Friday, March 2, 2012


I have in the past announced exciting new finds in biblical studies, Gospel of Judas, Jesus Family Tomb, etc., those that have laid hidden, unknown and dusty, but nothing like this one, which came to my attention through the auspices of one of whom you must remain unaware. This find, around election season in the USA, is particularly pertinent, as it has the rather strange title of "Gospel of The Right." Strange for two reasons, that it has a title at all, which most ancient manuscripts do not have, and that the word which I am translating as "The Right" is not dexios, such as in Matthew 6:3, the "right" hand, but dikaios, "just, upright, or righteous." And generally, I think the title could be translated as "The Just," or "The Righteous," but the content makes me think the author had in mind "The Right," as in "We are correct and you are wrong." Look at this excerpt, which I have numbered 1-7, a numbering not seen, of course, in the manuscript itself and see what you think:


1 For I tell you, your are right (diakaios)! The scribes and Pharisees are going down...will never enter the kingdom of heaven! In your face, scribes and Pharisees! 
2 "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not murder'; and "whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'

3 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, they probably had it coming, since they pick and choose from the cafeteria line what food they enjoy, and dismiss whatever tastes bitter; they will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, testify to the council, so all can share in your rightness (dikaios); and if you say, "You fool," tell them too that they will be liable to the hell of fire, because no one who votes as they do could possibly be right (dikaios).

4 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, make certain they do not get to share in the gifts of the altar, but spread wide and far your anger with them, for they are certainly not right (dikaios) and it is best to question not only their behavior but their motivation too. For they are going down!

5 Leave your gift there before the altar and go; first confront your brother or sister, get up in their {grill} (Greek is uncertain here) and tell them how wrong they are and then come and offer your gift of rightness (dikaios). You are better than they, that is obvious, I mean, really.

6 Come to blows quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may strike first, and you in a weakened state will be handed over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. That's not right (dikaios)!

7 Truly I tell you, sue them or you will never get their last penny. Am I right (dikaios)? You know that they are wrong!

A fascinating text, without question, especially when compared to a similar text from the Gospel of Matthew:



20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not murder'; and "whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, "You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. (NRSV)

It seems a little wimpy, this Matthean text, what with all this "exceed the righteousness" of those with whom I disagree, challenges to change my own behavior, to ask for forgiveness from those I have wronged. Are we sure this is the canonical text?


John W. Martens


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