Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The Gospel of Judas

a codex page, courtesy National GeographicJust in time for Holy Week, we get word from an article in the New York Times about the discovery of The Gospel of Judas. That there was such a text is not news. We knew of its existence from the Christian writers Irenaeus, Theodoret and Epiphanius. And through their writing against The Gospel of Judas we already knew something of its contents and why it was never considered as part of the Bible (it was written much later by Gnostics, not by Judas in the week before the crucifixion as the text purports).

Judas betrays Jesus with a kissBut the discovery of the actual 26-page Coptic text is news and will allow us all to find out more about this ancient Gnostic document. The New York Times online article included a link to some excerpts from The Gospel of Judas. National Geographic also offers readers a chance to see some of the actual codex pages online together with translations. The text has been authenticated as an ancient one, though all this means as that we are seeing the actual Gospel of Judas we knew to exist because Irenaeus and others warned against it. The authentication can not touch on whether Judas actually wrote the original copy before he died. The one found is not only a later copy, but a translation, as Coptic is ancient Egyptian and would have been unknown to the Palestinian born, Aramaic, Hebrew and possibly Greek-speaking Judas Iscariot.

The gist of the text is a defense of Judas' betrayal of Jesus. This defense is based on an otherwise unknown conversation between Judas and Jesus in which Jesus asks Judas to "betray" him.

This secret conversation fits well within a Gnostic faith. Gnostics were a sect that ieved in "gnosis" (which is Greek for "knowledge") handed down secretly from disciple to student. Only those "in the know" so to speak would get the real details on the faith, not unlike Scientology today. We know a lot about Gnostics and their beliefs from both their writings and Christians, most prominently Irenaeus, writing against them. Judas throws down the coins and runs out of the TempleIrenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon, wrote of the Gnostics (around 180 A.D.) saying in part of his defense against them, "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."

The codex (or book-style ancient manuscript) pages are a great find and will help scholars better understand Gnostic teachings, which came more than a century after Jesus death and resurrection. The new find however does not reveal anything knew about the historic person Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of his teacher Jesus.

click here to see the latest issue onlineNote:
The latest issue of our newsletter, The Olive Branch is now online. Click the page at right to view the Adobe .PDF file.


The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
King of Peace Episcopal Church


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