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The Gospel of Judas: A Novel by Simon Mawer
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The Gospel of Judas: A Novel (2000)

by Simon Mawer

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261743,918 (3.11)8
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  1. 00
    Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt (liao)
    liao: Interesting story, but light on theology, church history. However, it also involves a biblical manuscript.
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Father Leo Newman is an expert on ancient biblical texts. When he is asked to examine and verify the authenticity of an ancient papyrus that purports to be the earliest of writings about Jesus ever discovered, he falls into a dark pit of doubt as his scientific assessment makes clear that this long-lost gospel of Judas contradicts everything he has believed and taught. The Gospel of Judas is about a crisis in faith, about what happens when someone discovers that their life, both public and private, has been based on a false assumption.

This is the second of Simon Mawer’s novels that I’ve read. In each, there is a subtle thread of suspense that lends the air of a thriller, but without gun fire and chase scenes. In each his protagonist is an intellectual, an international expert in his field. In each the story hinges on an improbable love affair. And in each there is an ending that startles the reader into uncomfortable conjecture about what could have followed. His endings are beginnings—much as in real life. We are left neither with the horror of a certain disaster nor the comfort of an implied happily-ever-after. The star in each of these novels is his writing, his magnificent use of language. ( )
  bookcrazed | Jun 28, 2014 |
An interesting novel. The Magda chapters are confusing as it is not immediately obvious that they take place later in time.

The gospel find in this novel is not at all similar to the one recently published. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | Feb 5, 2013 |
Loved this book. Story of a priest who has fallen by the wayside, dwells too much on his mother's life, who questions his vocation and is asked to verify evidence which questions Jesus' death and which in turn will turn the Catholic church in the greatest of turmoil. ( )
  magentaflake | Dec 3, 2011 |
eh it was good but i am so confused about the charcters and places. i really don;t know what happened here...... ( )
1 vote avhacker | Dec 9, 2010 |
The Gospel of Judas is the story of Father Leo Newman's loss of faith. There are three strands to the story: Leo's mother's experiences in World War II, Leo's work on the translation and publication of the gospel, and his present day, post-gospel and post-Christian life.

The motif of infidelity mirrors that of apostasy, as the characters grasp for the desires of happiness and responsibility, held in tension. But really, this is a bleak book and nobody ends up happy. So the next step after that is the question of whether to settle, whether to compromise, whether to cope with an imperfect situation. This is a dense and very literary book, not so much about a specific loss of religious faith as a loss of the ability to find inspiration in life when the sacred is undermined and only the mundane remains. ( )
1 vote the_awesome_opossum | Sep 23, 2010 |
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For Connie - as always.
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'Blees me Father, for I have sinned.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A Roman Catholic priest experiences a crisis of faith - at the same time that he finds himself attracted to a married woman. A scroll is discovered near Jerusalem that, if authentic, could open Christianity to a complete reinterpretation. A dangerous passion ignites and secretly smolders in Fascist-dominated Rome during WWII. These and other brilliant threads are woven into a magnificent literary entertainment - a novel that resonates with tales of love and betrayal as it deals profoundly with questions of faith, identity, individual responsibility, and what it means to believe. (0-316-97374-2)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316973742, Paperback)

In Simon Mawer's remarkably poised and poignant novel, the small moment is as significant as the large, and "the detail dictat[es] to the whole." Biblical scholar Father Leo Newman has spent a lifetime deciphering meaning from evanescent fragments of papyrus; he is much less accustomed to descrying the metamorphosis of a relationship writ large ("a mysterious thing, much too mysterious for a simple naming"). How unlikely, then, that he should fall in love with Madeleine Brewer, the vibrant but unbalanced wife of a bureaucrat. How unlikely, too, that he should be confronted with an ancient scroll whose details are radically incendiary rather than dustily abstruse: an apparent account of Jesus' life from Judas's point of view. But how marvelously likely that Mawer should take these elements and create a haunting narrative of doubt and faith, "the thin wash of immediacy" and memory, passion and the fragile remains of its absence. Madeleine and the Judas scroll thrust themselves, uninvited and unexpected, into Leo's quiet life in Rome, their very presence a counterpoint to his isolation and vulnerability. Asked by Madeleine to compromise a lifetime, asked by his colleagues to verify or deny the scroll's authenticity, Leo is a profoundly Prufrockian figure, "No Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be." Does he dare disturb the universe?

Mawer skillfully interleaves three narratives: the story of Leo's German mother's life in Rome during World War II, a woman who was herself forced to choose between principle and passion; the unsettling story of Leo's relationship with Madeleine and the scroll; and a circumspect "present," in which Leo is still "a hermit in a cave, a hermit who was hoarding the few fragments of his faith lest they too be swept away by circumstance."

The novel represents a solemn quest, striving back toward half-forgotten origins in an attempt to bring order to a present and future spinning out of control. Its most poignant irony is that Leo is at once creator and destroyer--as he pieces together the story of the scroll, he is simultaneously unraveling his own faith, his own raison d'être:

A dun-colored fibrous fragment hung there behind the glass, a fragment of papyrus the color of biscuit, inscribed with the most perfect letters ever man devised, words wrought in the lean and ragged language of the eastern Mediterranean, the workaday language of the streets, the meaning half apprehended, half grasped, half heard through the noise of all that lies between us and them, the shouting, roaring centuries of darkness and enlightenment. How was it possible to communicate to her the pure, organic thrill?
The thrill, thanks to Mawer, is ours. --Kelly Flynn

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:31 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Leo is a Roman Catholic priest, with doubt lurking in the shadows of his mind and love for a married woman threatening the very fabric of his vocation. And the present has its roots in the past; with Leo's story mirrored by the tragic account of his mother's affair amidst the wartime ruins of Rome.… (more)

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