April 13, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

The Gospel of Judas

I believe that books like The DaVinci Code and sensationalistic reports such as the news about the Gospel of Judas reflect a desire for “spirituality” without the inconvenience of the demands of the Bible.

Shane, a Nashville preacher, The Gospel of Judas, Faith and Thought, 4/13/06
judas kiss

One cold kiss. [Marielle / Flickr]

Just in time for Easter, National Geographic has just published the contents of a 1,700 year old Coptic manuscript that portrays Judas Iscariot not as traitor, but as Jesus’ favored disciple and willing collaborator. The Gospel of Judas was discovered in Egypt in the 1970s, and floated through the hands of antiquities dealers (some shadier than others, apparently) before National Geographic acquired it.

It’s one of a host of “alternative” or “secret” gospels written by Gnostic Christians between the second and fourth centuries which are not included in the New Testament or canonical Christianity, and which radically differ from those traditionally accepted texts.

Some scholars are calling The Gospel of Judas “the most significant, ancient, nonbiblical text found in the past 60 years.” But given that the word “gospel” has come to mean absolute truth in common parlance, what happens when something surfaces that turns the other gospels on their heads?

Some devout Christian bloggers accuse the ideas and documents of trying to “undermine true scripture.” Others conclude that while The Gospel of Judas is a fascinating document that will be useful for historians and scholars who wish to better understand early Christianity or 4th century Gnosticism, it does not actually give new insight into Jesus, or actually undermine the traditional gospels.

This is skating on thin ice. Surely the Gospel of Judas offers a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, but I seriously doubt whether it offers “new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus.” It does indeed show us what some Gnostics, writing a century after Judas’s death, thought of him. But it’s highly unlikely that the Gospel of Judas tells us anything about the actual Judas, or the actual Jesus, for that matter…Alas, the Gospel of Judas is, in the end, a tempest in a teapot.

Mark D. Roberts, The Gospel of Judas – A Special Report, Mark D. Roberts, 4/9/06

Still, others manage to draw new meaning and insight from the document with respect to their personal faith.

This gospel makes considerable sense to me. It says that Judas was being obedient to God’s will, since Jesus needed to die so he could be released from the confining physical body and liberate the genuine soul-Christ inside. It’s mystical rather than theological. I’ve always wondered why Christians express so much sorrow over the crucifixion. Don’t they believe that Jesus died for our sins? Didn’t the crucifixion need to happen if humanity was to be saved? Wasn’t Judas part of the Big Plan rather than a duplicitous traitor? True believers won’t look upon Christian dogma any differently now that the Gnostic Gospel of Judas has been released to the world. That’s the nature of true belief: it is impervious to fresh facts. But hopefully the open-minded members of the Christian faithful will study the gospel and consider its implications.

Church of the Churchless, Gospel of Judas casts heresy in a new light, 4/7/06

Related Content


  • avecfrites

    The most interesting thing to me isn’t this new gospel (though it is interesting), but rather peoples’ views of the canonical gospels. Last year I had a conversation with a Catholic senior citizen I met at the gym. He goes to church every week and enjoys talking about religion. But even he had no idea that none of the writers of the canonical gospels had ever met or witnessed Jesus, and that the gospels were written decades, to a century, after Jesus died. Or that they were selected as the official interpretation of history by the Roman power structure long after that. Or that there wan an ongoing controversy in the years after Jesus about whether he was God or man, which was settled by the Roman power structure, not by concensus.

    The gospels may be true. But it’s not clear to me why one would be certain of that. I’ve read the argument that the gospel of Judas can’t be true because it is older than the canonical gospels. But are the people making that argument prepared, then, to accept any book we might find in an archaelogical dig that proves to be older than Mark and Matthew?

  • fiddlesticks

    The gnostic Judas manuscript tries to give an answer to an old philosophical question: if Jesus’ life and death were predetermined how can any of the actors in this drama be seen as anything but reenacting a prewritten script?

    Unfortunately, the concrete answer given in this gospel, so called, is pretty vulgar and makes it seem as if Jesus were nothing but a sophisticated stage manager of film director: The Mel Gibson of his day.

    No wonder it was rejected by the early Christians.

  • This new gospel beautifull illustrates the duality of our existence. What we categorize as “evil” or “bad” can ultimately turn out to be for good. Life is mysterious, and as much as we try to grasp and hold on ~ to be certain about who and what god is ~ I am always brought back to the belief that god must have intended the world to be full of questions like these. We must accept and embrace the mystery!

  • Potter

    Hello Visvoice. I clicked onto your web site and found a “Convergence” here with your photo of cherry blossom juxtaposed with a Jackson Pollack painting:

    http://www.visual-voice.net/archives/2006/04/chaotic_mist.html

    ( am I right?)

    Did you hear that show? http://www.radioopensource.org/convergences/

  • mt

    Jorge Luis Borges says somewhere that: “It is often forgotten that (dictionaries) are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.” While this quote would seem at first glance to be inappropriate, I wish to draw attention to a crucial aspect of our collective archeological bent: myth (which is the sphere of tradition and language) is essentially what has already been said. This means that the origins of myth remain essentially mysterious. It is in this context that I wish to address the question of the textual tradition of the Church, and the significance of any “new discoveries.â€?

    The shock and confusion that results from the realization that the canonical scriptures were compiled by ecumenical councils over several centuries, not dictated by Jesus, is born of an expectation that the historical events which inform the tradition can be unearthed and sorted out with scientific rigor. I wish to say simply that this is a mistaken interpretation of the essence of tradition. It is a mistake because we are attempting to make myth “true� by proving it to be so by historical inquiry. This can never be so, provided that a proper relation to myth is fostered. There is, therefore, but one answer the Church has to the “reason� behind its own history: that it is guided by the Holy Spirit.

    The history of the Church is (unfortunately for us scientists (that is to say, all of us)) nothing historiological. The time frame is nothing measured in epochs or with calendars. We are working in salvation history, and salvation time. For this reason, any inquiry into the textual tradition must be conducted with a view to understanding the spiritual growth of the Church throughout its various trials, rather than demanding that it answer for itself in a language that is altogether foreign from it (the language of science/history).

    This does not mean that the science of archeology is invalid—only that the truth of the history of the Church cannot be discovered by any scientific means. The mystery of the Holy Spirit is both the meaning and origin of this tradition, and it is this that guides the decisions which are made with regard to doctrine and action, heresies and dogmas.

    As to the question of the meaning of the Gospel of Judas: one must understand the relations between the Gnostic tradition and that of early Christianity to appreciate what this discovery does and does not mean. In the interest of not making this post too long-winded, I will forgo this discussion but for this—that the reasons why Gnosticism was rejected as a heresy cannot be reduced to a political motivation, rather, this decision helped the Church to clarify her vision of what makes humans human and what, in turn, endangers the soul. In the case of the Gnostics, to conceive of the body as the dark/evil element and the soul as the light part, the body becomes conceived as an evil that must be escaped. This notion presents many problems with regard to the essential goodness of existence.

    In any case, I thank you all for your patience with this post and I look forward to your comments.

  • fiddlesticks

    “This new gospel beautifull illustrates the duality of our existence. What we categorize as “evilâ€? or “badâ€? can ultimately turn out to be for good.”

    Yes, but only if you have a stage manager writing the script.

    For a better vision of the duality of out existence, I’d recommend Don Quixote.

  • fastfoodnationalist

    Any discussion about these Gnostic topics, especially their cultural and political relevance, should remember to include the Da Vinci Code phenomenon that virally grew to great popularity.

    One part Illuminati, another part Gnostic intrigue, I’ve often wondered what the book’s popularity represented in cultural terms. Is it a Christian or is it a skeptical phenomenon? Is it in between or something new? Does the Da Vinci Code represent a sort of post-national flag in Samuel Huntington’s world?

    Check out the social networking site for young adults, “Facebook” and you’ll see that the Da Vinci Code is the #1 favorite book; Angels and Demons is also in the top 10. A Barnes and Noble around the corner has an elaborately organized table dedicated to the associated exotic tales of Christian intrigue be they about the Templars, Judas, the Holy Grail etc. I get the sense that there is an elephant in the room or some writing on the wall but I really don’t know what it is yet.

    Perhaps its a re-discovery of faith, starting from post-enlightenment or postmodern first principles?

  • I heard a good thought about the Gospel of Judas recently, coming from the point of view of why it was rejected in the first place. The four Gospels present the story of Jesus from the broadest possible point of view, that Jesus was here for everyone, not just a select few who understood him.

    The Gospel of Judas, and a few other lost gospels, take another track, and focus on the relationship between Jesus and one or a few other people. Seemingly pointing out that Jesus had a special relationship with Judas or others, that no one else could attain.

  • Nikos

    fastfoodnationalist: I have a provisional reply to your query (@ 11:55 AM). You wrote:

    “I get the sense that there is an elephant in the room or some writing on the wall but I really don’t know what it is yet.�

    It seems to me (a non-believer) that people absolutely love the peacenik, love-preaching Jesus character – but many, many folks don’t like the way all the various and vying-for-congregationist religions and sects co-opt this Jesus for their own professional (money-making and political-influencing) purposes. Each religion and sect emphasizes different passages from the Gospels to draw in the kind of congregationists they feel will make their religious enterprize thrive.

    On some level, even the most credulous believers comprehend this basic economic reality. But the Gnostic Gosples offer a way around the professional religionists — hence their outcry against such alternative sources for the ‘Christian’ tradition.

    Also, see jazzman’s excellent contribution in the Garry Wills thread for another angle on this: http://www.radioopensource.org/garry-wills-on-jesus/#comment-9581

    April 13, 2006 at 6:39 PM.

  • Nikos

    mt: I liked your post and encourage you to finish your thoughts. (Don’t worry about length: everyone is free to skip over the long ones or return to them later.)

    Can you offer us any internet links to discussions of the ancient Church politics that informed the arbitrary selections of the canonical gospels to the exclusion of the ‘Gnostics’?

  • Potter

    I was brought up as Jew knowing that anti-Semitism at least in part if not in the main had to do with us being labeled “Christ-killers”. I never understood this in the light of the mission that Christ had. Now we have this Gospel of Judas that seems to be letting Jews off the hook, absolving them. The Church has been trying to make amends and to correct it’s error in recent times with regard to the part it played in persecution of Jews for hundreds of years. You would think that this gospel would be embraced, but it is not.

    It seems to me that if Judas ( meaning Jew) was a disciple of Christ and Christ said to his disciples at the Passover Sedar- Last Supper “One of you will betray me”, the one who did betray him, Judas, then fulfilled or helped to fulfill Christ’s mission on Earth.

    My first question is why then were Jews blamed and cursed? My second question is why is Judas even considered a Jew when he was in fact a disciple of Christ and, according to this account, did what was asked of him, thus a true Christ follower?

  • Potter, I believe that since the Gnostic texts where left out of the New Testament and this “gospel” is a Gnostic text that is why conventional Christians are not embracing it. Whether or not Gnostic view are admissable is something I am not prepared to comment on.

    After reading the english translation, this part stuck out to me.

    This part of the english translation provided by national geographic.

    http://www9.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/document.html

    “The first is [S]eth, who is called Christ.

    The [second] is Harmathoth, who is [–].

    The [third] is Galila.

    The fourth is Yobel.

    The fifth [is] Adonaios.

    These are the five who ruled over the underworld, and first of all over chaos.”

    This reminded me that when Jesus was in his youth he ran away to Egypt to escape King Herod. Seth is the god of chaos in Egyptian Mythology. Thoth is the Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. Harma is a Hylian god described as the god of thieves. I don’t know if any conclusions can be drawn from this observation. It does have give more credence the belief that all religions are the same.

  • fiddlesticks

    “Now we have this Gospel of Judas that seems to be letting Jews off the hook, absolving them.”

    try reading the gospel before you post. The gospel of Judas is as anti-Semitic as the gospel of John.

  • fiddlesticks

    It was boound to happen:

    http://www.metimes.com/articles/normal.php?StoryID=20060414-081331-8645r

    “Greek bishop dismisses Gospel of Judas as ‘Zionist conspiracy’

    April 14, 2006

    ATHENS — The “Gospel of Judas”, an ancient Coptic manuscript maintaining that Jesus actually asked his disciple to betray him, is a “Zionist conspiracy” designed to cause scandal, a Greek Orthodox bishop said.

    “This text is known to theologians as a forgery,” Bishop Nikodemos of Ierissos, Mount Athos and Ardamerio told the Greek Orthodox Church radio station on Thursday.

    “I think this is a Zionist conspiracy designed to cause scandal,” he said. ”

    When all else fails blame it on the Jews, excuse me, the Zionists, no the Jews, no the Zionists, the Jews, the Zionists, the Jews….

  • I just read Adam Gopink’s book review of The Gospel of Judas in the New Yorker. He says Jesus laughs a lot in it but only in an in-joke superior kind of way for one reason because he isn’t really the son of the God his disciples think he is but he is the son of an avatar of Seth and he isn’t going to heaven he’s going to Barbelo. Barbelo? (does this have something to do with Urantia?)

    And in the illustration Jesus looks like Willie Nelson.

  • Nikos

    Hey fiddlesticks: I shouldn’t lightly dismiss such idiocy because anti-Semitism is a curse, and pox, and a scourge that IMHO damns its practitioners. But those dolts on Mount Athos, like that Bishop Nikodemos, are the most depraved kooks this side of the Taliban. They hate women so much that they don’t even allow female animals up there. Makes me wonder if they shoot at birds flying overhead just in case one of ’em might not be one of God’s venerated males.

    Hopefully, the majority of Orthodox Greeks are as aware of the Mount Athos imbeciles as I am. Hopefully.

    One thing it tells me for certain is that religious ideologues like that misogynist jackass Bishop can’t accept the existence of any evidence that threatens to disconfirm their belief systems. Which is exactly the ‘memetic’ problem Dan Dennett spends so much of his Breaking The Spell exploring. (And that makes it a book worth reading, no matter your own belief system, or lack thereof.)

  • fiddlesticks

    Nikos, I never thought that Bishop Nikodemos represented all Greeks any more than I think the ultra Orthodox Rabbis in Israel represent all Jews or the Opus Dei all Catholics, or Pat Robertson and his ilk all Protestants.

    Every faith has its kooks.

    Being Jewish I take pride in our kooks, of course, we even had a Rabbi name Kook. I don’t think that even the kooks on Mount Athos could top that.

    btw: is Athos of the Three Mosqueteers fame named after Mount Athos?

  • Nikos

    fs: “Nikos, I never thought that Bishop Nikodemos represented all Greeks any more than I think the ultra Orthodox Rabbis in Israel represent all Jews or the Opus Dei all Catholics, or Pat Robertson and his ilk all Protestants.”

    Right, and I didn’t take it that way — I was only offering what I know about the execrable lunatics of Mount Athos. I’m not responsible for them, only ashamed that they share and desecrate a common ethnic heritage with my father (and therefore with ‘half’ of me). I allow myself this one little fantasy: that after they die, and the welcoming Bright Light meets their disembodied consciousnesses, and the warm feeling of their saviour coming to fetch them to God overcomes them…they wake next under the withering gaze of Hera Herself, who says: “What have you boys got against women? Come, I have some barnyard and quarry chores to assign you — for the remainder of your eternal afterlives.” 😉

    Fun, huh? ‘Course, I don’t believe in afterlives, but it’s a fun little fantasy all the same.

    “is Athos of the Three Mosqueteers fame named after Mount Athos?”

    Beats me! Never heard of ’em. (I’m kinda culturally retarded. Is it a movie?)

  • Nikos

    fs: Did you mean ‘Three Musketeers‘?

    (Not that it matters: I don’t know any of their names.)

  • Nikos, come on, you must believe in afterlives if you believe in the biological and cosmic cycle of energy. After me comes all those nice goodies-Acari, Aranea, Diptera, Stratiomyidae, Phoridae, Fanniidae, Muscidae, Silphidae… I don’t want to deny them their time, yet I’d rather not encounter too many while still breathing.

    Also, don’t you have to believe in afterlives in a way if you believe in memes?

    Now here’s the 1,000 yen question for you.

    Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?

    Otsukaresama 😉

  • Potter

    Fiddlesticks: “try reading the gospel before you post. The gospel of Judas is as anti-Semitic as the gospel of John.”

    The anti-Semitism is where in this gospel fragment? Isn’t it all in the interpretation, yours specifically, and on the opposite end Greek Bishop’s and others who look for support of their beliefs and arguments? Or is it clear and unequivocal pray tell? So again where Fiddlesticks?

    It seems to me that one can be so stuck in defensive posture that other possibilities cannot be considered.

    “Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.�

    quote from Judas Gospel vis Adam Gopnik’s article in the New Yorker- thanks Peggysue:

    http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/articles/060417crbo_books

  • I’m wondering if the Gospel of Judas will make it ok for doctors to perform euthanasia since it will no longer be a betrayal of god given life.

  • fiddlesticks

    “The anti-Semitism is where in this gospel fragment? Isn’t it all in the interpretation, yours specifically, and on the opposite end Greek Bishop’s and others who look for support of their beliefs and arguments? Or is it clear and unequivocal pray tell? So again where Fiddlesticks?”

    Coupling me with the Greek Bishop is your way of being fair. OK, I understand that. Some people’s notion of fairness doesn’t go much beyond a “plague on both your houses.” Got it!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Now, this may be beyond you, but the anti-Semitism of the gnostic gospel and their philosophical world view in general is in their notion that the Jewish God was evil.

    This may be beyond you, but a clear knowledge of gnosticism is a pre-requisite for understanding any of their writings.

    Not all forms of Gnosticism is anti-Semitic but an important strand is. In fact early Christian anti-Semitism was encouraged by its need to counter the gnostic challenge. You can see this when you read Augustine’s writings and other early Church writers.

    This is what Hillel Halkin a respected Jewish writer wrote about the so called gospel of Judas:

    “And yet once the text of “The Gospel of Judas” is released, this is highly unlikely to prove to be the case. Too much is known about Gnosticism, and about Christian varieties of it, to encourage us to think that we are dealing with a “pro-Jewish” book. On the contrary: Of all the many varieties of Christianity that were in competition with one another in the centuries before Catholicism won out, Gnosticism was the most philosophically hostile to Judaism and the most radically at odds with it.

    This was because Christian Gnosticism, in all its forms, was a dualistic system of thought that believed in the existence not of one God, but of two – an “inferior” God, the God of the Old Testament, who created the fallen world we live in and rules over it, and a “superior” God, the God of the New Testament, who has nothing to do with the created universe known to man and exists transcendentally apart from it – from where He sent Jesus to bring salvation to humanity. The first God is the God of matter, of Old Testament law and retaliatory justice; the second, the God of the spirit that is imprisoned in matter, of New Testament love and mercy. The two have nothing in common and one must choose between them; One can worship one or the other, the God of the material world or the God of the spiritual world, but one cannot worship both.”

    http://www.nysun.com/article/30806

    This is a complicated subject and I hope the radio program brings out some of these complexities in its upcoming broadcast.

  • fiddlesticks

    Nikos Says:

    April 15th, 2006 at 2:11 am

    “fs: Did you mean ‘Three Musketeers‘?

    (Not that it matters: I don’t know any of their names.)”

    Sure did.

    The three are:

    Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and their apprentice and the hero of the novel, d’Artagnan.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Musketeers

    I often wondered were their names came from.

  • fiddlesticks

    Discussions about the gospel of Judas and some of the Gnostic ideas can also be held in the context of the modern Islamicism espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood and especially the late Ayatollah Khomeini which has become the ideology of the Iranian State.

    This is because Khomeini too held a dualistic vision of creation with the actual living body as something lesser and transitory and perhaps evil.

    There is an interesting article in the current issue of the New Republic which details the influence of this ideology on recent Iranian history.

    A CHILD OF THE REVOLUTION TAKES OVER.

    Ahmadinejad’s Demons

    by Matthias Küntzel

    the New Repuclic

    Issue date 04.24.06

    For those of you who have subscription here is a link:

    http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20060424&s=kuntzel042406

  • Potter

    Coupling me with the Greek Bishop is your way of being fair. OK, I understand that. Some people’s notion of fairness doesn’t go much beyond a “plague on both your houses.” Got it!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Fiddlesticks: Maybe this is difficult for you but my point was that you and the Greek Bishop are both interpreting fragments as evidence of your way of thinking. From your posts, I would say you are generally defensive and on the attack. So I am not surprised that you would read the Judas gospel that way and lump that together, you admit, with other “Gnostic philosophical world views” as you interpret them.

    There is, as far as I can determine, no basis for the charge of anti-Semitism. Not yet. Halkin, who you quote agrees though he is very skeptical and inclined to judging prior to any evidence based on the other Gnostic texts and their interpretation.But he stops short of that. You don’t.

    Halkin starts off with this:

    On the one hand, it represents an early Christian attempt to exonerate the figure of Judas Iscariot – a figure that, more than any other in the whole vile history of anti-Semitism, has come to stand in Christian tradition for the deicidal Jew and his evil ways. The very idea that there were some second-century Christians, however sectarian, who considered Judas not Jesus’s betrayer, but rather, his most loyal and understanding disciple, the only one to whom could be entrusted the excruciating but necessary task of turning the Savior over to the authorities so that his crucifixion and death could take place, is enough to fill many Jews with a sense of gratitude. In rehabilitating Judas, it might seem as if “The Gospel of Judas” is a Christian rehabilitation of the Jewish people, too.

    So Halkin at least leaves it open for more positive interpretation:

    The irony of “The Gospel of Judas,” which will no doubt become clearer as we can read more of it, is that it defends Judas Iscariot by attacking Judaism. Far from being the arch-Jew of Christian stereotype, its Judas is the Jew who has freed himself of all Jewish delusions – a freedom that, according to Gnostic beliefs, conventional Christianity never managed to achieve.

    “The Gospel of Judas” will almost certainly not turn out to be, then, a very pleasing book for Jews. Still, there is something refreshing about a Judas, even a Gnostic one, who represents the best rather than the worst of the human race. And if Christian Gnostics could think of him this way, perhaps ordinary Christians also can.

    After all, it is possible to read the New Testament story non-Gnostically, too, with the understanding that Jesus knows all along that he must die a terrible death, and that he needs the help of a disciple – his dearest and best one! – to facilitate this. Greater even than the sacrifice on the Cross would be, then, the sacrifice of he who let himself be vilified by the ages in order to make this sacrifice possible. It’s an intriguing thought.

    “freed himself of all Jewish delusions” is the interpretation that intimates anti-Semitism. On the other side, and referring to my second question above -if that is the case, that Judas did indeed “free himself” of Jewish “delusions” (Halkin’s words) that would define him as a Christ follower, not a Jew. Indeed!

    Would it be “beyond youâ€? (as you have used this phrase on me) or a stretch to allow that this “good news” HAD to sell itself as being a better brand than the old by putting the old way down?

    Fiddlesticks, you yourself say: Not all forms of Gnosticism is anti-Semitic but an important strand is. In fact early Christian anti-Semitism was encouraged by its need to counter the gnostic challenge. You can see this when you read Augustine’s writings and other early Church writers.

    So there was competition.

    Finally when you quote Hillel Halkin’s article which is no longer available at the link you provide but now available here:

    http://www.jewishledger.com/articles/2006/04/12/opinions/edit03.txt

    You should be careful not to put your exposition as though it were Halkin’s.

    This might have been a simple mistake but it’s misleading:

    This is what Hillel Halkin a respected Jewish writer wrote about the so called gospel of Judas:

    “And yet once the text of “The Gospel of Judas” is released, this is highly unlikely to prove to be the case. Too much is known about Gnosticism, and about Christian varieties of it, to encourage us to think that we are dealing with a “pro-Jewish” book. On the contrary: Of all the many varieties of Christianity that were in competition with one another in the centuries before Catholicism won out, Gnosticism was the most philosophically hostile to Judaism and the most radically at odds with it.

    This was because Christian Gnosticism, in all its forms, was a dualistic system of thought that believed in the existence not of one God, but of two – an “inferior” God, the God of the Old Testament, who created the fallen world we live in and rules over it, and a “superior” God, the God of the New Testament, who has nothing to do with the created universe known to man and exists transcendentally apart from it – from where He sent Jesus to bring salvation to humanity. The first God is the God of matter, of Old Testament law and retaliatory justice; the second, the God of the spirit that is imprisoned in matter, of New Testament love and mercy. The two have nothing in common and one must choose between them; One can worship one or the other, the God of the material world or the God of the spiritual world, but one cannot worship both.”

    That last paragraph was not in the Halkin article. I assume it’s yours BTW I am familiar with Halkin’s writing; some of what he writes I agree with others not.

  • Potter

    from Wiki on Gnosticism

    These systems typically recommend the pursuit of mysticism or “special knowledge” (gnosis) as the central goal of life. They also commonly depict creation as a mythological struggle between competing forces of light and dark, and posit a marked division between the material realm, typically depicted as under the governance of malign forces (such as the demiurge), and the higher spiritual realm from which it is divided, governed by God (the Monad) and the Aeons.

    As a result of these common traits, allegations of dualism, anticosmism and body-hatred are often raised against Gnosticism as a whole; this, however, fails to acknowledge the variety, subtlety and complexity of the traditions involved.

    (my bold)

  • fiddlesticks

    An interesting take on the gospel of Judas:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/705676.html

    Gospel or manipulation?

    By Benny Ziffer

  • fiddlesticks

    “Finally when you quote Hillel Halkin’s article which is no longer available…”

    Potter, I had no trouble accessing the Halkin article in the NY Sun:

    http://www.nysun.com/article/30806

    perhaps other readers won’t either.

  • fiddlesticks

    btw: the Potter link only offers a shortened version of the article in the NY Sun.

  • fiddlesticks

    In any case the volokh conspiracy has a piece on the Judas gospel which also talks about gnosticism:

    http://volokh.com/posts/1144517340.shtml

    “The influential Christian bishop Ireneus, in his treatise Against Heresies, written in 180 a.d., denounced the Gospel of Judas as the product of a gnostic sect called the Cainites. (Book 1, ch. 31, para. 1.)

    The “Gospel of Judas” asserts that Jesus asked Judas to betray Jesus so that Jesus’s spirit could be liberated from its earthly body. (“You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”) This statement is a classic expression of gnosticism, and for that reason is antithetical to Christianity.

    Unfortunately, the amazingly mendacious DaVinci Code presents a picture of gnosticism that is wildly false — so it is helpful to set the record straight about what gnostics really believed.

    The roots of the Gospel of Judas and of gnosticism go back to Marcion (approx. 100-160 a.d.). After he was excommunicated for heresy, he founded his own sect, the Marcionites. The Marcionites never grew as numerous as orthodox Christians, but for several centuries they were important rivals to the orthodox.

    The Marcionites believed that the physical world was created by the angry god of the Old Testament, and that Jesus had been sent by a different god, who had nothing to do with the created world. Marcionites strove to avoid all contact with the created world. They were celibate, and ultra-ascetic. They did not even allow the use of wine at communion, insisting only on bread. Consistent with this highly ascetic view, they rejected war in any form. The Marcionites also denied the authority of the Old Testament, and most of the Gospels. Their only scriptures were portions of Luke, and ten epistles from Paul. (The idea of expunging the Old Testament from the Christian Bible was reintroduced by Adolf von Harnack, a very influential late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century liberal Protestant theologian. The Nazis enthusiastically adopted Harnack’s proposal.)

    The great nineteenth-century Catholic theologian John Henry Cardinal Newman explained that gnostics such as the Marcionites believed in “the intrinsic malignity of matter.” The rejection of the Old Testament was necessary because the Old Testament is replete with stories about the wonders of the created world. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God looked at his newly-created natural world, “and God saw that it was good.” Then, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them….And so God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The Song of Songs rejoices in a newly-married couple’s sensuous love. Ecclesiastes celebrates the natural cycle of life.”

    Finally, I’d like to say to Potter that it doesn’t matter if the Gospel of Judas mentions the Jewish god as evil or not it is still part of a system of thought which

    held such views as primary notions about the universe.

    It’s as if one were to discover a document by a National Socialist which talks about modern science being evil without mentioning the Jews. It would still be an anti-Semitic document since it is well known that to the Nazis modern science meant Einsteinian science which another term they used for “Jewish science.”

  • Potter

    It’s as if one were to discover a document by a National Socialist which talks about modern science being evil without mentioning the Jews. It would still be an anti-Semitic document since it is well known that to the Nazis modern science meant Einsteinian science which another term they used for “Jewish science.�

    National socialism ( Nazism) is an interesting choice for your analogy but the differences are more telling than the similarities. Nazizm was a political ideology, genuinely anti-Semitic. Gnostics were not one cohesive group, and not political. There is a huge question as to whether they were anti-semitic as well. Anti-Semitism is a relatively modern term. What is called anti-semitism by you and others with regard to these ancient sects is often not against a people called Jews but a response to and an agrument against their beliefs, their God.

    Fiddlesticks, your argument lumps all gnosticisims together and crumbles for me further with “it does not matter if the Gospel of Judas mentions the Jewish god as evil or not [as]it is still a part of a system of thought which held such views as primary notions about the universe”

    This is unacademic and unscientific ( not to mention unfair) inclining me still to feeling that the system of thought that needs to be examined is the one that needs to accumulate such evidence to the exclusion of other possibilities in the absense of anything that conclusive.

  • Potter

    Wow! sorry for all the typos.. after dinner wine.. a Dionysian habit 🙂

  • fiddlesticks

    ” Nazizm was a political ideology, genuinely anti-Semitic. Gnostics were not one cohesive group, and not political.”

    They more certainly were political, although you right that Gnosticism is not one coherent group, but then neither was fascism or national socialism, or Marxism, of Communism, or even bourgeois democracy.

    Still, we are talking about Christian Gnostics which did have a doctrine which was presupposed by its adherents.

    As to my choice of National Socialist as a comparative program I believe it offers a plausible comparison. Nazism wasn’t merely a political ideology it had its own ethos, and its own metaphysics. It was in other words a social movement as well as a political one.

    Some German philosophers who fled Hitler identified the two world views:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Voegelin

    “Voegelin identified a number of similarities between ancient Gnosticism and those held by a number of modernist political theories, particularly communism and nazism.”

  • fiddlesticks

    “Wow! sorry for all the typos.. after dinner wine.. a Dionysian habit.”

    Gee, and I thought you were all excited about the topic. Silly me.

  • Potter

    Gimme a break fiddlesticks….. ( my wine high is over)

    I do not find one “Christian Gnostic” doctrine. I am not even sure where the “Christian” gnosticisms begin and Jewish gnosticisms end. Anything on that?

    Regarding your Voegelin–read a little further in the Wiki:

    To some extent, Voegelin’s use of the term ‘gnosticism’ might be unfortunate as it suggests some pseudo-continuity between religious movements. However, the prime feature which he uses to label something as gnostic is the idea of human perfectibility, and some kind of special knowledge. Thus Marxism becomes ‘gnostic’ because it suggests that we can have a perfect society when capitalism is overthrown. And thus Nazism becomes ‘gnostic’ because it suggests we can have a ‘pure’ race when the racially inferior are exterminated. and so on….

    and this:

    It is possible to think that Voegelin made every political and philosophical movement he did not like, some kind of offshoot of gnosticism, and thus joins many movements which would otherwise appear to have little in common (what would not be ‘gnostic’?), and there is very little exploration of what causes gnostic approaches in the first place.

  • fiddlesticks

    Gnosticism from a Christian perspective:

    “What is Gnosticsim?

    It comes from the word “gnosis� meaning to know. Gnosticism was a philosophical system built on Greek philosophy. It added a Christian flavor when Christ impacted the world. Promoters of this ancient view were Simon Magus, Marcion, Saturninus, Cerinthus and Basilides. The Gnostics are traced to Carpocrates, and were supported by Valentius, Theodotus, and Artemas.

    Gnosticism was built on Greek philosophy that taught matter was evil and the Spirit was good. They taught docetism, a dualism which promoted a clear separation between the material and spiritual world. Christian Gnostics said since matter was evil, God could not really incarnate in a human body, He only appeared in human form and only appeared to suffer, it was an illusion. It was stated when Jesus walked on the sand you could know by seeing his footprints that were left. In this Jesus could be a pure spiritual being in an evil world and not be contaminated by it.”

    http://www.letusreason.org/Current48.htm

    Jewish gnosticism deals in esoteric knowledge too but does not make Jesus Christ the center of their gnosis.

    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=280&letter=G

  • fiddlesticks

    Regarding your Voegelin:

    http://www.fritzwagner.com/ev/eric_voegelin_table_of_contents.html

    http://home.salamander.com/~wmcclain/ev-index.html

    http://www.artsci.lsu.edu/voegelin/

    Voegelin is one of the 20C leading philosophers and one need not be a follower ( I am certainly not one) to see that his work is worth knowing.

    Personally I am more partial to Schutz and Arendt:

    http://www.questia.com/library/sociology-and-anthropology/sociologists-and-anthropologists/alfred-schutz.jsp

    For Arendt:

    http://library.wustl.edu/~listmgr/imagelib/Jun2001/0018.html

    “The papers contain correspondence, articles, lectures, speeches, book manuscripts, transcripts of the Adolf Eichmann trial proceedings, notes, and printed matter pertaining to Arendt’s writings and academic career. Among these are correspondence with many of the leading literary and political figures of the twentieth century, including W. H. Auden, Mary McCarthy, Robert Lowell, Thomas Mann, Dwight Macdonald, Eric Voegelin, and Norman Podhoretz. The collection also contains various drafts of Arendt’s published work, in particular The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), and the controversial and groundbreaking Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963).”

  • Potter

    From “The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity� by John G. Gager

    On a preceding work on the subject by the French scholar:

    Marcel Simon’s “Verus Israel� has dominated that era until quite recently…. Suffice it so say that he has covered every facet of nascent Christianity and it’s interactions with Judaism in the Roman Empire. In his treatment of Christian anti-Jewish polemic, Simon insists on the importance of distinguishing between (1) “anti-Jewish polemic� which represents an ideological conflict in which Christianity seeks to define it’s originality and to defend it’s legitimacy against the claims of Judaism; and (2) “Christian anti-Semitism�, which is born of the Jewish refusal of Christian claims and expresses itself increasingly as hostility towards Jews in general. Though Christian anti-Semitism draws in part on pagan traditions, it is finally to be distinguished from them by virtue of it’s religious and theological basis. Christian anti-Semitism goes back as the Gospel of John- but not to the letters of Paul-and attains it’s fullest expression in the fourth century. From that time forward, within the context of the Christian Empire, anti-Semitism ceased to be merely a matter of popular resentment and theological-exegetical debate. It became the ideological justification for anti-Jewish legislation and for the destruction of synagogues.

    I think I will go with this and say that I am not convinced at all that

    there was a cohesive system of thought call Gnosticism in which the Jewish God was considered evil, but rather many Gnosticisms: Jewish, Judeo- Christian, and Christian. There was a lot of competition during the first centuries of the common era between these and Rabbinic Judaism on other one end and early Christianity on the other, and consequently there was much argument and probably name calling. To invoke the cry anti-Semitism gets my attention every time. This term has been so abused that people just turn a deaf ear and roll their eyes. It’s important to use this term with discrimination if it is to have any meaning at all.

    Fiddlesticks: With regard to the Gospel of Judas , when you said:

    try reading the gospel before you post. The gospel of Judas is as anti-Semitic as the gospel of John.

    You were making assumptions with nothing substantial to back you.

    Thanks for all the links and the odyssey.

  • voices

    I look forward to the day (maybe for my grandchildren) when so much of humanity’s energy isn’t wasted on trying to decipher desert myths from 2,000 years ago and actually is focused on the moral requirements of an advanced post-industrial world.

    J.S.

  • It would indeed help to distinguish between an anti-Semitism in the ethnic sense, from a general sense of cultural superiority (i.e. the last comment), and thirdly from anti-Judaism in a religious sense.

    The question of whether there is ethnic anti-Semitism in early Christianity is a controversial one, but I for one am extremely skeptical of claims that it existed before the third century C.E. (I certainly don’t see it in the gospel of John).

    As for anti-Judaism, yes, there are varying degrees of anti-Judaism in early Christianity, and it grows rapidly in intensity over the first few centuries. Some Christian authors were very anti-Jewish. Note especially an author like pseudo-Barnabas who claimed in the second century that J ews had completely misunderstood the Hebrew Bible, and holding that the commands of the Torah should have been understood metaphorically.

    Christian anti-Judaism, however, pales in comparision with the anti-Judaism we find in Gnostic texts (the gospel of Judas being a representative example of a much larger corpus).

    Gnostics taught and wrote that the God that Jews worship was one and the same as the Jewish Satan — that the creation of the world was an evil act, and that the God of the Hebrew bible was not only the weakest of all the divine beings, but also deluded and malicious.

    This is a major theme in the gospel of Judas if you read it in its context, as it stresses that Judas is alone among the (Jewish) disciples of Jesus in correctly ascertaining:

    A). that the physical (and Jewish) Jesus is different from the spiritual and exalted “Christ”

    B). that the physical Jesus must die, to liberate the spiritual Christ from its prison

    C). that “Christ” was not sent by the low and evil Jewish God “Yaldaboath”, but rather by the much higher and holier “Barbelo”

    Note also that “Christ” himself is seen laughing at the stupidity of the other (more traditionally Jewish-Christian) disciples who worship Yaldaboath (the God of the Hebrew Bible), and believe in the goodness of Yaldaboath’s creation.

  • IbnBatriq

    As for the reaction among many Christian communities: I really don’t see how central the status of Judas as a traitor rather than hero is to Christian dogma. The story plays out roughly the same way as in Canonical Gospels.

    As for anti-Semitism in Christianity: the fact that those who killed Jesus were Rabbinic Jews is largely incidental. According to orthodox Christian dogma, Jesus was ‘sent’ to Earth to be killed. Had he been sent to the Britons, they would have killed him and there would likely have been a great degree of animosity toward the Britons.

    In fact, if we were to use Christ’s martyrdom as a reason to hate Jews, we may as well hate Italians while we are at it.

  • elphaba

    I personally find it intriguing that there were thirty some gospels and only four were decided to be the “word of God”. It seems to me that those who did the deciding would have to have “talked to God”or to have been “chosen by God” in order to get the right ones. Yet we don’t commonly know the names of these people who were so instrumental in deciding which of the stories were the true.

  • grichards

    A historical correction:

    IbnBatriq Says: “…the fact that those who killed Jesus were Rabbinic Jews…” small correction: those who killed Jesus were Romans. It’s likely that were Rabbinic Jews who wished Jesus out of the way and probably collaborated, but Romans controlled Palistine, Jerusalem, and the administration of capital pubishment.

    Personally, I find new revelations like the “Gospel of Judas” fascinating, and it does not really matter if they are “true” or not (if that term can even be applied to documents like these); they give us an opportunity to ponder deep issues.