Monday, June 05, 2006

nyrb june 8 coptic scholars on gopnik

I didn't read the essay on the Gospel of Judas written by Adam Gopnik for the April 17 New Yorker. I think I've mentioned, he's one of my least favorite New Yorker writers.

But I have to say, it isn't necessary for the New York Review of Books to call upon the expertise of three (3) learned scholars "completing doctoral studies at Princeton in the religions of late antiquity, specializing in Coptic texts" to point out the weaknesses of his arguments,

"When we consider the extensiveness and detail of cosmological description in this text, we can understand why the New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik found it unappealing in a recent review:

'The Gospel of Judas' turns Christianity into a mystery cult—Jesus at one point describes to Judas the highly bureaucratic organization of the immortal realm, enumerating hundreds of luminaries—but robs it of its ethical content. Jesus' message in the new Gospel is entirely supernatural. You don't have to love thy neighbor; just seek your star. [Gopnik, in The New Yorker, April 17, 2006]

Gopnik is right that the Gospel of Judas is very different from those that were included in the canon; but part of that difference is a matter of genre. As Gopnik himself points out, Judas is not a gospel in the sense that we have come to understand the term, as a narrative of Jesus' life on earth; rather it takes a particular episode from the familiar story and explores its implications. The dizzying cosmological myths of these texts may not easily engage the sympathy of those of us used to a more earthy Christianity of the manger and the shepherd, of parables and miracles of ministering to the poor, but they were no less part of a struggle to answer the perennially troubling question, Unde malum?: Where does evil come from?"

Anyone whose ever tried to read the bible for it's popular catchphrases, ie "love thy neighbor" has probably been a little frustrated. Hence the popular intepretation of many of the stories - "um, is it, the lord works in mysterious ways?" Without the work of so many, many years of interpretations, translations and adaptations [and the kind of ideological filtering many take for granted] of the bible much of it IS just as "dizzying" as the gospel of Judas. Like so many things, it's a question of what one has been educated to recognize as "ethical content". . .

But all this is actually beside the point. I decided to post on this to ask you all if you could think of some snappy metaphors for the idea of answering Gopnik's naivete with the expertise of these doctoral students. It's like . . . what exactly? I feel there are some hunting metaphors out there, but I'd rather not use those.

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Blogger EL said...

This is weird, but I generally rather like Gopnick, certainly better than most NYer writers.

10:47 AM  
Blogger mzn said...

1. Ever the champion of the graduate student, I wonder: would one Princeton PhD candidate specializing in Coptic texts not suffice?

2. You know, re Buford, etc., most fancy home kitchens are used mainly for reheating.

3. I sometimes like Gopnik, mainly when he writes about personal stuff as in Paris to the Moon.

4. Talk of Christianity gives me an opening to mention that Lane's review of The Da Vinci Code was obscenely snooty, even for him. And I thought nothing could top the Europicnic in the air.

5. No metaphors today, unfortunately.

2:52 PM  

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