The Gospel of Judas...is it the true word of God?
By Tim4Christ (firstname.lastname@example.org for comments or questions)
In the early part of April 2006, National Geographic released information where they made the claim that a new Gospel had been discovered that would make Christians rethink their views on Jesus Christ and Christianity in general. What was this new biblical discovery?...the Gospel of Judas. If you have never read these writings before, I would encourage every Christian to take a look at it (click here), but before you do, I would suggest that you read this entire article first.
Although the Gospel of Judas is being proclaimed as a new discovery by the National Geographic, the truth of the matter is that this document has been known to exist since at least the late 2nd century. How do we know this? Irenaeus, one of the early church fathers, spoke about this writing, “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 Against Heresies, Chapter XXXI). So what did Irenaeus think about the Gospel of Judas? He recognized it right away to be a writing of one of the heretical groups of early Christianity know as the Gnostics.
What is Gnosticism? Gnostics believe that salvation is achieved through special knowledge that is revealed only to them. Gnostics were “people who knew”, and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know. They believed that they alone truly understood Christ’s message, and that other streams of thought within Christianity had misinterpreted Jesus’ mission and sayings. Knowledge to them was not an intellectual exercise, nor was it a passive understanding of some aspect of spirituality. Rather, knowledge had a redeeming and liberating function that helped the individual break free of bondage to the world.
What did Gnostics believe about God? The Supreme Father God or Supreme God of Truth is remote from human affairs. He is unknowable and undetectable by human senses. The Gnostic god created a series of supernatural but finite beings called Aeons. One of these was Sophia, a virgin, who in turn gave birth to a defective, inferior Creator-God, also known as the Demiurge. (Demiurge means “public craftsman” in Greek.) This lower God is sometimes called Yaldabaoth or Ialdabaoth Jaldabaoth — from Aramaic words meaning “begetter of the Heavens.” This is Jehovah, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). He is portrayed as the creator of the earth and its life forms. He is viewed by Gnostics as fundamentally evil, jealous, rigid, lacking in compassion, and prone to genocide. The Demiurge thinks that he is supreme. His pride and incompetence have resulted in the sorry state of the world as we know it, and in the blind and ignorant condition of most of mankind.
What did the Gnostics believe about Jesus Christ? Gnostics seem to have looked upon Christ as a revealer or liberator, rather than a savior or judge. His purpose was to spread knowledge which would free individuals from the Demiurge’s control and allow them to return to their spiritual home with the Supreme God at death. Some Gnostic groups promoted Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died. These beliefs were considered heresy by many non-Gnostic Christians. Some Gnostics believed that Christ’s resurrection occurred at or before Jesus’ death on the cross. They defined his resurrection as occurring when his spirit was liberated from his body. Many Gnostics believed that Jesus had both male and female disciples.
Was Gnosticism known to the disciples of Jesus’ time? YES…In fact, the apostle Paul wrote an entire epistle refuting Gnosticism in his letter to the Colossians. Paul used the Greek word pleroma ([plhrwma] – strongs# 4138) to indicate that Jesus had the fullness of Deity dwelling in Him in bodily form (Col 2:9), thus showing that Christ was God in the flesh. To the Gnostic, God was a pleroma, a fullness from whom a succession of lesser beings, called aeons, emanated. The spiritual purity of these beings diminished with each lower order of their existence. Finally, an aeon far enough removed from the origin (the Greek word arche [arch] – strongs# 746) of deity created the material universe. The Gnostics taught that Christ was only one of these aeons, so when Paul said that Christ was the creator of such a universe, some might therefore believe that surely He could not sustain any relation to the new creation. Paul said that Christ was supreme in redemption as well as in creation. All this is so that Christ might have “preeminence” in all things.
This is one Christian that did watch the episode that National Geographic put on its station about the Gospel of Judas. They spent much of the time trying to get people to believe that Jesus conspired with Judas to give him up to the soldiers prior to his arrest in the garden (not according to the Gospel accounts in the New Testament were Judas was taken over by Satan to accomplish this). National Geographic neglected to spend any time on the other portions of this writing. For instance, there is an account where Judas wrote about how the world came into existence and the aeons that were used to achieve this (a far cry from the account recorded in the book of Genesis). Judas also writes about the god that created the earth and everything in it. The name of this god according to Judas was “Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; others call him Yaldabaoth”. Judas then goes on to refer to Jesus as an angel who’s heavenly name is Seth.
So what are we left with here? Was there a collaboration between Jesus and Judas in order to make the crucifixion of Christ come about? Was Judas more knowledgeable than all the other disciples that it placed him above all the rest? To that question, I would have to give an emphatic…NO. It is my belief that the four Gospels of the New Testament give the true account of Jesus’ life and everything that went on during that time. The Gospel of Judas is definitely an early Gnostic writing, but is NOT the true word of God. To me, what National Geographic tried to do was nothing more than a feeble attempt by another “worldly” organization in order question the true beliefs of the Christian faith. I would invite every Christian to take the time to study up on Gnosticism and other false heretical groups so that you can be more discerning when things like this come up as a challenge to our beliefs. I pray that this article gave you some truth to what was presented and that it encourages every Christian to further your studies on all subjects that may come against God’s word.