Friday, April 07, 2006

The Gospel of Judas: Another Gnostic Gospel, Part 1

As we approach the release of The DaVinci Code, the movie (May 19, 2006), evidently The National Geographic Society seeks both to capitalize on the popularity of Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code, and to heighten its intriguing mystery with its own release of The Gospel of Judas to be aired Sunday, April 9, at 8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. The National Geographic Society bills its special this way: "Explore one of the most significant Biblical finds of the last century in this exclusive, two-hour global television event."

The National Geographic Society knows the popular interest stirred by Brown's The DaVinci Code with its themes that emerge out of the Gnostic Gospels, as it tells a fundamentally different tale about Jesus than the coherent story told by the Four Evangelists of the New Testament. The Gospel of Judas is one more of the Gnostic Gospels (e.g., Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of the Savior). It does not take long to read the Gospel of Judas in English, unless you prefer the Coptic.

The National Geographic Society describes the Gospel of Judas.

The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus' request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities.

Stefan Lovgren, in his story, Lost Gospel Revealed; Says Jesus Asked Judas to Betray Him elaborates. But was Judas only obeying his master's wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss?

That's what a newly revealed ancient Christian text says.

After being lost for nearly 1,700 years, the Gospel of Judas was recently restored, authenticated, and translated.

The Coptic, or Egyptian Christian, manuscripts were unveiled today at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

What Does It Mean?

Some biblical scholars are calling the Gospel of Judas the most significant archaeological discovery in 60 years.

The only known surviving copy of the gospel was found in a codex, or ancient book, that dates back to the third or fourth century A.D.

The newly revealed gospel document, written in Coptic script, is believed to be a translation of the original, a Greek text written by an early Christian sect sometime before A.D. 180.

The Bible's New Testament Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—depict Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, as a traitor. In biblical accounts Judas gives up Jesus Christ to his opponents, who later crucify the founder of Christianity.

The Gospel of Judas, however, portrays him as acting at Jesus' request.

. . . "I expect this gospel to be important mainly for the deeper insight it will give scholars into the thoughts and beliefs of certain Christians in the second century of the Christian era, namely the Gnostics," said Stephen Emmel, a Coptic studies professor at the University of Münster in Germany.

In 1983 Emmel was among the first three known scholars to view the Gospel of Judas, which had been discovered hidden in Egypt in the late 1970s.

Gnostics belonged to pre-Christian and early Christian sects that believed that elusive spiritual knowledge could help them rise above what they saw as the corrupt physical world.

Beliefnet breaks the news concerning the Gospel of Judas with this headline, 'Gospel of Judas' Manuscript Says Jesus Requested Betrayal. The story continues. . . .

For 2,000 years Judas has been reviled for betraying Jesus. Now a newly translated ancient document seeks to tell his side of the story.

The "Gospel of Judas" tells a far different tale from the four gospels in the New Testament. It portrays Judas as a favored disciple who was given special knowledge by Jesus - and who turned him in at Jesus' request.

"You will be cursed by the other generations - and you will come to rule over them," Jesus tells Judas in the document made public Thursday.

The text, one of several ancient documents found in the Egyptian desert in 1970, was preserved and translated by a team of scholars. It was made public in an English translation by the National Geographic Society.

Religious and lay readers alike will debate the meaning and truth of the manuscript.

But it does show the diversity of beliefs in early Christianity, said Marvin Meyer, professor of Bible studies at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

The text, in the Coptic language, was dated to about the year 300 and is a copy of an earlier Greek version.

A "Gospel of Judas" was first mentioned around A.D. 180 by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, in what is now France. The bishop denounced the manuscript as heresy because it differed from mainstream Christianity. The actual text had been thought lost until this discovery.

Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University, said, "The people who loved, circulated and wrote down these gospels did not think they were heretics."

Go to The Gospel of Judas: Another Gnostic Gospel, Part 2.

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