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Gospel of Judas

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The Gospel of Judas, recently reconstructed in spring of 2006, is a Gnostic (Specifically Cainite) and heretical account of the ApostleJudas Iscariot, and his supposed secret conversations with Jesus. It probably was written some time around 130-170 A.D., making it impossible for Judas to have written it, and is typical of many Gnostic gospels or works in it's interpretation by the gnostics as containing "hidden knowledge" of some sort, specifically in it's beginning, "The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot." The earliest extant manuscripts seem to date from the 4th to 5th century.

The early church did not include it into the canon most likely because of the large gap of time between it and the events detailed, the lack of agreement on its content, the failure to claim apostolistic authority, and the contradictions it has when compared to the rest of the Bible.

Content

The content of the Gospel of Judas was referred to by Irenaeus, an early Bishop of Lyons, in Adversus Haereses, written in about 180 C.E., who said that some

declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves… They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, 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 fictional history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas. [1]

This is likely a reference to the Cainites, a sect of gnosticism that especially worshipped Cain as a hero. The Cainites, like a large number of gnostic groups, were semi-maltheists believing that the god of the Old Testament—Yahweh—was evil, and a quite different and much lesser being to the deity that had created the universe, and was responsible for sending Jesus. Such gnostic groups worshipped as heroes all the Biblical figures which had sought to discover knowledge or challenge Yahweh's authority, while demonizing those who would have been seen as heroes by more standard interpretations.

Certain of the Cainites maintained that Judas was really enlightened and acted as he did in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Jesus. For this reason, they regarded him as worthy of gratitude and veneration. In this theory, it is suggested that Judas, who in common with the other disciples looked for a temporal kingdom of the Messiah ("the anointed one"), did not anticipate the death of Jesus, but wished to precipitate a political crisis and hasten the hour of triumph, thinking that the arrest of Jesus would provoke a rising of the people who would set him free and place him on the throne. In support of this, they point to the fact that, when Judas found that Jesus was condemned and given up to the Romans, he immediately repented of what he had done. These theories are at odds with those of mainstream church doctrine as derived from canonical scripture.

This Cainite heresy has always been a delicate one historically for the orthodox church. The Christian church has always held that Jesus underwent his passion and death freely, because of the sins of mankind and out of infinite love, in order that all could have the opportunity to reach salvation. Thus, Judas' betrayal of Jesus, even from an orthodox viewpoint, can be looked at as only a personal betrayal of Jesus and a violation of Judas' position as an apostle and not as a doctrinal violation.

Indeed, the Gospel of John, unlike the synoptic gospels, contains the enigmatic statement of Jesus to Judas as the latter leaves the Passover meal to set in motion the betrayal process, “Do quickly what you have to do.” (John 13:27) (trans. The New English Bible).

Some two centuries after Irenaeus' complaint, Epiphanius of Salamis, bishop of Cyprus, criticized the Gospel of Judas for treating whom he saw as the betrayer of Jesus as commendable, one who "performed a good work for our salvation." (Haeres., xxxviii).

The portion of the manuscript that could be translated by later scholars tells of Judas being the favorite disciple of Jesus, possibly intended to be interpreted as the beloved disciple. Like much gnostic writing, which was written only for those who had attained a certain level of initiation, the Gospel of Judas claimed to be a secret account, specifically "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot".

While over the ages many philosophers have contemplated the idea that Judas was required to have carried out his actions, in order for Jesus to have died on the cross, and hence fulfill theological obligations, the position was frequently condemned as heresy, and was not supported by any canonical account. However, the Gospel of Judas not only asserts that the actions of Judas were necessary, but that Judas was acting on the orders of Jesus himself.

The Gospel of Judas states that Jesus told Judas "You shall be cursed for generations". It then adds to this conversation that Jesus had told Judas "you will come to rule over them", and that "You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me". [2]

Unlike the four canonical gospels, which employ narrative accounts of the life of Jesus, the Judas gospel takes the less structured form of a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus and brief dialogues between Jesus and Judas without being embedded in any narrative nor worked into any overt philosophical or rhetorical context.

Like the Judas portrayed in the canonical gospels, the Judas of the Judas gospel converses with the scribes looking to arrest Jesus and receives money from them after handing Jesus over to them. But unlike the Judas in the canonical gospels, who is portrayed as a villain, and excoriated by Jesus, "Alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born", (Mark 14:21; Matthew 26:24) (trans. The New English Bible), the Judas gospel portrays him as a divinely appointed instrument of a grand and predetermined purpose. "In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy (generation)."

Another part shows Jesus favoring Judas apart from other disciples, saying, "Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom," and later "Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star."

Muslim scholars have attempted to use this gospel to point out that the discovery of the new manuscript is historical evidence of the Quranic narration that it was actually one of Jesus' beloved disciples — namely Judas — who was to die on the cross. They cite portions of the manuscript that describe Jesus praising Judas, "You will exceed all of them," Jesus says, and that Judas would "grieve a great deal" to enable him to ascend to the heavens. It seems they are not quite so familiar with its clear lack of authority on anything.

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Gospel of Judas. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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