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. As told in the New Testament Gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus for "30 pieces of silver," identifying him with a kiss in front of Roman soldiers.
Later the guilt-ridden Judas returns the bribe and commits suicide, according to the Bible. The text begins by announcing that it is the "secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover.
It goes on to describe Judas as Jesus' closest friend, someone who understands Christ's true message and is singled out for special status among Jesus' disciples. In the key passage Jesus tells Judas, "'you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me. Kasser, the translation-project leader, offers an interpretation: "Jesus says it is necessary for someone to free him finally from his human body, and he prefers that this liberation be done by a friend rather than by an enemy. It's treason to the general public, but between Jesus and Judas it's not treachery.
The author of the page Gospel of Judas remains anonymous. But the text reflects themes that scholars regard as being consistent with Gnostic traditions. Christian Gnostics believed that the way to salvation was through secret knowledge delivered by Jesus to his inner circle. This knowledge, they believed, revealed how people could escape the prisons of their material bodies and return to the spiritual realm from which they came.
Gnostic sects looked to their gospels—among them the Gospel of Mary, newly famous for its role in the best-seller The Da Vinci Code —to authenticate their distinctive beliefs and practices. Contradicting the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, these texts were later denounced by orthodox Christian leaders and refused entry into the Bible. Scholars believe that followers of the texts hid copies of them for preservation.
Scholars knew of the existence of the Gospel of Judas because of references to it in other ancient texts as early as A. To today's biblical scholars, the Gospel of Judas illustrates the multitude of opinions and beliefs in the early Christian church. By Stefan Lovgren. Such a portrayal of the "betrayal" of Jesus is consistent with the Gnostic notion that the human form is a prison of the spirit within; thus Judas helped to release the spirit of Christ from the physical constraints of his body.
An alternate reading of the Gospel's incomplete text suggests it is really saying that Judas was possessed by a demon. The papyrus has been carbon-dated to approximately the third to fourth century C. The gospel of Judas contains no references supporting the view that Judas himself was its author, but rather that it was written by Gnostic followers of Jesus the Christ. Still, there are nagging questions about whether the document could be a modern forgery. During the second and third centuries C. The manuscript called Codex Tchacos, the only known manuscript that includes the text of the Gospel of Judas, surfaced in the s in Egypt as a leather-bound papyrus manuscript.
The papyri on which the Gospel is written is now in over a thousand pieces, possibly due to poor handling and storage, with many sections missing. In some cases, there are only scattered words; in others, many lines. According to Rodolphe Kasser, the codex originally contained 31 pages, with writing on front and back; but when it came to the market in , only 13 pages, with writing on front and back, remained. The early Christian writer Irenaeus of Lyons, whose writings were almost all directed against Gnosticism, mentions The Gospel of Judas in Book 1 Chapter 31 of Refutation of Gnosticism calling it a "fictitious history.
It was also referred to by Origen in the year C. Due to textual analysis for features of dialect and Greek loan words, academics who have analyzed the Gospel of Judas, which is written in the Coptic language, believe that it is probably a translation from an older Greek manuscript dating to approximately — C. The existing manuscript was radiocarbon dated to be "between the third and fourth century" according to Timothy Jull, a carbon-dating expert at the University of Arizona's physics centre.
Only sections of papyrus with no text were carbon dated. Nevertheless, there are nagging questions about whether the document could be a modern forgery. Doubts arise from a grammatical error carried over from a published copy of the Nag Hammadi text of the Apocryphon of John and a modern-sounding polemic against homosexual priests. If so, the forger would have to be a modern scholar of who knew second-century Coptic and who had access to an old papyrus that would yield the early radiocarbon date.
Like many Gnostic works, the Gospel of Judas claims to be a secret account, specifically "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot. Over the ages, many philosophers have contemplated the idea that Judas was required to have carried out his actions in order for Jesus to have died on the cross and hence fulfill theological obligations. However, the Gospel of Judas asserts that Judas was acting on the orders of Jesus himself. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.
Unlike the four canonical gospels, which employ narrative accounts of the last year of life of Jesus three years in the case of John and of his birth only in the case of Luke and Matthew , the Judas gospel takes the form of dialogues between Jesus and Judas and Jesus and the 12 disciples without being embedded in any narrative or worked into any overt philosophical or rhetorical context. Such dialogue gospels were popular during the early decades of Christianity. Like the canonical gospels, the Gospel of Judas portrays the scribes as wanting to arrest Jesus, and offering Judas money to hand over Jesus to them.
However, unlike the Judas of the canonical gospels, who is portrayed as a villain, and chastised by Jesus, "Alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born," Mark ; Matthew trans.
The New English Bible , the Judas gospel portrays him as a divinely appointed instrument of a grand and predetermined purpose. Another portion shows Jesus favoring Judas above other disciples, saying, "Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom," and later "Look, you have been told everything.
Lift up 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 Gospel of Judas does not say that Judas hanged himself—indeed it seems to indicate Judas died while being stoned by the remaining eleven disciples. He is said to have died by hanging himself in the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew , and by bursting open after a fall, in the Book of Acts, Acts 1: He writes there are some who:.
They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictional history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.
This is in reference to the Cainites, an alleged sect of Gnosticism that especially worshipped Cain as a hero. Irenaeus alleged that the Cainites, like a large number of Gnostic groups, were semi-maltheists believing that the god of the Old Testament— Yahweh —was evil, and a quite different and much lesser being to the deity that had created the universe, and who was responsible for sending Jesus. Such Gnostic groups worshipped as heroes all the Biblical figures that had sought to discover knowledge or challenge Yahweh's authority, while demonizing those who would have been seen as heroes in a more orthodox interpretation.
The Gospel of Judas belongs to a school of Gnosticism called Sethianism , a group who looked to Adam's son Seth as their spiritual ancestor. As in other Sethian documents, Jesus is equated with Seth: "The first is Seth, who is called Christ" although this is in part of an emanationist mythology describing both positive and negative aeons.
For metaphysical reasons, the Sethian Gnostic authors of this text maintained that Judas acted as he did in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Jesus' mortal body. For this reason, they regarded Judas as worthy of gratitude and veneration. The Gospel of Judas does not describe any events after the arrest of Jesus.
By contrast, the Gospel of John , unlike the synoptic gospels, contains the statement of Jesus to Judas, as the latter leaves the Last Supper to set in motion the betrayal process, "Do quickly what you have to do. The New English Bible. Interpretations include: this was a direct command to Judas to do what he did; Jesus was speaking to Satan rather than to Judas thus "Satan entered into Judas" ; or Jesus knew what Judas was secretly plotting. Some two centuries after Irenaeus' complaint, Epiphanius of Salamis, bishop of Cyprus , criticized the Gospel of Judas for treating as commendable the person whom he saw as the betrayer of Jesus, and as one who "performed a good work for our salvation.
The initial translation of the Gospel of Judas, widely publicized, simply confirmed the account that was written in Irenaeus and known Gnostic beliefs, leading some scholars to simply summarize the discovery as nothing new.
The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic gospel whose content consists of conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. It is thought to have been composed in the. But was Judas only obeying his master's wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss? Some biblical scholars are calling the Gospel of Judas the most significant archaeological discovery in 60 years. The Bible's New Testament Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—depict Judas.
However, a closer reading of the existent text, presented in October , shows that Judas may have been set up to actually betray Jesus out of wrath and anger:. The initial translators might have been misled by Irenaeus' summary, which although an exciting idea was not necessarily accurate. Their theory is now in dispute. The content of the gospel had been unknown until a Coptic Gospel of Judas turned up on the antiquities "grey market," first seen under shady circumstances in a hotel room in Geneva in May , when it was found among a mixed group of Greek and Coptic manuscripts offered to Stephen Emmel, a Yale Ph.
How this manuscript, Codex Tchacos, was found has not been clearly documented. However, it is believed that a now-deceased Egyptian antiquities prospector discovered the codex near El Minya, Egypt , in the neighborhood of the village Beni Masar, and sold it to a Cairo antiquities dealer called "Hanna.
Around , the manuscript and most of the dealer's other artifacts were stolen by a Greek trader named Nikolas Koutoulakis, taken out of Egypt and smuggled into Geneva. Hanna managed to recover the codex by coordinating with antiquity traders in Switzerland.