The Lost Gospel of Judas

I just watched a program by this name on Channel 4. The first thing I should say is that it really didn’t wind me up as much as I thought it might. It was well researched, well put together (if a little slow at points) and apart from that annoying habit of repeating what’s just happened and what’s about to happen before and after ad breaks it wasn’t that gimmicky. Whether I’ll be this relaxed just after watching Channel 4’s The Secret Family of Jesus (8pm Christmas day – anyone see irony there?) is still undecided.

A brief run-down, then, of the program and what questions it raises that need to be addressed. This gospel was written by 200AD (or so I’m told) by the Gnostics. The Gnostics were a group who claimed to follow Jesus but who prided themselves on their special knowledge (gnosis) which came from a direct link to God. What does Judas say? Several interesting things (like that Jesus could turn into a child at will) ,but the most striking was that Jesus asked Judas to ‘betray’ him, so that Jesus would be freed of his body and able to be pure spirit. From what I understand of the Gnostics, that’s not too surprising – they thought that the body was fundamentally bad and that we each have a ‘spark of the divine’ trapped inside our bodies.

The thing that really struck me from the program wasn’t the gospel itself, but the obvious relativism which most commenters showed. People calling this document “another interpretation of Jesus”, that the Gnostics were following Jesus in “a different way”, or that “we don’t have to choose between Judas and Mark” were surely missing the point. The Gospel of Judas disagrees with the canonical gospels, such as when it says that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was good (cf. Mark 14:21). For that matter, it disagrees with the rest of Scripture – God said that his creation was good in Genesis 1, not something to be freed from. They can’t both be right, and given the evidence from the rest of the Bible, the teaching of the apostles and early church fathers, the manuscript evidence for the New Testament documents… I think I’ll stick with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It was a well presented documentry, which taught me and got me thinking about the issues involved in it. The scary thing was the way post-modernism has affected our culture so much – to the point that very smart people are happy to say that two contradictary ideas can both be true. Thank God that there is absolute truth and that we can find it in Jesus who came to us “from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

I realise that I really haven’t addressed the issues of how we know not to trust the gospel of Judas, and whether it could be giving the true message. For a proper treatment of what (if anything) the Gospel of Judas means to the church today, and for a link to a copy of the text itself, see here.

UPDATE: I’ve just been flicking around bethinking.org and found a great article on the gospel of Judas and the Gnostics. Just thought I’d point it out for anyone who wants to know more – and another plug for bethinking is always worth it!

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4 Responses to “The Lost Gospel of Judas”

  1. Steve Weaver Says:

    Good observations! I didn’t know about this program, but I’m glad you responded to it here. I think it’s important to have a place where others who have seen the show can “google it” and find a response by believers. Thanks for doing that!

  2. Richard Criddle Says:

    Thanks Steve. And thank you for your comments on the gospel itself – that’s certainly an important resource, and it’s great to have access to it at the click of a mouse.

  3. david Says:

    so judas never betrayed jesus so every gospel is wrong about judas

  4. Richard Criddle Says:

    David, that would be a logical conclusion – if we accept that the gospel of Judas is more reliable than the others. However, in the light of historical and manuscript evidence, the inconsistancy of Judas with the rest of Scripture and the fact that the Bible’s gospels were written by eyewitnesses or those who based their accounts on eyewitness reports (to name a few evidences) I think that’s a pretty big leap.

    If you want more details, do have a look at the bethinking.org article that I mentioned at the end and see what you think.

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