“The Gospel of Judas”, a Gnostic apocryphal text

Source: FSSPX News


A part of The Gospel of Judas has been published in exclusivity by the American monthly National Geographic, in its English edition of April 6, 2006. It is a manuscript on papyrus, discovered in the 1970s. It consists of 25 pages in quite poor condition. The document dates back to the third or the beginning of the fourth century. The Coptic text is a translation of a lost Greek text, written between 130 and 180 A.D., but known to Saint Irenaeus, the first bishop of Lyons.

 He writes about it around the year 180 in his work Adversus haereses (Against the heresies), describing it as the principal work of a sect called “The Cainites” (the followers of Cain). This text rehabilitates Judas. It portrays him not as a traitor, but as the apostle closest to Jesus, the only one who really understood his message. Christ asked him to betray Him in order to get rid of His mortal frame.

 The Coptic dialect is the ancient language of the Christians of Egypt. The document has been restored and translated by Rodolphe Kasser, former professor of Coptology at the University of Geneva. It is soon to be published in French and Italian.

 Its content is a reflection of the Gnostic doctrine. According to Cardinal Vanhoye, former rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, it concerns a “rehabilitation of Judas based on the doctrine of Dualism,” with a “complete separation of the body and the soul.” In fact Gnosticism believed that “the Incarnation of God had no sense.” It considered the body as an obstacle for the soul, which had to be removed. Thus, according to the Gospel of Judas, the latter, instead of falling into moral degradation by his betrayal of Christ, actually unburdened Him of His body, helping Him to “extricate Himself from it.”

 According to this apocryphal account, such as we know it from Saint Irenaeus, Judas obeyed a divine command. Beloved disciple of Jesus, he had the most difficult of missions to accomplish: to deliver Jesus, upon His request, to the Romans. In accordance with Gnostic thought, Judas was one of the initiated. He knew that the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary for the redemption of the world. In fact, for this sect, the creator, the demiurge is an evil god. The world is the work of the Evil One, who is responsible for all the imperfections of the world. Jesus reveals to us the true God who is good and who wants to save the world. But in order to achieve this the sacrifice of Jesus is needed, and this is why Jesus asks Judas to hand him over to the Romans. Concerning the suicide of Judas Iscariot, attested by the Synoptic Gospels, The Gospel of Judas states, on the contrary, that he did not commit suicide. Otherwise how could he have written his Gospel?

 Pope Benedict XVI seized on the occasion of the Holy Thursday Mass, on April 13, to condemn The Gospel of Judas. In this document, Jesus charges Judas to denounce Him in order that He may suffer for humanity. A gross error, according to Benedict XVI. Judas “judges Jesus according to the categories of power and success: for him, power and success alone are realities, love counts for nothing,” said the pope during his sermon. He is greedy: money is more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and His love. So he thus becomes a liar who plays a double game and breaks with the truth; someone who lives a lie and thus loses all sense of the supreme truth, of God. In this way, he becomes hardened, incapable of conversion and of a confident return as a prodigal son. He throws away his ruined life.”