Friday, April 07, 2006

The Gospel of Judas - Too Cute!

I just read the Gospel of Judas. (National Geographic has it posted as a .pdf file on their website.) My assessment = it’s ADORABLE!

Some observations:
First of all: Jesus is laughing all the time. He laughs at the disciples when they don’t understand something, he laughs at Judas for trying too hard, he even laughs at the “error of the stars,” which as far as I can tell means something about the destruction of the wicked. His laughter comes easily and gives Jesus kind of a carefree air about him. It’s actually nice, a refreshing picture of a Jesus with emotion.

Second thing: it is very, very Gnostic. Jesus is always telling Judas that he is going to tell him all the secret stuff he needs to know. The document itself is filled with obscure, even bizarre cosmology, talking about some twelve aeons of the twelve luminaries and the six heavens for each aeon, which makes like seventy-two heavens for the seventy-two luminaries, and then each of them’s got some five firmaments up in their house, which totals three hundred sixty firmaments, word. (See, I told you it was adorable!)

Third thing: there is a lot of stuff missing, such that it is very difficult to read at times. For example, Judas asks Jesus at one place if the human spirit dies. Seems like a pretty important question! Jesus’ answer is, “This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it – that is, the spirit and the soul. Therefore, the [rest] of the souls [—one line missing—].” …Gaa! I mean, come on! You just get to the “therefore” and it is gone?!?! What a TEASE! At one point, we actually get this helpful note: “About 17 lines missing.” (Isn’t that just too cute!)

Fourth thing: naturally, Judas looks a whole lot better in this one that he does in the others, say, the Gospel of John, for instance. You almost get the idea that somebody, a couple centuries into it, said, “I’m sick and tired of my main man Judas getting such a bad rap. I’m gonna do something about that!” But the author goes a little overboard, and makes Judas seem like a Rabbi’s pet. I kept waiting for the scene where Judas brings Jesus a nice, shiny, red apple. (No wonder the other disciples didn’t like him!)

Fifth thing: there truly are some beautiful moments that are worth reading. You will not be corrupted by reading it, just confused. But you should read it for the sake of the three or four wonderful, poetic moments of clarity. And it also helps us get a glimpse into the variety of expressions early Christianity took, and as such is a tool for understanding Christian history a little bit better.

The Gospel of Judas is not scripture, it is a document of heresy, but it shouldn’t shake the foundations of anybody’s faith too awful much. It is hard to read because of the confusing Gnostic references and the gaps in the text itself. But read it, and tell me if you don’t just want to pinch its little cheeks and tell it how adorable it is!


Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for the review Andy ... I downloaded the PDF file for later viewing.

Michael said...

I've also found similar treasures in the so-called "Nag Hammadi" gospels as well. Some very interesting stuff but, like the Judas gospel, very hard to read because of so many missing pieces.

Vinny said...

Yeah, I like the gnostic aspect of the gospel itself and the idea of releasing the divine spark from the body as a "good thing"; it dovetails nicely with the discussion we've been having with the "Living the Questions" study the past couple of weeks -- specifically about the idea of humanness and divinity being a difference in degree (that is, on a continuum) rather than a difference in kind (ala Jack Spong).

I thought the TV production was a bit (actually, a lot) on the cheesy side - shades of Geraldo Rivera and "Al Capone's Vaults".

Sure, it's heretical from a purely orthodox Christian viewpoint, but who cares? I like a healthy dose of gnosticism mixed with my Christianity - it makes it more personally palatable. Maybe the Jesus Seminar's next project should be to look at the possible historicity of the various noncanonical gospels.