Thursday, April 06, 2006

Extreme (Judas) Makeover

Two months ago I put up a short post referring to the Gospel of Judas. Today, a lot of people have visited the blog as a result of searches for the ancient document. The spike in traffic is no doubt due, at least in part, to an article in today's New York Times from which the following are excerpts:

An early Christian manuscript, including the only known text of what is known as the Gospel of Judas, has surfaced after 1,700 years. The text gives new insights into the relationship of Jesus and the disciple who betrayed him, scholars reported today. In this version, Jesus asked Judas, as a close friend, to sell him out to the authorities, telling Judas he will "exceed" the other disciples by doing so.

....The most revealing passages in the Judas manuscript begins, "The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover."

The account goes on to relate that Jesus refers to the other disciples, telling Judas "you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." By that, scholars familiar with Gnostic thinking said, Jesus meant that by helping him get rid of his physical flesh, Judas will act to liberate the true spiritual self or divine being within Jesus.

Unlike the accounts in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the anonymous author of the Gospel of Judas believed that Judas Iscariot alone among the 12 disciples understood the meaning of Jesus' teachings and acceded to his will. In the diversity of early Christian thought, a group known as Gnostics believed in a secret knowledge of how people could escape the prisons of their material bodies and return to the spiritual realm from which they came.

Scholars believe that the extant manuscript was written around 300 A.D. while the original was written in the previous century. Nevertheless, this recently discovered gospel is said to give "new insights" into the relationship between Jesus and Judas.

Here is double-think at its best. The biblical gospels are frequently rejected as reliable witnesses to the life and teachings of Jesus on account of their allegedly having been written so long after the events they record. I guess that as long as a document written even later than the biblical gospels (such as the Gospel of Judas) contradicts their testimony, time between event and recording ceases to be material (no Gnostic pun intended).

You can learn more about the "lost gospel" at and read excerpts here. The National Geographic Channel will also air a special about the find this Sunday evening.

That reminds me. Mars Hill Audio's Ken Myers recently posted a thoughtful essay called "An Ancient Modern Confusion" in which he contrasts the biblical doctrine of creation with the Gnostic heresy and illustrates Gnosticism's contemporary appeal. As are Myers' other reflections, it's worth reading.

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1 comment:

A.D. Riddle said...

This manuscript was discovered several decades ago. I guess the big "news" is that now it's available in English translation.