A continuing series reflecting on the book: “The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed”, By Bart D. Ehrman (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, pgs.198)
Chapter 7: The Gospel of Judas and Early Christian Gnosticism (Context)
In chapter seven, Dr. Ehrman looks at Gnosticism and compares the Gospel of Judas to other Gnostic writings. He further explores the possible designation of the Gospel as a ‘Sethian’ work made by Marvin Meyer. He finds considerable merit to Meyer’s idea, but also explores possible similarities and connections to other non-Sethian texts, particularly the Gospel of Thomas.
In his own conclusions, he finds that the Gospel of Judas has many apocalyptic features and that Gnosticism in general seems to address some of the same issues that are distinctive of early Jewish Apocalyptic works. It is an interesting idea that Gnosticism may have descended from or may be seen as a reaction to Jewish Apocalypticism. Again, this is Ehrman at his best.
Chapter 8: Jesus, Judas, and the Twelve in the Gospel of Judas (The Main Characters)
First, Dr. Ehrman looks at how Jesus is portrayed in NT writings and then compares and contrasts it to the Jesus in the Gospel of Judas. In the NT, Jesus was a Jew who had relatives (mother, brothers, sisters), a descendant of David, the Messiah who came to save his people. He demonstrated and confirmed his calling and message through healings and miracles. He was crucified but was resurrected on the third day, appeared to his disciples and many others. He ascended into heaven but is coming back one day to establish his Messianic Kingdom.
In the Gospel of Judas, Jesus really doesn’t have a physical body like other men. He goes to another realm (heavenly) and back at will. His Kingdom is not to be established in this world. He is not coming back. Healing is not featured because the body is to be overcome. He is betrayed, but that is seen as a good thing since it leads to his release from the physical realm and his permanent ascension into the Pleroma. He came to give the necessary secret knowledge to those who have ‘the spark’ so they too can be released from the captivity of their physical bodies.
The NT Gospels, the Twelve do not always understand what Jesus is doing or teaching. They scatter at his death but come together again following his resurrection. Jesus appears to them and leaves his Spirit to be with them until the end of the age. According to Acts and the Epistles, they are his guys and they finally get it and carry on his work and teach his gospel after he is gone and they look for his return and the coming of his Kingdom on Earth.
The disciples in the Gospel of Judas not only don’t get it, they worship a lesser god. They aren’t even on the same side as Jesus; he laughs at them and makes fun at their expense. Jesus even predicts that they will lead many astray, like cattle to be sacrificed at the Temple.
Judas is the only one who has the ‘spark’ and receives the special knowledge necessary for transcending the physical realm and ascending into the spiritual realm of the Pleroma. In this ‘Gospel’, Judas betrays Jesus and that is considered good, opposite from the NT perspective. In the Gospel of Judas, he “exceeds all of them”. Judas really is the ‘star’ and literally gets his own eternal heavenly body.
Dr. Ehrman does a great job in this chapter comparing and contrasting the different texts and their very different perspectives of Jesus, The Twelve and Judas.