On Good Friday, a different view of Judas Iscariot

How appropriate that I finish reading “The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed” by Bart D. Ehrman near the holiest of all times in the year for Christians. I didn’t intend for it to happen that way it just kind of did. Appropriate because it discusses a lost gospel that was written about the very person who helped Jewish leaders send Jesus to the Romans to be crucified.

In the book, Ehrman, discusses the events that led up to him being part of team analyzing the Coptic writing on the fragile papyrus. He discusses the canonical gospels. What is in them in regards to Jesus. What is left out of one but not in another. The differences and conflicts within them and how they compare to this manuscript about Judas.

It’s a fascinating read and ultimately Ehrman lays down why he feels the manuscript is important. Despite it being quite a bit younger (he deduces perhaps written sometime in the middle of the second century) than any of the canonical and non-canonical gospels as well as most gnostic writings… he say it IS enormously important for two reasons.

It provides us with another ancient Christian writing that doesn’t belong to the orthodox camp. Near the end he defines orthodox as being the side that “won” and was able to write history and belief as being THE true history and belief. And so this gospel adds to manuscripts that show a sect of Christianity that was snuffed out by the victorious party in the third or fourth century and further shows how Christianity at its early beginnings was very diverse.

And secondly (perhaps most importantly) through the lens of Gnostic teachings it portrays Judas as a hero who delivered to the world the savior. He wasn’t the money grubbing, devil inspired, betraying turncoat made out to be in the gospels and interpretations of early church fathers but instead the only one of the apostles who truly understood Jesus’ will.

It’s interesting to me this example of looking at the same set of circumstances but viewing it from completely different angles. In doing so, the explanation from one side turns a horrid character into the hero.

Very interesting read. Who knows… maybe it was just a parlor trick to keep the flock in line.

3 responses to “On Good Friday, a different view of Judas Iscariot

  1. Well I’m not religious, though I was raised RC, but I got to agree here…….the guy was marked out to do what he did, it was hardly his fault. Interesting reading, Julian. Thanks.

  2. Excellent post.

    I did not grow up with any religion. I only know what I learned in class and have no faith-based belief in it.

    I have read a handful of books that touch on the different stories of The Bible,on subjects from anything from Mary Magdalene, Peter founding the Church, and the Judas myth. I am fascinated, but it’s almost a morbid curiousity since the whole Western religion thing is very complicated to me. There were a lot of stories in the Bible written by multiple authors and varying times. Parts and parts and… it seems so fragmented, like a game of telephone, where everyone sat around in a circle and passed a story around one by one by whispering it into the other’s ear… and by the end of the line, the story was totally different.

    … but, what do I know – I’m just a Buddhist. I’m probably going to H – E double hockey-sticks anyway. :O

    In any case, I’ve found my next read! 😉

  3. NM, I liked your comment. Jules, lately I’ve been rolling an idea around in mind. Christianity, and perhaps all three of the great desert religions, seem to go to such extremes in their judgments — the same people are raised up as messiahs and damned as satanic, or vice versa. Not just religious leaders, from Christ’s time through Martin Luther, the popes, televangelists, etc., but even politicians and entertainers, such as Lincoln (absolutely hated and canonized) or John Lennon, etc.

    I wonder if the very concept of raising one human up to Messiah, and praying for the next to come, as well as facilitating Messiah complexes in people, does the same for the whole culture.

    Certainly the yoyoing from savior to satanic happens in all cultures to some degree — guess I’m wondering if it is more extreme for us.

    I do think our best advance as a culture would come from not seeing the negative extreme in each other so often. And I mean all: nazis, muslim extremists, evangelicals, commies, black muslims, neocons, all of ’em, as humans first, and not as extremes of that which we struggle with in ourselves.

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