Missing Books of the Bible – The Gospel of Judas – Introduction

The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic gospel purported to document conversations between apostle Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ. The document is not claimed to have been written by Judas himself, but rather by Gnostic followers of Jesus. It exists in an early fourth century Coptic text, though it has been proposed, but not proven, that the text is a translation of an earlier Greek version. The Gospel of Judas is probably from no earlier than the second century, since it contains theology that is not represented before the second half of the second century, and since its introduction and epilogue assume the reader is familiar with the canonical Gospels. The original Coptic document has been carbon dated to plus or minus 60 years of 280 AD.

According to the canonical Gospels of the New Testament, (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Judas betrayed Jesus to Jerusalem’s Temple authorities, which handed Jesus over to the prefect Pontius Pilate, representative of the occupying Roman Empire, for crucifixion. The Gospel of Judas, on the other hand, portrays Judas in a very different perspective than do the Gospels of the New Testament, according to a preliminary translation made in early 2006 by the National Geographic Society: the Gospel of Judas appears to interpret Judas’s act not as betrayal, but rather as an act of obedience to the instructions of Jesus. This assumption is taken on the basis that Jesus required a second agent to set in motion a course of events which he had preplanned in advance. In that sense Judas acted as a catalyst. The action of Judas, then, was a pivotal point which interconnected a series of simultaneous pre-orchestrated events.

This portrayal seems to conform to a notion, current in some forms of Gnosticism, that the human form is a spiritual prison, and that Judas thus served Christ by helping to release Christ’s spirit from its physical constraints. The action of Judas allowed him to do that which he could not do directly. The Gospel of Judas does not claim that the other disciples knew gnostic teachings. On the contrary, it asserts that the disciples had not learned the true Gospel, which Jesus taught only to Judas Iscariot.

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