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Bearer of Bad News: A brief analysis of the so-called ôGospel of Judas"
Vivificat! A personal Catholic blog of news, opinion, commentary, and reflection ^ | 18 April 2006 | Teˇfilo

Posted on 04/18/2006 5:04:41 AM PDT by Teˇfilo

This is Part 1 of 3.

The word "Gospel" means "good news," the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation, yet in the so-called "gospel of Judas" we only find bad news. In it we find a Jesus who is out of character with the one we find in the canonical Gospels; a Jesus who teaches "secret knowledge," who dismisses the Eucharist, and shows a condescending, even hostile attitude towards his Apostles. In this "gospel," Jesus denies the God of the Church, ranks Judas above the other Apostles, and embraces a Gnostic cosmology at odds with Judaeo-Christianity. This means bad news for everyone around who for 2,000 years have gotten the whole story wrong, if we are to believe this "gospel" of Judas.

I’ve read the Gospel of Judas, a copy of which the National Geographic Society has deemed fit to share with us here. It consists of seven pages of text (Times New Roman 12 point), single spaced with headings. Scholars seemed to have divided the text into three main "scenes" and other subheadings, for a total of 19 sections. A copy of the Coptic is likewise found here.

What I am going to do is to highlight what I think are the main doctrinal themes and compared these to the doctrinal themes of the canonical Gospels and what we know of Church conditions in the period immediately following the New Testament, the Church of the "Apostolic Fathers," the Church of second-generation Christians.

The secret teachings of Jesus.

This first thing this little tract establishes is that Jesus imparted a secret knowledge to a select few, and left the rest to reach all the wrong conclusions pertaining his overt teachings. The introduction states:

The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated Passover.
The existence of these "secrets" or "mysteries" form the basis which "authenticates" this "gospel" to the ears of its hearers:
He began to speak with them about the mysteries beyond the world and what would take place at the end.

Jesus said, “[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit], which no eye of an angel has ever seen, no thought of the heart has ever comprehended, and it was never called by any name.

…I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom [46] and I have taught you about the error of the stars; and […] send it […] on the twelve aeons.”…

Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal.

All these "secrets" and "mysteries" Jesus revealed only to Judas! Whereas in the canonical Gospel according to St. John the Theologian we find the following contrary statements:
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said." When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded. "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" (St. John 18:19-23, NIV).
The high priest wanted to find out if there was a "secret teaching" that Jesus was imparting to his disciples that was different to that he taught publicly. Jesus' clear answer earned him a slap in the face. In the context of Judas' "gospel," Jesus told the high priest would've been a lie!

And Jesus laughed

Look, I don't believe that Jesus was a serious, solemn ayatollah during his earthly ministry, nor is He now. I think Jesus laughed because laughing is part of the human condition. Humor, good, clean humor gets its inspiration from contradictions and in a world fraught with contradictions, humor abounds. I am sure that He laughed with children too because, as we all now, kids say the darnedest things and He enjoyed the presence of children around him. Children don't hang around sourpusses, if they have the choice.

Nevertheless, the Gospels never speak of Jesus' laughter – giving rise to some extremes opinion that He, in fact, never did. What the Gospels say with certainty is that He wept. (cfr. St. John 11:35)

However, the "Jesus" of Judas' gospel laughed quite a bit. He laughed, but it wasn't a sympathetic laughter, a good-natured laughter. It was a sardonic, demeaning, haughty, belittling, mocking laughter:

When he [approached] his disciples, gathered together and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread, [he] laughed. The disciples said to [him], “Master, why are you laughing at [our] prayer of thanksgiving? We have done what is right.”

His disciples said to him, “Lord, what is the great generation that is superior to us and holier than us, that is not now in these realms?” When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to them, “Why are you thinking in your hearts about the strong and holy generation?

When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him, “You thirteenth spirit, why do you try so hard? But speak up, and I shall bear with you.”

After that Jesus [laughed].

[Judas said], “Master, [why are you laughing at us]?” [Jesus] answered [and said], “I am not laughing [at you] but at the error of the stars, because these six stars wander about with these five combatants, and they all will be destroyed along with their creatures.”

The "Jesus" in Judas' gospel mocks the disciples' ignorance with his laughter, mocks their thanksgiving, their God, and even Judas, even though he shows some "promise."

Judas' "Jesus" derides the Eucharist

The summit of Catholic Christian worship is the Eucharist. "Eucharist" is a Greek word transliterated into Latin and English meaning "thanksgiving." The "Prayer of Thanksgiving" has always been the summit of the Eucharistic gathering, what we call "the Anaphora" and "the canon of the Mass." These prayers reflect the sacrificial "thanksgiving" the Church offers to God the Father in Christ. The Didaché or "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," a brief catechetical text written at the end of the first century, records one of the oldest Eucharistic prayers:

Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup: We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..

And concerning the broken bread: We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs."

In our contemporary Mass, the third Eucharistic Prayer enshrines some of the words and, definitely, all of the sentiments of that ancient Eucharistic Prayer:
Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.

And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this eucharist.

On the night he was betrayed, he took bread and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:

Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.

When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: (The Memorial Acclamation is said and then)

Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet him when he comes again, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. Look with favor on your Church's offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ. May be make us an everlasting gift to you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints, with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles, the martyrs, and all your saints, on whose constant intercession we rely for help.

Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world. Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth; your servant, Pope John Paul, our Bishop {name of bishop}, and all the bishops, with the clergy and the entire people your son has gathered here before you. In mercy and love unite all you children wherever they may be. Welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters, and all who have left this world in your friendship. We hope to enjoy for ever the vision of your glory, through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.

Yet, Judas' Jesus mocks his own Apostles' Eucharist:

One day he was with his disciples in Judea, and he found them gathered together and seated in pious observance. When he [approached] his disciples, [34] gathered together and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread, [he] laughed. The disciples said to [him], “Master, why are you laughing at [our] prayer of thanksgiving? We have done what is right.” He answered and said to them, “I am not laughing at you. are not doing this because of your own will but because it is through this that your god [will be] praised.” They said, “Master, you are […] the son of our god.” Jesus said to them, “How do you know me? Truly [I] say to you, no generation of the people that are among you will know me.”
I don't think that the text of the gospel of Judas is referring to the customary blessing given during Jewish seder or Passover meals, which is the type of the Christian Eucharist and the primary occasion of Christ's Last Supper. First, because the blessing or motzi is not the central act of the Jewish Passover meal, but the retelling of the Exodus deliverance story or maggid. What set apart the Last Supper from the seder is precisely the centrality of Jesus' eukaristos or thanksgiving, by which He offered himself up to the Father as the Lamb of the New Covenant. Since then, the term eukaristia has had a very specific meaning to Christians. This is precisely what the Apostles are doing and what Judas' "Jesus" reproved as misguided act of worship to a false "god"!

Also, the fact that Judas' pressuposes a well-developed view of the Eucharistic Prayer betrays its late origin, one in which the Eucharist was an established rite of the Church that gave its participants a common sense of belonging, loyalty, identity, and communion. Judas' Gospel wastes no time in attacking the One Thing keeping the Church together. Judas' aim is to destroy or at least, delegitimize the orthodox Catholic Church by attacking its most intimate bond of unity while propping up the author's own Gnostic views, which I'll discuss later on in this writing.

The Apostles Betraying and Betrayed

It is interesting to read that in Judas' gospel, the Apostles betrayed Jesus who in turn deserted his Apostles, whereas Judas embraces Christ and Christ promotes Judas over the other Apostles. According to this "gospel," when the disciples heard Jesus' reproof on their Eucharist, "they started getting angry and infuriated and began blaspheming against him in their hearts."

Blasphemy is a serious thing for Christians and Jews:

According to Suarez, blasphemy is "any word of malediction, reproach, or contumely pronounced against God. St. Thomas says that it is to be regarded as a sin against faith inasmuch as by it we attribute to God that which does not belong to Him, or deny Him that which is His. (Source).

In the Old Law the blasphemer was punished by death. So God appointed on the occasion of the blasphemy of Salumith's son: "The man that curseth His God, shall bear his sin: And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die: all the multitude shall stone him, whether he be a native or a stranger. He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die" (Leviticus 24:15-16). Upon hearing blasphemy the Jews were wont in detestation of the crime to rend their clothes (2 Kings 18:37, 19:l; Matthew 26:65). (Source).

There's no record in the canonical Gospels or in any of the other books of the New Testament of the apostles blaspheming against God or Jesus, but in Judas' we find one serious instance of blasphemy, which would rob them of any moral claim to speak authoritatively in Jesus' name.

Challenging apostolic authority is another way that the author of Judas' gospel uses to undermine the authority of the orthodox Catholic Church of his time, for it also presupposes the existence of a Church which prided itself on the apostolic origin of its rulers and doctrine. This view of the Church as a continuation of the faith and authority of the Apostles is grounded in the New Testament:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20, NIV)

I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:2, NIV)

The wall of the city [the Heavenly Jerusalem] had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14, NIV)

By 110 AD we find the full expression of the Church's apostolic authority and its transmission to the Catholic bishops in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, particularly in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans:
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution55 of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper56 Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.57

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out [through their office] the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper58 Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord's might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast.59 But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid.

Note the intimate connection St. Ignatius makes between the apostles, the bishops, and the Eucharist. They are all links in a chain, a single thread in Christ's seamless garment. If one were to undermine one link, if one were to pull on the single thread, the Church's claims and authority would fall. The author of Judas' gospel saw this reality in the mid second century, understood its significance and its connections, and proceeded accordingly.

Next time, we'll see how the author of the gospel of Judas supplanted Peter's confession of faith with Judas', making the Judas the true leader of the apostles, and we'll go on from there.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: elainepagels; epigraphyandlanguage; gnosticgospels; gnosticism; godsgravesglyphs; gospelofjudas; judas; judasiscariot; letshavejerusalem
Typos. Blunders. Mine.
1 posted on 04/18/2006 5:04:44 AM PDT by Teˇfilo
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To: Salvation; NYer; Nihil Obstat; Kolokotronis; FormerLib

PING!


2 posted on 04/18/2006 5:05:55 AM PDT by Teˇfilo (Visit Vivificat! - http://www.vivificat.org - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Teˇfilo
It reads like someone REALLY hated to see Jesus where He was, as the Son of God, the Lamb of God. That was simply too much to believe and too much to allow others to believe.

It seemed to be so well written that perhaps it was the work of several learned people whose gave themselves the task of diminishing Jesus with as much enthusiam as possible and with all the tools available to them.

3 posted on 04/18/2006 6:36:09 AM PDT by starfish923 (Socrates: It's never right to do wrong.)
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To: Teˇfilo

This "gospel", along with Thomas, is too strange and inrecosilable with the accepted writings to be taken seriously. It does make me wonder what all of the various now discarded and destroyed early writing were like.


4 posted on 04/18/2006 6:43:33 AM PDT by Unassuaged (I have shocking data relevant to the conversation!)
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To: Teˇfilo

Next Easter, we'll probably be treated to the Gospel of Herod, then the Gospel of Pontious, ....


5 posted on 04/18/2006 7:23:53 AM PDT by aimhigh
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To: Teˇfilo

I wonder if there's a connection between liberalism and Gnosticism?


6 posted on 04/18/2006 7:24:29 AM PDT by FormerLib ("...the past ten years in Kosovo will be replayed here in what some call Aztlan.")
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To: Teˇfilo

So basically what we know is that the true "early christians" were right when they did not include this gnostic trash in the canon.
In fact - why would they? They had already been sharing the true gospels for nearly 2 centuries.
We already know this gospel of Judas was known to Ignatius -who rejected it as heresy.

so...we in the 21st century would like to pretend we know more than those more directly connected to the actual events...but we dont't.


7 posted on 04/18/2006 7:28:08 AM PDT by Scotswife
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To: Teˇfilo

Wow - excellent article. Thanks for posting it!


8 posted on 04/18/2006 8:24:39 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (Colossians 4:5)
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To: restornu

Ping, because you've shown interest in non-canonical texts (Dead Sea Scrolls, etc) in the past...


9 posted on 04/18/2006 8:27:45 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (Colossians 4:5)
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To: aimhigh

LOL

.....Gospel According of Hillery etc.


10 posted on 04/18/2006 8:46:16 AM PDT by restornu
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To: Teˇfilo
"I don't think that the text of the gospel of Judas is referring to the customary blessing given during Jewish seder or Passover meals, which is the type of the Christian Eucharist and the primary occasion of Christ's Last Supper. First, because the blessing or motzi is not the central act of the Jewish Passover meal, but the retelling of the Exodus deliverance story or maggid. What set apart the Last Supper from the seder is precisely the centrality of Jesus' eukaristos or thanksgiving, by which He offered himself up to the Father as the Lamb of the New Covenant. Since then, the term eukaristia has had a very specific meaning to Christians. This is precisely what the Apostles are doing and what Judas' "Jesus" reproved as misguided act of worship to a false "god"!"

Wait a minute - since this was to have accurred before the last supper, how could the apostles have been conducting a christian eucharist, since Jesus first conducted it there?

Maybe he was moking whatever they were doing.

11 posted on 04/18/2006 9:00:15 AM PDT by patton (Once you steal a firetruck, there's really not much else you can do except go for a joyride.)
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To: Alex Murphy

Thank you


12 posted on 04/18/2006 9:04:46 AM PDT by restornu
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To: patton
Maybe he was moking whatever they were doing.

Gnostics showed little regard for chronological accuracy. Facts didn't get in the way of their arguments.

The author(s) of Judas sought to undermine the Church of the second century by attacking its apostolic origins. The author(s) of Judas made the apostles act like second century orthodox Catholics bishops. Those who heard these words could make the connection quite easily:

Oh, Jesus rebuked the apostles for wrong worship! Why, this is what our own bishops are doing! May be I should listen to this Judas thing...maybe what it says is true.

Farfetched? It's happening today.

-Theo

13 posted on 04/18/2006 9:30:00 AM PDT by Teˇfilo (Visit Vivificat! - http://www.vivificat.org - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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Note: this topic was posted 04/18/2006. Thanks Teófilo.

14 posted on 03/19/2015 10:42:09 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (What do we want? REGIME CHANGE! When do we want it? NOW!)
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