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"The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot" -Part 3: The Historical Context and The Discovery

by Dr. D ~

By Bart D. Ehrman (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, pgs.198)

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Chapter Four:  Before The Discovery

This chapter explores what was previously known about the Gospel of Judas and the community that supported its writing and publication.  The Gnostics were the group or community that the gospel probably originated in.  Nearly all that was known about this group for years was gained principally from reading early Christian writings against ‘heresy’.

Since the discovery and publication of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, the body of information about the so-called Gnostics groups has greatly increased.  There are far more divergent beliefs and teachings than previously supposed.  Some scholars wonder if the ‘Gnostic’ designation is really appropriate or even useful considering all the variety and diverse views held among the groups and writings so named.  Modern scholars also question whether the accounts of the Gnostic movement by the early Christian writers were all that accurate.

Irenaeus mentions a ‘Gospel of Judas’ in his famous tome "Against Heresies".   Dr. Ehrman explores whether the present manuscript of Judas is the same work that Irenaeus writes about.  He concludes that it probably is a match.  Working from that assumption, the Gnostic community closely identified with the ‘Judas’ work, which Irenaeus wrote about, was the ‘Cainites’.

The ‘cainites’ are so named because, according to Irenaeus, their heroes were all the ‘bad guys’ of the OT and all the enemies of the Hebrew Creator God.  Folks like Cain, the people of Sodom, Korah, and the betrayer himself -Judas.  Some scholars wonder if Irenaeus made it all up in an effort to slander the group, since it all sounds rather preposterous.  However, a reading of the Gospel of Judas shows that there a definite relationship between the account of Irenaeus and the Gospel.

Chapter Five:  The Discovery of the Gospel of Judas

This chapter is really quite interesting.  Dr. Ehrman traces the history and the key events from the discovery of the manuscripts in the Egyptian desert in 1978 through to it’s publication in 2006.  It is a study in greed, blunder, jealousy, and almost disaster.  It really is amazing that the Gospel MS actually survived at all with the treatment it endured in the 28 years since its discovery.

There are many lessons to be learned from this history.  Hopefully, if another manuscript is found in the desert some place, those involved will handle the arrangements and the manuscripts differently.  This really is a study in what not to do.

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