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Thursday, April 13, 2006

"You want me to do it!"

There has been a lot of buzz lately on the so-called "Gospel of Judas" -- a 1700 year-old apocryphal manuscript that was discovered in the 1970s and which has recently been translated into english. This all seems nicely timed to coincide with the May release of the Da Vinci Code film, as Bainbridge notes.

The main idea of the text is that Judas was not so bad after all, since he was merely a cog (and a highly essential one) in God's magnificent New Testament plan. This seems to have been an attractive idea to the Gnostics and Cainites (who made it their business to rehabilitate Biblical villains). Of course, this was a central (and controversial) theme in Jesus Christ Superstar:
Jesus
Peter will deny me in just a few hours
Three times will deny me - and that's not all I see
One of you here dining, one of my twelve chosen
Will leave to betray me -

Judas
Cut out the dramatics! You know very well who -

Jesus
Why don't you go do it?

Judas
You want me to do it!

Jesus
Hurry they are waiting

Judas
If you knew why I do it . . .

Jesus
I don't care why you do it!

Judas
To think I admired you
For now I despise you

Jesus
You liar - you Judas

Judas
You wanted me to do it!
What if I just stayed here
And ruined your ambition?
Christ you deserve it!
So why is this such an enduring idea? I think it stems from two fairly natural philosophical instincts: anti-compatibilism (i.e., pre-determination is incompatible with free will) and consequentialism (rightness of act depends on goodness of consequence). Both of these, I wish we could kick.

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