Volume. XX, No. 43
Sunday, 23 April 2006

The Gospel of Judas What do we make of it?

“We reveal the only known surviving copy of the lost gospel of Judas - One of the most important finds in biblical archaeology gives a new version of Jesus’ betrayal” – National Geographic Channel

The media spotlight is on the Gospel of Judas, an ancient manuscript which proposes that Judas Iscariot did not betray Jesus, but was merely carrying out orders and is a hero. It is currently being publicized on television, online, in print, and a documentary was recently aired on the National Geographic Channel. Does it have any weight against the four canonical Gospels? Is it truly “one of the most significant biblical finds of the last century — a lost gospel that could challenge what is believed about the story of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus”?

 “What if an ancient gospel were rediscovered that offered a radically different perspective on a man that history has painted as the ultimate villain? What if this account turned Jesus’ betrayal on its head, and in it the villain became a hero?”

“The New Testament tells us that Judas Iscariot is the disciple who betrayed Jesus…This gospel tells a different story…The Gospel of Judas presents a lost version of the last days of Jesus…The gospel reframes Judas as the disciple closest to Jesus, who committed his act of betrayal at Jesus’ behest…The sacrifice of Jesus’ body of flesh in fact becomes saving. And so for that reason, Judas emerges as the champion and he ends up being envied and even cursed and resented by the other disciples.”

Instead of simply dismissing the Gospel of Judas, we must consider the fact that it really does exist. In 180 AD, Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyons, France) referred to it in Adversus Haereses. After this, there is no mention of the Gospel of Judas until the 1950’s when a copy is unexpectedly unearthed. Since then, it has been sold, stolen and moved around the antiquities black market. It was finally bought by the Maecenas Foundation and is restored by the National Geographic Society (NGS). All research suggests, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Gospel of Judas found is authentic, dating back to between A.D. 220 and 340. An English translation of the Gospel of Judas has been made available online by NGS here:

Does the Gospel of Judas have any legitimacy against the canonical gospels?
Upon reading the English translation of what remains of the Gospel of Judas, you will find no correlation with the canonical Gospels. Its teachings and references are distinctly Gnostic – referring to Aeons (various emanations of God), Sophia (the final and lowest emanation of God), Seth as Christ, cosmology, chaos and underworld.  The Gospel of Judas is most certainly not a Biblical or Christian document. It is unmistakably a Gnostic text, with the characters of Judas Iscariot and Jesus inserted. There is no mention of any other disciples by name except for Judas. Even the betrayal account is strikingly different from the four harmonious accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

In 180 AD, Irenaeus dismissed the Gospel of Judas as a fictitious account. “Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. 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.” – http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospeljudas.html

The Gospel of Judas was not written by Judas (Iscariot) as its title suggests. NGS contends that the author of the Gospel of Judas is anonymous, however, Irenaeus credits the writings to the Cainites. The Cainites were a Gnostic sect known to worship Cain and only existed in the Eastern Roman empire in the 2nd century AD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cainites). That’s not old enough for the Gospel of Judas to be taken seriously against the synoptic gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all attributed to the 1st century AD, within years or at least a few decades of Jesus’ death, while some of the Apostles were still alive. The authors of these four gospels contend that Judas committed suicide, which would make it impossible for him to have written this account. Despite this, it is presented as the “Gospel of Judas”, raising questions about the legitimacy of the document.

An important consideration is that nobody cared about the Gospel of Judas until recently. Irenaeus brushed it off as fiction fabricated by an obscure sect in the 2nd century. If the Gospel of Judas had any historical significance, we expect that it be preserved by its proponents, or at least have a number of references that suggest its veracity.

What is most interesting is that even the National Geographic documentary points out that the Gospel of Judas may not be authentic. Dr. Craig Evans from Acadia Divinity College says, “The Gospel of Judas makes an important contribution to our knowledge of 2nd century Gnosticism…but the Gospel of Judas, I don’t think, tells us anything about the historical Judas, or the historical Jesus, or about the factors that were at work in the early 1st century that led to Jesus’ death. I don’t think [the Gospel of] Judas contains authentic historical Jesus and Judas tradition.”

The Gospel of Judas was originally refuted in 180 AD as poppycock. In the 18 centuries  since, this position has not changed. The Gospel of Judas is nothing more than a very old Gnostic document. It tells us what 2nd century Gnostics believed, but does not hold any legitimacy against the canonical Gospels. Unfortunately, the attention, sensationalistic claims and misrepresentation by the mass media will mislead many to believe that there is truth in this heresy.

In Christ,

Leonard Teo

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question No. 42: What is the sum of the ten commandments? The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.

Please pray for health & God’s healing: Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Raphael Ng’s father, Winston Selvanayagam, Thomas Tan, John Tann, & Kevin Tye; Sisters Kimmy Chong, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Aranka Rejtoe, Sally Teng, Susan Veradi, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law, Auntie Oei and others afflicted with viral illness. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord heal me; for my bones are vexed” (Ps 6: 2).

Please pray for – a) Missionaries in Cambodia, Laos, India & Pakistan; b) Journey Mercies - Mr Checkie Mah & Sis Amber Mah (Adl), Sis Serene Wong (S’pore), & all those travelling during school & uni semester vacation; c) Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro Hai Seng Lim; d) Church activities and programmes this week.
Praise and Thank God for – a) YAF & AFG Bible Study Meetings; b) Journey mercies - Rev & Mrs Colin Wong, Mr & Mrs Laurence Tan (S’pore); Bro Hai Seng Lim (Melb), campers, & Miss Tracy Ho (Adl).

Praise the LORD for - a blessed Family Bible camp at Victor Harbour; Rev Colin Wong’s excellent messages on Christian Living & Mrs Phebe Wong’s outstanding Children’s programme; dedication and hard work of camp committee, helpers & participants; & record breaking daily attendances.

Special Item of Prayer: For the LORD to provide $16,885.00 for Pastor’s car.

Looking Ahead: 20th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service on 4 June.

Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner: Citi Zen Restaurant, Sunday, 4 June, at 6 pm. Dinner vouchers at concession rates available from Sis Peng Ha Yeo & Bro Jason Tan. Please get your voucher early as dinner places are limited.



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