That Would Put Things in a Different Light

judas and the kiss.jpg
The Gospel of Judas.

11 Responses to “That Would Put Things in a Different Light”

  1. Wow, sounds interesting. Do you think translation by National Geographic Society will be disclosed to the public? Would be interesting to read it.

  2. Aaron G.

    Mmmm….Tom, I think you genuinely just like to cause arguments on your blog. You must be bored or something. Even the BBC article admits that this Book is a creation of the gnostics, who were about as “Christian” a group as these poor fellows:
    You should go back to calling LRC of being a bunch of crackpot slave-owning hicks. At least that’s occasionally funny.

  3. Aaron– you should notice that all of the “officially accepted” Gospels are of similar origin to the Gnostic gospels — all were written well after the events described, and by non-participants.

    What constitutes Christian doctrine and what doesn’t was similarly decided (politically) well after Jesus lived.

    Gnostics aren’t considered Christians by today’s Christian mainstream simply because long ago one band of more politically powerful Christians (from today’s Christianity evolved) defined Gnostics as heretics.

  4. A Former Theology Student

    Charles is right. The history of the Christian churches is not something that you can just read off the back of a cereal box. It is far more complicated than Aaron seems to think. Moreover, while Aaron is free to define a doctrine as Christian or not, he should be aware that he is stipulating that the followers of Arius were heretics, and not the followers of Constantine and Athanasius, merely because the Arians lost at the Council of Nicea. Had it been the other way around, we would read of the Athanasian heresy, not the Arian heresy.

    This document looks like an interesting and important work that will shed light on the history of the early movements inspired by Jesus of Nazareth.

    PS: I doubt that Lew Rockwell or LRC are “slave-owning”, since their side lost the civil war, but that they are crackpots is beyond doubt.

  5. The interesting thing about the gospel of Judas isn’t just how it differs from the syncretic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) but also from the non-syncretic gospel of John. The more gospels begin to surface the more we see the gnostic thread first begun by the discovery of the gospel of Thomas. This just substantiates the theory that gnostics weren’t wrong as much as unlucky.

    However, that could be just because so far the apocryphal gospels have been by and large found in Coptic forms which may have had gnostic influences (like the Nag Hammadi library, etc.).

  6. Also in the vein of Charles’s comment…not all the canonized gospels have the same gnostic influence. Certainly John does, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the influence of the Q text (Quelle, meaning “source” in German). So far it looks like Q eliminated a lot of the gnostic underpinnings in favor of a narrative more condusive to the transition from a Jesus-centered movement to a separate, missionary, and organized religion.

  7. I have to agree. The Judas Gospel is no more reliable than any of the others. And it was clearly a matter of politics as to which side prevailed in these debates. Charles Freeman in his book The Closing of the Western Mind very nicely dissects the way that politics determined the theology of the church once it became the state relgion. After the separation of the two (and in spite of Bush’s attempt to merge them again) the doctrines that were now considered orthodox were merely those that had the support of the Emperor years before. There is good reason to believe that some of the losing doctrines were more justified (given the context) than winning doctrines.

  8. It depends on what you mean by “reliable,” godless.

    The gospels provide profound insight into the development of the Jesus movement and the evolution of Christianity. But if you mean as an account of Jesus as Christ then that’s really more where religion has to take hold. But academically, Judas’s gospel is as reliable as Thomas or Matthew or any of the other gospels. It just highlights the fragmentation and diversity of early Christian thought.

  9. At the risk of offending everyone here including my Protestant brother AaronG, allow me to offer some Catholic perspectives on this Gospel. The Protestant has much to fear with these Gnostic attacks on Christianity as they believe sola scriptura which means the Bible alone is the authority in the Church. With this stuff Catholics say, bring it on, as it really allows an opportunity of evangelization and clarification of the Truth.

    Where Catholics (and the Orthodox) view the Bible differently from their Protestant brothers is that they view successive Apostolic authority to be the primary authority, called Magisterium. Sacred Oral Tradition and Sacred scriptures are authorities that derive from this apostolic authority. This three pronged authority derives from the Judaism prior to the coming of Christ. The Jews followed the successors of the chair of Moses, with derivative authority coming from Oral tradition and scripture (what we now call the Old Testament). Jeremiah 31:31 prophesizes the end of the ancient Mosaic authority with a convening of a new authority and covenant under the Messiah. Catholics believe this authority of ‘spiritual Semitism’ to now be the chair of Peter.

    Early Christians relied on the Magisterial authority in the Apostles and the Oral Tradition which is natural and obvious from a Jewish perspective. The Gospel was preached and was not [and still is not] limited to the four canonical books, oral Apostolic tradition is what originally preached the Gospel.

    I think the canonical books of the New Testament have been dated between 60-100 AD. Which leads to the first problem with the Gnostic gospels is that they are dated well after the apostolic period by at least 100 years, as is the case with the Gospel of Judas, Thomas, etc.

    The second problem with Gnostic theology, as revealed by their writing is their heretical spiritualism in hating all created matter. They believe matter is evil, as it was created by evil. From this they neglect the humanity of Christ and adhere only to his spirituality. On this note, I don’t get why many progressives and feminists like these Gospels, as in reality they are anti-feminine in ways critics of St. Paul would be astounded. For instance the last verse of the Gospel of Thomas states:

    “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

    The third problem with Gnostic gospels is they fail to cite the ancient Hebrew scriptures that the canonical New Testament books unceasingly do. If anything the Gnostic gospels do cite, it is the canonical Gospels, re-writing them in a Gnostic ‘light.’ I think that by looking at the Old Testament (ancient Judaism) we can find strong clues as to what the Messiah (Christ) will be like. I can’t prove any of this, but I think its quite reasonable to conclude the Messiah of Isaiah, Jerimaiah, the Psalms, etc is very much like the Messiah of the New Testament. The Messiah of both Testaments is a fulfillment of the ancient Law. This just isn’t the case with the Gnostic Gospels, which is not only a break from Christianity, but also a hard break from Judaism as well. The Gnostic Jesus, denies the Law, creation, etc. Gnostic Jesus just doesn’t fit or make sense even as a Jew.

    Finally, I think Tom is right to say the Gospel of Judas, “Ã?Â?Ã?¢Ã?¢?Ã?¬Ã?Â?Ã?¦would put things in a different light.” That’s right, it is the smoldering light of Lucifer, the father of chaos, lies, and gnosticism. [I just wanted to through that in at the end so no one forgets I’m a kooky Rockwell cultist.] Either way, I used to argue in favor of agnosticism, gnosticism, and Arianism, but now I’m just a convinced, believing Catholic who thinks these topics are important [and sometimes fun] to examine.

  10. Tom G. Palmer

    Well, all I wrote was “That would make a difference.” I’m interested in Christianity, or the Jesus movement, as a historical phenomenon. As such, it was clearly influenced by a variety of intellectual, social, and even political movements. (The influence of Neo-platonism is clear; just look at the first lines of the Gospel of John, “En arche ayn ho logos….”; “In the beginning was the word….”)

    The fact that there are a number of groups that claim the title of Christianity indicates that, at the least, the movement can and has taken a variety of directions. The differences between the eastern and the western branches, not to mention such branches as Nestorianism, should caution us about knowing what “the real church” was about, at least, as a matter of history, rather than of faith.

  11. Tom’s last comment, I think, is the real thing to take away from this discovery, at least historically. In terms of belief, that’s up to the Christian churches to decide. Although, as CaseyKhan pointed out, the Catholics have the advantage in terms of reconciling the apocryphal gospels.

    The biggest academic implication of the GoJ is the increased realization that early Christianity was as pluralistic as Judaism, in many ways, continues to be. The Talmud is rife with conflicting points of view that Jews see as conducive to a critical engagment with scripture. But with Christianity there has been a more general trend toward fragmentation in the face of conflicting points of view. Discoveries like this help to better put the beginnings of the religion in context.

    (Incidently, CaseyKhan, the Gnostic texts that we have are dated to about 200 CE but the Gospel of Thomas, which has strong Gnostic influences was composed either around 50 or 100 CE, depending on whom you ask. So its still quite rough.)