Sunday, December 30, 2007

Forbidden Gospels 2007 Retrospect

This was the first year for the Forbidden Gospels Blog (=FGB). I didn't know what to expect when I started this at the end of January 2007. In fact, I didn't bother putting a counter on the site until April 2007. I was so new to blogging, I didn't even know what I would write about or who would be interested in reading what I would write.

But here I am at the end of the 2007 year looking back at my 340 posts and considering what good has come of all of the chatter. Has the FGB made any difference to the biblioblog world, to the academic conversation, to the larger things of life? I guess my readers must be the judges of this when all is said and done. But here are a few areas that I think this blog has made some difference this year.

1. Gospel of Judas.
This blog raised awareness of the problems with its initial National Geographic translation and interpretation, and the fact that full-size facsimiles were not released to the scholarly community as they should have been according to the 1991 resolution passed by the Society of Biblical Literature. This resulted in the writing and publication of my book The Thirteenth Apostle, the publication of the Op. Ed. "Gospel Truth" in the New York Times, and the publication of "More on the Gospel Truth" in the Society of Biblical Literature Forum. All of these items were featured on the FGB, along with many more posts that can be read in chronological order of posting here: FGB on the Gospel of Judas.

The end of it is not in sight. National Geographic Society just uploaded zip files of all the texts in the Tchacos Codex (Dec. 23rd), so we finally have the full-size facsimiles although I think their resolution is only web quality. Nonetheless, we can now begin to critically work these texts. Thankfully they were made available prior to the Codex Judas Congress, which will take place at Rice University in March 2008 (13-16th). So the scholars coming to the conference will have the photos to work from. In the coming year, I will keep you updated about this Congress, which has been made possible by generous funding through the Faculty Initiative Grant at Rice University.

2. Mandaean Emergency Campaign.
This blog has supported the campaign to help relocate the Iraqi refugees in the US as soon as possible. This blog has promoted a letter writing campaign and has circulated a petition. To read all the Mandaean postings, go to FGB on the Mandaeans.

I was hoping that by Christmas we would have the 1000 signatures needed to complete the petition, but we seem to have stalled at 524. Please, continue to circulate this petition. Tell your students about it in the new year, pass the information on to your family and friends, send out the link in mass e-mails if you can. Let's get this petition finished and sent through the proper channels so that the last living Gnostics may find a place of refuge away from persecution. Here I invoke the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas 68: "Jesus said, 'Blessed are you when you are hated and persecuted. A place will be found, where you will not be persecuted.'" Let us create that safe place in the US for the Mandaeans to survive.

3. A voice for historical hermeneutics.
It is my ardent opinion that when the recovery of history is our goal, theology and apology must not be mixed into our investigation. It matters not the outcome of our historical quest - whether it ends up pleasing the so-called religious conservatives, liberals, or no one at all. What matters is that the quest is as honest to the historical evidence as possible. This is a hermeneutic that I try to uphold at all costs. Historical inquiry must be preserved and distinguished from the faith quest and its issues.

The FGB has many features on the hermeneutics of history, and I have experienced something of its effects with the publication of my analysis of the Gospel of Judas which has been lauded by some of faith as a condemnation of "liberal" scholarship. This is an outcome I find at once fascinating and disheartening, since my work on Judas has absolutely nothing to do with supporting people of faith or undermining "liberal" scholarship. If Judas had been a hero, believe me, I would have been one of the first to jump on that bandwagon. But my historical investigation led me to a very different conclusion, which I'm sure you all know too well by now.

With this, I want to send out my thanks to all my readers - those who agree and who disagree with me. I have learned an enormous amount from you this year, and I look forward to continuing our conversation in the year to come. Happy New Year!


Rebecca said...

Dear April -

Thank you so much for this blog, it's been very illuminating. I've now read your book on the Gospel of Judas, finished Bart Ehrman's book Lost Christianities, and am now in the middle of Birger Pearson's latest book Ancient Gnosticism. Plus, I'm thinking that it's finally time to learn Coptic....

So thank you so much for the intellectual stimulation you provide.

Happy New Year.

Paul said...

It really made my stomache sink when I first came across the term "liberal scholarship" on a religious blog - to know that respect for genuine, non-parochial, non-tendentious scholarship no longer exists in many quarters.

When I was in divinity school at the U of Chicago, there was no "liberal" scholarship or "conservative" scholarship, just a multidenominational faculty that included many of the finest, most capable religious scholars in the nation. They were there because they were good at what they did, not because they conformed to some brand of religious scholarship ideology, which, of course, isn't scholarship at all.