The tale of Judas Iscariot is probably one of the most famous gospels in the Bible, maybe second to the murder of Abel by Cain. Judas’ betrayal has become the plot of several books, and movies, and throughout history, anyone betraying their friends or family has been considered a ‘Judas’. As the story goes, Judas was a disciple of Jesus- who then went on to hand him over to Pontius Pilate and the other Roman officials for just 30 pieces of silver.
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As we know, this led to the trial, crucifixion, and subsequent “resurrection of Jesus”. According to a paper published at the University of Austin, the hatred towards Judas by Christians had reached such a point in the medieval ages that one of the most famous poets of that era- Dante Alighieri- placed Judas in the ninth circle of hell in his 1314 epic poem “The Inferno”. In this poem, he was placed beside Marcus Junius Brutus, and Gaius Cassius Longinus- the two primary conspirators who assassinated Julius Caesar- the dictator of Rome. In the ninth circle of hell- which is the further point in hell, all three men get eaten by Satan for eternity.
The Gospel of Judas- Eternal Betrayer Or Sacrificial Lamb?
Up to the 21st century, this was the prevalent story of Judas Iscariot. But in 2006, the population got to see a new face, a new version of Judas. As it was announced by National Geographic, an 1800-year-old legend had been excavated as a fact- the Gospel Of Judas. This manuscript painted a completely different picture of the traitor- but one must understand that none of the statements made here are religiously colored. Rather, we would simply put forth the character description of Jesus’ disciples vis a vis the ancient manuscript that was discovered 16 years ago.
After the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in 33 AD, it took almost 1,800 years for the Gospel of Judas to transform from just a legend into hard, cold facts. It was St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who had first mentioned this legend in his theological text “Against Heresies” in 180 CE- which was penned to formalize the doctrine of Christianity in its earliest days. In the first book, the missionary wrote about the fictitious history of writings that were in accordance with the legend of Judas. Iraeneus called them fictitious writings because they presented the apostle as being thoroughly acquainted with Sophia’s nature- which was a non-canonical feminine angel that represented wisdom. St. Irenaeus went on to claim that the Gospel of Judas was filled with such fallacies as he mentioned that it was Judas alone who knew the truth- which led him to betray Jesus.
The History Behind The Secret Gospel Of Judas
This legend had been prescribed in this form until the 1970s- when an actual, physical manifestation came out in Egypt- which was written in Coptic- the language that was spoken by the Egyptian Christians that had borrowed the Greek alphabet for the written text. National Geographic then announced that this book had been delivered to Rodolphe Kasser- an archaeologist and Coptic Scholar from Switzerland who was then involved in the translation and reconstruction of the text. An overview from PBS Frontline talks about how it is quite possible that it was the Gnostic Christians who had written this book.
One could easily surmise that the Gospel of Judas is quite a fascinating read- as it contains conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The conversations are usually Socratic in nature- with Jesus revealing to his disciple the cosmic secrets. But what seems really interesting in this book is the persona of Jesus himself. Jesus comes across as a completely different individual from how the four gospels have presented him. In this book, Jesus is heavily sarcastic, pompous, rude, and actually laughs at his disciples’ ignorance. Rather than the widely portrayed image of a loving teacher, Jesus is more cryptic in this book than in anything else.
Even the character of Judas is different in the Gospel of Judas. In the Bible, Judas was described through his actions- but not his personality. While his actions did demonstrate treachery, greed, and cunning, there was a lot more to him than what could have been understood through his actions. Verse 35 of the Gospel posits Judas as the only one of his disciples to show Jesus the proper respect by not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Judas is also quite an eager student, always willing to learn from Jesus. It is when Jesus pulls him aside, that he talks to him about angels, the creation of humanity, and the future of the universe. Jesus also doesn’t talk about his plans of redeeming mankind clearly- but hints at them in his own cryptic manner. Eventually, the book ends when the Roman authorities approach Judas just like in the Biblical gospels.
Who Was Judas Iscariot?
What the Gospel of Judas truly manages to portray is the meaning of the most famous kiss in the world- the one Judas placed on Jesus. Throughout history, the kiss has been seen as the predominant mark of Judas’ treachery as it was this kiss that allowed the Roman authorities to identify Jesus. But there have been certain factions over the years who have raised the question that if Judas had deep information about the redeeming of mankind, and Christ the Redeemer, then how far could we consider him as a villain? If he was working in accordance with Christ and his vision, how far did that make him a villain?
The Gospel of Judas clears these doubts completely. It states that Judas was always informed of Jesus’ plan, and was a participant in it. His kiss was not a kiss of betrayal, but rather of farewell. He was willing to be a scapegoat if it allowed Jesus to save humanity. The Gospel portrays him as someone who sacrificed himself for the cause- knowing fully well that he would be the object of eternal scorn. He has been depicted as the only disciple of Jesus who was suited to the task- and the only one to whom the true workings of the cosmos were revealed. To put it simply- he was Jesus’ favorite.
Despite the apparent authority of the gospel of Judas, one wonders if this could have been a plain forgery. Considering how the Gospel of Judas is not a canonical text, there have been allegations that this doesn’t follow the Bible, or doesn’t relate to the incidents that have taken place in the Biblical texts. But microscopist Joseph Barabe of McCrane Associates in Illinois did confirm the authenticity of the papyrus by comparing it with the other papyri that have been kept in the Louvre. This allowed them to confirm that the manuscript dated all the way back to the 3rd Century CE- around 100 years after St. Irenaeus had first mentioned it.