NPTS Professors Dismiss Gospel of Judas Text

Post a Comment » Written on April 11th, 2006     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (April 11, 2006) – The publication of the Gospel of Judas has attracted worldwide headlines, but biblical scholars at North Park University and Theological Seminary say the text is pure fiction.

“I find it nearly incredible that anyone could read this text, the Gospel of Judas, and think they are going to find something historical in it,” writes Scot McKnight in his blog, Jesus Creed. McKnight is the Karl A. Olson Professor in Religious Studies at the university.

“It does not breathe the air of Palestine in the first century or sound like anything we know from there,” says Klyne Snodgrass, professor of biblical literature at the seminary. “It is not from Judas, who hanged himself at the time of the crucifixion.”

Early church father Irenaeus mentions the Judas text in his work Against Heresies. Irenaeus wrote that the gospel was the work of a heretical sect known as the Cainites in the second century, Snodgrass says. The Coptic document was made from the earlier Greek work.

The Judas document has strong parallels to another fourth century Coptic manuscript, the Gospel of Thomas, which also claims special esoteric teaching and apparently was translated from a second century Greek text, Snodgrass says.

Both documents belong to a collection of writings known as the Gnostic gospels, of which there were many. Gnosticism was an early religious movement that believed salvation could be found in knowledge that was revealed only to the spiritually elite, that denied the incarnation and the goodness of creation, that taught that the real world was spirit, and that humans were merely trapped in their bodies.

In the Gospel of Judas, the disciple is the only one of the twelve with whom Jesus shares special knowledge. Jesus asks Judas to betray him so that his body will be killed and he can return to live in the spiritual world.

“There is nothing new in this text we haven’t heard before (other than that Jesus asked Judas to betray him so Jesus could get back to the divine sooner),” McKnight writes.

Some scholars argue that the text proves Christianity was much more varied than is often taught, and that conspiracies were launched to keep people from knowing the truth other than what has been passed down in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Several current New York Times best sellers – The Da Vinci Code, Misquoting Jesus, and the Jesus Papers – all claim such a conspiracy.

“What I think we ought to be addressing is this: Why is it that so many are attracted to conspiracy theories about the Church and the rise of Orthodoxy?” McKnight says.

Snodgrass also noted the timing of the document’s release. “It is almost Easter, and every Christmas and Easter, there is some flap about something related to Jesus,” he says. “Issues of TIME and NEWSWEEK sell more magazines when dealing with a hot religious topic than with any other subject.”

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