Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Left behind," June 28, 2008

Iran vs. the world

Opening his farewell tour of Europe in Slovenia, President George Bush won European support to consider additional punitive sanctions against Iran, including banking restrictions, if Iran refuses a package of incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

The agreement came just ahead of a new draft report by UN arms inspector David Albright, who said blueprints for an advanced, compact nuclear weapon-that can be mounted on ballistic missiles used by Iran-may have been smuggled to Iran by the now-defunct smuggling ring previously led by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The International Atomic Energy Agency said it has "serious concern" about Iran's suspected research into the development of nuclear weapons. Israel's transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, warned in June that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites would be "unavoidable" if weapons programs proceed.

Hamas vs. Israel

Rocket launches over Gaza Strip may be silenced if a June 17 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas holds. Brokered by the Egyptian government, the truce could halt months of escalating attacks. Palestinian groups said they would stop firing rockets at Israel. In exchange, Israel said it would stop all military action in Gaza. Israel also would relax restrictions on the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza, if there is an end to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and weapons smuggling through tunnels that connect Egypt and Gaza. It is the first time in two years an arrangement to halt hostilities has been reached. The 2006 agreement, however, was short-lived.

Keep out

Just the name Dan Brown was enough to have the Da Vinci Code author barred from shooting a film version of his mega-selling book at the Vatican. "It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into films in the name of business," Vatican officer Archbishop Velasio De Paolis told reporters. He said Brown's work "wounds common religious feelings."

Father Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rome, said: "Normally we read the script but this time it was not necessary. The name Dan Brown was enough."

Water woe

Don't try selling this in the Midwest, but what's a potentially greater threat than soaring food prices and oil demand? A catastrophic shortage of water, according to a panel of global experts at the Goldman Sachs "Top Five Risks" conference. A Goldman Sachs report released in June said water is the "petroleum for the next century" for investors who know how to play escalating demand. "By 2025, it is estimated that about one third of the global population will not have access to adequate drinking water," the report said. It claims global water consumption is doubling every 20 years as populations in Asia increasingly rely on animal protein (beef cattle require 10 times more water than grain and double the amount of water poultry requires), and Himalayan glaciers show signs of melting.

Judas betrayed

Judas betrayed

The "gospel" account proves to be a sham

By Mark Bergin

Two years ago a buzz swept through academia, marrying scholarship with popular culture on the pages of The New York Times and most every other major news outlet in the Western world. Judas Iscariot, the headlines proclaimed, was more hero than villain, more saint than scoundrel. With the unveiling of the first English translation of an ancient Coptic text titled "the Gospel of Judas," the National Geographic Society handed anti-Christian forces worldwide a perfect supplement to the biblical skepticism already unleashed in Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Now The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that April D. DeConick, professor of biblical studies at Rice University, almost immediately noticed troubling discrepancies in the translation of the text, carried out by her colleague Marvin Meyer, a professor of religious studies at Chapman University. The Coptic word daimon, for example, was rendered "spirit" in Meyer's version rather than its usual translation, "demon." The change helped portray Judas in a far better light than when Jesus addressed him by that name.

In another passage, Meyer's translation declares that Judas "would ascend to the holy generation." But DeConick says a negative was left out, and the phrase should have said just the opposite. Overall, National Geographic's characterization of the text has proved grossly misleading. Eager to turn a profit on its $1 million investment in translation and distribution rights, the organization apparently sensationalized its discovery, filling its promotional materials with descriptions of Judas as "Jesus' closest friend" and "the most loyal of all the disciples."

In reality, the text depicts a Judas who turned Jesus in as a sacrifice to a demon god named Saklas. That narrative squares with responsible academic opinions that the Gospel of Judas is nothing more than a Gnostic fantasy authored in the second century to legitimize a sectarian view of the life of Jesus. No evidence exists to suggest Judas as a possible author or the account as historically based. Scholars now agree it is fiction. But National Geographic isn't offering refunds.


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