From the onset, let it be known that I am convinced that the spiritual teachings that we now have neatly placed into a handy carrying case (The Bible) are not now, nor have they ever been ALL that was written upon which we could gain insight into God's plan for man. What we have is surely ENOUGH, but I don't believe it's all. That's my personal conviction. You can have yours, too. What we now have as canonized Scripture is the "official" information but we all know that "officials" are often lying when their lips are moving. My personal vote for should-be-canonized Holy Writ would be the book of Enoch. Why omit the information from a man who walked with God for 300 years? But somebody smarter than me gave Enoch the axe.
Throughout the ages, the Powers-that-be have used the Bible as a means for pushing their own agenda, omitting that which did not suit their needs or adding that which supported their doctrine of choice. Rex Lex, it's called; the King is Law or, better put, the Law is King. Some verses have even been omitted from some Bible versions with an explanation. I have my own explanation: the Powers-that-be and their appointed editors didn't have the faith to believe what the verses were declaring.
Editors? Yes, every Biblical version has Editors, people with many impressive letters after their names who are chosen to determine what spiritual food is best for Christians to digest. In the case of the New International Version, for example, my own research has revealed that one of its editors was a lesbian. This might explain why the NIV is so "weak" in its stand against homosexuality. I've also learned that Rupert Murdock of Fortune Magazine fame - once known as Rupert the Red for his stance in favor of Communism - actually owns the copyright to the NIV. Gee, I wonder what agenda HE might be subtly pushing?
Do you catch my drift? We mustn't check our brains at the door where our spirituality is concerned. That rule of thumb must also apply in light of the recent revelation, something called the Gospel of Judas.
Judas, whose name means "Jewish man," was NOT inserted into the Gospels as some sort of "EveryJew" in order to breed anti-Semitic hatred. Judas was apparently a quite common name just as "Jesus" was. The apostle Thaddeus is also known as “Judas, the brother of James,” as well as “Judas, not Iscariot.” The Book of Jude is attributed to a man named Judas, too. Judas Maccabeus, one of the great heroes of Judaism, is one possible reason why so many kids were once tagged with that name. I live in Texas and have met more than my share of kids named Dallas, Austin and Travis.
Here's what the Associated Press had to say about the Gospel of Judas:
AP - For 2,000 years Judas has been reviled for betraying Jesus. Now a newly translated ancient document seeks to tell his side of the story.
The "Gospel of Judas" tells a far different tale from the four gospels in the New Testament. It portrays Judas as a favored disciple who was given special knowledge by Jesus - and who turned him in at Jesus' request.
"You will be cursed by the other generations - and you will come to rule over them," Jesus tells Judas in the document made public Thursday.
The text, one of several ancient documents found in the Egyptian desert in 1970, was preserved and translated by a team of scholars. It was made public in an English translation by the National Geographic Society.
Apparently, these papyrus manuscripts consist of
- a Gnostic codex in Sahidic dialect containing the lost 'Gospel of Judas' known from history only through Saint Irenaeus (c. 140-202 AD), Bishop of Lyon,
- the "First Apocalypse of James"
- the "Epistle of Peter to Philip"...
- the 'Book of Exodus' in Greek...
- 'Letters of Paul' in Sahidic dialect...
- and a 'Mathematical Treatise' in Greek"
...whatever that is.
All these manuscripts are priceless historical documents (I've read the figures of $3,000,000 to $10,000,00 being tossed around in association with these pieces), only comparable to major finds like the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran. Though some say they belong to mankind and must be publicly preserved and studied, others are being driven by greed and the whole story reads like some kind of dramatic suspense saga that reminds me of the Nicholas Cage thriller, National Treasure or the more recent Tom Hanks flick, The DaVinci Code. The Associated Press wrote that "the journey of the text to Switzerland was "replete with smugglers, black-market antiquities dealers, religious scholars, backstabbing partners and greedy entrepreneurs."
If you're interested, all of this comes from a number of articles on the web site of Michel van Rijn, who monitors the art market. His site is http://www.michelvanrijn.nl/artnews/artnws.htm. A search for 'Gospel of Judas' reveals other details of the negotiations.
MORE EXPERT OPINIONS
The Associated Press reported (3/2/06) that "an expert on ancient Egyptian texts is predicting that the "Gospel of Judas," a manuscript from early Christian times that's nearing release amid widespread interest from scholars, will be a dud in terms of learning anything new about Judas."
That expert is James M. Robinson, considered America's leading expert on such ancient religious texts from Egypt. Robinson is an emeritus professor at Claremont (Calif.) Graduate University, chief editor of religious documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and an international leader among scholars of Coptic manuscripts. He predicts that the text won't offer any insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus because it's not old enough.
"Does it go back to Judas? No," Robinson told the AP.
The AP story said that the text, in Egypt's Coptic language, dates from the third or fourth century and is a copy of an earlier document. The National Geographic Society, along with other groups, has been studying the "Judas" text.
National Geographic said Thursday it will release its report on the document "within the next few weeks" but didn't specify whether that would come via a book, magazine article or telecast. Robinson has not seen what National Geographic is working on, but assumes it is the same work assailed by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, the heresy-hound of his day, around A.D. 180.
Here is what I found on the Roberts-Donaldson translation of this section from the pen of St. Irenaeus:"Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."
Irenaeus was saying that the writings he saw came from a "Cainite" Gnostic sect that stood against orthodox Christianity. "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas," Irenaeus wrote in "Against Heresies." He also accused the Cainites of lauding the biblical murderer Cain, the Sodomites and Judas, whom they regarded as the keeper of secret mysteries.
The AP story goes on to say that Robinson admits that the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of "The DaVinci Code" a fictional tale that centers on a Christian conspiracy to cover up a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
"There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information."
H.C. Puech and Beate Blatz write (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, p. 387): 'Dating: the Gospel of Judas was of course composed before 180, the date at which it is mentioned for the first time by Irenaeus in adv. Haer. If it is in fact a Cainite work, and if this sect - assuming it was an independent Gnostic group - was constituted in part, as has sometimes been asserted, in dependence on the doctrine of Marcion, the apocryphon can scarcely have been composed before the middle of the 2nd century. This would, however, be to build on weak arguments. At most we may be inclined to suspect a date between 130 and 170 or thereabouts."
That's odd. Another so-called "expert" named Charles Hedrick, Missouri State University - and other scholars - are saying the codex was produced in the fourth or fifth century. Hmmm. These dates are derived through radiocarbon dating, a commonly used method to determine the age of archaeological finds. Fool-proof? Not by any means. I recall reading about some chicken bones from dinner the night before that were carbon-dated and the results clearly showed that they came from the Bronze Age or something like that. Tasty!
In every case, the experts seem to agree with Irenaeus that the Gospel of Judas reflects the theological traditions of the Gnostics, a second-century sect, a community that believed true spirituality was derived from a self-knowledge, or "gnosis," not the New Age self-knowledge we see being touted today.
Figures depicted as sinful in the Old Testament, such as Cain and Esau, were typically lauded under Gnostic theology.
For Robinson, the significance of the Gospel of Judas has to do not with first-century history but with second-century mythology. Still, he offered these half-serious reflections in his closing remarks in an interview last month: "Where would Christianity be, if there had been no Judas, and Jesus - instead of dying for our sins on the cross - had died of old age?" he asked. "So: Thank God for Judas? Even the most broadminded among us would call that heresy!"
Then call me a heretic, Professor. Though I won't go so far as to thank God for Judas, I CAN and WILL thank Him that He had a plan and that plan DID call for the shedding of innocent blood for the atonement of sins. Yours, too. Jesus was born to die. If it hadn't been Judas, it would have been somebody else. Besides, it's not about Christianity, the religion; it's about having a relationship with God and how that gruesome death on the cross made that relationship possible. More importantly, it's not so much about HOW Jesus died so much as that he was RAISED from the dead. He could have died in a donkey cart accident, so long as his blood was shed, but what matters is that He lived again.
Besides, many prophecies were fulfilled in the way that Jesus died, including His betrayal by one of His friends. Compare these Old and new Testament verses regarding just a few of those prophecies and you'll be amazed. Makes a GREAT Bible study!
Psalms 41:9 to Matthew 26:47-50;
Zechariah 11:12 to Matthew 26:14-15;
Isaiah 50:6 to Matthew 26:67-68;
Isaiah 53:5 to Matthew 27:26;
Isaiah 53:7 to Matthew 27:12-14;
Zechariah 11:13 to Matthew 27:5-7;
Psalm 22:16 to Luke 23:33;
Isaiah 53:12 to Matthew 27:38
This is certain; God had a plan all along and His ways are higher than ours. Isaiah 55:8,9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
THINKING LIKE THE ENEMY
Let's say, for a moment, that you are Lucifer. Not comfortable with that? Ok, let's say that I am the devil incarnate. What ELSE would I do to shake the faith of the Christian world that I haven't already done? My war with you is on several fronts, remember: your flesh, your mind, and your spirit. Satan’s opposition against the church is not a frontal attack, but a subversive attack through intrigue, deception, and trickery. The demons were shocked to discover that Jesus had come in a manger. They were expecting Him to come later, for one final confrontation (Matthew 8:28-29). Satan’s strategy for the present time (until the final conflict) is that of subversive activity. Terrorism, for example. He is presently employing deception and intrigue to trip up the Christian world at large. This is a time of guerilla warfare, of snipers and booby traps, not of frontal attack.
Where the Gospel of Judas is concerned, all I can say is, nice try, devil. He's done this before, maximizing the number of reporters looking for an Eastertime “religious” story to discount Christianity. This is the season when those “Jesus” programs hit their peak all over cable TV. My goodness, the results of the "official" research are to be released after Easter, when Christians around the world traditionally will have marked the official version of Christ's death as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Vatican's Committee for Historical Science, calls this "a product of religious fantasy." He said the "Judas" manuscript would not have any impact on church teaching. Seeing as how the Church has already addressed this matter between 1500 and 1900 years ago, it's not surprising that he doesn't think there will be much of an impact.
I'm inclined to agree. Sadly, there will be many who are sitting on the fence or those looking for an excuse that will be swayed by the scientific findings. Yes, there will be those baby Christians - some who've been warming pews for 50 years - who will become confused by the outcome. But any Christian who is well versed in Scripture will not be moved. We can get some insights into one of the primary Christian heresies that has never completely disappeared, and may even perhaps get some personal insights into our own walks with God. This may prove to be a test for you. Just remember what it is that we're reading. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.
JUDAS: FRIEND OR FOE?
William Klassen, author of "Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?" considers the manuscript an asset to any attempts to rehabilitate Judas' image. "It's important to look at this Gospel of Judas very carefully, because this is evidence that in the late second century, in the time of Irenaeus, there was a group who held up the banner for Judas," he said.
While we're at it, let's discuss the kinder, gentler side of Satan and the love sonnets of Hitler. I guess there will always be those who hold up the banner for that which is blatantly evil. Although Judas cooperates in the arrest of Christ, Hedrick said, the codex does not depict him as a villain. "He is the good guy and he is serving God."
Hedrick, who saw the Judas papers, agreed with Robinson that the original Gospel of Judas was probably written in Greek in the second century AD. Most scholars agree that the scribal hand used in the Coptic translation would date that text to the fourth or fifth century.
"I don't think it will unsettle the church," Hedrick said in an interview. "I mean we are not talking history here. We know very little about Judas from the New Testament, and some people have even challenged whether Judas was a historical person."
Hedrick said the last six pages of the Judas document describe a heavenly scene in which Allogenes (see below) is being tested and tried by Satan, followed by an earthly scene in which Jesus is being watched closely by scribes. At one point Judas is told, "Although you are evil at this place, you are a disciple of Jesus." The last line of the text says, according to Hedrick: "And he [Judas] took money and delivered him [Jesus] over."
So, Hedrick said, "it appears that Judas is working at the behest of God when he betrays Jesus as part of the divine plan." When translations of the Gospel of Judas are released with accompanying commentary, Hedrick does admit that "there will be a lot of sensationalism, but it will dribble out, leaving only the scholars interested."
Church discussions conceivably could revolve around the extent to which New Testament Gospels present events in Jesus' life and passion as ordained from the start. Hardly anything is known about the document's contents "other than a few personages" it names, said Professor Robinson, identifying them as the mythological figure Allogenes (literally, "the stranger") known from some Nag Hammadi texts, and Satan, Jesus and Judas.
(Write email@example.com for more of this article and a sampling of the 'Judas' text)
Read more articles by Michael Tummillo or search for articles on the same topic or others.