On the “Gospel of Judas”

Update: Also see my Gospel of Judas roundup.

Gnostic Gospel of Judas, they say! Hot on the heels of Christ On Ice and the, er, “newly discovered” Gospel fragment, the news outlets are currently drooling all over National Geographic’s recent conclusive dating and translation of surviving fragments of the Apocryphal Gospel of Judas, now dated to about 300 CE. The text is classically Gnostic, emphasizing a duality splitting Christ’s “spiritual” and “fleshly” natures, as opposed to Christian orthodoxy’s belief in the Incarnation.

Looking beyond the wide-eyed “OMG THIS WILL REVOLUTIONIZE CHRISTIANITY AS WE KNOW IT” sensationalism, Internet Monk asks if a 300 year-old apocryphal biography of George Washington would be regarded as authentic were it discovered in 1970. James F. Robinson, an expert on ancient Egyptian texts, regards the Judas Gospel as mostly a dud, produced by Cainite Gnostics who took it upon themselves to “rehabilitate” villians of Bible mythos. Even if you don’t believe in the account of Judas, there’s no denying his contributions to the Christian narrative. Truly a historical icon.*

[crossposted to Metafilter]


  1. Thanks for the information, I was wondering what the deal was with this news story.

  2. Noelle says:

    ZOMG Zerg rush! Kekeke!!!!1!!!

    The CNN report I watched earlier treated it like the Second Coming or something, despite noting that the scroll dated back to 300 A.D. Heh.

  3. Neal says:


    I think the earliest texts they have for the New Testament generally date back to around A.D. 100, which is obviously closer to the chain of events, but still startlingly far away: it’s not as though the Canonized Gospels were written within a year of Christ’s death. I guess it just adds one more piece of text that most of us will never read but will be deemed “Jesus or Not?” by some team of scholars in an invory tower somewhere.

    Nice set of links on the whole ordeal.

  4. Paulo says:

    Actually, we have evidence to date the earliest texts of the New Testament back as far as 40-50 A.D. for the Epistle of James, and no later than 70-90 A.D. for other texts except the Gospel and Epistles of John. Even a 70 year gap is not “startlingly far away” for the standard by which we judge historical documents; it’s certainly much closer — and the copies much greater in quantity — than the documentation we have for such figures as Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great.

  5. Noelle says:

    Thanks Pau. Very, very informative. :)

  6. Neal says:


    Thanks for the detail – I guess I rounded up based on the non-Jamesian texts.

    As far as historical documentation goes, you’re right. However, I don’t know many people who make life-altering decisions based on the historical texts surrounding Julius Caeser or Alexander the Great. My comment about “startlingly far away” pivots on this point, which is that people ground their lives on the Bible, as canonized. However, as far as proof goes, there are inconsistencies amongst the Gospels, which go to show the loss of information due to the passage of time. I’m not an expert on the Q material, but there were obviously source documents (or word of mouth traditions) to the Gospels as we know them.

    These are all points rarely considered by the lay person, yet important issues that students of the Bible should be aware of. I could go on to explain how we go from this point A to point B, or how do you build a belief system on historical information that is nearly 2,000 years old and sometimes inconsistent, but what it all boils down to is faith. That faith is what people use to shelve things like the Gospel of Thomas or, in this case, the Gospel of Judas. Faith canonizes or discredits in a way often more powerful than reason or logic. It’s just the way it is, it seems.


  7. Paulo says:

    Absolutely, I’m in full agreement with you on that. Just because there’s a rich supply of manuscript evidence doesn’t necessarily validate the stories they tell — faith is what bridges the gap for the religious, and it’s something necessarily irrational in its way.

  8. James says:

    All of this talk about new gospels is pretty interesting. At the end of the day these new revelations about Jesus and his apostles should be weighed against the other existing materials that have been found (canical and non-canical). When I read these stories I feel like I’m getting maybe five percent Jesus and 95 percent admirers of one of the random apostles. It’s so hard to filter out the background noise from all of the early christians. Forget the Gospel of Jesus’s Brother, his lover, his twin, his cousin, his best mate…we really need a Gospel of Jesus. Has anyone read any of a Course in Miracles? It’s full of many enigmatic statements similar to some of the new gospels (Thomas especially).

  9. Sue says:

    Very few realize how revolutionary Jesus’ message really is. It challenges the dualistic way of thinking and demonstrates the Singular Reality beyond the illusion of human existence. Both the Gospel of Judas and the New Testament are in perfect accord in this regard. Yet the Gospel of Judas exposes certain aspects of Jesus’ teachings that have been misinterpreted or simply overlooked.

    It debunks a myth of betrayal of Jesus and the belief in condemnation of Judas that have been cherished throughout the centuries. However, we do not really need the new gospel to fulfill Jesus’ commandment: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5,44) We do not need the Gospel of Judas in order to understand that Jesus could not have been betrayed. He simply did not believe in betrayal and therefore He could not have condemned Judas, for it would contradict His teaching of love and forgiveness: Judas was my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. Was it likely that I would condemn him when I was ready to demonstrate that condemnation is impossible? (A Course In Miracles, Text, Chapter 6)

    You can read the rest of this article here:


  10. Paulo says:

    The Gospel of Judas doesn’t debunk anything; it only proves that the Gnostics had a loose grasp on what Christians held as truth.

    The so-called “Singular Reality beyond the illusion of human existence” expounded upon in “The Miracle Times” is just another old form of Gnosticism revived, and is a mysticism far removed from anything Christ taught.

    While we can accept that Christ forgave Judas, we cannot accept that Judas did not escape condemnation, nor that Christ withholds condemnation from those who will deny him and his message. That kind of faux-mystical universalism is clearly debunked by the reality of God’s Judgment of sin, from which the only sure salvation is Christ alone.