1 Peter 3:5 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; (ESV)
You may or may not have heard about the The Gospel of Judas...but if you watch the news or read the paper you will. This is going to be a common conversation piece for a bit...especially since the Da Vinci Code is being made into a movie.
I'm writing this post so that we might be able to talk about the Gospel of Judas from a Christian perspective.
Here are a few things to note regarding The Gospel of Judas that was just released by the National Geographic Society. (Most of this information came from either what I have learned in church history classes, or from Al Mohler’s radio show/commentary.)
(1) The Gospel of Judas was referred to in a letter that Irenaeus wrote in 180A.D. so this text isn’t a new thing that was unknown until the present time; however, we have not had the text in written form until now. This is clearly a second century text as opposed to everything in the New Testament canon which is from the first century. So this has no bearing as to how we should view the New Testament as we have it. Anything with apostolic first century roots could possibly be considered credible. However, this is from the second century and has Gnostic roots…something which the church ruled out that same century as not being the same gospel as what the apostles preached. This is clearly a different gospel from the quotes that I have heard…heed the warning of Galatians 1:8-9
“8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (ESV)”
(2) Here are a few critiques of the text of the Gospel of Judas:
(I wrote these quotes down while listening…so punctuation and phrasing is not necessarily 100% correct. I just put these in here to give an idea of what's going on in the text.)
Jesus to Judas: “But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”
This passage alludes to the idea that Christ is clothed in the unholy body, and that Judas was responsible for separating Christ’s holy spirit from the filthy unholy body. This is very Gnostic and goes against all other biblical teaching. Gnostics taught that matter has always been evil, but we know from the Bible’s creation account that it was originally good (There’s more, but I’m trying to be concise).
Jesus to Judas: “Judas your star has led you astray. No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen. Neither the sun nor the moon will rule there nor the day, but the holy will abide there always in the eternal realm with the holy angels. Look I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom, and I have taught you the error of the stars and I send it on the twelve aeons.”
Judas to Jesus: “Master could it be that my seed is under the control of the rulers?”
Jesus to Judas: No, you will become the thirteenth and you will be cursed by other generations and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy generation.
This is a very astrological worldview (as Al Mohler's radio show points out). Honestly, I’m not sure how you could actually hold this up against the gospels that have been universally accepted by the Church over time and geography and think that it is truth as well. As you learn more about what the Gnostics believed you will probably be amazed at how crazy it sounds compared to what the Bible teaches. They believe that these are secret teachings/knowledge the “gnosis” of the Apostles passed in a secret inner circle. It’s interesting though that none of the proponents of this “Gnosticism” were even the disciples of the Apostles…so how could they really claim that this is secret knowledge passed down from the apostles? They couldn’t! The disciples of the Apostles did not teach this “gnosis.”
(3) The “Gospel of Judas” is one of many Gnostic Gospels catching some attention lately…test what you read if you read them against the Word to see if they are true. You’ll see that there are many, many discrepancies.
(4) The Coptic Orthodox Church denies the credibility of this document. The following is from Al Mohler’s commentary (click here to see the commentary):
“Metropolitan Bishoy, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, dismissed The Gospel of Judas as 'non-Christian babbling resulting from a group of people trying to create a false 'amalgam' between the Greek mythology and Far East religions with Christianity . . . They were written by a group of people who were aliens to the main Christian stream of the early Christianity. These texts are neither reliable nor accurate Christian texts, as they are historically and logically alien to the main Christian thinking and philosophy of the early and present Christians.' The Metropolitan is right, but we are better armed to face the heresies of our own day if we face with honesty the heresies of times past.”
So even though this is a Coptic text the Coptic Orthodox Church is by no means endorsing this text.
Listen to Al Mohler’s radio show on this here.
(5) The text does not pass the "catholicity" test. The entire early to contemporary church has not accepted this text in the New Testament canon.
Hopefully this helps clarify a few things.