Saturday, 31 March 2012

Gospel Of Judas.

Page 33 of Codex Tchacos, the first page of the Gospel of Judas.
Nope. This isn't an April Fool joke. There really IS a Gospel attributed to Judas Iscariot.

It was written before 180 CE, when Irenaeus, a bishop of Lyons, wrote a document railing against it. The only known existing copy - a Coptic version which seems to have been translated from Greek and which was discovered in 1970 near Ben Masah, Egypt - has been carbon dated to between 220 and 340 CE.

It is an account contained within the so-called Codex Tchacos, in which Judas relates how Jesus taught him the secrets of Gnosticism because he alone was capable of understanding them, hence his separation from the other disciples. Judas also relates how he was carrying out Jesus' instructions when he identified him to the Roman soldiers, so ensuring the planned crucifixion went ahead. This would explain the curious paradox of it being Judas who ensured that the 'divine' plan for Jesus' crucifixion happened, whilst Simon Peter tried to stop it, yet Judas is despised and reviled as the archetypal traitor and Simon Peter is the 'rock' upon which the Catholic Church is built.

One thing which is interesting about this document, the so-called Euangelion Ioudas (Gospel of Judas), is that it is one of the earliest recorded extra-biblical mentions of Jesus, and yet it's never cited as evidence for the historicity of the biblical Jesus, at least not the traditional citations.

Now, I'm not going to go into the rights and wrongs of this claim or the authenticity of the document. I'll leave that to the biblical scholars and Christian apologists and marvel at the way they incorporate new knowledge without adjusting their opinions in the slightest - always entertaining.

No, what I'm interested in are the answers to a couple of questions:
  1. Given that this is the ONLY surviving copy of any of the Gospels, on what basis can it be excluded as false or mistaken, compared to the ones which are accepted by Christians as true and accurate?
  2. If it can be so excluded, why can the other Gospels not be excluded on the same basis?

Hint: evidence-free assertions and statements of personal belief are not evidence. Nor can the Gospels (any of them) validate themselves by claims of authenticity.





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12 comments :

  1. Excluded or included? The stop and think for a minute principle should make it pretty clear that there isn't anything that can be excluded. Canonical or not, heresy or sound dogma, it is all evidence of what stories were being told and what things were believed. And a study of the extra-canonical documents paints a fascinating picture of the early christian community.

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  2. I did stop and think for several minutes, actually.

    So why was the Judas Gospel excluded from the Bible and on what grounds? Why could those grounds not be used for the other four Gospels?

    Could you stop and think for a minute and answer those questions, please?

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  3. Is it the council of entirely bro-dudes called the Council of Nicaea (325 ad). The gospel of Mary M was also excluded. Imagine if the Jesus today's Jesus cult had a woman's touch (Jesus' closest disciple. wink wink). Great work buddy.

    Kriss

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  4. the point I was making was that the Gospel of Judas is just as much evidence of what the early community believed and what stories they told. So the biblical canon probably almost certainly represents the views of one faction which was to become dominant - but which didn't stop the process of breaking into factions.

    I intended the stop and think for a minute principle to point to those who will jump in and assure us that apocryphal means it should be ignored cos it isn't historical/sound doctrine or whatever. I didn't mean to imply that you hadn't thought about it, Rosa, when clearly you had. Sorry if it came across wrongly.

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  5. First, you are quite mistaken that this copy is the only surviving copy. "The earliest extant fragment of the New Testament is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, a piece of the Gospel of John dated to the first half of the 2nd century." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rylands_Library_Papyrus_P52 or a century earlier than you copy of the "gospel of judas".


    For your first point, any organization, institution, or society has the sole right to determine which texts are authentic to it and which texts are not authentic to it. The gospel of judas is so excluded as canonical because it doesn't represent authoritative Christian teaching according to those that call themselves Christian.


    We know that the Gospel of Judas is not a Christian text because of two reasons 1.) it is not on any of the early scriptural codexes. 2.) those in positions of authority in the early Church have specifically written that the Gospel of Judas is not a Christian text. cf. Irenaeus who you cited yourself.


    What we know from the early writings of Christianity is that there were gnostic sects that were appropriating Christian terminology and events to peddle their nonsense (chiefly that only by revelation one can know what is and what is not revelation) which predated Christianity. Early Christian leaders were very very vocal about staying away from gnosticism and were detailed in which sources, texts, and leaders that Christian congregations should ignore and stay away from.


    For your second point. the other Gospels are not excluded because the early Church specifically wrote that they should be accepted and taught from them as being authoritative books.


    Why did the early Church accept certain books as canonical as opposed to other books is a different question than what you asked. The answer is two fold: 1:) some books were not written by the early Christian community and are thus excluded from canon. 2.) Some books were written by the early Church but are not canonical because there is either a certain problem with their theology -- such as the Shepherd of Hermas, or because that work, though sound in doctrine, was a secondary text that supported the primary texts -- such as the letters of Pope Clement and the Didache.

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    Replies
    1. In other words, you can't think of any logical reason for Judas to be excluded from the Bible other than the the church has a right to exclude it.

      Thank you for explaining how the Bible is composed only of books the church wanted us to believe were the inspired word of the god they wanted us to believe in.

      I was hoping for some explanation of why we should regard some as authentic and some not based on something better than the vested interest authority of a small clique but obviously you can't think of any.

      Delete
    2. How do we know what documents are actually Acts of Parliament? Because certain documents are accepted by Parliament to be Acts of Parliament and certain documents are not. Same with scripture. Just as Parliament alone can declare what are and what are not its Acts, the Church alone declares what is and what is not its scriptures because it is the Church that has produced and received the scriptures just as it Parliament that has produced and received its Acts.


      Additionally, we know that the Gospel of Judas was written by non-Christians because it is declared to be such by authorities of the early Church. Also by textual evidence it is not something that a Christian would write.


      Now why you should not regard the Gospel of Judas as a Christian text, well to do such would be to be a very poor historian and archeologist. We know what texts belong to which groups because the various groups left records of which texts where theirs and which were not, as well as which texts were more important than other text, as well as how one should interprete and use the texts in question.


      I understand the game that you are playing, but you shouldn't, as part of your question, use a text that is declared to be not Christian by the primary sources. It is like asking why the Tao Te Ching isn't an Islamic text.

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    3. >How do we know what documents are actually Acts of Parliament?

      There is a record in Hansard. I hope that helps.

      Now, back to the questions you seem to have come here to impress me with your skill at avoiding: what is the basis for excluding the Gospel of Judas from the New Testament and why can't that reason be used to exclude the other Gospels? You still haven't said.

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    4. Yes there a record in Hansard. As for which books are in the bible and which are not, there is a record, actually there are multiple records. There also exists various Christian individuals who, in their writings, refer to the books that are canonical. There also exists several synods that declare which books are canonical. There is a historical record of which books the early Christian communities officially accepted as their own.


      I have answered several times why the Gospel of Judas isn't canonical. Let me state again it is because the Gospel of Judas wasn't written by a Christian but by a Gnostic. Gnosticism is a different belief system than Judaism or Christianity. The Gospel of Judas wasn't written by a Christian heretic like Arius and his letters but by someone who was not a Christian. How do we know this? Because that is what the historical record states. You even quoted part of it yourself in referencing Iraneaus.

      Delete
    5. Under Richard III, there were Acts of Parliament promulgated (notably Titulus Regius of 1484) which were *repudiated and all copies destroyed* by the next king (who arrived from France with no good claim to the throne, took over England by force, and killed Richard III).

      We eventually recovered one copy of Titulus Regius which had been secreted away.

      So yes, even which Acts of Parliament are "real" are subject to political considerations. Why are the acts of Cromwell's Convention Parliament not considered "real" Acts of Parliament? It was the real Parliament at the time, and it did rule England, and the Acts were real laws which were really enforced, but the next administration wanted to repudiate them, so it did.

      Gnosticism was the most popular version of Christianity for a long time, as far as we can tell. It lost out to a competing sect who decided to destroy all its books. Does that make it wrong? No, it doesn't. It means it had worse armies, just as Richard III had worse armies than Henry Tudor.

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  6. "One thing which is interesting about this document, the so-called Euangelion Ioudas (Gospel of Judas), is that it is one of the earliest recorded extra-biblical mentions of Jesus, and yet it's never cited as evidence for the historicity of the biblical Jesus, at least not the traditional citations." Please could you edit that paragraph to suit the Catholics too.

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    Replies
    1. The article is fine the way it is, but thank you for your interest.

      Delete

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