The defining test for ‘Judas’ is the content evaluation test. The following questions must be applied to the document in order to authenticate it and to identify its place in history:
1. What does the ‘Gospel of Judas’ actually teach?:
The ‘Gospel’ teaches that there are many gods-”among all those called God.” Jesus in this document, makes fun of the disciples for praying a prayer of thanksgiving over their food to “their God”.
This writing makes it clear that the other 11 Apostles are worshiping a lesser god named Saklas, who created the earth & imprisoned humanity in physical bodies. The highest immortal realm is said to be ruled by Barbelo (feminine), and the ‘Great One’ the invisible spirit is above and beyond “all those called God”.
Salvation comes through having special knowledge that gives one power to overcome this physical life. Judas is the special one of the twelve, the only one given the special knowledge. The other Apostles will continue to worship a lesser god and lead their followers astray.
2. Does the teaching validate its claim as a Gospel from the first century?
No, definitely not. The content of the document, does not represent the prevailing theology of Judah & Galilee of the first century.
Jesus and his disciples were Jews who believed in one God & one creator of all things–they were monotheistic. Jesus and the early Christian leaders, had a high regard for the Hebrew scriptures, and considered themselves to be a continuation of the ancient Hebrew religion.
The four recognized Gospels reflect this understanding. The ‘Judas’ document teaches that the 11 Apostles were wrong and presents to us a polytheistic ‘mystery’ religion–a different religion entirely. This is why early Christian leaders, like Iranaeus, rejected the so-called ‘Gospel of Judas’.
3. To what community and time frame, can we assign this ‘Gospel’ then?
The theology, the names, the symbols, and heavenly places mentioned in the book, are indicators that the work belongs to the Sethian ’school’ or community of ‘Christian’ Gnostics-probably middle to late second century.
This particular manuscript is a 4th century copy of the original, translated into Coptic (Egyptian). It was found near the same area of Egypt that the ‘Nag Hammadi’ manuscripts came from. Similarities in writing style and codex production demonstrate that this manuscript most likely came from the same ‘Sethian’ community. See: “The Gospel of Judas” (Washington DC: National Geographic Pub., 2006), Chapter on-”Judas and The Gnostic Connection” by Marvin Meyer.
*Conclusion: The theology of the document proves that ’The Gospel of Judas’ cannot be an actual production of the first century, but is really a ‘fictitious’ account penned by a Sethian Gnostic writer/writers in the last half of the second century.