10 April 2009

National Geographic: The Gospel of Judas versus In Search of Easter

National Geographic: The Gospel of Judas versus In Search of Easter
By Kristin Battestella

Since less and less television networks devote their programming hours to religious documentaries around Easter, I turned to Netflix for my Biblical fix. I’ve enjoyed National Geographic materials for many years, and was pleased to find two of their specials available: The Gospel of Judas and In Search of Easter. Strangely, I thoroughly enjoyed Judas and hated Easter.

The National Geographic: The Gospel of JudasArriving first, The Gospel of Judas chronicles the recently discovered and restored lost gospel of Judas Iscariot-the disciple who betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane for thirty pieces of silver. According to this long lost tale, Judas did not betray Jesus, but in fact had received special instructions from the Messiah in order to facilitate the crucifixion.

To hard core fundamentalist Christians, this notion is not even a pill to consider swallowing toughly. What’s in the Bible is the insurmountable truth, what is says is well, gospel, and anything outside of it isn’t worth reading. The Gospel of Judas, however, makes a convincing case for Christian scholars to consider this tale and other rediscovered Gnostic gospels- including the Gospel of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Philip, Valentine, and dozens more. The Bible as is, I have to say, is a damn good tale of trials, tribulations, sin, faith, and salvation. It really can’t be beat.  

On a style note, the four canonical gospels do have the best showcase of Jesus’ life, teaching, ministries, death, and resurrection. These long lost and restored gospels are often missing extensive segments and often have a talking head Jesus sprouting wisdom but not going anywhere or doing anything. The Gospel of Judas is no different, but the scholars onscreen explain that these extra gospels are meant for the student or the historian to study and compare. I agree that you can take what is good from these materials and leave what you don’t like as you would if you were reading any other comparative bible study book. You wouldn’t introduce someone to Christianity with the Gospel of Judas, certainly. However, an intelligent individual secure in one’s faith should not be deterred, much less threatened by these newly discovered materials.

The Gospel of Judas does get hokey with some of the reenactments, just like more and more documentaries that rely entirely on an acting cast to tell their tale. Thankfully, the special takes the time to show the restoration and authentication of the Judas codex. In a time when so many hoaxes have come about; it’s refreshing to know that even if you eventually disagree with what’s inside, there’s new antiquities still to discover. If The Gospel of Judas proper does not convince you, the DVD contains interactive timelines, extra interviews with the guest experts, and photos and excerpts from the text. Overall, this National Geographic documentary provides the religious, historical, and scientific aspects for the viewer to divulge and make up his own mind.

National Geographic's In Search of: EASTERUnfortunately, I cannot say the same for In Search of Easter. I was very excited when this disc arrived, only to be very disappointed in the under one hour special. Where The Gospel of Judas spent almost ninety minutes analyzing and authenticating, In Search of Easter is forty-five minutes of long-winded scholars tossing out the big questions. Did the resurrection really take place? Why do the gospel accounts differ? Why did the disciples react to the risen Christ the way they do? How can you expect to answer these kinds of questions in forty-five minutes and get into a side story involving the resurrected Christ’s appearance to early Mormons?

In Search of Easter has the same scholars that can be seen on numerous religious programs, but all they do is talk. Their speeches are laced with words like ‘vision’ and ‘miraculous’ and ‘faith’ and it’s almost always followed by a ‘but’. But what? It’s almost as if In Search of Easter is mocking Christians for believing that the risen Christ miraculously appeared in splendid visions to Mary Magdalene and our good friend ‘Doubting’ Thomas. They provide little historical examination or scientific understanding to Christ’s death and resurrection, but seem to nudge nudge wink wink at those of us who take this on Faith. I’m very surprised that National Geographic would produce such a poorly put together, secular, and somewhat offensive documentary. In Search of Easter is more offensive and insulting than whatever you may think earth shattering in The Gospel of Judas. If In Search of Easter was on television, I would have changed the channel.

Thankfully, beyond the links to further National Geographic media, the In Search of Easter DVD also includes the special Quest for Noah’s Flood. It’s as if the NatGeo powers that be knew In Search of Easter would be ill received, so they added this proper program as well. Why is this show not available on its own DVD?

National Geographic - Quest for Noah's Flood [VHS]Quest for Noah’s Flood follows one scientist’s search-Dr. Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic- upon the Black Sea for evidence of Noah, his ark, and the Biblical flood that cleansed the earth. Expert explanations, scientific adventure, Great Flood pros and cons from the Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh. All in all a very well round program, who knew?

There’s plenty of religious programming out there, even if it doesn’t seem to be airing on television anymore-I’ve been recording classroom specials coming on at 5 a.m.! Online viewing and rental sources take the risk out of the hit or miss nature of such documentaries, but you expect a certain level of consistency from a name such as National Geographic. I should be happy with two out of three, but the radical set up of The Gospel of Judas, the wishy washy feeling of In Search of Easter, and the technical science in Quest for Noah’s Flood give the feeling that religious programming is being geared towards a smaller and smaller audience. NatGeo either wants to make news with The! Earth! Shattering! Stuff! or gloss over with broad generalities so as not to take a big religious risk and heaven forbid offend someone in Secular Valley. It’s sad that once staple television has come to this. I’ve done Seder dinners on Palm Sunday and would just as soon watch The Ten Commandments as I would Ben-Hur. (Thankfully, they are both airing this month!) Stop worrying about what you say or what your ratings might be and make a show because you have something credible and intelligent to say. Underestimate your audience and you’ll loose it anyway.

The Gospel of Judas had me hankering to reread some of my extra-Biblical references again, but In Search of Easter made me angry at the increasing negative view of organized religion and traditional beliefs. Not only the opposite of what I expected, but a sad reflection as well.


Anurag Nigam said...

The objective of this study is to bring to light the most probable story with likely evidences to prove beyond doubt to the common reader that when it comes to Christ and Christianity the history has been seriously twisted by men to suit the political and social agenda of those ages.

To agree or not agree is common sense of the reader and how much brain washing a common Christian has gone through.

The whole Christian faith is based on crucifixion of Christ and his Resurrection that makes him Messiah. This fact and faith has been strongly protected by Roman Catholic Church for over 2000 years now. Any attempts to think otherwise has been strongly opposed by church, condemned as an act to defame Christian religion and no discount is being made for historical possibilities. The difficulty of bringing facts to the world is that many of those who will read my presentation will belong to one of the two sides- Christians who have been conditioned to close their eyes for the faith that has been forced down their throats since childhood and not think otherwise and non-Christian who will be condemned if they believe in what I describe just as enemies of the religion. So my efforts may be pointless to give a story but I would do it any way for the sense of order that has to be brought to this world divided in number of ways.

Let us start with first fact- there was a death on cross as a result of capital punishment for treason against Roman Empire. The second fact- One body was recovered from the fields in mutilated state not far away from the cross. Examination of body reveals opening of belly and spilling out of intestines and internal organs. (Question 1) Are these two facts connected? Two events are spaced by 12 to 13 hours.

Resurrection of Christ is based on the fact that no dead body was found and later Christ walked among 500 followers and stayed for 40 days with his followers. Why 40 days? Joseph of Arimathea was imprisoned after he brought down the body from the cross and placed it in the tomb in his property. He escaped the house arrest with the ministerial clout he had. (Question 2) Did Joseph of Arimathea need 40 days to make arrangements? He was aware of 40 days by a story he invented in which he met Christ during house arrest. Is there a connection here?

Let us study two personalities- Christ and his apostle Judas. Do these two persons have similar height and body type? At any point of time do both have beard? Among Roman soldiers, executioners and judiciary how many have seen Christ and Judas closely enough and long enough to identify them. (Question 3) In case of swollen face with facial and body wounds will it be possible to identify one from the other especially when the interaction between soldiers, executioners and judiciary and Christ has been very short? (Question 4) Where were those people who knew Christ when the whole drama was unfolding? What were those who knew Christ (Mary Magdalene, Martha, Nicodemea, Joseph of Arimathea, John the Baptist) going through when the body was raised on to cross? (Question 5) Were they calm without any revolt and why? Does it say that Christ was safe?

Let us go back to Question 1. To make sure that person on cross after hanging for 4 to 5 hours was indeed dead a soldier was asked to pierce the heart. He repeatedly used spear to puncher the belly on the side and tear open the heart. (Question 6) Why was Joseph of Arimathea collecting blood? Was he going to use the blood later to make a death look fresh? At the back of his mind he might be thinking I need to remove the cup in case it is used to make the death in fields look fresh. The land was purchased in name of Judas using same money he threw back at Pilate as an ideal ground to dump a dead body and show as if curse hit back the fate of dead Judas. Pilate was aware of what was going to happen so he arrested Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea escaped and Nicodimea was free to plan a clean escape for everyone to Egypt.
Let’s look into mentality of people when this was unfolding and why they behaved this way in concert with each other. Judas joined Christ to get saved after he heard that only Christ could save him. But his suspicions were alive as long as Christ does not prove he is a Messiah. He has been observing Christ closely and discovered lots of realities of Christ. He lost his mind when he lost his faith in Christ. This happened at the time of anointing of Christ by Mary Magdalene to raise him to priesthood. The oil was expensive for which Judas did the stealing. He found a different activity unfolding besides regular anointing ceremony which totally upset him as it shattered his total faith in Christ. What had unfolded before this discovery is also very important because he was aggravated of being fooled by Christ to give in his life in service of Christ. Gospel of Judas throws light on what had transpired. Christ told Judas that he can establish Kingdom of God on earth and that would need a sacrifice. This would be an occasion when all men who died for the word of God shall rise from dead to take their respectable positions in the Kingdom of God. He pampered Judas to feel that Judas will be leading star in this unfolding of events if he makes sacrifice of his life. The idea was to kill Judas for what he had known and discovered. Christ was upset when he discovered that Judas and other apostles were talking about God and wanted to take lead ahead of him. He even laughed sarcastically for he believed that his apostles had bought his idea of Kingdom of God when he knew there was no such thing. To re-establish Christ’s dominance and keep many things under cover Judas had to go. With the arrest of Christ the whole mission to gain power and stimulate civil war in Rome had gone off-track. Now was the time for next person to take charge of events. It was none other than Christ’s maternal uncle Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene’s father Nicodimea who were out on business at the time of Christ’s arrest.
Joseph of Arimathea was very angry with Judas and he was determined that Judas still will have to pay the price for his doings by his death. Judas was not a free man after Christ was arrested. Judas was also arrested and Joseph of Arimathea followed the ploy of guilt laid down in the head of Judas by Christ one step further. It is like emotional black mailing that he is sinner and he need to sacrifice his life to be saved. He was also beaten up badly by Nicodimea and Joseph of Arimathea and his men mostly on face and upper body. He was made to think that he will go through same punishment as Christ was going through. Later Nicodimea and Joseph of Arimathea planned a swap when Nicodimea went to meet Christ. This happened. The story unfolded among people that Christ would carry cross. People who knew Christ were either far away or totally in hiding. Those who saw the man carry the cross (Mary mother of Christ, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, Martha and others) were part of this ploy and satisfied at the back of their mind that Christ is safe. Judas totally unaware of what was unfolding after being hit on head and face thought he was going through execution. The commotion was beyond his brain could handle. It was very late while he was on cross that he realized what had happened and he said “Forgive them they do not know what they are doing”. This line stands as true for Romans as for followers of Christ. The only truth was in the heart of Judas on cross. There was no energy to revolt.
Now Joseph of Arimathea has to hurry along with Nicodimea to make the dead body disappear and Christ to reappear. The excuse was Shabat. Christ at other place was gaining consciousness and recovering. The swelling on face was subsiding after three days of rest. Nicodimea and Joseph of Arimathea were ready to hang dead Judas to the tree. But they could not do it cleanly and the body fell from the tree and split open right at the stomach.
40 days it took to run messengers to Egypt and Britain to find Christ, family and followers a safe haven. In this time the roman king came to know that Christ had escaped right under his nose. A laughable matter for public to know that could topple his government and make him a symbol of ridicule for ages to come. He kept silent and agreed with the resurrection story in public though he wanted to get his hands once again on Christ which he never got.
Let me also bring light to birth from a virgin. Mary mother of Christ had a condition called Septate Hymn where it pushes to side when forced but will not survive a delivery. It was almost not known thing at that time. Now it is commonly known to gynecologists.
As for God making the earth in 7 days Big-bang has to be explained in terms of Space-Time theory. Only one thing I would explain for now is that time was slower when Big-bang occurred and now it is many times faster.

Kristin Battestella said...

Hi Anurag.

Thanks for your exhaustive theories!

I don't presume to know everything that happened 2,000 years ago; and I do think critical points have been manipulated over time. We wouldn't have some many banned Biblical texts if that weren't the case. Fortunately, with proper documentaries, research, and discussion I believe the truth can be found! I would hope that no one is ever brainwashed by anything. There's enough material out there and human capacity for an individual to find what they feel is the spiritual soul.

Come by again!