Gospel of Judas|
Here we go again…
Photo - Demise of Judas by Dore'
The Gospel of Judas
Another lost book of the Bible? Not suprisingly, documentaries and news ariticles have flooded the media heralding a document referred to as the "Gospel of Judas."
As a History graduate from UCLA back in the 1980s, I can testify that such oddball texts tend to appear and reassert themselves every decade or so.
Such documents are not "new" and are usually found to be spurious. In fact, they become tiresome to "old folks like me." Nevertheless, we know that sincere questions will arise within our churches, and certainly no question which challenges our sacred texts is too small or too "goofy" to answer.
We must say at the outset however - At their heart,"revelations" such as these serve one purpose… To deny the Master who bought us!
(II Pet 2:1). Make no mistake that the reporting of these documents is deliberatly designed to coincide with Easter and Christmas seasons. It's our "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter" from the secular world.
What is a Gospel?
The very use of the term "Gospel" when refering to this kind of document is a deliberate contrivance used to raise these extra Biblical texts to the level of the importance of Holy Scripture. The term "gospel" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "god-spell" or "God story."
Tyndale defined it as the merry and joyful news. It is the proclamation that God has redeemed mankind from his slavery under sin by the sacrifical offering of Jesus' death on the cross.1 This redemptive action by God is in complete accordance and context with the Old and New Testaments.
The Apostle Paul leaves no doubt as to what "The Gospel" truly is.
"Moreover brethern I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are also saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you - unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all, that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures…" (I Cor. 15:1-4 NKJV)
Paul tells us what the "gospel" is. Anything else that is in conflict with this truth is not the gospel. It is an attack on "The Gospel".
Where did the Gospel of Judas come from?
The "Gospel of Judas" is not new! Surprisingly, Iranaeus, Christian Bishop of Lyon in 180 A.D., wrote against the "gospel of Judas" and its supporters. These supporters, the Cainites, spoke highly of Cain, the murderer of Abel. They also revered the Sodomites and Judas the betrayer, whom they believed had special and secret knowledge. The Cainites were an early Christian Gnostic sect from within Egypt who struggled with the early Christian Church.
Old New Age News
Gnostic beliefs parallel many New Age beliefs today: that Christ wasn't "real," that physical beings are actually "spirit" and not flesh, that Gnostics have secret knowledge, and so on.
There are lots of sections missing in the gospel of Judas. This may be because the texts were mishandled and misused by unscrupulous dealers who sold off sections for a small fortune. The language from this codex (or book) is a Sahidic dialect of Coptic in which the Nag Hammadi library is written. The Codex is in three parts: an Epistle to Philip, the Revelation of Jacob, and the Gospel of Judas. About 1/3 of the codex is not legible.
Expect more Gospels to Come
Be ready. Other "Gospels" are coming to a theater near you! Scholars have found references to many writings over the years including a Gospel of Bartholomew, a Gospel of Thaddeus and many others. (Tixeront, A Handbook of Patrology).
The Gospel of Judas is just one of many early Gnostic writings available for the public to read. You will find many translated Gnostic texts in the New Age and Religious sections of libraries or bookstores. Like clockwork, texts such as these are publicized as the "lost" gospels which prove who Jesus really was. Or, they provide the "missing" texts which prove Christianity or Judaism withheld famous documents from all of us.
Early Battles with Gnosticism
The Apostle John says this…
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh." (2 Jn. 7)
"By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." (1 Jn. 4:2)
Already, Gnosticism, which denied Jesus in bodily form, had crept into the church! Certainly, when a book or written document came along that did not hold to the Apostalic teachings or that conflicted with the plan of redemption outlined in the Old Testament, that document was discredited and denied as being Scriptural.
Ancient Warnings Still Apply
The heresies that John faced circa 70-95 A.D. are the same ones we read today in Gnostic writings and see in motion pictures. We believe John's warning applies to us today, and that we should shun viewing documentaries such as as the Gospel of Judas or entertaining ourselves with The DaVinci Code and similar forms of Hollywood entertainment. In fact, John would probably tell us not to bring any of these things home!
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting. For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." (2 Jn 7)
Contrary to Gnostic teaching, Jesus Christ's mastery over physical death is His unique credential and His solution to the saddest problem in our universe, death. His bodily death and physical resurrection are key to our faith.
Lies, lies, and more lies…
There are lots of exciting extra biblical texts for students to research besides these trendy Gnostic writings which lure the public into watching documentaries, films, and into buying books based on half-truths or lies. Indeed, these books and films are money-makers for producers. Think: The Da Vinci Code.
Think about it: It took tremendous imaginative effort and work to turn half-truths, distortions, and plagiarized materials into a "hit" like this. Even more amazing, some folks believe that every word of it is "truth." However, in truth it is sloppy scholarship and tragic to the eternal state of those who believe it.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Worth pursuing, however, might be a study of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is likely the most important archaeological find in history! While in grad school, we repeatedly heard stories about the "Teacher of Righteousness" described within a few of these documents who sounded remarkably like Jesus the Messiah. It was no surprise when just a decade later fragments from the New Testament books of Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, and James were found among these writings. While somewhat in dispute, this is fascinating to study.
Coffee, Tea, or Greek?
Rather than solely attacking the veracity of the Gospel of Judas, we prefer to give believers a simple outline detailing why our New Testament documents are trustworthy. There are volumes of scholarly texts addressing this subject. One need only search the academic listings available from major universities in ancient history, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, Middle Eastern Religions, and so forth. It is overwhelming to the average student.
Okay. Agreed. Let's keep it simple.
Principles of Inclusion
What are the principles by which our New Testament came into being? That is, did the church simply "declare" that certain books were to become a part of the canon? Was this an arbitrary decision?
No. The church did not create the New Testament. Rather, the church recognized the books and canon which already existed. From the fourth century (300 A.D.), a famous church historian, Eusebius, lists 22 writings validated by past authorities, five short books which were under dispute, yet highly respected, and books which were not considered a part of the New Testament. In other words, 27 books were already "canonical" by this time.
Tests within Scripture
Within the New Testament there were tests for those who claimed to speak in the name of the Lord. For example, Paul spoke of the necessity for prophets to be evaluated by others (see 1 Cor. 14:29).
When Jesus said, "Whosoever receives you receives me," (Matt 10:40) Jesus was declaring that the apostles represented His authority in the highest sense. Later, it was the presbyter-bishops who carried on the writings of the early church. This is because there was only one generation who would have evidenced the resurrection. From that point on, the important news was carried on by bishops and elders.
Overlapping Church Fathers - Unbroken Line
There is incredible integrity among the early Church Father's writings as well. Their lives overlapped one another so that there was continuity of teaching throughout hundreds of years. For example, Clement of Rome (30-100 A.D.) overlapped with Ignatius (35-107), who overlapped with Papias (60-163 A.D.) who overlapped with Polycarp (69-163 A.D.), and so on. You get the idea.
Continual Line of Succession&Communication
In other words, there was a continual, unbroken line of communications from Jesus to the apostles through the early church Fathers even down to our present day. This confirms the accuracy of the written record.
Can God Get a Message to Us?
Doesn't it make sense that if there is a God, then He certainly has the ability to get a message to us? And if He has the ability to get a message to us, wouldn't He likely guard its preservation? Forever? Of course! Our job is to be diligent in the study of His Word.
"Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens" (Ps 119:89, ESV).
"The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever" (1 Pet 1:24-25, ESV).
Did you know that there are 643 surviving copies of the "Iliad?" There are 10 copies of "Gallic Wars" by Julius Caesar? There are 8 copies of "Historical Works" by Herodotus?
But…as the kids say, "Check this out:" There are over 24,000 copies of the New Testament!
Yes…God got a Message to us, and Preserved it!
The Gospel of Judas. Wikipedia: www.wikipedia.org.
Gospel of Judas. www.earlychristianwritings.com.
Green, Michael. 2005. The Books of the Church Suppressed. Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books.
McDowell, Josh. CD. New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Compass.
Missler, Chuck. 2004. CD-ROM. Cosmic Codes: Hidden Messages from the Edge of Eternity, Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.
Missler. 2001. CD-ROM. The Creator Series Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House.
Muncaster, Ralph. 2004. Examine the Evidence: Exploring the Case for Christianity. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
Muncaster. 2000. Can You Trust the Bible? Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
—- 2005. One Minute Answers: The Evidence for Christianity. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.
(1.) Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI Baker Academic.
Author: Valorie Mays Emilio received her M.A. in History from UCLA having specialized in early church history. She holds a V.O.M. certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.