Summary: Apostles, pt. 13
FOOL’S SILVER (LUKE 21:37-22:6)
The fight for the inclusion of books into the New Testament canon at the Synod of Rome in 382 produced few winners and many losers. The Christian leaders of the time accepted four gospels and rejected at least three dozen gospels. As befitting its name, the Gospel of Judas was one of the biggest losers. Experts agreed it was probably written in Greek in the second century, about a century and a half after Jesus’ death. Scholars also agree that the National Geographic version unveiled in 2006 was a Coptic translation dated to the fourth or fifth century.
Gospel of Judas was one of many Gnostic texts excluded by the church fathers but made a celebrity in the Da Vinci Code. The second century church leader Irenaeus mentioned the existence of the Gospel of Judas in 180 AD.
The National Geographic manuscript claims that Jesus revealed “secret knowledge” to Judas, who is the hero, Jesus’ most senior and trusted disciple and the only one who knows Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God, and instructed him to turn Him over to Roman authorities. In the Gnostic text, Judas is given private instruction by Jesus and is granted a vision of the divine that is denied to other disciples, who do not know that Jesus has requested his own betrayal. Rather than acting out of greed or malice, Judas was just carrying out or following orders. (“Long-lost Gospel of Judas Recasts ’Traitor’: USA Today 4/6/2006)
The most revealing passages in the Judas manuscript begins with a typical Gnostic introduction: “The ‘secret account’ of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover.” The account goes on to relate that Jesus refers to the other disciples, telling Judas “you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” By that, scholars familiar with Gnostic thinking said, Jesus meant that by helping him get rid of his physical flesh, Judas will act to liberate the true spiritual self or divine being within Jesus. In the diversity of early Christian thought, a group known as Gnostics believed in a secret knowledge of how people could escape the prisons of their material bodies and return to the spiritual realm from which they came. (“Gospel of Judas’ Surfaces After 1,700 Years,” New York Times 4/6/2006)
No one likes to be accused of being a Judas. No parent wants to give his son that name. There is nothing positive about the name. So who is Judas? He is one of the greatest villains in the Bible. The Bible blurs his character by calling him “Judas, one of the Twelve” (Luke 22:3) and also “Judas the traitor” (John 18:5). He is the treasurer (John 13:29), a thief and a traitor (John 12:6, Lk 6:16). Just as the snake is the villain in the Old Testament, Judas is the villain and the snake of the New Testament, succeeding where the devil failed to “entrap” Jesus at the onset of Jesus’ ministry.