The Gospel of Judas
Reading The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity was written by Elaine Pagels and Karen L King and it came out in 2007. The papyrus codex was found in Egypt near Al Minya. It is estimated to have been written in the 2nd century C.E. This text was left out of the canonical bible. In 180 AD, Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, wrote a document in which he railed against this gospel, indicating the book was already in circulation. The Emperor Constantine united Christianity at the Council of Nicea in Turkey 352 C.E. and decided which books of the bible should be included and which should be excluded.
Judas became known as the betrayer, but perhaps that picture wasn’t complete. Dante saw Judas as the incarnation of evil. But maybe he wasn’t. Judas records what Jesus revealed to him about “the secrets of the Kingdom.” Gospel of Luke blames evil for Jesus’ crucifixion. Gospel of John blames not only evil, but Satan himself. The Gospel of Mathew argues that Jesus’ death was all a part of God’s plan. Judas acted out of greed. Gospel of Luke says Satan was in control. Gospel of John says that Jesus orchestrated in all, even his own betrayal. The Gospel of Judas shows that others played a role in it as well.
The Gospel of Mark shows Peter as the designated leader of the group. The Gospel of Mathew confirms Peter as the leader. Gospel of Peter shows tension between Peter and Mary Magdalene. Gospel of Thomas shows James the Just—Jesus’ brother—the leader. Gospel of Mary shows that Mary is braver than the men as she comforts and encourages them after Jesus’ death.
In Galatians 1:9 Paul believes that Jesus’ death is a sign of salvation for the chosen people. He attacked Peter for being a hypocrite who acted out of fear. Christians were once a small, obscure group of people. Persecutions were once local and sporadic against them. Constantine adopted Christianity for Rome in 313 A.D. Paul adopted the idea that Christ died for our sins in I Corinthians 15:3. The Gospel of Mark backs up this idea of self-sacrifice.
The Gospel of Judas tells us of a wider universe of the spirit beyond our limited perspective. We must widen our perceptions to know God, fulfill our own spiritual nature. If we are ignorant then we will fall prey to false Gods. It is said that perhaps the other disciples do not worship God, but an Angel who is leading them astray. The False God is responsible for having Jesus killed.
The Gospel of Judas objects to any sacrifice demanding God. Early Christians have made a mistake by worshipping an angry, vengeful God. The Gospels of Judas rejects the notion of resurrection of the body. What is the meaning of Jesus’ death then? He has risen from an earthly existence into an infinite God. And being created in God’s image doesn’t refer to physical image, but our own spiritual nature hidden deep within everyone. God made humans know that they were superior even to the Angels of Chaos. We are not saved by dying martyrs, but by accepting God’s forgiveness and standing fast against those who teach error and violence.
By seeking the spirit within them, humans can overcome the rulers of chaos and oblivion. They can see God and enter the heavenly house of God above. Jesus death proves that world’s rulers are powerless and wicked. Those who believe in the resurrection were called “fools” in the Gospel of Phillip.
The symbolism of Jesus on the cross is similar to Jesus being on the tree of knowledge. He is the fruit of knowledge—of good and evil. And the Eucharist means that Jesus is inside of us. In the Acts of John there is a poem about dancing around the cross. The poem means that those who become aware of their suffering and recognize its universality find release from it. Then they can join the cosmic dance.
The texts does not tell us the fate of Judas, but Judas tells Jesus that he had a vision in which the other apostles stoned him to death.