No one will succeed in halting this speculative wave, which instead will flare up with the imminent release of a certain film, but being concerned for years with the history of Ancient Christianity, I feel the duty to call attention to a huge misunderstanding which is at the bottom of all this pseudo-historical literature.
The apocryphal gospels on which they lean are texts that have always been known, in whole or in part, but with which not even the most critical and hostile historians of Christianity ever thought, before today, that history could be made. It would be as if within two centuries an attempt were made to reconstruct present-day history based on novels written in our age.
The huge misunderstanding is the fact that they use these writings to make them say exactly the opposite of what they intended. They are part of the gnostic literature of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The gnostic vision – a mixture of Platonic dualism and Eastern doctrines, cloaked in biblical ideas --, holds that the material world is an illusion, the work of the God of the Old Testament, who is an evil god, or at least inferior; Christ did not die on the cross, because he never assumed, except in appearance, a human body, the latter being unworthy of God (Docetism).
If, according to The Gospel of Judas, of which there has been much talk in recent days, Jesus himself orders the apostle to betray him, it is because, by dying, the divine spirit which was in him would finally be able liberate itself from involvement of the flesh and re-ascend to heaven. Marriage oriented to births is to be avoided; woman will be saved only if the “feminine principle” (thelus) personified by her, is transformed into the masculine principle, that is, if she ceases to be woman .
The funny thing is that today there are those who believe they see in these writings the exaltation of the feminine principle, of sexuality, of the full and uninhibited enjoyment of this material world, contrary to the official Church which would always have frustrated all this! The same mistake is noted in regard to the doctrine of reincarnation. Present in the Eastern religions as a punishment due to previous faults and as something to which one longs to put an end to (?) with all one’s might, it is accepted in the West as a wonderful possibility to live and enjoy this world indefinitely.
3. Three Orders of Greatness
There are three orders of greatness, Pascal said in a famous pensee . The first is the material order or of bodies: in it excels one who has many properties, who is gifted with athletic strength or physical beauty. It is a value that should not be disparaged, but it is the lowest. Above it is the order of genius and intelligence in which thinkers, inventors, scientists, artists, and poets are distinguished. This is an order of a different quality. To be rich or poor, beautiful or ugly does not add or subtract anything from genius. The physical deformity attributed to their person, does not take anything away from the beauty of Socrates’ thought or Leopardi’s poetry.
Christianity belongs to this third level. In the novel Quo Vadis, a pagan asks the Apostle Peter who had just arrived in Rome: “Athens has given us wisdom, Rome power; what does your religion offer us? And Peter responds: love! Love is the most fragile thing that exists in the world; it is represented, and it is, as a child. It can be killed with very little, as we have seen with horror these days, can be done with a child. But what do power and wisdom become, that is strength and genius, without love and goodness? They become Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, terrorism and all the rest that we know well.
5. The duty to love
Ulysses wanted to return to see his homeland and wife again, but he had to pass through the place of the Sirens that lured mariners with their singing and lead them to crash against the rocks. What did he do? He had himself tied to the vessel’s mast, after having plugged the ears of companions with wax. Arriving at the spot, charmed, he cried out to be loosed to reach the Sirens, but his companions could not hear him and so he was able to see his homeland and embrace his wife and son again . It is a myth, but it helps to understand the reason for “indissoluble” marriage and, on a different plane, for religious vows.