Charles Nevin: If Judas isn't guilty, what of St Matthias?

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Distracted by the current mood of pervasive crisis - even Sir Cliff Richard is emigrating - I have nevertheless noticed quite a lot of activity in the world of metaphysics and theology, much of it to do with Judas, Noel Edmonds and Gene Pitney.

Although strict chronology is not especially relevant in this context, let us begin with Judas, revealed by a newly translated ancient Coptic manuscript as the favourite apostle who was only following Christ's orders to betray him.

Much agonised exegesis has ensued, mostly in America, where the useful distinction between fact and faith never quite gets the attention it deserves in any number of areas, including the White House. (Keen political observers will observe uncanny parallels over here.)

Still, I am not remotely qualified to comment on doctrinal matters, save to say that these seem matters mostly concerning the relative amount of free will available to poor Judas. What concerns me are the implications if he is cleared, as we have lost far too many villains already to modern sympathy and understanding, and, until this, Judas seemed the genuine 30-piece solid silver yardstick.

Will the bloke who took his name in vain to insult the electric Bob Dylan now have to apologise? What about all the art? Who will be the first to call their child after him? It's going to take time to get used to that being shouted across the supermarket.

And what might it mean for St Matthias, who, in the traditional version, took Judas's place as an apostle? Relegation? Much, I should have said, for the congregation of the Saint Matthias the Apostle Church in Magnolia, Texas, to ponder on, if only in terms of a new sign board. (Memo to Dan Brown: did you know that nobody seems to know anything about James the Lesser? And that Canterbury used to own Bartholomew's arm? No, please, have it for free.)

Elsewhere, we are being told about a couple of Aramaic affidavits in which Jesus denied he was God; and that, at the Sea of Galilee, he was really walking on thin ice. Deep waters: something Noel Edmonds knows all about. His return to success and celebrity is, apparently, due to a new-age belief called The Cosmic Ordering Service, run by Barbel Mohr, "a Munich guru", who claims that you can get what you want simply by ordering "The Cosmos " to come up with it, providing you don't ask for any negatives, you don't obsess about it after ordering, and you never repeat an order.

Well. No, nothing about blowing out candles and not telling anybody, or a dusty lamp. It worked for Noel, though. You might want to test it by ordering success as a daytime TV quiz show host, too. Now, then, remember, please, no negatives. I myself am reminded of a strangely familiar wish-fulfilment system operated by Judas's new best friend, although I don't remember any anti-nagging stipulations: The Cosmos seems a bit of a grump. I expect it's the constant banging and explosions. You, for your part, might be reminded of a saying that was old when Judas was a lad: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans".

Gene Pitney? That seems, in many ways, the most uncanny of all. You probably noticed that the much-loved veteran pop star died in Cardiff last week. But did you see that, according to travel experts, Cardiff is exactly 24 hours from Tulsa? Remarkable.

A little Muzak does no harm

Muzak is attacked by Daniel Barenboim in this week's Reith Lecture as " absolutely offensive", which seems rather hard on the piped stuff. I don't know about you, but when I'm out I always welcome the soothing background of a familiar melody.

In the lift, for example, always a slightly awkward theatre of social intercourse, I find that my air of careful insouciance as I stare at the indicator is greatly augmented if I can quietly whistle along to, say, " Don't Cry For Me Argentina", both of which allow an understated but skilled touch of tremolo.

It's also a splendid filler of those sticky gaps in conversation, and can sometimes prompt a fresh topic ("Funnily enough, I do know the way to San José"). And I don't have to bother with an iPod; besides, surely, it is much better to share, which is why I always enjoy a ringtone, too.

By the way, Mr Muzakmaker: any chance of a bit more of "The Happy Wanderer", "Ramona" and Bobby Goldsboro's "Summer, the First Time"? Thank you.

The coincidence of our publication last week of the Ten Rules of Cool for Men with the news that Jason Orange, 35, had pulled a hamstring while rehearsing routines for the Take That comeback tour, has persuaded me that we might well also need Ten Rules of Cool for More Mature Men:

1. Always warm up before taking the dog for a walk. 2. Moderate use of beige, particular in the windcheater and trouser areas. 3. Phase out air guitar. 4. Don't sigh when you sit down. 5. Never attempt to kick a stray football back. 6. Sorry, no leather, no motorbikes. 7. Never wear your hat in the car. 8. Avoid the use of these words and phrases: "wicked", "cool", "groovy", "wilco", "fossilised fish hooks", "ciao", "slow down, George, it's only 6.30", and "gosh". 9. Never run across a road. 10. Never, ever knowingly attempt to amuse a teenager.

c.nevin@independent.co.uk

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