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Religion Today Summaries - April 11, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 11, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Jesuit Scholar Says Gospel of Judas Does not Merit Name 'Gospel'
  • Cave of John the Baptist Dates to Time of Isaiah
  • Thousands Retrace Jesus' Path to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
  • Bringing Modern Worship Songs from the Industry to the Church

Jesuit Scholar Says Gospel of Judas Does not Merit Name 'Gospel'

The Gospel of Judas was unimportant to most Christians when it was written hundreds of years ago and it is unimportant today, said a Jesuit professor who has convoked a series of ecumenical studies of the historical Jesus. A Catholic News Service story reports that Father Gerald O'Collins, a longtime professor of Christology at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said the text, like the gospels of Mary Magdalene and Philip, "does not merit the name 'Gospel'... A 'Gospel' is a literary genre... focusing on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus." While including events supposedly related to the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Judas and the others really are texts "attempting to bolster the importance" of the ersonalities they are named after, not of Jesus, the priest said. "They are not summaries of the good news," but rather come from the gnostic tradition of the second, third and fourth centuries.

Cave of John the Baptist Dates to Time of Isaiah

Spero News reports that recently completed digging at Israel's Suba Cave has revealed features that deepen the mystery of the site's ancient origins, according to University of North Carolina-Charlotte archaeologist James D. Tabor. The site was brought to international attention in 2004 with the publication of The Cave of John the Baptist, a controversial book by Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson, the site's director. The initial connection with John the Baptist was based on some of the earliest Christian drawings related to John on the cave walls as well as the location of the cave near Ein Kerem, John's birthplace. In the 2004 book, Gibson discussed discoveries from the cave and underground reservoir at Suba, 15 miles west of Jerusalem, focusing on the finding that it had seen particularly heavy use during the early Roman period, around the time of John the Baptist and Jesus. In particular, the discovery of thousands of small 1st-century pottery vessels, all apparently ritually broken, led Gibson to theorize that the cave had been a site for baptismal rituals, possibly performed by John the Baptist or Jesus. Gibson also found evidence that the cave's large plastered reservoir had originally been constructed in the 7th Century BC, near the time of Isaiah. Because the massive cave had been professionally cut from solid rock, Gibson concluded that it must have been a project of the Kingdom of Judah.

Thousands Retrace Jesus' Path to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

According to Israel Insider, about 20,000 Christian pilgrims from around the world marched Sunday from the Mount of Olives into the Old City of Jerusalem to retrace Jesus' triumphant entry 2,000 years ago. The annual Palm Sunday procession began the Christian holy week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The procession drew large crowds for the second year in a row, after several years when pilgrims stayed away because of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Armed Israeli police accompanied the peaceful procession. Some marchers strummed guitars and others banged drums and hoisted loudspeakers. Some chanted aloud, while others hummed nearly silent hymns. Sister Catherine Hurley from Newton, New Jersey said she was "overwhelmed" by the number of Christians "of all shapes and sizes" converging in the Holy Land. "They are here for one reason and one reason only - they love Jesus." Hurley, making the trek for the first time, said she was overjoyed just to be able to be in the place of the "greatest events in the life of Jesus. It reminds you how real it is. It happened here, in this place."

Bringing Modern Worship Songs from the Industry to the Church

Many Protestant churches began to phase out hymnals and put song lyrics on overhead projection screens in the 1980s. Today, thousands of churches have moved away from singing hymns to "participatory music" – and that's meant a change in music publishing, too. According to a story in The Christian Post, Christian Copyright Licensing International Inc. - the world's largest provider of Christian music licensing - makes it possible for churches to legally copy and distribute praise-and-worship music to their congregations. CCLI works with about 200,000 churches around the world and tracks the most popular songs used in contemporary church services. Churches can't legally project the lyrics on a video screen or reprint them without permission. But instead of negotiating with music publishers individually, churches can pay a blanket license fee to CCLI, which funnels royalties to the songwriters. EMI CMG Publishing President Eddie DeGarmo commented: "This growth reflects the acceptance of the songs. Modern worship songs are exploding on a global basis. They're in a style that relates to a younger audience. They're easy to sing and sound like something you'd hear on the radio."