Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas

Gospel of Judas is particularly divergent, but also deeply fascinating, especially the sections which present most of Jesus' followers choosing the way of violent sacrifice, sacrificing even their family members and children, to a mistaken idea of Jesus and God. Certainly a powerful image that current trends don't exactly render irrelevant. Mar 11, Michael rated it it was ok. That's the message of these two scholars of early Christianity in their reading of the Gospel of Judas, of which only tattered fragments remain after a greedy dealer kept it in his freezer for years while angling for a huge sale.

An incredible restoration effort has salvaged a healthy amount of the original text, dating probably from the second century CE. The translation provided here runs 14 very short pages, and notes various gaps of missing material of three lines, 15 lin The anti-war Gospel? The translation provided here runs 14 very short pages, and notes various gaps of missing material of three lines, 15 lines, 18 lines, and so on, as well as an occasional "untranslatable" passage. The two authors focus on a possible disagreement over martyrdom reflected in the fragments of this gospel. Its sect may have differed from other early Christian groups over whether martyrdom was ever to be the price of faith, and whether it was unnecessarily encouraged by church fathers of the time.

On the most basic storyline level, this gospel presents Judas as the hero of the Passion, and shows Jesus scorning and mocking all his other disciples in favor of Judas, who was actually doing Christ's bidding. The Gospel of Judas was unveiled by the National Geographic Society in , and this book was copyrighted in Those dates are more significant than they may first look, because the controversy then raging at full blast over the U.

That was the worst period of the Iraqi occupation, with relatively high casualties and much pain and disorder and doubt. It is hard not to hear the fear and concern in the authors' introduction, for example, when they write: The Gospel of Judas restores to us one voice of dissent, a call for religion to renounce violence as God's will and purpose for humanity.

Given all the critical comments being made at the same time about then-President Bush's personal religiosity and other pop-psychologizing, I don't think so. Especially since similar notes recur periodically in their writing, as though one or both authors saw in this text a lesson for U. As it happened, happily, the casualties in Iraq were just about to experience a wonderfully rapid decline, while the political situation was slowly improving -- the second free general election in Iraq was just held as I was finishing reading this book.

The authors' passions also target the early church with a hostility and bitterness that surprised me on first reading -- a tone I had not encountered in previous books by co-author Elaine Pagels. Pagels can be critical but is never bitter. So, is it from Karen King? I haven't read anything else of hers, so have no idea. But, to make their case for this strange gospel, they fall into the trap of making allowances for every wacky turn in the text, explaining them away as they show great sympathy for its original author and followers -- while excoriating early church fathers like Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, who analyzed it and many other texts and found them essentially bizarre tangents for cults who were losing the way of Jesus, in his eyes.

And, I suspect, in those of most readers of the actual text here. The differences from the biographies of the synoptic gospels are so vast, it seems hard for anyone to imagine this as anything but what Irenaeus recognized at the time. This and all the manuscripts that have been discovered over the last century or so are making those times much more vivid to us, and encouraging some of the most exciting scholarship going on today.

If this particular effort is more miss than hit, well, that comes with the territory. The ideas the authors present in their reading are worthy of consideration and testing against the manuscript itself. I gave only two stars because of my doubts, but it is still a book worth reading for those with an interest in the ongoing discoveries of how Christianity developed from those little journeys around the hills of Galilee and Judea.

Reading Judas

Just in time for Easter, I've finished this book about the Gospel of Judas. This non-canonical gospel was purportedly found in Egypt in the s or s. Its provenance is somewhat shaky, but the only known copy of the work, in the Coptic language, has been carbon-dated to around of the Common Era, give or take 60 years. It is believed that this is a translation of an earlier Greek work which was in existence at least in C.

Elaine Pagels and Karen King are two respected scholars of Gnosticism, the philosophical tradition from which the Gospel of Judas springs. They explain how and why the author of the work who, obviously, was not Judas Iscariot but apparently someone sympathetic to him disagreed with the branch of Christianity that came to be the accepted, canonical version, the life of Jesus as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

A major disagreement between the two factions had to do with the question of death and the afterlife. The canonical view held with a bodily resurrection of the redeemed. The Judas gospel affirms an immortal spirit. Jesus was not reborn in the flesh and the eternal life that he offers is lived in the spirit alone. Another major difference is the view of blood sacrifice. Judas has Jesus expressing scorn for animal sacrifice and for the implied human sacrifice of the Eucharist.

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In this gospel, eternal life is won through adherence to Jesus' teachings rather than through the sacrifice of his life. Judas is the hero of this gospel and the other eleven disciples are essentially clueless. They don't really understand Jesus' teachings or who he is or the significance of his life. It is only Judas who really understands and his gospel tells how Jesus singles him out, takes him aside and teaches him the mysteries that are beyond the world.

Gospel of Judas

In this telling Judas' so-called betrayal of Jesus is simply Judas following orders from Jesus. I think the main value of the Gospel of Judas as well as the other Gnostic writings that have been found over the past century is that they shed light on the conflicts of early Christianity and how it happened that the religion that we know today emerged. In the beginning of this new religion, there were many different views of the events of Jesus' life and of its meaning and different factions fought hard for their views over several centuries before an orthodoxy triumphed and books of the Christian Bible were set in stone - so to speak.

All that being said, I'm bound to point out that the Jesus portrayed in this gospel is not a very attractive character. He is sarcastic and laughs derisively at his disciples' stupidity. It makes for an interesting alternative hypothesis of what Jesus the man may have been like, but, on the whole, I have to admit I prefer Luke's compassionate Jesus. May 17, D. I'm a fan of Elaine Pagels. Her approach to Biblical scholarship and unraveling historic conundrums makes sense and is easy for me to follow.

I enjoyed this collaboration because of the cross references to other texts from early Christianity. The background laying out some of the conflicts in the early church is thought provoking. As often happens, the original Coptic text had been damaged over the centuries.

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The translation of it is easy to read. The end notes on the translation are a valuable so I'm a fan of Elaine Pagels. The end notes on the translation are a valuable source of further information. Jun 18, Kevin rated it really liked it Shelves: This book was overall pretty interesting.

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I guess, though, I should at least put forth some of my biases: I enjoy the complications in scholarly works on early Christianity, I really enjoy some of the alternative Christianity histories, and I have an affinity toward Pagels work. That being said, I thought that Pagels section was interesting. She seemed rushed at times and almost to be hitting only a surface-level analysis of the text. The King portion is pretty analytical in what it conveys, but This book was overall pretty interesting. The King portion is pretty analytical in what it conveys, but if you have read The Gospel of Judas Meyer et.

My main piece of advice is do not read this if you just want the Gospel of Judas. The text of the Gospel is fairly short with multiple sections missing and you can read through it in about 20 minutes--if that. Read this book and the Meyer book if you want the commentary to understand some of the Gnostic overtones of the text. The book itself is not trying to purvey the idea that Gnosticism is correct but rather that there are multiple forms of early Christianity and this was one Gnostic thinkers way of continuing his version.

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The Gospel of Judas states that Jesus told Judas "You shall be cursed for generations" and then added, "You will come to rule over them" and "You will exceed all of them, for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me. Containing a new translation of the Gospel of Judas from the original Coptic, Reading Judas radically challenges our notions of the Christian faith. We will not remove any content for bad language alone, or being critical of a particular book. The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity 3. The Gospel of Judas is horrified by the glorification of such killings and death and cannot accept that a loving God would want such sacrifices. Pagels can be critical but is never bitter. We have references to and refutation of it in C.

Aug 21, David Radavich rated it it was amazing. This is another fine, lucid volume by these two great scholars of religion. The recently discovered and translated Gospel of Judas, combined with other newly studied non-canonical gospels, radically alters our understanding of the origins of Christianity. Elaine Pagels and Karen K. King are careful and balanced in their methodology, never claiming too much while also exploring profoundly different understandings of early church events and beliefs.

I have always felt, even as a child, that Judas' This is another fine, lucid volume by these two great scholars of religion. I have always felt, even as a child, that Judas' betrayal must have been part of God's plan; otherwise, the triumph of Judas as Satan's representative explodes the divine narrative that Jesus had to be crucified. This gospel makes a different case, and Pagels and King do an excellent job establishing the contexts, the argumentation, and the implications. An interesting book on a fascinating subject. The discovery and publication of relatively recently discovered works of early Christianity quite literally force anyone who has every thought about popular Christianity as it exists today to think again.

However, as the Gospel of Judas included in this edition is very often confusing and at times downright bizarre, the expository essay that accounts for the first half of this volume is extremely useful and illuminating in terms of both laying ou An interesting book on a fascinating subject.

However, as the Gospel of Judas included in this edition is very often confusing and at times downright bizarre, the expository essay that accounts for the first half of this volume is extremely useful and illuminating in terms of both laying out the meaning of the Gospel in clearer terms and placing it within an historical and intellectual context. Although Pagels and King are occasionally less dispassionate about their subject than one might prefer his scholars to be, this book is not the less interesting or informative for it.

May 16, Rod rated it it was ok Shelves: What a silly little book. The information is amusing - but the importance these so-called scholars attach to it is comical. Quote in the book: I just read N. Judas and the Gospel of Jesus.

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Basically the same theme without all the hype and conspiracy foolishness. Yeah, that's what's I thought. View all 5 comments. Jan 25, James rated it really liked it. Listened to this over two days on CD. A thought provoking and somewhat creepy text. Although it did have a very spiritual take on the scriptures and God's relationship with man. Oct 12, Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing.

The original Greek text dates from about A. The publication of the "Gospel of Judas" excited a great deal of scholarly and popular interest due, in part, to the light it might cast on the early development of Christianity Beyond Anger To Revelation In April , the National Geographic Society published an ancient text, the "Gospel of Judas" that had been discovered in the mids in Egypt.

The publication of the "Gospel of Judas" excited a great deal of scholarly and popular interest due, in part, to the light it might cast on the early development of Christianity. In their recent book, "Reading Judas: This short but difficult book is in two parts. The first part, "Reading Judas" consists of four chapters jointly written by Pagels and King examining the Gospel of Judas in the context of the traditional New Testament canon, the history of early Christianity, and other Gnostic texts.

The second part of the study consists of an English translation of the Gospel of Judas by King together with her detailed commentary on the translation. Interpretation of this newly published text is difficult. It is obscurely written with names and characters that are unfamiliar. Extensive and important passages of the text have been lost over the years.

It should also be remembered that the text of the Gospel of Judas is itself a Coptic translation of an original Greek version that we do not possess. Pagels and King present their text as casting light on the diverse character of early Christianity before it assumed its canon and orthodox formulation, but the fascination of the Gospel of Judas is at least equally due to the text itself. As Pagels and King point out, the text is the work of an angry author who was critical of the disciples of Jesus and of the form that what would become mainstream Christianity was taking and who was anti-semitic and homophobic as well.

But they find the text passing "beyond anger to revelation" p. Pagels and King argue that the Gospel of Judas was written as a response to Christian martyrdom at the hands of the Romans. The author of the Gospel could not believe that a just God would allow His followers to be murdered, tortured, and sacrificed in His name. In place of what the Gospel author saw as a cruel, vengeful God, the author proposed a creation story consisting of a realm of two levels: The persecutions of the Christians were not part of the divine will but were part of the world below.

The realm of the spirit could be reached, for the author of the Gospel of Judas, by an effort to "bring forth the perfect human. This theme, in broad outline, resonates with many people today who find themselves religiously inclined but uncomfortable with what they perceive as traditional religious dogma. Pagels and King admirably place the Gospel of Judas in the context of the development of Christianity.

They offer a nuanced account that recognizes the value and the need for the four traditional Gospels in establishing a foundation for Christianity in its many creeds, from Catholicism and Orthodoxy to evangelical Protestantism. But the fascination with the text is ultimately the fascination with the message. This book, as well as other recent works exploring Gnosticism, casts light on traditional religious belief, but it also encourages the efforts of those contemporary readers who wish to explore alternative forms of spiritual development.

Dec 09, MichaelK rated it liked it Shelves: The book is divided into two parts. Part 1, the first or so pages, guides you through the Gospel of Judas and speculates on its place in the history of Christianity. This is interesting, similar in style to Elaine Pagels' excellent solo books, and worth reading. The authors talk you through the 'evolution' of Judas the Betrayer in the canonical gospels - from Mark the oldest gospel, through Luke and Matthew, to John the youngest, Judas' betrayal becomes more and more obviously part of the divi The book is divided into two parts.

The authors talk you through the 'evolution' of Judas the Betrayer in the canonical gospels - from Mark the oldest gospel, through Luke and Matthew, to John the youngest, Judas' betrayal becomes more and more obviously part of the divine plan, with Jesus shown as more in control of events.

Lost Gospel of Judas Discussed at RSE Part 1

This lost gospel is the logical endpoint in that process: Judas is Jesus' favoured disciple, to whom he tells secrets of the cosmos and trusts to carry out the divine plan by arranging for his arrest. This gospel is angry. Robinson suggested that the text will provide insights into the religious situation during the 2nd century rather than into the biblical narrative itself.

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One scholar on the National Geographic project believes the document shows that Judas was "fooled" into believing he was helping Jesus. Another scholar, April D. DeConick , a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University , opines in an op-ed in The New York Times that the National Geographic translation was critically faulty in many substantial respects, and that based on a corrected translation, Judas was actually a demon, truly betraying Jesus, rather than following his orders. What the Gospel of Judas Really Says to assert that Judas was not a daimon in the Greek sense, but that "the universally accepted word for 'spirit' is 'pneuma' — in Gnostic literature 'daimon' is always taken to mean 'demon'".

DeConick raises about translation choices are addressed in footnotes in both the popular and critical editions". Scholars are divided on the interpretation of the text. The first modern publication of the gospel contended that the text portrays Judas in a positive light, [9] while other scholars have asserted that Judas is presented negatively.

There may be additional fragments of the gospel yet to be released. In his Easter address, Rowan Williams , the Archbishop of Canterbury , strongly denied the historical credibility of the gospel, saying,. This is a demonstrably late text which simply parallels a large number of quite well-known works from the more eccentric fringes of the early century Church. He went on to suggest that the book's publicity derives from a desire for conspiracy theories. The president of the Maecenas Foundation , Mario Roberty, suggested the possibility that the Maecenas Foundation had acquired not the only extant copy of the Gospel, but rather the only known copy.

Roberty went on to suggest that the Vatican probably had another copy locked away, saying:. The other gospels were banned. It is highly logical that the Catholic Church would have kept a copy of the forbidden gospels. Sadly, the Vatican does not want to clarify further. Their policy has been the same for years — "No further comment". Roberty provided no evidence to suggest that the Vatican does, in fact, possess any additional copy.

While the contents of one part of the Vatican library have been catalogued and have long been available to researchers and scholars, the remainder of the library is, however, without a public catalogue, and though researchers may view any work within, they must first name the text they require, a serious problem for those who do not know what is contained by the library. The Pope responded on April 13, The Vatican, by word of Pope Benedict XVI, grants the recently surfaced Judas' Gospel no credit with regards to its apocryphal claims that Judas betrayed Jesus in compliance with the latter's own requests.

According to the Pope, Judas freely chose to betray Jesus: He was a greedy man: Even more explicitly, Father Thomas D. Williams, Dean of Theology at the Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, when asked, "Is it true that the Catholic Church has tried to cover up this text and other apocryphal texts? You can go to any Catholic bookstore and pick up a copy of the Gnostic gospels. Christians may not believe them to be true, but there is no attempt to hide them.

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Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. The Gospel of Judas represents the most baffling. Buy Reading Judas: The Controversial Message of the Ancient Gospel of Judas by Elaine Pagels, Karen L. King (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Book.

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. For other uses, see Gospel of Judas disambiguation. Part of a series on Gnosticism. The Lost Gospel of Judas". The Gospel of Judas: Retrieved 8 April Retrieved 26 May Westminster John Knox Press. What Have They Done with Jesus?: The Gospel of Judas. Commentary by Bart D. Archived from the original on The True History of the Gospel of Judas.

The Gospel of Judas, Critical Edition: Gospel of Judas, Critical Edition". The National Geographic Society. The New York Times. Searching For The Real Jesus: The National Catholic Review What the Gospel of Judas Really Says. Polemical Aspects of the Gospel of Judas.

Gospel of Judas - Wikipedia

Sign in with Facebook Sign in options. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Rick Wilmot 's review Jun 30, An eye-opener for the uninitiated, but only those with the eyes to see and ears to hear will be able to grasp it.