Feature on my book in Rice News

There is a feature on my book (coming out in September) in the Rice News this morning.

New book by Rice’s DeConick explores the emergence and revolutionizing role of gnosticism

Gnosticism is a countercultural spirituality that forever changed the practice of Christianity. This is the premise of a new book by April DeConick, the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice and chair of the Department of Religion.

Photo by Jeff Fitlow; article by Jeff Falk

Photo by Jeff Fitlow; article by Jeff Falk

“The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion From Antiquity to Today,” published by Columbia University Press, will hit bookstores in September. The 392-page book has already been selected to receive a subvention award from the Figure Foundation, which very selectively supports publications, mainly in philosophy and religion.

Before gnosticism emerged in the second century, the belief was that passage to the afterlife required obedience to God and king, DeConick said. Gnosticism proposed that human beings were manifestations of the divine, unsettling the hierarchical foundations of the ancient world, she said. - See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2016/08/28/new-book-by-rices-deconick-explores-the-emergence-and-revolutionizing-role-of-gnosticism/

Interview about the making of Easter in Memory of Her

Listen to internet radio with Teresa Maron on BlogTalkRadio

I was just interviewed for the audio-blog "Joyful Journeys" by Teresa Maron about the making of Easter in Memory of Her.  To listen, you can tune in on your computer at any time HERE

There is a 7-minute introduction with a GEM OF WISDOM offered by co-host Lauren Santerre.  Then Teresa asks me about my inspiration for the Easter play and and its future as a new tradition. 

Join us on Holy Saturday, April 4, at 4 pm, Christ Church Cathedral for an innovative Easter pageant that is becoming a Houston tradition.

CNN, Finding Jesus, Gospel of Judas

I had hoped to be able to link to a streamed version of CNN's broadcast on the Gospel of Judas which aired Sunday evening.  But I have not had any luck discovering a link.  We went over to a friend's house to watch the episode (admitting we don't have cable).  It was the first time that I saw the episode so I was curious what they would do with the two days of filming that I alone was involved in.  We ate a fine dinner and sat back and enjoyed the show.

A screen shot from CNN New Day Weekend, Sunday March 15, 2015

A screen shot from CNN New Day Weekend, Sunday March 15, 2015

For all of those who have been writing me, yes, there is much more to the Gospel of Judas then was put into the film (all these details are in my book, The Thirteenth Apostle, and on the rest of the footage they shot in Geneva but didn't use in the film itself). 

The analysis of the Gospel of Judas runs deep and has very significant ramifications for our understanding of early Christianity.  The person of Judas is only one issue and it is rather small compared to what else the Gospel of Judas tells us. 

My take away from the Gospel of Judas is that Christian Gnostics were a big part of the Christian movement and had developed sophisticated forms of Christianity that were at odds (even violently) with catholic or apostolic Christianity (precursor to Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy).  The Gnostics who wrote the Gospel of Judas thought that the concept of Jesus' death as a sacrifice to God for the atonement of sins was horrid.  Absolutely and fundamentally wrong. 

These Gnostics thought that sacrifice to gods of any kind was sacrifice to demons.  So they were criticizing the catholics of their time for their central doctrine (atonement) and practice (eucharist or communion meal when Jesus' body and blood were sacrificed on the church altar weekly and eaten).  The demon Judas was responsible for this horrific act and the twelve disciples were responsible for teaching Christians to believe that this demonic act was really for the worship of God.  The Gnostics thought the true God hated sacrifices.

Whatever else we might take away from the Gospel of Judas, this I know.  The doctrine that Jesus' death was a good thing for humankind, a sacrifice that God wanted to atone for the sins of humankind, was not universal among the early Christians.  Some of them abhorred it.

New Day Weekend Interview: Gospel of Judas

Another early morning Sunday.  I went to Video Houston to be patched into CNN New Day Weekend edition.  While staring at a blue light ring around the lens of a camera, I spoke with Christi Paul about Judas' betrayal and the lost Gospel of Judas.  Here is a link to the interview.

CNN Special on the Gospel of Judas

Last October, I traveled to Geneva to the Bodmer Library where the Gospel of Judas is housed.  My purpose?  To take part in the filming of a new documentary about the recovery, conservation and interpretation of the Gospel of Judas. 

It was an absolute thrill to see the Gospel of Judas firsthand, rather than on my computer in photographs.  The manuscript, although grossly damaged, was quite beautiful in its script and legibility.  I was surprised given all the rumors I had heard about its physical state. 

The filming was exhausting but very productive.  I was asked to take the audience through the Coptic text and explain what I think is going on with its translation and interpretation.  Aside from my contribution, there is also comment from Elaine Pagels, Nicola Denzey-Lewis, and Stephen Emmel.  The series consultants are Mark Goodacre, Joshua Garroway, and Candida Moss.

The film is finished.  It will air on March 15th on CNN at 9 pm.  It is the third film in a 6-part series on ancient relics associated with Jesus.  “Finding Jesus. Faith. Fact. Forgery.”  The series blends science and archaeology to examine six Christian relics.  To retell “the greatest story ever told” using state-of-the-art scientific techniques and archaeological research, the series covers the Shroud of Turin, True Cross relics, the Gospel of Judas, John the Baptist relics, the ossuary of James Jesus’ brother, and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.  The first in the series premiers on March 1.  A companion book to the film, Finding Jesus. Faith. Fact. Forgery, written by David Gibson and Michael McKinley, will be released on February 24.

Front Row Preview

Today on "Front Row" produced by KUHA/KUFH Houston Public Radio, a preview of "Easter in Memory of Her" will air.  There will be interviews with me, Betty Adam, and Sonja Bruzauskas about our production and two soloists present portions of their parts.  It will air twice.  Once at noon on KUHA Classical and then again at 10 pm on KUFH News.  The link to Front Row's website is

HERE

.  It will be archived on their website tomorrow.  Hope you will listen to this historic production.

Let's Remember the Biblical Women at Easter: Huffington Post

As you know, this Easter I have worked with Reverend Betty Adam of Christ Church Cathedral here in Houston to create an Easter event for Holy Saturday that would remember the biblical women.  My idea for the production was to focus on the faithfulness and feelings of the women who followed Jesus to Jerusalem and remained with him as he died. 

As I wrote the script with Betty, I "stayed" with each woman in her story as it is recorded in the bible, and as I did so I imagined what it would be like to be that woman.  What was her relationship with Jesus?  Why was she with him at his crucifixion?  What was going through her mind and what was she feeling in her heart? 

As I wrote, I realized how different each woman's relationship with Jesus was, and how their reactions to him were very personal, just as our own are.  I realized how much of their spirituality we have lost because we have forgotten to include them in our Easter services.

So I wrote a piece called "Remember the Biblical Women At Easter" and it has just been published by Huffington Post

HERE

I hope that if you can't attend our special service on Holy Saturday, that you will join us in spirit during the hour 4-5 p.m. by rereading the women's stories in the bible and remembering their faithfulness and steadfastness, and their prominence in Jesus' life and death.  How do their stories touch you?

Campus Conversations on Judas

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to President Leebron of Rice University about my research.  A video was produced from that conversation by our media department and was posted as part of a series of talks that President Leebron is doing with our faculty: Campus Conversations with the President.  Hope you like it.

Aeon Byte interview

I meant to post this a few days ago, but I got overrun (what else is new? does life ever slow down?).

I had the pleasure of interviewing with Miguel Connor for his radio show and podcasts: Aeon Byte. The subject was more revelations about the Gospel of Judas and we talked quite a bit about gnosticism. If you want to check it out, go to this link to AEON BYTE homepage and scroll down until you see my pic and link to the interview. Hope you enjoy it.

My response to Robert Eisenman and "Redemonizing Judas"

Robert Eisenman has updated and republished his Huffington Post piece on "Redemonizing Judas." I mention this not because I think it is a good article (things are quite mixed up in his article), but because again I am characterized by Eisenman as a "conservative" scholar who thinks the NT gospels are more historical than the extra-canonical gospels, all because I argue that the demon Judas is in the Gospel of Judas rather than the hero. The fact that I argue for a demonic Judas is the only point that Eisenman appears to know about my work. From this fact he appears to have drawn the incorrect conclusion that I am a "conservative" scholar who is a "theologian" interested in pushing a conservative Christian platform in my writing for which I am criticized. Indeed, such a characterization of me or my work could not be more off the mark.

In my opinion, it is sad that Eisenman would publish such a mixed up article on a widely read blog like Huffington Post, leaving his readers with the wrong impressions about the scholars he mentions. He calls Michael Williams and Jim Robinson "conservative" theologians too, so at least I am in good company.

It is humorous that I receive criticism for my work on the Gospel of Thomas from those interested in maintaining canonical authority and historicity, while also getting slammed for my work on the Gospel of Judas by those on the other side of the fence who want to trump the canonical stories with (in my view) misunderstood extra-canonical literature.

The fact is I am a historian with no interest in apologizing for Christianity or maintaining Christian tradition. When I read texts, I do so as an historian and I say it like I see it with no concern about whether or not it "fits" with the traditional Christian picture of things.

My studies of the Gospel of Thomas have led me to conclude it contains a very old kernel gospel that pre-dates Paul and likely Quelle in the forms we have it in Matthew and Luke. The mystical tradition and encratic perspective it upholds was developed in response to the delayed eschaton and became the basis for much of Christianity in eastern Syria. So the gospel is both young and old. Because of this, we must use caution when addressing the text in our work. But it contains an essential "missing" piece to the puzzle of early pre-Pauline Jerusalem Christianity.

My studies of the Gospel of Judas have led me to conclude that the Sethian Christians who wrote it were very careful exegetes of the canonical gospels. They took seriously the claims in Luke and John that Judas was a demon, even the demon Satan who ruled the world. As such, they identified Judas with the Ialdabaoth demiurge (the demonic ruler of this world), and understood Judas' astral destiny to be identical with Ialdabaoth's, the god of the thirteen realms. If anything, this conclusion turns upside down the expected narrative based on past scholarly readings of Irenaeus and Epiphanius. It is hardly a "conservative" argument, nor is does it represent an attempt on my part to forward a "conservative" traditional Christian agenda.