The Gospel of Judas

The Gospel of Judas


Yesterday, the public learned about the discovery of a document dating from the early days of Jesus worship, the Gospel of Judas. This manuscript raises a host of fascinating questions for those who care about the origins of the Christian faith. Almost all Americans, about ninety percent, either were raised in or currently practice some form of Christianity that is rooted in Catholic orthodoxy.  (Protestants draw their core doctrines from the orthodox Catholic tradition.) Steeped in these teachings, it is tempting to see the Judas manuscript as a peculiar outsider and to ask how it compares to the true histories recorded in the more familiar gospels named after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.


This question misunderstands history, and so it is a false question.  During the first centuries of Christianity, the cult or worship of Jesus took many forms.  Some groups taught that Jesus only appeared to be human, others that he was one of many divine intermediaries between God and humanity.  Some incorporated Jesus into their worship without insisting that he was God.  Some taught that God has three forms (now known as the Trinity) and others saw this as polytheism.  Some saw Jesus as a perfect human sacrifice for human sin; others saw this notion as vile and pagan.  Some Jewish Jesus worshipers insisted that Jesus must be honored within the structures of the Jewish ritual and law.  Others rejected these rites and rules. 


Each of these groups competed to establish itself as the true bearer of Divine Truth. It was not until the fourth century that a single group, shaped primarily by the teachings of Paul of Tarsus, won out. A council of bishops, with input from the Roman authorities, decided on a specific set of doctrines and created a list of officially sanctioned texts that today make up the Bible. Christian orthodoxy was established, and competing sects of Jesus worshipers became heretics. In the following centuries, they were suppressed and texts like the Gospel of Judas were destroyed when possible. In other words, although the Judas text became a renegade, it did not start life that way. In the beginning, it was simply one among hundreds of competing interpretations of the Jesus story that included the currently accepted Gospels.


Treating the Gospel of Judas (or any gospel) as a history, also misunderstands the texts themselves. Gospels were not written as literal histories but as devotional documents, designed to illustrate and underscore key points of worship and faith.  The authors did not intend to create a historical record for the people of the future, but rather to capture the essence of God and goodness as they perceived both.  To truly appreciate these ancient manuscripts, it is crucial that we not distort them through the lens of modernity.  We must avoid projecting modern scholarly intent onto the writers and orthodox Christian teachings onto the texts themselves.  Only then can we get a glimpse into the vision of the writers and into our own history.


About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
This entry was posted in Musings & Rants: Christianity. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Gospel of Judas

  1. Matthew says:

    wow i found something we can agree upon. It is now impossible to get all of the original bible back after those bastard romans warped it and im trying to research as much original untainted content as i can get but this is the internet so its an impossibility, Im finding it difficult to agree with you on many things such as the overall picture you seem to be painting, you state that we should all learn about religion to find out every detail to see if people like it but then you seem to dismiss it all as folly by stating people shouldn’t have there judgement clouded by it like DF your brother who is , as you state, an intelligent person. You also seem to make him out to be flawed because of his faith because it makes us look for an authority figure, not true at all, the pope is a wad and bush tried to get Christmas banned from the media. A preacher was almost arrested for saying the word Christmas in a "holiday" celebration that just happened to fall on Christmas and involve a pine tree….. those facts are little known, even though the tree itself has no real value theologicly speaking it was merely a traditonal thing started by some germans if what i read was correct, due to the way it can easily be decorated and smells nice, but I highly doubt that a pine tree was also used traditonaly in some generic nameless holiday that was basicly created by pressure put on people by the ADL just last year. There should be a seperation of church and state that way the state has no say in how the church is ran. That last sentence was the bottom line I’m guessing the rest is probably filler.


  2. Matthew says:

    Sorry my last comment was little scrambled by "not true" when reffering to the authority figure thing I mean I myself and the few Christian friends I have don’t regularily go to church because its been corrupted through and through and the preachers could always say the parts the ywant to say leaving out parts that make people think. The one guy I know does go to church every sunday but he always interprets what the minister says on his own. The minister will say his peice and my friend can always find something a little off with the ministers interpretation, he said after speaking with others of the same parish they all seemed to follow what the preacher said down to the exact words. This is because of the times we are growing up in with all the molestation and secrets and conspiracy surrounding the church people have started to stop and look. Most of these people are losing faith others are closing their eyes and continue to follow blindly, then there are the few who are curious about what the pope has behind his agenda, questioning the validity behind some of the more questionable scriptures, much like the one of judas has been criticised. I think the scriptures of judas are a hoax and have been made up by someone who can potentialy profit from it somehow and that many parts of the bible have been ommitted and many other parts have been added for no other reason than to get the popular vote by stating they are Christian and then changing the rules to suit the public. I have no faith in people that probably doesn’t help much but I find that most people claim they are something, bush being a Christian, and then they go and do something way out of line, like the pope who had many wives or Vlad the impaler. Others base their decisions on those bad examples and claim all Christians are two faced and dirty because the people in charge are corrupt. That is like saying all americans are from whatever state the president is from and that all of them have the same interests.  I find the whole idea of having a pope pointless, no one man can dictate what is right or wrong. he can’t bend the commandments/laws of God to make all of the watchdogs happy. Institutionalising the church has made it weaker by making the head of the church worry about the public eye. Way back when the different sects were competing for dominance there was probably no real structure to them, there may have been a leader but instead of changing the books for his liking, aside from the ones the fools ommitted, they had just tried to make sure people followed it the way it was written because there was no public eye to them because they didn’t care I imagine. Thus they did not change and make new books or make changes. But when the romans had adopted it and shunned their pagan faith they had obviously made changes to suit their needs. Levitcus was probably added to help increase the population, heterosexuality leads to more people which for the roman emperor meant more soldiers. That is one example of how leaders can ruin something and make it impure. There have been many changes that people will never know about. Also what people have taken to be true and written in stone basicly can be false, "Thou shalt not kill", was actually supposed to be "thou shalt not murder". The difference being murder is for personal gain or benefit to kill might mean what a soldier does or in self defence ofan attacker. I find little authority in the current bible and I find to many people ignore that its been rewritten to many times I also find it ignorant that people disregard it for the same reason.  well theres my spiel


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