Judas: So Hot Right Now!

After a 2,000-year career as Christianitys bad boy, Judas Iscariot is getting his 15 minutes of fame and freaking out the faithful

The Judas-as-pal-helping-Jesus-to-the-cross stuff? Say it with me: lame. But the Gnostic cosmology thing going on here: fascinating. That's what all the fuss ought to be about.

Marvin Meyer's True Calling
It can't be easy, right now, being Marvin Meyer, the man who's helped deliver these fascinations. To be sitting in his office in the center of the county must be a little like feeling the rippling effects of that earthquake he helped set off come back at him, like a movie running backward. Certainly the movie of his own personal history must be unreeling. This is a man, remember, who's defying the spirit of his very first memory, when his father prayed he might have the Calling. This is a man whose forebears in the Dutch Reformed church must be sadly shaking their heads at the man their endless Sunday harangues helped shape. It turns out, of course, that Marv Meyers does have a Calling, but it's liberal and it's humanist and it says that, hey, we're all adults here, let's put away the dogmatics because no one needs to be afraid of 17 pages of old papyrus. In fact, having caught him rather breathlessly after his return home from a speaking engagement, he still acts imperturbably excited. He enthuses, "I can't recall a response like this to any recent manuscript discovery!" including the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi manuscripts from 1945. He goes on, "Some of the current fascination may be related to the similar excitement about The Da Vinci Code" (a book and now movie which every single article about the Gospel of Judas has mentioned, and which I was adamant about leaving out until Marvin, damn him, forced my hand), and also to "the [sexual abuse] scandals that have rocked the church in recent years." But he adds, "It may be time for the voices of figures who have been marginalized—Mary Magdalene and Judas, for example—in the history of the Church, to be heard from again. . . . The New Testament gospels themselves show an increasing interest, in the last decade of the first century, in demonizing Judas," so maybe all this new discussion will spur a "greater appreciation among believers in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic family of religions."

A beautifully calibrated answer, that—politic, cautious, meticulous. But how it's affecting Dr. Meyer personally is another question. Oh, on the surface, sure, he's at the happy core of the maelstrom. "My e-mail is unmanageable, my phones rarely stop ringing, my speaking schedule is quickly filling up, and I have people stop me on the street to talk about the Gospel of Judas." Good. Busy. But, um, those people on the street, friendly encounters, are they, considering OC ain't exactly Tolerance Central? "Most of the responses have been positive, and many have been quite enthusiastic." A professorial pause, sly. "A few people have expressed concerns, and a small handful has suggested that for a guide to my future travels I may wish to consult Dante's Inferno."

Ah. Some people are telling good Marvin Meyer to go to hell—and there are probably thousands more where they come from. This is a man whose only aim was to "save this thing" so the past could speak, a man who is just doing his job, which right now happens to be the unleashing of the redemption story of the Christian world's most contemptible character. In a religion dedicated to forgiveness, that's not an easy thing for a lot of people to forgive. His is quite a new Calling.

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