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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A Lenten Reflection

Photo courtesy of www.kingjamesbibleonline.org
Derived from Latin and Greek words meaning “book”, the BIBLE is definitely a unique manuscript and is a distinct class in itself, a book for all mankind and for all time.

Written for over a period of 1600 years by about 40 human contributors, the Holy Bible is divided into two main parts, the Old Testament, a story of a nation, for the most part originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament, a story of a Man, Jesus Christ, written in Koine Greek. The Bible’s unanimity is due to the fact that, ultimately the book has only one author, GOD himself. The human authors wrote exactly what GOD wanted them to write and the result was the perfect and holy word of GOD. (Psalm 12:6 : 2 Peter 1:21)
There are sixty-six (66) different books that comprise the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments as its main parts and several divisions such as the books of law, Levicitus and Deuteronomy, historical books such as Ezra and Acts, books of poetry and wisdom such as Psalms and Ecclesiastes, books of prophecy such as Isaiah and Revelation, gospels such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and Epistles (formal letters).

Photo courtesy of e-school.kmutt.ac.th
However, a new discovery shocked the Christian world when an old manuscript has been unveiled and published by the National Geographic Society in early 2006, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot

According to the National Geographic website, the discovery of the Gospel of Judas is “one of the most significant biblical finds of the last century’s lost gospel that could challenge what is believed to be the story of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus Christ”.A research study by history author Matt Slick on the subject  enforces the fact  that the Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic manuscript whose contents  consist the conversation between the Apostle Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ.   The Gospel of Judas was developed in the second century A.D. and was originally written in Greek in around 130 -170 A.D. This affirmed the fact that this manuscript was written by Gnostic followers of Jesus Christ and not by Judas himself. The whole story of how the gospel of Judas was found is chronicled in the new book titled The Lost Gospel by Herb Krosney.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org
The leather bound papyrus codex, believe to have been translated from the original Greek to the Coptic language in 300 A.D. was found in a cave in a desert near Al Minya, Egypt in the 1970’s.  It was then circulated among the antiquities traders from Egypt to Europe to the United States. The codex was kept in a safe deposit box in New York for 16 years before it was bought by a Zurich- based antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos in 2000.  Alarmed by the manuscript’s  deteriorating state and the failure to resell the manuscript as well, Tchacos transferred it to the Maecenas Foundation in Basel Switzerland for conservation and translation.

One of the world’s leading Coptic scholar Rodolphe Kasser was commissioned to reconstruct, transcribe and translate the Gospel of Judas (Euangelion Loudas) manuscript which claims to be the story of Jesus’ death, from the view point of Judas.  According to Kasser, the codex now called the Codex Tchacos has  66 pages in length and contains  not only the Gospel of Judas, but likewise a text titled “James” known as the First Apocalypse of James”, a letter of Peter to Philip and a text called  the “Book of Allogenes”.

With the discovery of the Gospel of Judas, an ancient text claimed to be lost for over 1,600 years, many contradicting stories surround the life of Judas as a disciple of Jesus have been debated.  

The Gospel of Judas depicts Judas as Jesus’ most trusted disciple by doing GOD’s work when he betrayed Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders. The scholars who believe in the authenticity of the Gospel of Judas further  fortified their belief by stressing the translated  texts of the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas, as follows;

 You will exceed all of them, For you will sacrifice the man who clothes me. Step away from the others  and I shall tell you the mysteries of the Kingdom.”

“ Look, you have been told everything. Lift your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star”.

The believers of the Gospel of Judas continued to emphasize that Judas Iscariot was chosen to aid liberate the spiritual self by helping Jesus Christ get rid of his physical flesh. According to the gospel, the betrayal of Jesus Christ at the hands of Judas is the fulfillment of His mission which will lead to the His crucifixion and allow the Christian movement to set forth. The Gospel of Judas added that “ Judas is not the “betrayer” but the favored disciple of Jesus Christ  and His best friend”. The powerful point in the Gospel of Judas is that  “without Judas completing “God’s mission”, Jesus Christ would not have died in Golgotha and therefore mankind could not have been absolved from its sins.

According to the gospel, Judas died in a much different way than what the other disciples had written. In the text, Judas was stoned to death by the followers of Jesus Christ, far from what the Biblical gospels  said that Judas went and hanged himself from a tree, out of remorse for what he had done.   

On the other hand, the Biblical version, particularly in the gospels of Apostles Mark and Luke who are under the direction and guidance of Apostles Peter and Paul, presented Judas Iscariot as a traitor who betrayed Jesus Christ into the hands of His accusers for 30 pieces of silver.

Dr. Herbert Lockyer, a religious researcher, writes “There are 40 verses in the New Testament in which there is reference to the betrayal of our Lord, and in each of them the dastardly sin of Judas is recorded. (All the Apostles of the Bible, page 100).

In Matthew 26:48-49, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was considered as callous” Now he was betraying  Him gave them a sign saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one: seize Him.” And immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, Hail Rabbi! and kissed Him.”

In his work titled “Refutation of All Heresies” ancient writer Ireneaus (130 -202 AD) stated that the Gospel of Judas was a fictitious history. The followers of this theory believed that the Gospel of Judas falls into the category of pseudepigraphal writings which simply means that the manuscript is not authentic but a false one, the fact that it was not written by Judas himself but by the Gnostic sect in support of Judas.

What if the Gospel of Judas is true such that Judas betrayed Jesus because Jesus wished him to?  Attempting to deliberate on the Gospel of Judas, many will be inclined to ask a lot of questions that will create confusion and uncertainties on both sides of the opposing theories.

Maybe the main question we have to be concerned most as Christian believers would be as to what extent will the discovery of the Gospel of Judas affect the perspective of our faith as Christians? Surely,  most Liberal Christians will gain interest in the Gospel of Judas create a broad range of diversities in interpretation and convictions.   

As we observe the Lent season and approach the Easter celebration, it is essential that we fortify our faith in God who sent His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who died in the Cross to absolve the sins of mankind. No matter what uncertainties that we will entertain in our minds, let us keep that faith burning with hope and trust in the power of Almighty God.

In the New Testament :  Matthew, Chapter 21…

18   Now in the morning as He returned to the city, He was hungry.”

19  And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it, but leaves, and said to it,

       “Let no fruit in you grow ever again.” Immediately, the fig tree withered away.     

20  And when the disciples saw it, they marveled. saying “ How did the fig tree withered so soon?”
21  So Jesus answered and said to them, “ Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, “ Be removed
      and be cast away into the sea, “ it will be done.” 
Observe the Lent Season and advanced Happy Easter.
Written on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at Fresno, California

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