Friday, April 07, 2006

Gospel of Judas: Some Thoughts

I find it amazing that ancient artifacts still come to light millenia later. When I saw the news item on the Gospel of Judas last night, I thought at first they were joking. But I see it's for real. And I learn that as far back as the 2nd century, Christians knew this Gospel existed, but at least one Bishop condemned it as heretical because it claimed:

"That this world was not created by the one true God, but by a lesser, evil divinity as a place to trap divine spirits."

Did Gene Roddenberry channel the writer of this Gospel when he wrote Star Trek?

In all seriousness though, this contradicts the Creation Story detailed in Genesis. It's a story shared by other faiths in different forms. Still, the idea that we are not of this world is one that seems to be common today among some Christians. It explains why we live in tension with the world -- because our spirits know we do not belong here but in a better place. I also believe that we live in tension with the world because we feel the pain of the world, do not understand the impetus in those humans who cause the pain, perhaps feel helpless in the face of the worst suffering, and know that this is not what God intended for us to be when He created us: creatures who create suffering. He intended for us to be good, to listen to the Divine within us, not to ignore it and follow our id.

This Gospel claims that Judas was Jesus' "favourite apostle." The one thing I have trouble with in the Gospel of John is that the author claims that John was Jesus' most loved disciple. I have trouble with it because I find it boastful and a bit childish to say Jesus loved me best (so there! tongue stick out). So I take with a grain of salt that Judas was Jesus' favourite. I believe we will never really know, and although it may've mattered to them because they knew Jesus and there was rivalry between them, for us today, it doesn't really matter. What matters is Jesus' teachings and his life as a model for us.

The Gospel of Judas also claims that Jesus wanted Judas to turn him over to the authorities. Although it has been fashionable, and still is, to condemn Judas, I never understood it. For example, it's clear from John that Judas was a puppet (willing or not) in God's plan for Jesus (John 13:2 and 27). The thing that always got me about the universal condemnation of Judas was that if he had not turned Jesus over to the authorities, then Jesus would not have been captured Passover night and crucified the next day. If he had not been crucified, God would not have forgiven us our sins. We would not know the Holy Spirit, for until Jesus, only a very few were granted that knowledge. And Jesus would have lived out his days as a man, and there would have been no Resurrection, the central event of the Christian faith. Judas was the lynchpin of God's plan for Jesus and for us. And finally Judas' humanity was proven when he could not live with what he had done.

As these ancient gospels come to light or come back into the light (I've just learnt that Mary Magdalene wrote a book as well), we need to become more literate in the Bible. We will need to become better critical thinkers, in the sense of striving to understand beyond a surface level what the Bible says and what these "new" manuscripts say, in order to avoid either unthinking acceptance of the "new" or genuflecting following of the "old."

5 comments:

doug said...

The problem with all the so-called gnostic gospels (of which the gospel of Judas belongs) is this: they were not viewed as authentic by Christian leaders at the time. The accounts were written long after any witnesses could confirm or deny the stories (late 2nd to 4th century).

talk talk talk said...

This is also a criticism levelled at the accepted Gospels by present-day critics, including some Christian leaders. Yet many don't bat an eye about historians and/or university professors writing today about events or people who lived decades if not centuries ago, like Charles Dickens or Shakespeare or WWII.

If I'm not mistaken, I think the Church leaders of the time disagreed with the philosophy of the gnostics and therefore considered those gospels as heretical.

Classic said...

_One aspect of the Christianity - Judaism - Islam connected faith lines I have misgivings about is their mutual exclusivity.
_Just once, I'd like to hear about 'inter-related religious instructions' also visited upon other far flung geo-regions, ie; Ancient Australia, East Asia, South, Central, & North America(s), etc. Even an uncovered "shoutout" gospel passage would do.
_It's something I noticed while watching yet another such C-J-I only "world religions" panel on Larry King Live.

talk talk talk said...

The Apostle Thomas somehow travelled all the way to the southern part of India. The people there still know Aramaic (the language of Jesus), and their Christian faith is probably as close to the original as one can get.

Advanced civilizations were centred around and extending east and south of the Mediterranean Sea for millennia, with the exception of the Inca (I think it's them, not the Maya, and I wouldn't want Inca theology to be widespread!) Most of us around the world are descended from those civilzations, and so we are unlikely to know about figures similar to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, or Mohammed in areas of the world where our ancestors either eliminated civilizations (like the Inca) or decimated them. Most of these civilizations had oral traditions too. Eliminate the people, eliminiate their stories.

But taking Christianity as an example, why would Jesus need to appear to many civilizations when by appearing to just one and by appointing 12 apostles to carry on his message, he was able to spread his teachings throughout the world and through time? It is far more effective for a prophet to have many spread his word, than to travel all over the world, especially on foot, boat, and donkey. Also, you forget that the British were orginally not Christian; they were evangelized like most of the rest of world.

I have talked about Zoroastrianism in previous posts on religious topics (use the Technorati search box for Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrian, or Religion). I'm not exactly sure which geographic area Zarathustra was from, but my ancestors came from somewhere near where Georgia is now. The Persian (Zoroastrian) empire covered most of what is now Asia. Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic faith.

goliah said...

Like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi discoveries, this latest 'gospel' increases the amount of new scriptural material only available this century, making the concept of 'canonical scriptures' untenable and any claims of understanding founded upon them both incomplete and even less credible.

What might 'Christianity' look like if all these resources were available from the beginning? Check this link: www.energon.uklinux.net