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The Gospel of Judas, Second Edition Paperback – 6 Apr 2006
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"In one sense, this document is huge news...it provides a touchstone for what certain people believed 150 or 200 years after Christ's death."--Knight/Ridder Tribune News Service
About the Author
Rudolphe Kasser is one of the world's leading Coptologists. He is professor on the Faculty of the Arts at the University of Geneva. He has organised the restoration and prepared the editio princeps of the codex containing the Gospel of Judas. Gregor Wurst is a professor of ecclesiastical history and patristics at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of University of Augsburg, Germany. He is widely published in the field of Coptic studies. He is one of the two editors of the original Coptic of the Gospel of Judas and one of the translators of the text. Marvin Meyer is Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies and director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Chapman University, Orange, California. He is one of the foremost scholars on Gnosticism, the Nag Hammadi library, and texts about Jesus outside the New Testament. He is one of the translators of the codex and the author of The Gnostic Gospels and The Unknown Sayings of Jesus.
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For a broader appreciation of alternative early Christian writings - such as the gospels of Thomas and Judas - I would recommend "Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas" by Elaine Pagels which shows that a key difference between so-called Gnostic writings and those of more orthodox Christianity is the discovery of truth. In books like the Gospel of Judas Jesus is represented as teaching that the kingdom of God is within us, and we must search within ourselves to discover the truth. In orthodox Christian books such as the Gospel of John the light of truth is not to be found in ourselves but in Jesus, who alone is the Way to God.
So alternative early Christian writings such as the Gospel of Judas present a more open and pluralistic way to God, as opposed to the more exclusivist dogma of traditional Christianity.
Other scholars (outside the 'chosen few') have remarked that the Gospel of Judas does not actually add much to the sum total of knowledge surrounding Gnostic Cosmology. All the themes in it are represented elsewhere, even in the New Testament canon where there is clear collusion betwen Jesus and Judas in permitting his own betrayal. Without Judas's betrayal in terms even of strict orthodox theology, there could have been no sacrifice and thus no salvation.
The links to pre-Christian hellenic mystery cults (holy betrayal), the influence of Platonism (the 'real' realm of light and the insubstantial realm of darkness, the 'emmanations' of minor deities), the hefty influence of Docetic ideas (the mere 'clothing' of Jesus's human body, the despising of the flesh), the influence of Manacheistic , hyper-Dualistic belief systems (The Demiurge, the Evil Creation) are all found elsewhere. What is fascinating (but not surprising) is to find a Judas cult which turns on its head the usual order preserved in the biblical tradition - that of the disciples pre-eminence and Judas's perdition, and the rehabilitation of the Sodomites, Sethites and Caanites!
Neither is it sustainable as is often attempted, to claim that this Gospel, along with other gnostic strands, promotes 'The Kingdom Within' in stark contrast to the orthodox position of the 'Kingdom without'. The tradition that the 'Kigdom is within you (or amongst you)' is clearly articulated by Jesus in the synoptic gospels.
Confusion reigns supreme within the strange and perplexing Gnostic World, which is at much at war with itself as with 'orthodox' Christianity. It is certainly more exclusive! Only the elect(those with the 'divine spark') can be 'saved'! In this Gospel that is Judas, in other gnostic texts its somebody different. Every time. Sadly, in many (but not all) branches of orthodox christianity this 'exclusivity clause' has been perpetuated and is alive and flourishing even as I write.........
There were originally more than four gospels, and literally hundreds of apostolic letters and manuscripts floating around the ancient world. These were of variable quality literarily and theologically, but it took hundreds of years for the Christian community to come to a consensus about what should be included and what should be excluded. Generally, Gnostic texts were excluded, and this lost gospel of Judas is most likely a Gnostic production, according to the authors. It was referenced by early church leaders such as Irenaeus, who argued strongly for the now-standard vision of four canonical gospels.
What is the issue with this gospel? The central idea that places this text as odds with the canonical gospels is that it paints Judas is a very different light - Judas is no longer the villain who betrays Jesus for his own personal gain, or because of his own spiritual confusion, but rather an obedient servant who, when turning Jesus in to the authorities, is simply following Jesus' own direction as a necessary step for God's plan to come to fulfillment. Judas is portrayed as the closest of the apostles to Jesus, a leader among the apostles, and thus perhaps the object of jealousy.
To be sure, these ideas are not new. Varying images of Judas and confusion about his role have been present throughout much of Christian history, with no single definitive vision of his personality nor his action superseding all others. (See the book on Judas by scholar Kim Paffenroth, published recently). The document highlighted in this text is a 31-page, fragile manuscript dated to approximately the year 300, as a copy of a story that may have originated 150 or more years earlier. The manuscript itself has a colourful history, having been bought, sold, and stolen multiple times. As this book is released, the manuscript is on display at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. This book discusses efforts to preserve the manuscript and halt further deterioration.
This book promises to be of interest to historians, theologians, biblical scholars, and others who find the early days of Christianity fascinating. Even those (like me) who are not willing to lend canonical authority to this rediscovered gospel will find that it brings up ideas and questions that are worth considering.