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.