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Gospel of Judas

  /   Sunday April 09, 2006  

This morning, when I got my e-mail, I read in the New York Times online that a “Gospel of Judas” has surfaced. I guess there’s always the possibility of fraud, but it does seem to be an old manuscript. However, from the article, it appears that the contents are yet another form of Gnosticism. Supposedly Jesus asked Judas to betray him so that he could get out of this body he had. The manuscript says that Judas will “exceed” the other apostles by doing so. No doubt that anyone who is familiar with Gnosticism will recognize this as the Gnostic belief that the body is bad and the spirit is good.

I find this op-ed by Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton, to be even more confusing. She claims that this manuscript “opens up new perspectives” on the Gospel stories. However, Gnosticism is hardly a new perspective. The “secret revelation” to Judas (which he must have written very quickly, just before he hanged himself) is nothing more than another take on the idea that we need to get our good spirit out of this bad body.

Further, Pagels claims that the discovery of the Gnostic gospels are “exploding the myth of a monolithic Christianity and showing how diverse and fascinating the early Christian movement really was.” Well, I hate to rain on her parade, but I already knew that there were people claiming to be Christians who had these kinds of beliefs. The fact that people had different beliefs like this does not make those beliefs legitimate. Sure, the people who used these “gospels” thought that they had the advanced, private teaching of Jesus Christ, but the fact that they believed they had it does not mean that they in fact did.

The Gnostics believed that it was their secret knowledge that was bringing whatever they regarded as salvation. Naturally, their writings would claim that they contained the “secret teaching” of Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, this “secret teaching” that suggests the Gnostic principle that we need to escape our bodies is in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught. In the Gospel of John, we see that Jesus explicitly mentions the resurrection of the body. The Gnostics would view this as wrong in light of their beliefs.

So, what’s the bottom line here? Pagels, in an effort to open her mind to these “new perspectives in Christianty,” doesn’t take into account that the reason that St. Irenaeus dencounced the Gnostic writings was that they were wrong. Any movement that spread like Christianity is prone to have someone out there spreading misleading information. Further, the study of Christianity is not just some historical-critical “scholarly” pursuit, but the understanding of God’s loving revelation to us. Christ promised to guard his Church, and he will do so.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized



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