The Gospel of Judas

Did you know that there is a recently-discovered book called the Gospel of Judas. Yep. Seems like an oxymoron, but there it is, found in 2006 in a crypt in Egypt (where else?). It’s 26 pages written in Greek. 

Any good stuff in there? You bet. The big reveal in this book is when Jesus tells Judas “you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” According to certain scholars, Jesus was saying that Judas, by helping him get rid of his physical flesh, was really helping to liberate the true divine being within Jesus.

Sooo, Judas was a real person? Probably, although we do not have any eyewitness accounts to Judas’s activities.  Our earliest Christian sources of anything related to Jesus are the letters written by Paul. And he never mentions Judas.  The Gospels of the New Testament are therefore our earliest accounts of the man.  The four Gospel writers never claim they were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. And historians have long recognized that they were produced by second- (or third-) generation Christians living in different countries from Jesus (and Judas), speaking a different language (Greek instead of Aramaic), and addressing different audiences.

And what about his last name — Iscariot? No one really knows. In those times people did not have last names. So the second word attached to the person’s first name would be a reference to a characteristic or the person’s place of origin. If we like intrigue (and why else would you read 3BT?), several scholars argue that ‘Iscariot’ comes from a group of zealots during Jesus’ time who wielded knives and were proponents of violence against the establishment. This might also explain Judas’ betrayal of Jesus — Jesus was not as radical as Judas wanted him to be.

Brief Theological Rabbit Trail

What does ‘liberating the true divine being’ mean in the first bullet above? 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. Unlike the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Dan Brown novels, the Gospel of Judas says that Judas Iscariot alone among the 12 disciples understood the meaning of Jesus’ teachings and acceded to his will. 

Next week:  Why was Jesus crucified?