Thursday, April 06, 2006

More on the Gospel of Judas

If you read the news, you may already have seen this: the National Geographic Society has "unveiled" the text of the recovered Gospel of Judas. There is a long piece, with an interview with the writer of a book on the text and its discovery, at National Public Radio's site.

Also, some useful links at the tertullian.org site.

Here is what Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, said around 180 AD about the beliefs of the Cainites who supposedly originated the Gospel (Against all Heresies, Book 1, chapter 31, section 1) :

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. 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 fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.
I got this translation from the Gnostic Society Library, who have posted this translation, presumably from the Ante-Nicene Fathers collection (now public domain).

Irenaeus was a great ideological warrior and there's no obligation on us to believe everything he said about the "Cainites," but what he says about the Gospel of Judas seems to be consistent with the newly discovered text (which is a Coptic or Egyptian version of a Greek original).

P.S. The hostility to the Creator evident in the excerpt above could use some explanation. Some early Christian groups saw the Creator of the physical world as the enemy of everything spiritual, including Jesus and His true followers.

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