Friday, April 2, 2010

Was Judas The Beloved Disciple?

The recent special issue of US News & World Report titled “Secrets of Christianity” has an article on the Gospel of Judas which argues this case. The article in question is entitled Judas Agonistes: An Old Text Claims Jesus Chose His Most Beloved Disciple To Betray Him and is an interesting scholarly article written on the Gospel of Judas by Karen L. King and Elaine Pagels two of the foremost scholars of the Gnostic Gospels of our time.

Now of course the Gospel of Judas is a controversial text as:
The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic gospel purported to document conversations between the apostle Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ. The document is not claimed to have been written by Judas himself, but rather by Gnostic followers of Jesus. It exists in an early fourth-century Coptic text, though it has been proposed, but not proven, that the text is a translation of an earlier Greek version. The Gospel of Judas is probably from no earlier than the second century, since it contains theology that is not represented before the second half of the second century, and since its introduction and epilogue assume the reader is familiar with the canonical Gospels. The oldest Coptic document has been carbon dated to AD 280, plus or minus 50 years.

First page of the Gospel of Judas (Page 33 of Codex Tchacos)

According to the canonical Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Judas betrayed Jesus to Jerusalem's Temple authorities, who handed Jesus over to the prefect Pontius Pilate, representative of the occupying Roman Empire, for crucifixion. The Gospel of Judas, on the other hand, portrays Judas in a very different perspective than do the Gospels of the New Testament, according to a preliminary translation made in early 2006 by the National Geographic Society: the Gospel of Judas appears to interpret Judas's act not as betrayal, but rather as an act of obedience to the instructions of Jesus. This assumption is taken on the basis that Jesus required a second agent to set in motion a course of events which he had planned. In that sense Judas acted as a catalyst. The action of Judas, then, was a pivotal point which interconnected a series of simultaneous pre-orchestrated events.

This portrayal seems to conform to a notion current in some forms of Gnosticism, that the human form is a spiritual prison, and that Judas thus served Christ by helping to release Christ's spirit from its physical constraints. The action of Judas allowed him to do that which he could not do directly. The Gospel of Judas does not claim that the other disciples knew gnostic teachings. On the contrary, it asserts that the disciples had not learned the true Gospel, which Jesus taught only to Judas Iscariot.

Pagels' and King's article is just a more condensed version of their book: Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. Pick up a copy of US News & World Report's special issue: Secrets of Christianity in their Mysteries of Faith series if you can. Other topics of interest in the issue include:
Who was the real Jesus?

Why do scholars still debate the Resurrection?

What happened during the Crusades and Inquisition?

Are miracles real, or a figment of our imagination?

Why are scientists making the case for a Creator?

What do the Vatican’s Secret Archives reveal?

Will there be an Apocalypse, and when will it happen?
The Resurrection article in this issue is by N. T. Wright and John Dominic Crossan. All the best of mainstream biblical scholarship is represented so check it out.

1 comment:

John said...

Re: Was Judas The Beloved Disciple?

No. has a free Bible study eBook that simply compares scripture with scripture in order to reveal facts about the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" that are often overlooked. It may be worth your time to consider the presentation of biblical evidence that it offers.