Summary: How does this Coptic Gnostic Text make its way from the lost to try and force itself into mainstream Christianity? Is this an actual Gospel? What can we make of this new discovery?
“The Gospel of Judas”
Rev. Bruce A. Shields
First Baptist Church of Tawas City Michigan USA
April 23rd, 2006
† SCRIPTURE READING
“Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"
Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."
PRAYER FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT AND UNDERSTANDING
† The release of the Coptic text called “The Gospel of Judas” this past week has been reported with considerable enthusiasm by the media.
At the center of this gospel is Judas Iscariot, known from the biblical gospels as the betrayer of Jesus.
Yet from the gospel of Judas, a different figure emerges.
This text claims that in private conversations, Jesus tells Judas he will share with him alone “the mysteries of the kingdom” knowledge not shared with any of the other disciples, and asks Judas to hand him over to the authorities so that his body can be sacrificed.
The Coptic text goes on to claim Jesus said to Judas, “But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”
In this particular quote, “the man that clothes me” refers to Jesus’ body.
According to the gospel of Judas, Jesus longed to be set free from this physical shell, which he considered to be, in good Gnostic fashion, the “prison of the soul.”
Are we to see Judas the liberator?
Betrayal considered a virtue?
Jesus a Gnostic?
Today we’ll pay a visit to this “Gospel of Judas”, and measure it against the word of God for accuracy.
Gnostic, or Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means ("knowledge"); It is a belief system that flourished in Hellenistic culture which began in about 323BC.
It had a profound influence on early Christianity, particularly in the Johannine tradition (i.e., the gospel of John, the letters of John, the gospel of Thomas).
Gnosticism is a pre-Christian religious tradition defined primarily by the belief that salvation comes through gnosis, or knowledge, rather than through Jesus Christ and the cross.
In so doing, Gnostics wholly deny the human dimension of Jesus Christ, even to the point of saying that Jesus, is a purely spiritual entity, and only "appeared" to suffer on the cross.
Gnosticism was therefore declared a heresy in the 4th century AD Christian church, for obvious reasons, because it denied Christ and the work of the Cross and gives salvation to those who gain knowledge.
Gnostics proclaim that salvation that can only come through enlightenment or knowledge.
This is the key thinking to 90% of cults out there.
Knowledge will get you to heaven.
This is a major theme in many of the Pagan religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, the teaching of Zen, Hinduism. Many of the eastern philosophies base their teachings on this concept that the gaining of knowledge leads to salvation, or a god-like state of being.
So, with this and many people coming to me with concerns of this document and its implications, I felt it warranted a sermon on the subject.
† I will however attempt to condense my study into one sermon.
1. First we will look at the physical document itself.