Gnostics and Jesus

There’s a useful debunking of some of the historical crapulence in the Da Vinci Code over at Slate. An important point:

In Brown’s scheme, the Gnostics are also the suppressed source of the true account of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene. In reality, the Gnostics’ negativity about the body includes a dim view of procreation and the sexual activity that went with it. Usually in their writings Jesus is the ideal ascetic who models for his followers a disdain for bodily appetites. So, the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene isn’t just antithetical to Orthodox accounts. It goes against the Gnostic grain, too ‚Äî if anything more so.

I still think that if the DVC gets more people curious about the early church, and increases awareness of the Gnostic Gospels, the good may outdo the bad. Speaking of which, I just read an excellent review of the Gospel of Judas in the New York Review of Books. The authors argue that the Gospel was inspired in part by early Christian divisions over the practice of martyrdom. Money quote:

If the twelve disciples do indeed stand for the bishops who claimed apostolic authority, what could the text mean by suggesting that they were leading the crowd astray like sacrificial animals upon an altar? It seems likely that this is a criticism of the bishops’ endorsement of martyrdom, and the consequent acceptance by early Christians of execution by the Roman authorities. The author of the Gospel of Judas apparently views martyrdom as a vain sacrifice, and blames the church leaders for leading their sheep-like congregations to the slaughter. The editors miss this aspect of the Gospel of Judas, translating the text as saying: "This is the crowd whom you are leading astray before that altar." However, the Coptic literally says "upon."

What interests me is the picture of roiling dispute and dissent in the early church. Uniformity was not the norm.