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The Gospel According To Judas

Category Articles
Date April 20, 2006

Judas Iscariot, vilified as Christ’s betrayer, acted at Jesus’ request in turning him over to the authorities who crucified him, according to a 1,700-year-old copy of the “Gospel of Judas” unveiled on Thursday.

It is not known who wrote the Judas gospel. The copy unveiled in early April is of a document probably mentioned in the year 180 in a treatise called “Against Heresies,” written by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, in what was then Roman Gaul. Irenaeus’ opposition was caused by this document claiming that Judas was the only one in Jesus’ inner circle who understood his desire to shed his earthly body. “He’s the good guy in this portrayal,” said Bart Ehrman, a religion professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “He’s the only apostle who understands Jesus.”

The Judas gospel’s introduction says it is “the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot.” Later, it quotes Jesus as saying to Judas, “You will exceed all of them (the other disciples) for you will sacrifice the man who clothes me.” “The idea in this gospel is that Jesus, like all of us, is a trapped spirit, who is trapped in a material body,” Ehrman said. “And salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existence, and Judas is the one who makes it possible for him to escape by allowing for his body to be killed.”

The National Geographic Society, unveiled a translation of the Judas gospel and helped authenticate, preserve and translate the document. The leather-bound copy of the gospel was written in Coptic script on both sides of 13 sheets of papyrus, and spent most of the past 1,700 years hidden in a cavern in the Egyptian desert, said Terry Garcia of the National Geographic Society. This document was probably copied from the original Greek manuscript around the year 300, Garcia said. Discovered in the 1970s near Minya, Egypt, the volume , including the gospel and other documents , was sold to an Egyptian antiquities dealer in 1978. The dealer offered it for sale without success, and eventually locked it in a bank safe deposit box in Hicksville, New York, for 16 years, which hastened its decay. In images displayed at the briefing, the papyrus looked like brown, dry autumn leaves. Garcia said it had crumbled into more than 1,000 pieces.

In 2001, the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Switzerland began an effort to transcribe and translate the volume from the Coptic. In the next years, scientific tests – including radiocarbon dating, ink analysis and multispectral imaging – showed the document was copied down around 300. The Judas gospel is being published in book form by National Geographic and pages from the papyrus manuscript is now on display at the society’s museum in Washington. The manuscript will ultimately be housed at the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

The Rev Kyle Paisley of Norfolk has written, “In recent days we have been hearing in the media about “The gospel according to Judas.” This fourth century MS, written in Coptic, gives Judas’ account of the last days of the Lord. In it he is portrayed as a hero. Some are saying that it will shake the faith of many.

However, questions need to be asked.

Did Judas really author this writing? Is what Christians have believed for centuries wrong? It is weakness not to face the challenge. But if we know the truth the truth will make us free.

1. There is the matter of authenticity to consider.

A writing may be considered authentic if it can be shown to have been written by its stated or implied author. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were certainly written by the men whose names they bear, but what of the Gospel of Judas?” James M. Robinson, America’s leading expert in ancient religious texts from Egypt, predicted that the text won’t offer any insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. His reason: While it’s old, it’s not old enough. “Does it go back to Judas? “No,” Robinson told The Associated Press.

2. There is also the matter of purity.

Irenaeus of Lyon, France, mentioned the Gospel of Judas, linking the writing to a Gnostic sect. The Cainites were enthusiastic for the man who slaughtered his brother Abel, and for others condemned by the Bible, such as the Sodomites. Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses: “Others again 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 fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”

3. The question of veracity.

The original Gospel of Judas dates to AD 187. This indicates that it did not come from apostolic sources. The Gospels were all written well before this date. What’s more, they reveal “wholesome words.” They were written by men inspired by God -2 Timothy 3:16. We can believe what Scripture says, but anything that contradicts it is to be rejected.

The Mail on Sunday has interviewed experts involved in the project and has established that, according to the gospel, Christ instructed Judas to betray him with the words: “You will become the apostle cursed by all the others. Judas, you will sacrifice this body of man which clothes me.”

In another hugely significant section of the manuscript, Jesus tells Judas: “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generation and you will come to rule over them.”

So much for the Gospel according to Judas. What about Judas according to the Gospel?

1. The Bible reveals a man of wasted opportunity.

He heard Jesus preach, saw Him perform His miracles, heard Him pray, heard God say, “This is my beloved Son.” But he was lost -John 17:12. With opportunity comes responsibility and the greater the light that is rejected the greater the damnation. England is full of opportunity. It has had the printed Word for centuries and has been the land of Reformation and revival. But she has rejected the truth. Judas was a man of wasted influence. He could have been another Peter, another John, another Paul. But all that is left of him is a memorial, the “field of blood.” You should think about what you could be by the grace of God and what will become of you if you are not Christ’s.

2. Judas is a man of a wasted eternity.

He never repented and died tragically. Acts 1:25 – he went “to his own place.” That was the place suited for him and which he chose. All who are there feel that it is their own place. Heaven is not suited to the Christ-rejecter. It is for those who believe on Him to the saving of the soul. The Bible says, “He is not ashamed to be called their God for he hath prepared for them a city.”

British Church Newspaper No. 86, ed. Dr Napier Malcolm, and reprinted by permission.

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