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Doubting Thomases

By Terry Joseph
April 21, 2006

Echoing major embarrassment experienced three years ago, when Easter at the Vatican closed with a mix of "The Hallelujah Chorus" and a different group of voices accusing Roman Catholic priests of sexually abusing minors, this year's Holy Week was equally rough for the Papal posse; having to ward off a double-edged attack from both ancient and contemporary literature. After 1,700 years of being buried in the Egyptian desert, The Gospel of Judas surfaced, a translation from the 26-page leather-bound papyrus manuscript creating a hullabulloo among religious scholars and exposing Christianity to more meticulous scrutiny, after the content of the scrolls was revealed by the National Geographic Society.

At much the same time, global interest in Dan Brown's 593-page tome, The Da Vinci Code multiplied, as the writer was exonerated of plagiarism charges, creating another surge of demand for the already best-selling book and grandly ushering the May 16 release of the movie starring Tom Hanks, predicted by film industry pundits to be one of this year's blockbusters.

Both documents shed doubt on classic stories of the Bible, from its genesis in the Garden of Eden to final revelations, leading to fresh assay of reportage on specific acts of the apostles, the unearthed gospel repositioning Judas as hero instead of villain and Brown's authorship appointing to Leonardo da Vinci a major role in rescuing Mary Magdalene's reputation from its well-entrenched portrayal as a prostitute.

Brown argues God intended a larger function for woman but the Roman Catholic Church, finding that configuration inconvenient, tailored its teachings to sermonise quite the opposite, showing Eve as the weaker sex, succumbing to Satanic wiles, leading to Adam's eviction from the sacred spot. Precisely where fact exits and fiction assumes priority is deliberately fuzzy, although Brown leaves enough traceable evidence to instill doubt in all but the blindly faithful.

To be sure, the RC Church has avoided ordaining women as priests - a rank Brown insinuates was originally designed for females. Mary Magdalene, he insists, although mandated by Jesus Christ to form his church, had her authority usurped by men who, ever since, sought to permanently erase that secret, even resorting to murder when less painful options expired.

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