The Gospel Of Judas: Part I

In the mid to late 1970’s peasants hunting for treasure in caves along the Nile found a document hidden for nearly fifteen hundred years. Contained in a crumbling limestone box was a mysterious leather bound book, a codex, “The Gospel of Judas.” Written long after the death of Judas it is reputed to have been written by Judas Iscariot, one of Christ’s apostles.

Some national secular media sources have postured it as the ultimate truth. It being the latest it is reputed to be the truth ultimately revealed about the relationship of Judas and Jesus Christ.

Its style, vocabulary, and content identifies it as a writing of a Gnostic group known as the Canites. It offers insight into this group of heretical authors who offered alternative understanding of Christianity. A lot is known about this fringe group. This group wrote to recast many characters presented negatively in the Bible. Thus, their name came from Cain, the first murderer in Scripture. They cast such Bible characters as heroes. In order to do this they had to produce alternative texts written hundreds, even thousands of years after the facts.

In considering this meretricious document written long after the facts are supposed to have happened compare it with the four New Testament gospels of which there are 5,200 older manuscripts or portions of them written in Greek, the trade language of the day.

Of them Dr. Dan Bahat, archaeologist responsible for excavating the Temple Mount, said to me they are in every sense historically accurate and were invaluable in the excavations.

The Gnostic character of the work is self-evident. It presents Jesus as using terms common in the era of the Gnostics but not the time of Christ. He is represented as speaking to Judas of “aeons” and an “eternal realm” different from Scripture. Judas is referred to as the “thirteenth spirit.” He was an agent sent from God to release Jesus from the physical body in which He was imprisoned at the time of incarnation.

The Gnostics professed to possess secret knowledge. They taught there was a significant dualism between the spiritual and material worlds. In their philosophy the entire universe, all things physical, was a material trap for the spirit world. Their constant drive was to escape the physical world and enter the spiritual realm.

Judas is portrayed as a noble friend of Jesus who sought to enable Jesus to escape the material trap of His body. Jesus is represented as saying to Judas, “But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” Meaning, you will be responsible for my physical death. This depicts Judas as a friend of Jesus who was accommodating Him in liberating the spiritual person within by seeing to it He was killed.

This is contradictory to the New Testament teaching that Jesus came willingly to accept the cross as a sacrifice for sin. The redemptive work of Christ is contradicted by this concept. This reveals that not only did Gnostic writers seek to make heroes of Bible miscreants but to discredit the meritorious work of Christ.

Metropolitan Bishoy, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, characterizes the writings as “non-Christian babbling resulting from a group of people trying to create a false amalgam between the Greek mythology and Far East religions with Christianity…They were written by a group of people who were aliens to the main Christian stream….”

One close observer of the unfolding of this find wrote “some statements made reflect the imagination of journalists, honest mistakes, or misinformation.” The author of most of the material on the subject, Michel van Rijn, believes he was deceived on much of the material related to the document.

The (non)gospel is not new. Irenaeus (c. 135 – c. 200) wrote about such a work. He associated it with a sect known as the Cainites. Irenaeus referenced bogus mystical resources and said of Judas, “They declared that Judas the betrayer was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no other did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal, by him all things, earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produced a fictitious history of this kind, which they style as the gospel of Judas.”

This recent revelation is the latest in numerous Judas make overs based on ancient untruths. Most of these stories were written around the same time by Gnostic authors. They were a fringe element of the Christian community intent on disputing the foundations of the faith. Other Judas representation have long been dismissed as spurious.

One scenario represented Judas as having great faith in Jesus. He believed Jesus to be a reluctant Messiah. He truly believed that if Jesus were pushed He would assert Himself and lead in the overthrow of the Roman occupiers. When Jesus refused to use His powers and defend Himself in Gethsemane the heartbroken Judas killed himself.

Another account relates to Judas as the noble treasurer of “The Society of the Poor.” Many times Christ is quoted as referring to “the poor.” Allegedly this was code language referring to a secret society He headed intend on overthrowing the Roman oppressors.

Previous generations having dealt with these same fallacious stories proved they knew how to separate wheat from chaff. Hopefully this enlightened generation will also.

Today old Gnosticism, long sense discredited, is back and marketing well to a public historical and Biblical uninformed on the subject. May we become as wise as those of the era of the emergence of these writing and acknowledge them for what they are, a lugubrious assault on Christianity by pseudo authors.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever” Isaiah 40:8.