My thinking was challenged today as I heard about the discovery of a new book of the Bible called, "The gospel according to Judas."
We all know the story about Judas. He betrayed Jesus, right? Maybe not. The newly discovered Book of Judas suggests that Judas was actually the favorite disciple...and the only one Jesus could entrust with his command to hand him over to the Romans.
Of course, the thought that there might be a Gospel according to Judas challenges what we've always been taught to believe...that the Bible is a set of 66 books...and only those books. There have, however, been other books found--the gospel of Mary...the gospel of Thomas--each with their own interesting perspectives.
In fact, I remember hearing about the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls while I was in college. My questioning mind wondered who narrowed the documents down to 66 books and who decided which of those documents would and wouldn't be included.
It was at that point I realized the books of the Bible, in fact, were chosen by men...fallible humans. Over the years, the most troubling part of that, to me, is not that the books were chosen by man. (That makes sense.) What has come to bother me most is that most people don't seem to think (or maybe even care) that the books in our current Bible were chosen by men during a certain time period in our history. We don't think about the fact that who chose them and when they chose them could definitely have affected which ones they chose.
For instance...I was always taught to follow the New Testament, even though the New Testament encourages slaves to remain slaves...that it's part of God's plan. The New Testament also talks about women covering their head in public.
We know that is not the world we live in now. The Bible is contextual. It was written in a time when slavery was taken for granted and women covered their heads. We have no problem explaining why we do not abide by those commands today. So, like it or not, we filter out and choose which parts we want to follow.
I'm afraid, as Christians, we sometimes blindly accept what we've been taught and we listen to preachers and spiritual leaders without question. The problem isn't that we're blindly trusting God...it's that we're trusting man. We even let man tell us which portions of the Bible are important. What would happen if we read and used all of the scriptures? What would we find is important?
Then, what if we looked into all of the documents that have been left out? What would we find?? Would the message change?
Who knows...once we read ALL of the information, we might have a different outlook on our Christian beliefs.
For more information on Pagels' and King's book about "Reading Judas," click here.