Saturday, April 22, 2006

"The Gospel of Judas" - Part III

This will, hopefully, be my final post on this. You can view Part I here and Part II here. In the second installment, I related my thoughts after reading through the Gospel of Judas. In this post I would like to share my thoughts of the two hour TV special that the National Geographic Channel (NGC) aired on April 9, 2006.

The first thing that strikes me is how much positive support there was shown for this Gnostic gospel in the TV special. We hear right off the bat that it was "hidden" nearly 2,000 years and that it could "challenge our deepest beliefs". I use the term "hidden" simply because that was the quote from the special. To be quite honest, this gospel wasn't hidden but actually abandoned! There was no group that thought it vital enough to perpetuate it or even its contents, so one must keep that in mind when analyzing its importance to the original audience. I took two pages of notes from the special, but I will keep this brief incorporating only key points.

First of all, I have never mentioned in a main post that Bishop Irenaeus wrote about a "Gospel of Judas." According to the NGC special, we should believe that he was writing about this specific gospel. If you are a casual passer-by watching the special, you will hear the following two phrases describing Irenaeus' mention of the gospel: it was "a scathing attack" and he "railed" against it. This is what we hear about 15 minutes into the special and about 45 minutes in we hear of Irenaeus again. This time we are told that he was "targeting" the authors of the Gospel of Judas and he rejected the gospel mainly on the premise that it was "titled" the Evangelion Judas or Gospel of Judas. Further, Irenaeus only "chose" 4 out of about 30 possible gospels. In prior research, I saw a quote of Irenaeus, but it was not anything major (as we would be led to believe here). I should also note that the NGC special did not take the time to quote Irenaeus at all! Please allow me to relate to you the only thing Irenaeus had to say about the Gospel of Judas when discussing the Cainites:
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. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Volume I, Chapter XXXI, Section 1)
Judge for yourselves, but this is not a "scathing attack" or a "railing" against the authors of the Gospel of Judas. It should make one wonder what the producers of the NGC special had in mind when they couldn't quote the only verifiable mention of this gospel that has ever been recorded before the Gospel was abandoned not to be read again until the past few years. Instead they take the stance of those who think the formation of the Canon was done by men who were keeping truth from the Church. This example of Irenaeus is just one of many I could relate in depth. But I said I would stay brief, so below are some other things I noted.
  1. It was stated that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John died before their gospels were written and that many theologians support this. I have never read or heard this before in any questions from people about the validity of the Synoptic Gospels.
  2. There were "many early Christianities" and the Gnostics bothered the church leaders because "they had special insights and didn't need bishops" or any other type of leadership.
  3. Judas "grows more evil from the 1st Gospel of Mark to the last Gospel of John" and is "not a villain in Mark's Gospel." The NGC Special basically promoted this and dedicated about 25 minutes to expound upon this. Personally, the special really got ugly here. They noted that since Judas is a Greek form of the word for Judah that Judas was symbolic of the Jews. The villainy of Judas represents that of the Jews. "Judas becomes the poster boy for anti-Semitic thinking." Of course there was one somewhat conservative scholar who they would bring into the special every so often to discredit some of these claims, but when the narrator of the special said the following, it was pretty clear where NGC stands: "The Portrait of Judas in the New Testament did not directly, but may have indirectly fed into the poisonous stream that brought about the holocaust." Wow!...
  4. They stated that about 15% of the Gospel of Judas has been lost forever due to decay. This echoes what I noted in my second installment that of 7 pages, about 67 lines were missing.
  5. In a dramatic presentation of the key points of the Gospel, no mention was made of the Angel Saklas or that Judas' sacrifice of Jesus would be to this angel. In fact, much of the Gospel text was about the secret teachings of Jesus to Judas on Heaven and the Creation. None of the insanity I mentioned in my second installment regarding the Creation account (an Angel Saklas created Adam and Eve in a cloud!) is related to the viewers of the NGC special. It was rather disheartening to see this left out because it is one of the main factors that church fathers like Irenaeus would have used to show that the Gospel of Judas was not a true gospel.
In sum, I would like to quote Dr. Craig Evans when he stated that the Gospel of Judas "doesn't tell us about the historical Jesus and Judas tradition." In other words, while this may be an authentic document from the 3rd Century, it's not historically accurate.

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