As a lot of you are probably aware, National Geographic just released a report detailing its findings on the “Gospel of Judas” an early Christian writing detailing the heroism of Judas Iscariot. It’s getting a fair amount of press, probably on the coattails of the Da Vinci Code stuff, and it basically says that Jesus told Judas to sell him out to the Romans, as part of the divine plan, and Judas was in fact the best loved of the disciples.
This sort of thing is always interesting, mostly because it brings up something that a lot of people never consider–the editing of the Bible. We’re taught in Sunday school that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and it’s not until later, if ever, that you hear about the Third Synod of Carthage and all the rest, (much of which is incredibly tedious, and I won’t go into details here–I’m a dabbler, not a scholar, and my early Coptic is distinctly substandard) whereby many of the early Christian writings were gathered together and the early church said “Okay, what are we gonna consider canon?”
In many ways, I’ve always thought the early gospels resemble Jesus fanfic. You all get one character who was cool, and some canonical events, but how it proceeds after that was up to the individual writer–virtually all of the gospels were written long after the historical events, so historical reality didn’t neccessarily intrude much on art. And eventually the New Testament was assembled when a bunch of people got together and read everything over and said “Oh, hell no, Jesus/Judas is totally NOT canon!”* and threw it out. They did this for a LOT of writings. This is not neccessarily a bad thing, because if all the early Christian texts were incorporated in the Bible, it’d be the size of a Robert Jordan compendium and you’d need a handtruck to wheel it around.
Since humans are the same the world over, I would lay money that some of the proto-gospels were crappily written and full of Mary Sue disciples who all had green eyes and Jesus fell madly in love with them and…wait, was that the Last Temptation of Christ? Well, anyway, the point stands. We’re probably better off with a lot of them hitting the junk heap. Christianity would not be notably improved by inclusion of a gospel where Jesus turns into a teenage girl with a telepathic unicorn pet.
Fortunately, many of the writers were dead by the time the editing got involved, so flame wars were difficult to conduct, but I suspect that the discussions at said synods still resembled a highly literate, solemn, and dignified version of the sorts of fights that erupt in any fandom’s literature. I wonder how you write “This suxxx! Snape is MINE!” in Aramaic?
I find this sort of vision comforting. I don’t do fan fic, I only know about it through peripheral contact with those who do, and yet, it speaks to the continuity of human experience. In a thousand years, for all we know, the Three Thousand and Third Synod of Carthage may be winnowing through the endless books of Harry Potter fan fic and going “Oh, for god’s sake, this male pregnancy crap is totally not canon! Out!” and we’ll be left with a few staid Books of Potter, which the future National Geographic crew pokes around and then drops a bombshell on the world by discovering the long-lost Gospel of Snape.
The longer I live, the more I think that people are fundamentally the same the world and the ages over.
*We will assume the slash here stands for a totally platonic disciple relationship. Put down the torches.