"A.J. Rose" (Jonathan) (ajrose93) wrote,
"A.J. Rose" (Jonathan)

The "Gospel of Judas" -- a clarification

93 again!

It occurs to me that those who haven't spent the past thirty years in Biblical, Gnostic and related studies might be wondering why some goofball on LJ would, sight unseen, so confidently question the historical authenticity of a "newly"-discovered* "Gospel of Judas." After all, it isn't impossible that Jesus arranged the crucifixion, with Judas' help, and that Judas wrote down the true story. Is it?

The discovery of an actual first person account of events from the life of Jesus would be a staggering cultural event; arguably unique, in fact, since we quite possibly haven't anything better than a second-hand account of same, in the Bible or anywhere else. Nothing would fascinate, or delight, me more than for such a manuscript to surface, and it is far from impossible that such a thing should happen, even after two millennia; I keep hoping that somewhere in the middle eastern sands, a monastery in Spain or Ireland, or simply in a private (or ecclesiastic) collection, just such a text (or texts) languishes and will be forthcoming.

The problem is not that such a thing couldn't exist; rather, that this one immediately sounds just like the fairly large number of Gnostic texts we do know, which despite being genuinely ancient, clearly carry false attributions of authorship. The Nag Hammadi manuscripts contain purported works by Paul, Peter, Mary Magdalene and others: clearly ancient, and fascinating, and revelatory of the notions found in Gnostic teaching...but just as clearly not actually written by Paul, Peter, Mary Magdalene, and so on. There are plenty of reasons to reject the historicity of these texts -- heck, half the Bible's canonical epistles are known to be falsely attributed! -- among them the known illiteracy of an author (Peter, for one), anachronistic references (in Pauline letters, a too-developed "church" for the alleged time of authorship), and so on. But mostly, the Gnostic texts just make no cultural sense: display a late-antiquity Greek mindset in allegedly Aramaic-speaking** authors of humble origins...and when you have a fair-sized stack of such works, all displaying very similar (and highly developed) religious notions which do not resemble anything in the widely-attested logia of Jesus, and sport highly dubious authorship, after a while you just become skeptical.***

In short, I'd love it if this were not only an ancient Gnostic text (which it could easily be -- and plenty of the Gnostic texts include very fine material on other grounds), but in fact the authentic Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The odds are, however, dramatically against the latter being the case.

Hope that helps explain! :D

93 93/93 -- AJ

* When, exactly, is in dispute. The same MS has been said to have been discovered in 1978, in the 1940s, in 1980, and so forth. Its antiquity is very likely, and the fudging on discovery dates isn't unusual, either: there are antiquities laws to skirt, here.
** The texts themselves are in Coptic -- the spoken Egyptian language rendered in Greek letters.
*** Perhaps an analogy will help. Suppose someone told you they had the unpublished autobiography of Elvis Presley, dated to the early twenty-first century but probably based on a twentieth century MS (so far, so good)...and it opens like so: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. It is I, Elvis Presley, true harbinger of the New Aeon, who have written these words from the depth of my hidden illumination -- received at the hands of Aleister Crowley himself, and burst extravagantly forth from the hidden riches of the Angelic Language of Enoch. I have dictated this revelation myself into my cellular phone..." This is an exaggeration, but not by much. The Gnostic texts are nearly always analogous to this: fascinating in themselves, but virtually impossible to assign to their designated authors. I strongly expect the "Judas Gospel" to be the same, though I'd be perfectly thrilled to be proved wrong.

For examples of the texts I'm talking about, see The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson general editor; also, see here:

Specific examples of the sort of thing I'm talking about:

A supposed letter of (illiterate fisherman) Peter to Philip:

A supposed text from the apostle John:

That should give you the flavor, and the reasons for caution: whatever their spiritual value, their authorship is clearly bogus.

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