The Gospel According to St Judas
One of the more controversial things about this book was that I gave Judas Iscariot the title of SAINT Judas. I do say more on this point in the book itself.
The book is written in two narrative voices, distributed over thirty-four alternating chapters. One voice gives a first-person account of the life of Judas, from troubled boyhood in Galilee to dotage in Mesapotamia (now Iraq). The other consists of essays on the finding and relevance of the Judas texts by a biblical scholar, Dr Murray Watkyns. Chapter Six is one of the latter category.
Its title is WAS JUDAS A SAINT? Extracts from it are reproduced below:
Was Judas a Saint?
[from ‘Essays on the Judas Texts’, by Dr Murray Watkyns]
Never underestimate the power of television. You can stand up and say the most outrageous things in a conference hall. You can be as controversial as you like in an academic monograph. Even in more general writing like this, your less orthodox views will get a polite hearing. But step out of line on prime-time television and all hell breaks loose.
I was told that the viewing figures for the TimeMaster programme on which I appeared last June were the highest ever recorded...
...What I was not arguing, as Bishop Archer in particular failed to acknowledge, was that the Catholic Church should instantly canonise Judas. As I tried to point out, I understand full well that this semi-legal process takes years.
I expect myself to have long departed this life by the time the Church makes a final pronouncement on the subject...
...If you asked the proverbial man in the street who Murray Watkyns was, he would likely say, ‘that bloke on television who wanted to make Judas a saint’.
Time was the one thing I did not have on the programme. I found that the points I was trying to make were being grossly over-simplified. This was by me in the anxiety of the moment as well as by others...
It’s too late to be aware of this now. I know in this essay I will not be reaching anything like the same size of audience. Nevertheless, I think I should attempt to do what I should have done in that studio....
...The first point can be made briefly. It is this: as a believer or follower recorded as such in the existing New Testament, Judas is entitled to be referred to as ‘St. Judas’. This does not imply that he was a confessor, a martyr, a miracle worker or anything else of the nobler kind. The saint of the popular imagination is a holy man or woman who is looked to by Christians for intercession and devotion. Veneration of holy men in this way did not really begin until the second century of what is now referred to as the ‘Common Era’.
...Before then, ‘saint’ simply meant believer. If the reader needs proof of this, he or she should read some of the Letters of St. Paul. Paul addresses the recipients of his epistles as saints, no matter how far they had fallen from their Christian vocation.
This point may be readily dismissed as a semantic one. However, I would also argue Judas deserves the title “Saint” in exactly the same way as do...