Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cosmology in the Gospel of Judas

There is a fascinating article (Betrayal: Should we hate Judas Iscariot?) in a recent New Yorker about the recently discovered (1978) the Gospel of Judas. The article reviews recent books written on the topic and looks at how the image of Judas has gone through variations in the past two thousand years. Of course, the big controversy over this Gospel was that, instead of an ultimate villain, it presents Judas as the closest friend of Jesus - and the only one who really understood him:
It wasn’t written by Judas. (We don’t know if there was a historical Judas Iscariot.) It was a story about Judas, and in it the great villain, the Christ-killer, was portrayed as Jesus’ favorite disciple, the only one who understood him.
In it, most people have no hope of getting to Heaven. As for Jesus, he was not a man but wholly divine, and therefore Judas didn’t really have him killed. (Only a mortal can be killed.) According to some commentators, this Jesus asked Judas to release him from the human form he had assumed in order to descend to earth. Judas did him a favor.
Yes, there are other bits that are also considered quite controversial. However, for our purposes here, there is much cosmology in there, and this account is quite different than the Bible's or the Book of Genesis:
Jesus’ dealings with the disciples occupy about half of the surviving pages of the Gospel of Judas. The rest consists of a lecture that Jesus gives on cosmology—an account quite different from the Bible’s. Briefly, the real God did not create the earth, but he spawned an angel, who created thousands of other angels. Twelve “aeons” and seventy-two “luminaries” also came into existence, and each luminary was supplied with five firmaments, for a total of three hundred and sixty. This cosmos, as grand as it sounds, is described by Jesus as “corruption,” but apparently it is not as bad as the earth, which was brought into being by a violent demiurge, Nebro, and his stupid assistant, Saklas. The text goes on in this vein.
You can read the full text of the Gospel of Judas in English here (pdf is on the bottom left; see pages 4-6 for cosmology). This creation story seems like a serious bureaucracy - and it is more in line with some of the early origin mythologies. Note that the matter here already exists (not created) and it is given shape by these created beings (This also reminded me of the Demiurge in the Plato's Timaeus). However, Adam and Eve (also called "Zoe") are indeed created - but created by Saklas with the help of his angels. I wonder if the Creation Museum in Kentucky will revise some of its exhibits :)

Read the full article here. The Gospel of Judas also paints a very different personality of Jesus (a joker, and not necessarily a nice one). The article not only provides a nice context to a discussion about this newly discovered Gospel but it also addresses how art (especially the Renaissance art) has depicted Judas over the centuries.


Brasil said...

It is good to read, but pray as you do, and God will guide you. It is hard to translate from an old language/culture to a new language/culture. Remember this was written when the world was different and not all the old words have new word meaning. They had this same problem when translating the original Bible, and some things got changed. Reference on how David conquered Jerusalem is a good example. Also, who really wrote it? and when? The original books of the Bible were verbal and some were written down long after the fact.

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