Friday, April 07, 2006

The "Gospel" of Judas

James Still of The Secular Outpost as put up the following post:

“For those of us interested in ancient Christianity, the National Geographic Society has announced a new manuscript find. Those don't happen everyday (or even every decade) so it's pretty exciting news. The text is of the gospel genre, written in Coptic around 300 CE like those found at Nag Hammadi, and is entitled Gospel of Judas. The codex is said to be a copy of an older work written in Greek around 200 CE. At this time in Christianity's development, there was already a thriving oral tradition in which communities swapped, told, and retold stories about Jesus. These pericopes took the particular shape with which we're familiar during this period. Eventually Christians wrote these stories down. This effort, beginning with Mark at around 75 CE (or the theoretical Q gospel even earlier), sought to codify the stories swirling around among the various communities into a more solid form. The noncanonical Gospel of Judas contains a different spin on Judas' role in the days leading up to the Passion. In this version of the tale, Jesus approaches Judas and asks that he turn him into the authorities. By doing so, Judas is fulfilling his role in the master plan.”

Loftus has also drawn attention to its publication.

A few comments are in order:

1.this is not a “new MS find.” Rather, it’s a new publication of a MS known for decades.

2.Okay, so we have a copy of an apocryphal gospel dating to c. AD 300, which may be traceable to an original dating to c. AD 200.

Since this material historically worthless, who cares whether it puts a different spin on the role of Judas?

3.What evidence does Still have that Mark codified oral dominical tradition around AD 75?

Does Still suppose that 1C Jews were a band of illiterate hunter-gatherers who only discovered the art of writing after the Jewish revolt?

4.What evidence does Still have that pre-Marcan communities were swapping and retelling stories about Jesus?

5.BTW, I don’t deny that many liberal pastors seem to be preaching from some version of the “Gospel” of Judas. Clearly they’re not getting their material from the canonical gospels.

I’d add that liberal bishops enjoy a very impressive claim of unbroken apostolic succession going all the way back to Judas. It is clear, for instance, that the See of Judas antedates the See of Canterbury in the affections of many Episcopal prelates. Pope Judas has a wide following in mainline denominations.


  1. There's also evidence that the Gospel of Judas states "atheism is true!", but it's been erased, some think by modern handlers of the ancient document, no doubt during its stay in Geneva...

  2. Notice how the media treats manuscripts of orthodox scripture as highly suspect but heretical writings are absolutely true!

  3. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi discoveries, this latest 'gospel' increases the amount of new scriptural material only available this century making the concept of 'canonical scriptures' and the traditions built upon them even less convincing.

    What would 'Christianity' look like if all these resources were available from the beginning? Check this link: