the "gospel" of judas

i really can't believe that people are so informed on this stuff until i talk to them at work. here's a bunch of info on it.-jpu
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So the Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic document?

Yes, it is quite clearly a document written by someone who was a Gnostic. The language, the ideas, the theology, and the names mentioned in it all suggest it was written by someone who was an ardent advocate of Gnosticism. The church father Irenaeus (A.D. 180) classified the Gospel of Judas as a form of “Cainite” Gnosticism of which he says, “They delcare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things [Gnostic secret knowledge], and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”

What exactly was Gnosticism?

Gnosticism was a religion of redemption that surfaced as early as the late first century A.D. and was popular among some communities through the fourth century A.D. At the heart of Gnosticism is a belief in two gods—the creator God that we know about through Genesis 1, but also a secret, hidden, unknown god that exists in the kingdom of light. It is this unknown god that Gnosticism purports to reveal. At the heart of the Gospel of Judas is a revelation of this unknown god.

But Gnostics apparently believed in Jesus?

Yes, but their Jesus was very different than the Jesus who is revealed in the Bible. The Gnostic Jesus did not become incarnate to die on the cross to make atonement for the sin of the world. He came to reveal the higher knowledge about the existence of the unknown god and that every person has a “divine spark” of this god within them. This divine spark is trapped in our physical bodies and longs for release from the entombment of the flesh to be reunited with the unknown god in the kingdom of light.

So this is why Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was a good thing according to the Gospel of Judas?

Right. The only reason the death of Jesus was important was to free Jesus from the constraints of the physical body. Most Gnostic groups, however, believed that Jesus never truly became incarnate, that it only seemed like he was human. This belief is often referred to as “docetism” (from the Greek word dokeĊ, “it seems”). This dim view of physical existence is why some Gnostic communities could advocate the practice of abortion and infanticide.

When did Gnosticism begin?

This has been a long-debated question, but the current generation of scholars are suggesting that Gnosticism did not come into existence until after the creation of the New Testament. We certainly have no firm historical evidence that Gnosticism existed at the time of Jesus and the Apostles. If this is true, it is devastating to the idea that the Gospel of Judas gives an accurate depiction of Jesus’s ministry and teaching. I personally tend to follow the conclusions of a group of scholars who argue that the catalyst for the development of Gnosticism was the disillusionment in certain segments of Judaism following the two Jewish wars (A.D. 70 and 135) resulting in a form of mysticism in which heretical rabbis began reporting seeing two powers in heaven.

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What are some of the teachings given in the Gospel of Judas?

Here is a random selection of the ideas found in the document:

* The unknown god in the hidden kingdom (Jesus to Judas): “[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit].”
* Revelation of the unknown realm (Jesus to Judas): “A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated.”
* The origin of immortal beings and the first man (Jesus to Judas): “The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos—that is, perdition—by the Father and the seventy-two luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his seventy two aeons. In him the first human appeared with his incorruptible powers.”
* The origin of Jesus (Judas’s insight): “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo [the unknown god]. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.”
* On entering the eternal kingdom (Jesus to Judas): “No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen for that place is reserved for the holy.” In another passage: “The souls of every human generation will die. When these people, however, have completed the time of the kingdom and the spirit leaves them, their bodies will die but their souls will be alive, and they will be taken up.”

The teaching found in the Gospel of Judas is thoroughly consistent with the kind of Gnostic teaching that is reflected in the Nag Hammadi documents and other Gnostic sources. There is nothing here that is consistent with biblical Christianity.

Should we be concerned that our Bible is incomplete?

Not at all. Our New Testament has been complete for nearly two thousand years. Christians throughout history in every part of the world have recognized this to be the case.

The NGS special gave the impression that Irenaeus (A.D. 180) may have chosen what gospels to include in the New Testament. Is that an accurate depiction of what happened?

Neither Irenaeus nor any church leader arbitrarily selected which books would become part of the New Testament. From the moment that the gospels were first written, they were circulated throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond and used in the churches for teaching, worship, and devotion. Lists of New Testament writings were later drawn up by some church fathers and early church councils to recognize and formalize what Christians were using in churches throughout the world. The formal recognition became essential because some groups were wanting to add to the New Testament and other people (like Marcion) were wanting to subtract from what was widely used and recognized as authoritative.
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jpu
as always, the Apologetics Index is a great place to start your research.

Comments

Joe said…
Very well explained!

Thanks for coming by my blog and for the mention.

Come by any time.

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