Friday, April 21, 2006

 

Where it all started: What is a gospel?

Here is as good a place as any. Is the so-called Gospel of Judas deserving of the title? What exactly is a "Gospel"? Let's go to the book...no, not that one...the dictionary. From Miriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition):

gospel n 1 a: often cap the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation b cap: one of the first four New Testament books telling the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; also a similar apocryphal book c: an interpretation of the Christian message 2 cap: a lection (sic) from one of the New Testament Gospels 3: the message or teachings of a religious teacher 4: something accepted as infallible truth or guiding principle 5: gospel music

Based on that definition, does the Gospel of Judas qualify to be labeled as such?

I haven't read the gospel (can't read Coptic, sorry), but I did read the National Geographic article that addresses it. Based on that article, the Gospel of Judas does address:

Christ:

The text begins by announcing that it is the "secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover."

and Salvation:

Kasser, the translation-project leader, offers an interpretation: "Jesus says it is necessary for someone to free him finally from his human body, and he prefers that this liberation be done by a friend rather than by an enemy.

Which is very much in line with Gnostic beleif in gnosis.

gno·sis Pronunciation: 'nO-s&s'
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek gnOsis, literally, knowledge, from gignOskein
: esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth held by the ancient Gnostics to be essential to salvation

Oddly enough, it sounds a lot like Scientology too, with their emphasis on the hidden knowledge available at OT III.

However, there is no mention in the article about dealing with the kingdom of God. Not the strongest argument against, I know. But, the definitions that I think most applies is 2b. Especially when it refers to "a similar apocryphal book". What does "apocryphal" mean? Have a look:

apoc·ry·phal
Function: adjective
1: of doubtful authenticity : SPURIOUS
2 often capitalized : of or resembling the Apocrypha synonym see FICTITIOUS- apoc·ry·phal·ly/ adverb- apoc·ry·phal·ness noun

This definition may fit. The gospel (small "g") of Judas was discredited in the 2nd Century by St. Irenaeus.

The surviving copy of the gospel was written in the third or fourth century A.D., but the text was known prior to A.D. 180.
In that year St. Irenaeus—then the bishop of what is now Lyon, France—published Against Heresies, a volume intended to help unify the Christian church.
St. Irenaeus's method was to savage alternative theological views and interpretations—including the Gospel of Judas—which he referred to as "fictitious histories."


At least St. Irenaeus was only savaging views and interpretations.

The only concrete evidence they have so far is that it's very old and written in Coptic. Other than that, I think it is safe to say that the gospel of Judas is definitely "apocryphal".

My very first Hat Tip to the Anchoress for inspiring me to start this blog.

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