Friday, April 07, 2006

Gospel of Judas?

Pardon me if I don't rush out and buy the newly revealed "Gospel of Judas" being hailed by the National Geographic Society.
According to this so-called "gospel," Judas only did what Jesus told him to do by betraying Christ.
But, as Tim Graham's "Newsbusters" blog shows, the idea that this somehow disproves the New Testament gospels, is as preposterous as thinking that a document written in 1926 denying Benedict Arnold was a traitor would cause historians to doubt that Benedict Arnold was a "Judas," if you will.
This 3rd or 4th century document is interesting only in that it gives an example of the common heretical and anti-Christian groups that existed at the time. In no way does it have any believability that would challenge the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all dated to the first century with plenty of manuscript and archaeological evidence to show their authenticity.
As a professor Andrey Kurayev, professor at Moscow Theological Academy put it, "This document cannot be traced back to Judas Iscariot for the simple reason that Judas hung himself on the day Christ was crucified and no Gospel of Judas can exist."
So who wrote it? It supports the theology of Gnosticism, perhaps the most common heresy confronting the early church. Gnosticism believed that spirit was good but matter was evil, and thus it denied that Jesus really came in the flesh. More than likely, a Gnostic wrote the so-called "Gospel of Judas" and attached Judas's name to it to bolster support for his ideas, in much the same way that Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code, uses Leonardo Da Vinci to claim things that Da Vinci never said or did.


Bryan L. Fordham said...

You might be interested in Mohler's take on this.

Bob Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob Rogers said...

Thanks for sharing. Mohler's comments are right on target.

Bloodiest of Ladies said...

I'm sorry, I realise this is a serious post, but Moscow Theological Academy just struck me funny. :)

Brother Bob said...

I'll take a great quote from anywhere; no discrimination here on the basis of race, national origin and anonymity of academic institution!

Dave Peterson said...

It can not be shown that the canonical gospels existed in their current form earlier than the third century CE. Further, the Jewish written tradition going back to the second century CE states that Jesus was crucified by Alexander Jannaeus in the early years of the first century BCE. That has never been shown to be incorrect; it is merely dismissed out of hand. Robert M Price is a good guide here. See his "The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man," Prometheus Press 2003.

Your speculation that the "Gospel of Judas" was written by a gnostic is amusing when you consider Harold Bloom's interesting argument that the Southern Baptists are American Gnostics. See his "The American Religion," Simon and Schuster, New York 1992.


Brother Bob said...

Mr. Peterson,
Your assert, "It can not be shown that the canonical gospels existed in their current form earlier than the third century CE." You are in error.
P52 is the name scholars give to a papyrus of the Gospel of John which was carbon-dated to A.D. 125. Not only does it prove John's existence by this date, but it was discovered in a provincial town along the Nile, far removed from its traditional place of composition, Ephesus of Asia Minor.
P75 is a papyrus dated around A.D. 175 to 225 with 144 pages, including the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John. Matthew and Mark contain much of the same material as Luke. These and other manuscripts are copies, so the originals would have existed earlier. (See Bruce M. Metzer, "The Text of the New Testament.")
Irenaues, who lived A.D. 130-200, made refences to the Gospel of Matthew and John. Clement of Alexandria, who lived A.D. 150-203, made references to the Gospel of Mark and John. Tertullian, who lived A.D. 155-222, made referecnes to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These authors made specific descriptions of the Gospels that fit the gospels as we now have them. It is realistic to believe that they existed in their present form when they were written in the first century. (See Daniel J. Theron, "Evidence of Tradition.")
Your citation of a second-century Jewish tradition that somebody other than Pontius Pilate crucified Jesus is in conflict with other Jewish and Roman writings that all agree He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
It is not mere speculation that the Gospel of Judas was Gnostic. The Gospel of Judas is clearly Gnostic, as it supports the idea Gnostic belief that all physical matter is evil and therefore Jesus did not actually come in the flesh. In the Gospel of Judas, Jesus supposedly asks Judas to betray Him so that He can escape the shell of a physical body containing Him, since He considers the physical body evil.
What is truly speculation is Harold Bloom's book that tries to compare Southern Baptists to Gnosticism. This pejorative comparison is an imaginary analogy meant to support Bloom's pre-conceived ideas about Southern Baptists. While Southern Baptists are far from perfect, we obviosly don't believe in Gnostic theology.