Friday, April 14, 2006

Gospel of Judas

Or Text of Deceit?

Well, now the National Geographic has finally shown their television production about the “Gospel of Judas”, and it seems to me anyway, that the people who produced this program, and those “experts” who commented on this program, seem to have missed, either intentionally or negligently, many points regarding Gnosticism as a belief system, on the four Gospels of The Holy Bible, and on Saint Irenaeus as well as the Catholic Church as a whole.

Once again, one is led to believe that there was a great conspiracy within the Church to hide, destroy, and discredit the Gnostic “Gospels”, including The Gospel of Judas. They paint a picture of the Church as an institution bent on “control” of Christians by the priests and bishops. They continually missed the truth, that Gnostics were not Christian (they continually referred to them as “Gnostic Christians”), and that Gnosticism in and of itself most definitely was not a form of Christianity. One “expert” even suggested that the term Gnostic was essentially used to dismiss this “belief system” just as the word communist was used to dismiss that system of government in the twentieth century.

Gnosticism, essentially, was a system of belief, that borrowed a bit from Christianity, a bit from Judaism, and then mixed these with the beliefs of pantheistic sects. There are some scholars, who even believe that it was Gnosticism that John was mentioning in 1 John 4. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge”. In general, Gnostics taught and believed that salvation was obtained only through special knowledge (gnosis). Gnostics believed, that the unknowable God was far too pure and perfect to have anything to do with creation which was considered evil. The Gnostics taught that God generated lesser divinities, and that one of these was Wisdom that desired to know the unknowable God, and that out of this mistaken desire, the “demiurge” an evil god was formed, and that this evil god created the universe and all in it. He, along with beings called archons kept all men and women in bondage in material matter (their bodies) and tried to prevent pure spirit souls from ascending back to God after their deaths. Since Gnostics taught that as matter is evil, deliverance from matter (the physical body) was attainable only through special knowledge (gnosis) revealed by special Gnostic teachers, and further, that Jesus was the divine redeemer who came from the spiritual realm to reveal this special knowledge necessary for this “redemption”. In essence, they held a dualistic system of belief, that is, there is good and evil, spirit and matter, light and darkness, dualism in the universe. Evil was hostile to good, matter was hostile to spirit, and the universe was held to be a depravation of the Deity. Now, please explain to me, how that could even be remotely considered Christianity or a form of it? The Gnostics even saw the serpent in the Garden of Eden as being good as opposed to being evil, because the serpent enabled man to obtain knowledge (not forgetting that gnosis means “knowledge”), and yet we Christians know, that this rebellion against God, is what led to man's fall from Grace.

They repeatedly stated that the four Gospels were written between 60 and 100 A.D., which is what most scholars agree, but, from writings I have read, they are erroneous in their assertion that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all dead by 100 A.D., and did not write the Gospels that bear their names. First, was The Gospel of Saint Mark around 58-60 A.D., most likely written for Gentile converts, while Mark was with Saint Peter in Rome. The second, was The Gospel of Saint Matthew, written sometime after The Gospel of Saint Mark, because it is apparent that it draws some of its material from Mark, and from what some scholars refer to as “Q”, which was a large body of material (primarily the sayings of Jesus) which although not found in Mark corresponds, almost exactly to material in The Gospel of Saint Luke. In addition to the material that Matthew obtained from both Mark and “Q”, his Gospel contains material found only there, most likely written or oral tradition available to him. This indicates Matthew was written sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (which is referred to in Matthew 22:7) which occurred around 70 A.D., thus, giving us the time period of 70-80 A.D. as the approximate time of the writing of Matthew's Gospel. Saint Luke was a companion of Saint Paul on his missions, and Saint Paul mentions him several times in his epistles, and in his last epistle, 2 Timothy, he tells Timothy all have deserted him and that “only Luke remains with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). Saint Paul referring to Luke's presence, was during the time of his second trial in Rome, at which he was eventually put to death during the persecutions of Nero around 64-65 A.D. Paul often speaks of “my gospel” in his writings, and many scholars believe that to have actually been The Gospel of Saint Luke. Luke wrote his Gospel, based on the teachings of Paul, other Apostles, talks with other Christians and his own experiences. He also, like the Gospel of Matthew, used material from Mark and “Q”. John was the only one of the Apostles to have died “at a great age”, with general consensus being that he died around 104 A.D. at Ephesus in modern day Turkey. We know that he wrote Apocalypse (Revelations) during or just after his exile on the island Patmos. That John lived to such an advanced age, can be confirmed as two of his disciples, Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, both became very prominent early leaders of the Church. Saint Ignatius was martyred around 107 A.D., approximately 3 years after the death of Saint John, and Saint Polycarp also was martyred around 152-155 A.D., at the age of 86. John apparently wrote his Gospel, The Gospel of John sometime after 96 A.D. We know from the writing of Saint Irenaeus, that Saint Polycarp knew well Saint John, other Apostles, and others “who had seen the Lord”.

Then, we have the treatise of books, “Against Heresies” written by Saint Irenaeus of Lyons around 180 A.D. The writers of this National Geographic Society program called Irenaeus a man who “railed” against the Gnostics, and the “Gospel” of Judas. To “rail” against something, is, according to the dictionary, “to express objections or criticisms in bitter, harsh, or abusive language”. Now, I don't know what they read that has given them that idea from Saint Irenaeus' writing, but, what he said was far from abusive, far from bitter, and far from harsh. Although people often don't like to hear or read the truth, and often see the truth as bitter, harsh, or abusive, especially when their errors are proven, and they themselves are exposed as being wrong.

Saint Irenaeus, came to Lyons from Asia Minor, and was a priest at Lyons. Around 177-178 A.D., he was chosen by Saint Pothinus, bishop of Lyons, to embark on a journey to Rome to deliver a letter to Pope Eleutherius urging him to deal firmly with the Montanist heretics in Phyrgia, as heresy was then rampant in the East. While he was gone, there was a terrible persecution of Christians in Lyons, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, in which many priests, and the bishop, Saint Pothinus were martyred. Saint Irenaeus upon returning, was appointed to the then vacant bishopric. Saint Irenaeus was very aware (as were all Christians) of the persecution of the Church by the Romans well before his ascent to the bishopric in Lyons. The persecution in Lyons was over when he returned, and the twenty plus years of his episcopate were fairly peaceful. Saint Irenaeus was greatly distressed by so many being seduced by the teachings of the Gnostics, which was then spreading throughout Gaul and elsewhere. He began to carefully study each of the tenets of Gnosticism, which was not easy, as each Gnostic teacher added his own ideas. He was, Tertullian tells us, "a curious explorer of all kinds of learning," and the task interested him. Irenaeus was not “attacking the competition” as this program called it, but, he was instructing about the truth of Jesus Christ throughout the scriptures, throughout the teachings of the Apostles, and to point out the absurdity and falseness of Gnosticism and its “gospels”. He proved decisively that following Gnosticism and not the true Christian faith endangered the eternal soul. Irenaeus realized that Gnostic “gospels” like the “Gospel of Judas” were creations of and by the Gnostics themselves to attempt to gain legitimacy and acceptance of their “special knowledge” (gnosis). Saint Irenaeus did not decide himself what books were canonical and which were not, but, he did show, that “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New”. By him citing the Four Gospels, as the Pillars of the Truth, he was saying that the Gospels of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are centered on Christ, and not centered on the writers of, and the “special knowledge” of, some fallacious “gospel” as are all the Gnostic “gospels”.

Further, there seems to be some very glaring points that are being continually missed. This program repeatedly implies, that Jesus and Judas had a special friendship, and that Jesus shared “special knowledge” with the disciple Judas, and not with the other 11 Apostles. Now, we know of Saint Peter's Confession about Jesus, when he told the Lord, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), and Jesus then said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matthew 16:17). So since Jesus was obedient to the Father, and was doing the will of the Father, why would He reveal “special knowledge” to Judas, and not to Peter, who was chosen by God to receive this revelation of who Jesus is? Secondly, why would Jesus ask Judas to betray Him? Why would Jesus imply to Judas that heaven awaited him, if he would betray Jesus so that he could “be released”? That would be akin to asking someone to kill you as in assisted suicide, or a mercy killing. Lastly, as we know that Judas hung himself after he betrayed Jesus there are three points to consider:
  1. If he had been asked to betray Jesus and did so, why would he feel remorse for doing so and hang himself, as he had done what he was supposedly asked to do?
  2. If Jesus had shared “special knowledge” with Judas only, and since Judas did die shortly after the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, who would have known what he was told and then be able to write it in a “gospel”?
  3. We are told by Saint Paul, that doing evil for the sake of good coming from it, is never just, and is deserving of damnation (Romans 3:8).
There was also the part, when Jesus was supposed to have “laughed” when the Apostles were piously saying a Blessing over bread and wine. Since Jesus did establish well before the Last Supper that He is the “bread of life”, and that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has Eternal Life”(John 6: 22-59), He most certainly would not have laughed at such an event! The declaration regarding His Flesh and Blood to the crowd at Capernaum is where Judas began to fall away.

Lastly, the so-called “Gospel of Judas” also implies what many make a mistake about when it comes to Judas and his betrayal of Jesus Christ. Many think, and this “gospel” implies, that Judas was “chosen”, even created to betray the Lord, to do evil unto him. We can prove that incorrect notion wrong by these assertions:

  1. God is all good.
  2. Because God is all good, God cannot create evil.
  3. All people have free will, given to them by God, which allows them to choose to sin, or to choose not to sin.
  4. At no point, did, or has, God taken away the free will of Judas or any other person, alive or dead.
  5. Judas did believe in Jesus for awhile, as Judas was among the twelve sent out to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the Kingdom of God in Jesus' name (Mark 3:13-19).
Judas, is even best exemplified in the parable of the sower. Some seed fell on rocky ground with little soil, sprang up fast because their was little soil, and then withered away because of lacking roots when the sun rose (Mark 4: 1-9). This was Judas, he heard the Word, he believed the Word for awhile, and then he withered away, as he lacked the "roots" of faith to flourish. As my priest taught us, Judas shook hands with Satan, and Satan held on, and pulled him in.

Don't allow the “Gospel of Judas” or any of the other Gnostic “gospels” to be used by Satan to take you by the hand, and pull you in.

Copyright © 2006 Steve Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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