeping track of all the current Jewish rabble-rousers’ faces. Hence the necessity for identification.

    There is some unclarity, as I recall, whether it was the Romans or the Temple Guards who arrested Jesus. I think it was the Temple Guards, in which case identification might indeed have been a formality.

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  • John

    My understanding is that the authorities needed Judas not merely to identify Jesus, but to help the soldiers isolate him at a time and place where an arrest would not result in instant rioting: at night, outside the city, with no crowds present.