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‘Gospel of Judas’ -A Problem For Christians? Not!

by Dr. D ~ April 7th, 2006

     The history of this manuscript reads like a story from “Raiders of The Lost Ark”,  but the contents are no surprise to Bible Scholars & historians of early Christianity.  It is always interesting to observe how news like this ‘discovery’ is handled by the secular MSM.  It is so predictable that the ‘Gospel of Judas’ manuscript would be presented as a problem & ‘controversy’ for Bible believing Christians.  It is a matter of wishful thinking on the part of many in the media, who hold a world-view which is at odds with that of ‘people of faith’. They choose to feature & pick every major scholar in the field that opposes an orthodox understanding of Christianity, thereby creating an impression that Biblical Christianity is being challenged by this ‘discovery’.  

     This supposed ‘Challenge’ has already been more than adequately answered over 1800 years ago by Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyons, an early Christian theologian, who cited the Greek version of the ‘Gospel of Judas’ in his famous work- “Against Heresies” (I read it in seminary 25 years ago and found it to be a sure cure for insomnia).  He responds: “They (The Gnostics) produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”  The ‘Gospel of Judas’ was originally written by Gnostics (an early ‘heretical’ Christian group) late in the second century AD, 120+ years after the ministry of Jesus, and long after the last Apostle and disciple had died. The absurdity of claiming ‘authority’ for this work was deftly resolved once & for all by Bishop Irenaeus (180 AD).  Even James M. Robinson, a noted Coptic & Gnostic scholar, famous for his work on the “Nag Hammadi Library” (also one of my old profs-I had him for a lecture or two at Claremont), concludes that the New Testament Gospels are not really challenged by ‘Judas’:  “Correctly understood, there’s nothing undermining about the Gospel of Judas,”. 

     The work really says more about the beliefs & faith of late 2nd century Gnostics than it possibly can about the origins of Biblical Christianity. The Gnostics believed that Humanity was imprisoned in physical bodies by the evil one.  So in Gnostic theology, Judas was a hero for having a role in the death of Jesus, and thereby made possible his release from his physicality and his resurrection into the spiritual realm.

     The manuscript was actually discovered in the 1970’s, so its existence is really not news to those in the field.  James M. Robinson tried to purchase it in  1983, but fell short of the required $3 million needed.  It was finally rescued from antiquity dealers and collectors in 2001, and made available to scholars through The National Geographic.  Marvin Meyer of Chapman University was chosen to make the English translation.  See his interesting story in The Register-front page 4/07/06:  www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1092171.php      

*Update-4/9 

    It is interesting to me that they would choose now, around Easter in 2006, to publicize its existence.  Hmm, I wonder why?   I heard a commercial for a National Geographic TV special on ‘Judas’ showing tonight (Sunday 4/9).  It was obviously planned many months ago, so they must have decided in their planning that a ‘Easter’ week  announcement & TV presentation would bring them the maximum coverage & greatest potential for publicity and viewers.  Is any one else offended by this choice?  It is tantamount to an attack on Christianity, during the most holy week of the year for Christians! 

See full story in The New York Times 4/6/06: 

www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/science/06cnd-judas.html

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