Friday, April 07, 2006

Judging Judas

The news broadcasts were abuzz last night. Yesterday National Geographic announced they they had authenticated a lost gospel: The Gospel of Judas. The news reporters interviewed a few scholars and a serveral Christians to get their reaction (some were freaking out). Then the reports began to focus on a different issue: if what is says it true, mainly Jesus was behind Judas's betrayal, Jesus asked Judas to betray him.

So, I can understand how many Christians might see this as a shock, but I guess I work through this so we can all understand what implications this means. First and foremost, what was authenticated was its antiquity. The Gospel of Judas was written in coptic, it was a Gnostic work, and it's dated to the late 3rd Century/early 4th Century AD. The Gnostic were a frenge group of folks branded heretics around this time. We have several other Gnostic writings including The Coptic Gospel of Thomas. These works are nothing new to Biblical scholars. What was authenticated was that this work is originally from this time period. A score to historians.

What was NOT authenticated, or even considered, was what is says as truth. This work would not have even been considered for inclusion in the Bible because of it's late date. All the works in the NT are dated 1st Century and some, possibly early 2nd Centuries. Nothing later than that is even considered to have merit in truth because it was written too late from the events that took place during Jesus's life. Not even the Didache, written teaching by supposed Apostles, was included, in part because of it's date, and its date is late 2nd Century.

So, yes it's a great thing to find a writing from antiquity like the Gospel of Judas. But it can offer no theological insight (execpt from a Gnostic point of view) for Christians. It's date is too far removed from the time of Jesus, and the community that is originates does not hold any merit among theologians. So, Christians relax; your theology is safe... for the moment.

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