Is the Church hiding things from us?

At the core of the movie is the claim that the Catholic Church has been hiding a big secret from the world for some 2 000 years now and there are people who know that secret and are merely waiting for the right moment to reveal it. Historically, those who have known the secret include Leonardo Da Vinci (who supposedly gave the world a clue to the secret in his painting ‘The Last Supper’) and Sir Isaac Newton. The core of the secret is that the Catholic Church over the centuries tampered with the history, identity and divinity of Christ for their own reasons and that Jesus essentially lived like an ordinary man, got married to Mary Magdalene and had children. The Holy Grail, a collection of Gospels outlining Christ’s true history are said to exist and will be revealed when the time is opportune. What is beyond dispute is that Christianity was shaped from early times to suit the political and cultural whims of the ruling elite at the time Jesus walked this earth ‘ the Roman Empire, later the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire only accepted Christianity around AD 323 when Caesar Constantine merged the Church with established Pagan beliefs to form the Roman Catholic Church, meaning Rome’s global church. That is why commemorations like Christmas are on the same day as the Pagan feast day for the Sun-god (25 December). It is also known that the Bible in its present form is not a complete collection of Christian divine history and this has been evidenced by the existence of numerous other texts and scrolls from the same era that speak with as much authority as the books in the Bible. Interestingly, the Catholic Church was recently rocked by the authentication of the Gospel according to Judas, which raises many questions about Christian history. Written in Coptic, the Judas Gospel has been dated to the third or fourth century and is believed to be a translation of an even earlier Greek text belonging to a Christian sect before AD 180. The document offers interesting insights into the relationship between Jesus and Judas, a relationship that is central to the entire Christian message of crucifixion, resurrection and the Second Advent. While Mathew, Mark, Luke and John say Judas betrayed Jesus, the Judas Gospel says the man was acting upon a request made by Jesus himself. The codex also contains a text entitled “James”, otherwise known as “The First Apocalypse of James”, the “Letter of Peter to Philip” and a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling “The Book of Allogenes”. The Gospel of Judas identifies him as Christ’s favourite disciple and depicts his betrayal as the fulfillment of his mission to enable the crucifixion ‘ and thus the Christian movement ‘ to take place. The text quotes Jesus as saying to Judas: “You will exceed all of them (the other disciples) for you will sacrifice the man who clothes me.” The Gospel of Judas is only one of many texts discovered in the last 65 years, including the gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Philip, believed to be written by Gnostics. The Gospel of Philip, also suppressed by the Church, is said to give strong indicators of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The Secret Book of John relates how the disciple, as he grieved after the crucifixion, saw a bright light and heard the voice of Jesus say to him: “John, John, why do you weep? Don’t you recognize who I am? I am the Father; I am the Mother; and I am the Son.” John then realizes that the trinity is made up of the Father, the Mother and the Son and there is belief now that other disciples and apostles like Peter and Paul were the first to suppress the role of women in the Church by disparaging John’s vision. There have also been claims that the physical image of Jesus as it has been taught to us is far from the reality. Ethiopian Christianity, which pre-dates European Christianity, always has Jesus as an African. A church in Lucca, Italy, claims to have the most accurate representation of Jesus on the cross and in it he is very dark skinned. The earliest sculptures and paintings of Jesus and the Blessed Mother are also of Black people and it has been asked why the Church deliberately ‘ by omission and by commission ‘ projects an image of a very European-looking Jesus. Gnostic beliefs were often viewed by early church leaders as unorthodox. The discoveries of Gnostic texts have shaken up Biblical scholarship by revealing the diversity of beliefs and practices among early followers of Jesus. Hence the great suspicion that this text and others related to the Da Vinci Code may have been suppressed by early Christian leaders who were intent on establishing their own interpretation of events. The different Christian movements have not sat by idly as all these accusations are being made. Bishop Basanti of the Helwan and Massara Coptic Orthodox Church has declared that the New Testament gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were the only gospels accepted at the council of Nicaea in AD 325 and recognized by Eastern and Western churches. “Any other gospels . . . are not authenticated or accepted,” Basanti said. Father Senior, president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which advises the Pope, said the Vatican was unlikely to regard the Gospel of Judas as a threat. He said that the Roman Catholic Church’s response would probably be to “affirm the canonical texts” in the New Testament rather than seeking to refute each new discovery. Father Senior was quoted in the New York Times saying: “If the Gospel of Judas suddenly became something that hundreds of thousands of Christians were claiming as their revelation and scripture, perhaps the Church would come out with some kind of statement. But mostly I think it’s just not even on the radar screen,” Fr Senior said, adding: “I’m just glad it wasn’t found in a bank vault in the Vatican.” The movie itself has pulled of the circuit in Belarus while there have been huge protests against it in India, Thailand and South Korea. However, Elaine Pagels, the author of ‘The Gnostic Gospels’ and ‘Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas’ believes that the compelling aspect of the whole conspiracy theory of how the Church has altered religious history is that it picks at those aspects of the Church that are suppressed but that people have an inkling really do exist. In essence, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ raises questions that the Church would rather not talk about in public. It makes people ask themselves what if the version of Jesus that we have been taught is not accurate, what if Mary Magdalene was not what she is said to have been and what if the two really did have a normal family life? The last question people would then ask themselves is: “Why did the Church do what it did and what is it hiding?”

June 2006
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