THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS
Recently, I read the Gnostic gospel, The Gospel of Judas. It takes less than 30 minutes to read this short work. To say it was a strange experience is an understatement. In case you’re a bit rusty when it comes to this work, here’s the skinny. The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic gospel. This means it was discovered, along with a number of other Gnostic works in 1945, and is written in Coptic (a blend of Greek and ancient Egyptian), and comes from the 2nd century. An English translation was first published in early 2006 by the National Geographic Society; there is only one known copy.
The Gospel of Judas does not contain stories about Jesus or His teaching, like our canonical Gospels do. Instead, it consists of conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. In contrast to the canonical Gospels, which paint Judas as the betrayer, The Gospel of Judas portrays Judas’s actions as being done in obedience to instructions given to him by Jesus. In other words, Jesus asked Judas to betray him! The Gospel of Judas states that Jesus told Judas, “You shall be cursed for generations.” It then adds to this conversation that Jesus had told Judas “You will come to rule over them,” and that, “You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”
The Gospel of Judas asserts that the other disciples had not learned the true gospel, which Jesus taught only to Judas Iscariot, the sole follower belonging to the “holy generation” among the disciples. Reading this certainly left me scratching my head!
What should a Christian think of the Gnostic gospels? First, we should not be surprised that false gospels like this were in circulation early on. Many such false gospel accounts were written and distributed widely. Secondly, we should be reminded why the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are so precious. We have hundreds of ancient copies of all four, and they are historically reliable. Beyond this they tell us the true story of Jesus, which contains numerous signs of authenticity. Maybe God chose to give us four true Gospels to make sure that we believed the veracity of the true gospel of Jesus, and that it is based on credible, multiple, eyewitness testimonies.