Monday, April 10, 2006

The "Gospel" of Judas

Well, it has been a thrilling week for hokey religion news. Last week not only had the silliest explanation ever for Jesus walking on water, but it was also the heaviest emphasis on a newly-discovered manuscript being called the "Gospel of Judas." The National Geographic channel is running specials about it, apparently, and a good friend of mine is taping them, since I'm a rabbit-ears-only cheapskate.
Anyway, it's a papyrus manuscript in Coptic, an Egyptian tongue, probably copied from a Greek manuscript--which we do not have. What we do have, however, are the words of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, in A.D. 180, (That's 180 C.E. to you kids) who said about it, basically, "This is garbage, and bears no resemblance to the Gospel Jesus preached." The text, as I understand it, makes a hero of Judas Iscariot, claiming that he was the only truly spiritual one, worshiping the "true" God, rather than the God who made the universe and is worshiped by Jews & Christians. Remember, this is written by the folks called the Gnostics, many of whom believed that the physical world was inherently evil. So, they concocted a belief system in which there was a separate God of the spiritual realm. This is not only in contradiction of accepted New Testament Scriptures, it contradicts the Old Testament as well!
Anyhoo, Judas is then pulled aside by Jesus--and if you've read any other gnostic "gospels", you already have an inkling what happens next. Yup, Jesus imparts the super-secret "mysteries" to Judas. That was one of the other major characteristics of the gnostic folks. They believed themselves to be keepers of these special "secrets," and the only way to be "in" was to "know" these mysteries (and thus the term "gnostic"- fr the Greek "gnosis," "knowledge")! I think there may also have been a secret handshake and a password, like "swordfish," to get into their gnostic super-secret clubhouse.
Get out your concordance or a Bible with a really thorough concordance in the back, and run through the Scriptures on "mystery" or "mysteries." Some translations may use the word "secret," which is a good translation. "Mystery," after all, is just an Anglicized version of the Greek "mysterion," which means "secret." What you'll find is that the "mysteries" are being revealed and proclaimed to anyone and everyone! Paul even asks Christians to pray for him that doors will open for him to "reveal" the "mystery" of the Gospel. The only reason that these things are secrets/mysteries, is that these people haven't heard the Good News about Jesus yet! It has nothing to do with them being initiated into the secret society that is the keeper of these deep mysteries. By the way, should you be interested in what these deep mysteries are like, borrow a copy of the "gospel of Thomas." It's contradictory double-talk & nonsense, mostly. Quite different from the sort of things Jesus and his followers taught.
Okay, lastly, as you might expect, since Judas is the hero of this "gospel," he is asked by Jesus to betray him, so he can be crucified. Did you catch that? Judas wasn't greedy (as the accepted Gospel accounts depict him), he was serving God by handing Jesus over to his enemies! I guess that stuff about "Satan entered into him," must also be rejected, then. And if Judas was doing right, fulfilling his God given mission as a favor to Jesus, why does he a] give back the 30 pieces of silver, which he oughtn't to have requested in the first place if this was service to God, and b] hang himself?

It is a sad commentary on human nature that we try every which way to reject and re-interpret the clear message of "accepted" Scripture--which is very well-documented adn sound, and then latch on immediately to every obscure piece of hoo-hah that comes around--automatically accepting as 100% true, simply because it is "hidden." The "gospel" of Judas (poorly named, since it contains very little "good news") was hidden in the same way that I "hide" junk mail and banana peels.
Perhaps, in some future world, archaeologists will sift through our landfill "libraries," and discover that there was a secret Christianity devoted to fancy designer bank checks, better satellite service, and the secret mystery of collectible plates!

Listening to: The gentle sloshing of my brain as I shake my head in disbelief

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