We recently celebrated Easter and I came across an article this past week from Live Science about the Gospel of Judas. As most people know, Judas Iscariot is portrayed in the Bible as Jesus' Christ's betrayer to the chief priests and Romans which set the stage for Christ's crucifixion on that Good Friday so many years ago. According to the Gospels, Judas sought out the priests and agreed to betray Jesus to Caiaphas with a kiss. His belief was that he was saving Jesus' from being executed as a rabble rouser by the Romans, but the priests deceptively used Judas to try Christ for blasphemy and turned him over to the Romans for execution themselves.
When Judas learned his treachery condemned the Lord, he threw the thirty pieces of silver back at the priests and legend states he ran out to a nearby field and hanged himself from a tree. The priests used the money to buy the field and made it a potters' field to be used to bury the poor. Christ was crucified setting the stage for the resurrection and the founding of the Christian church.
In 1983, the gospel was discovered among a collection of Coptic and Greek manuscripts and over the next 20 years collectors were offered the text which many felt was dubious. Finally in 2003, the papyrus surfaced and eventually made its way to the National Geographic Society where it was finally authenticated in 2006 as coming from the 280 AD time period when the letter was allegedly written. The article I just perused discussed how the last five years was spent studying the inks used on the page to determine whether the gospel was a faked artifact. They discovered the inks were genuine and fit the time period to which the gospel was attributed.
The article discusses how the inks initially seemed to indicate the document was a fraud, but as scientists examined other documents from the same period they realized the inks matched those authenticated documents and over the last five years were able to rule out the document was faked. With that said however, no one really knows or probably will ever know whether the content is a genuine text.
What is of interest in this document is that instead of Judas being presented as Christ's betrayer, he is instead Jesus' closest confidant and willingly following the Messiah's directions to hand him over for death by the priests and Romans thereby fulfilling the prophecies and freeing Christ's spirit from its earthly bonds to reunite with God and complete his destiny. The account is a fascinating dialogue which also discusses how the other disciples were not as close to Jesus and that only Judas was entrusted with the real secret of our existence, one in which we must learn to find God within ourselves and reconnect ourselves to the energy that is God.
It is fascinating to study this book along with other apocryphal books that offer insights into the traditional Bible stories. There's the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Thomas for example that offer other insights and aspects to the Gospels we know in the Bible. Are they real? I would imagine it depends upon who you ask and I will not make that judgment, however I would suggest to seek out and at least read these books if nothing more than for their academic value.
Many would argue these books are not canon and therefore not worth the time simply because they were not in the Bible. There are many contemporary writings that did not make the Bible, but that does not simply invalidate them as part of God's message. Many would claim that God chose what was included in the Bible. I would point out in the end a council of religious leaders and scholars ultimately chose the structure of the modern Bible. They picked the books through debate and discussion that ultimately fleshed out the tome. In doing so, I believe they were deliberate in selecting stories that advanced the agenda of the church and portrayed Christ in the most divine light as it could minimizing the human part of his life and emphasizing His divinity. They also selected the epistles of Paul because of the extensive work he did to build the early church. His writings shaped the church into what it became today.
I just think we should be enlightened to other viewpoints and perspectives of the stories and accounts of the church and its leaders including Christ. We must remember that history is always subjective and depends upon the scribes that record it. The stories for example of our American Revolution when written by American historians are ones of heroics, revolution and the birth of a new country. The same accounts by British authors discuss a rebellion, trying to keep control of the upstart colonies and ultimately losing a large part of their empire. From Britain's perspective, they were justified in trying to keep us in check. From our perspective we wanted freedom. Who is right? It basically distills down to what your reality is.
Reality is elusive and depends on our perspective to provide context. Are the Gospels right or is the Gospel of Judas correct? In actuality, I don't think we ever will truly know, but the speculation is what makes the discussions worthwhile.
Til next time…