Gospel of Judas shows betrayer in new light
“Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7)
No, you cannot.
The recent publishing of the Gospel of Judas is a perfect example of exactly why.
The problem: The discovery and translation of the 1700-year-old manuscript contradict much of what the Christian church has established. It is a direct threat to its sovereignty, being referred to as a heretical text.
For the past 2000 years, Judas has been regarded as the ultimate betrayer. His love for money pre-empted his love for Jesus and resulted in Jesus’ capture and crucifixion.
The Gospel of Judas, however, illuminates Judas as having the most intimate relationship with Jesus of all the disciples. Judas is told by Jesus, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom.” Jesus saw Judas as a prodigy with a capacity for understanding and servitude much greater than that of the other disciples.
In the Gospel of Judas, Jesus even laughed at the disciples when asked about a fundamental truth of faith. “When his disciples heard this, they started getting angry and infuriated and began blaspheming against him in their hearts.” When Jesus challenged the faith of the disciples, “they all said, ‘We have the strength.’ But their souls dare not stand before [Him], except for Judas Iscariot.”
So Judas’ reviled depiction cast in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts could, in fact, be a result of a jealousy within the disciples for Judas’ aptitude of understanding and the resulting attention provided to him by Jesus.
After Judas’ death, the 11 remaining disciples invited Matthias to become the 12th, and Judas would then be associated as the 13th, permanently one step away from the righteous group of 12.
According to the Gospel of Judas, Jesus informed Judas that this is what his legacy would become. “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by other generations — and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy [generation].”
Judas’ actions would then not be a lasting example of a depraved man smitten by a weakness for the worldly desire of greed, but that of a man of the highest caliber — a man who was most revered by Jesus and willing to sacrifice his own name and life for the greater good of mankind.
Does it not make sense that such a large responsibility — ensuring Jesus be crucified, the cornerstone of Christianity — be entrusted to his most worthy of disciples?
The “kiss of Judas,” the kiss of betrayal given by Judas to Jesus before His death, is thus not a kiss synonymous with betrayal but with the final show of affection from an enduring friendship.
If these claims are valid, then the 12 disciples, not Judas, in fact represent a lesson in the limits of man.
By its very nature and the fact that the text has survived as long as it has, one could claim that it is God trying to manifest himself to a world which has lost its way. His manifestation would act contrary to a perpetual human force trying to suppress such episodes that act contrary to established belief systems and threaten to unhinge a person’s window of faith. Once this window becomes unhinged, a person loses their protection and is exposed to the raw elements on the other side. One could say man resists change to avoid such experience in an effort to secure the special interest of worldly understanding and control.
When man accepts change, it allows for new belief systems and interpretation. One successful example is Martin Luther’s ability in the 1500s to embrace and promote change from the norms set in place by the Catholic Church, resulting in a sweeping movement which lead to the eventual construction of the many Protestant denominations.
It is a matter of control. The thought is if one asks the right questions and narrows their beliefs, then one will ultimately find the truth. Therefore as one gains information, it narrows and forms a pyramid with a point on the top resulting in the answer. For Christians, this answer is Christ. This results in the assumption and deduction that there are absolute correct answers and that there is only one way to look at a problem.
Using control is an extremely useful and convenient methodology of faith, as it allows one to have a very comfortable and finite belief system, useful, yet very limiting to a person’s spiritual growth.
If one never challenges and attempts to go beyond his or her established set of beliefs, what does that say about that person’s spiritual journey?
One can liken the history of Christian thought to the emergence of Copernicus’s heliocentric model of our solar system. Before Christ’s crucifixion, people who later became Christians were in the same place as those trying to map the movement of the planets via a geocentric model.
For these people, it seemed like it should work, but in reality was not an effective means of explanation.
Once Copernicus moved us to a heliocentric model, the sun became the focal point around which the solar system revolved. This allowed for the slow discovery of new things about the solar system and the earth’s place in the grander scheme of the universe.
With Jesus’ crucifixion and the emergence of Christianity, Christians had a basic and fundamental truth with Christ serving as the focal point for their understanding, a point around which to revolve their faith.
As the planets revolve around the sun, the planets themselves are exposed or illuminated in different ways and at different times, and a Christian who has his or her center in Christ should experience these same types of exposure with the intention of garnering a better understanding of his place in the world and the many wonders that comprise life.
The result is instead of having a pyramid coming to a point wherein lies the answer, everything emanates from the answer, as does light from the sun, from which millions of unique episodes emerge, not necessarily possible to be observed or fathomed.
Whether the Gospel of Judas is valid or not is immaterial. The fundamental truth of Christianity has not changed; Christ is still at the center. What can change is a person’s ability to interpret his own place in the makeup of the greater scheme.
“Even though a wise man thinks he can comprehend it, he won’t be able to find it” (Ecclesiastes 8:17). However, it is the attempt and the search that take him somewhere greater.