Matthew R. Perry

The Gospel of Judas: Is This Really the “Lost Gospel”?

In Culture, For Preachers/Pastors, Religious Organizations, Theology on April 11, 2006 at 1:39 am

(This was written at the request of one of my members asking for a "statement to be released."  May it be of help during these troubling times! — MRP) 

The USA Today.  20/20.  The National Geographic Channel.  Canadian Television (CTV).  The New York Times.  All over the newspapers, magazines, television, and Internet, headlines blared out all over:  Scholars find the Lost Gospel of Judas.  Many in the mainstream media have declared that this will cause a ‘revolution in Christianity.’  One headline blurted out, “Christianity Shaken!”    Sadly, this has caused many to be shaken.  Is there anything to this “Gospel?”  Let’s take a look at what this ‘Gospel of Judas’ is all about. 

Background 

Simply put, this work makes Judas to look like a hero rather than a traitor.  Although Judas Iscariot in every reference in the New Testament is called “the one who betrayed Christ,” the “Gospel of Judas” tells us that Jesus took Judas aside, imparted some secret knowledge to him and even ordered Judas to betray Him.  Why?  So that Jesus would be freed from His earthly body into a heavenly one.  The translators and editors of The Gospel of Judas even note, “The death of Jesus, with the assistance of Judas, is taken to be the liberation of the spiritual person within.”  Again, Judas is cast as the hero of the story, rather than the villain and the traitor that Scripture says He is.   

Are there problems with this?  Yes, yes … a hundred times YES in a hundred different ways.  Let’s outline just a few. 

When Was the Gospel of Judas written? 

Even the scholars putting forth this ‘lost gospel’ admit that this was written sometime in the 3rd century, almost 200 years after Judas died!  Normally, that would be seen as a gigantic problem and would quell any further attempt to validate this ‘lost gospel,’ but alas —- when you have an agenda to submarine and undermine the Scriptures, one little detail like falsifying authorship won’t keep you from pressing on. 

That’s why we hold to the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each of these authors were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry.  Notice in 2 Peter 1:16, where Peter noted, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  In First John, the Apostle John begins this letter by saying,  

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you so that you too may have fellowship with us;  and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3, ESV).   

Luke testifies:  Luke 1:1-4  

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,  [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,  [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.  

So Peter and John were eyewitnesses and Luke the master historian did his homework so that we would have an accurate account of Jesus’ ministry from those who were eyewitnesses themselves.  All Four Gospels are eyewitness accounts whose authors wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) all that they saw and heard and touched.   

That cannot be said even remotely about “The Gospel of Judas.” 

What Is Contained in This Gospel? 

Clearly, if you read over the translation found on the National Geographic® website, you will notice that this ‘Gospel’ has an entirely different flavor to that of the Four Gospels.  What’s different? 

First, we see that Jesus’ calls the disciples’ deity “your god.”  In Scene 1 and verse 34, Jesus reacts to their act of praise during the Passover meal by saying, “You are not doing this of your own will, but so that the son of your god will be praised.”  The disciples respond, “Master, you are the son of our god.”  Jesus said to them, “How do you know me?  Truly I say to you that no generation of the people that are among you will know me.”[1] [1]  

To begin, Jesus always refers to the Creator as “my Father.”  Secondly, in John 14:9-10, Jesus Himself says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:9-10).  “Father!”  Not, ‘your god.’   

Secondly, we see Jesus taking Judas aside to impart some secret knowledge.  This lost ‘gospel’ was a product of an ancient 2nd to 3rd century heresy known as Gnosticism.  The word ‘gnostic’ comes from the Greek word ‘gnosis’ which means ‘knowledge.’  Gnostics believed that the flesh was inherently evil and the spirit world was inherently good and that in order to leave the evil flesh and ascend to the spirit world, you needed to acquire more of this secret knowledge to obtain more freedom from this world.  An evil god, called the demiurge, actually created the universe.  The true God was actually too pure for us human creatures to truly know him.  Therefore, they say, God brought about lesser gods known as emanations to help express what could not be known.  But this demiurge came to keep those in the fleshly, material world in bondage to keep the spirit souls that were pure from going back up to God after their physical bodies had died.  Again, the secret knowledge of the spiritual realm would set their spirits free from this material world![2][2] 

Christ was sent from the spirit world to the fleshly world to impart special spiritual knowledge so that we might know it and be freed.  The problem is that Gnostics deny that Jesus Christ was God made flesh (the Incarnation).  If He was not, then He could not have atoned for our sins and therefore we are still lost in those sins.   

Thirdly, where’s God’s redeeming work in Christ for our sins?  Nowhere to be found!  By the language of “The Gospel of Judas,” we see the evidence of this Gnostic thought.  But did not Jesus come not simply to release the spiritual person from within, but to redeem us who are in spiritual sin by dying a real human death on the cross in our place?  Yes He did.  Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary states, “This redemptive action is completely missing from The Gospel of Judas. For that reason, the text was rejected by early Christian leaders.”[3]  In fact, Simon Gathercole, a New Testament professor at Aberdeen University, noted that the text was truly authentic, but unimportant in helping us understand first-century biblical thought:  "It contains themes which are alien to the first-century world of Jesus and Judas, but which became popular later." For The Gospel of Judas, the ‘good news’ is that our spirits may be released from this world to the next.  But doesn’t the Scriptures teach that our spirits are by nature dead but can only be made alive through God’s grace in the forgiveness of sins through the cross (Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 2:1-8)?  Clearly, this is not a fifth ‘gospel,’ because the ‘good news’ it conveys is diametrically opposed to the ‘good news’ the other Four Gospels convey. 

So What Do We As Christians Do With All This? 

First, know that many secular scholars and the mainstream media will always look to undermine the authority of Scripture.  Ask yourselves this, when was the last time you saw anything positive being promoted in the media or in secular colleges about the truth of Scripture?  Sadly, even many Christian colleges cast doubt of the reliability of Scripture, much less uphold its authority.   

We have seen this with The Gospel of Judas, The DaVinci Code, even all the way back to The Last Temptation of Christ.  The media lauded the work of an artist named Andres Serrano who displayed a photograph a crucifix submerged in urine — and was even supported by the National Endowment of the Arts!   

Friends, this is where we are.  We are living in a Post-Christian America where all things outlined in Scripture from the roles and definition of family, to how the universe came into being, and all other Scriptural issues are being called into question and those who speak loudly about it are applauded!   

Secondly, we must truly praise God for the discernment and the faithfulness of the early church fathers who defended the faith in the early church.  The Early Fathers did not have Internet, nor did they have 1800 years of faithful scholarship of Scripture to help them.  They had the Word of God in their hearts and were able to discern heresy from orthodoxy!   They could discern right and wrong.  Their faithfulness paved the way for all the faithful ones who followed.  We certainly are in their debt. 

Thirdly,  trust the Word of God.  There is great unity to be found not just in the Four Gospels but in all of the Scriptures as redemptive history is unfolded, coming to completion in Christ Jesus.  The Gospel of Judas could not stay consistent within itself, but all 66 Books of our Bible are amazingly consistent.  W.A. Criswell preached a sermon called “The Scarlet Thread” that is found all through Scripture.  That scarlet thread is the blood of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.  What is true in Genesis is true in the Psalms is true in Haggai is true in Luke is true in Galatians, 1 Peter, Jude, and Revelation.  It is a library of books that make up The Book!   

Conclusion 

I leave you with the Article 1 of our Declaration of Faith which outlines The Scriptures: 

We believe in the infallible, verbal inspiration of the whole Bible, that God is its author, that it has truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction with the salvation of sinners and the instruction of the saints unto all good works for its end; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the only complete and final revelation of the will of God to man, the true center of Christian union; the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, doctrines and opinions should be tried. 

And also Psalm 119:89-90: 

Forever, O Lord, your word       
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
 

Let not your faith be shaken by supposed scholars and our mass mainstream media.  The God we serve, the God of the Bible, is God over all and His Word is fixed and cannot be shaken.  Someone said, “The Bible is an anvil with little hammers broken all around it.”  Of course!  Can any man break apart God’s inspired Word? 

I do not envy them the task! 

Copyright © 2006 by Matthew Perry.    

 


[1] [1] The Gospel of Judas.  Translated by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst in collaboration with Francois Gaudard.  © 2006, National Geographic Society.  http://www9.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/_pdf/GospelofJudas.pdf:  Internet.  Downloaded 10 April 2006. 

[2] [2]  Thanks to Matt Slick of the Christian Apologetics Research Ministries for this helpful information.  http://www.carm.org/heresy/gnosticism.htm: Internet.  Downloaded 10 April 2006.   

[3]  [3]  From the Albert Mohler Commentary:  From Traitor to Hero? Responding to “The Gospel of Judas,” April 7, 2006.  http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2006-04-07:  Internet.  Downloaded 8 April 2006.   

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