Gospel of Judas Found

For those of us interested in ancient Christianity, the National Geographic Society has announced a new manuscript find. Those don’t happen everyday (or even every decade) so it’s pretty exciting news. The text is of the gospel genre, written in Coptic around 300 CE like those found at Nag Hammadi, and is entitled Gospel of Judas. The codex is said to be a copy of an older work written in Greek around 200 CE. At this time in Christianity’s development, there was already a thriving oral tradition in which communities swapped, told, and retold stories about Jesus. These pericopes took the particular shape with which we’re familiar during this period. Eventually Christians wrote these stories down. This effort, beginning with Mark at around 75 CE (or the theoretical Q gospel even earlier), sought to codify the stories swirling around among the various communities into a more solid form. The noncanonical Gospel of Judas contains a different spin on Judas’ role in the days leading up to the Passion. In this version of the tale, Jesus approaches Judas and asks that he turn him into the authorities. By doing so, Judas is fulfilling his role in the master plan. Check it out here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04549444906381131734 Martin Wagner

    Well, in the interests of accuracy, it isn’t a “new” gospel discovery as the papyrus was unearthed in the 1970′s, but it is just now being released to the public. Interesting how the whole “Judas was just following Jesus’ intructions” angle on the fable was also a plot point in The Last Temptation of Christ. So this isn’t exactly a version of the story no one has heard before, but this seems to be the first time it’s gotten serious scholarly consideration.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12840268114747171377 Karlsfini

    What is also interesting, and rather sad, is how — as I understand it — when it didn’t fetch the price the owner wanted back in the 70s it was stored improperly and deteriorated badly.

    Let’s see, a text absolving Judas of acting solely out of greed is itself nearly destroyed by greed. Homo Stultus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06301266195728601566 Bacon Eating Atheist Jew

    Fundies won’t accept it. They don’t accept any new information that conflicts with their bible.
    If this Gospel of Judas stated that he sold Jesus out on his own, the Fundies would be loving it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04549444906381131734 Martin Wagner

    B.E.A.J.: True. Check out the message boards on the National Geographic site. Some fundies are in full-scale freakout mode over this. This is just another tool of “the Enemy” to deceive us all in the last days, etc, etc. Interesting how, as we all look on this as a fascinating historical document, we then have to remind ourselves that there are in fact millions of people who believe in all this shit and are going to receive it through an entirely different set of filters. Weird. Wacky.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11345046941365042297 eleKtrofly

    yeah– i was talking to “the enemy” yesterday– he did write that book, along with the book of mormon and all those books on feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12834969883798002259 Curt

    I’ve heard this argument before so I’ve not been threatened by the Gospel of Judas. Christianity’s cult beginnings also allowed for several different variant’s in the gospel message. The Apostle Paul’s letters were often rebukes of local Christian churches’ deviations from the essential and “true” gospel message.

    The Gnostic movement was antithetical to the Christian movement, although it did develop within it, and so I don’t believe that the Gospel of Judas is an accurate depiction of Judas’ motives. It’s hard to trust an artifact that contradicts the recorded message in the other Gospel accounts, especially considering the Gnostic movement had such a deviant doctrine from original Christian beliefs.

    However, I have heard the argument before that Judas was actually merely turning over Jesus to the Romans and not betraying him. Outside of the Gospel of John, where Judas is clearly a betrayer, the word that is translated betrayal more closely means “handed over.”

    But as a Christian I don’t feel that I need to know his motives. Theologically Christians believe that Jesus voluntarily gave his life so it doesn’t matter if he arranged for it occur. Perhaps it even encourages the end of anti-Semitism since Judas’ betrayal is often given as a reason for the persecution of Jews.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04549444906381131734 Martin Wagner

    the Curt,

    The thing is, how can anyone be certain what the “original Christian beliefs” actually were? Christianity had no established orthodoxy up until about the year 150 or so. And by all accounts the Gnostic movement was up and running in the 1st Century along with the movements that eventually came to represent the view of the established Church. And as for artifacts that contradict the Synoptic Gospels, remember, there is much in those Gospels that contradicts each other. At best, anything about what may or may not have happened in Jesus’ life is speculative, because the accounts are so spread out, fragmentary, and inconclusive. This latest discovery is just one more piece in an ancient and intriguing puzzle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02429595550170755044 goliah

    Like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi discoveries, this latest ‘gospel’ increases the amount of new scriptural material only available in modern times, making the traditional concept of ‘canonical scriptures’ untenable and any claims of understanding founded upon them both incomplete and always questionable.

    What might ‘Christianity’ look like if all these resources were available from the beginning? Check this link: http://www.energon.uklinux.net