by Boyd Jennings
Were you alarmed to hear that another gospel has been discovered? Before we continue, let’s remember what Jesus told the twelve minus Judas. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). That’s why Paul wrote by inspiration of God—twice, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).
Now, let’s proceed with this “other” gospel business. Actually, this recently rediscovered late 2nd to early 3rd-century papyrus manuscript from Egypt (author unknown) had been moldering for 16 years in a Hicksville, N.Y., bank safe deposit box. But now, after its rediscovery and an intensive analysis of the text, the National Geographic Society made public the English translation, calling it the “Gospel of Judas.” Unlike the divinely inspired Gospels in the Bible, this “other” gospel text gives a different slant on the relationship between Judas and Jesus, even suggesting they conspired to create the betrayal scene so that Old Testament prophecy could be fulfilled (c.f. Psalms 41:9; Isaiah 53; Psalms 22; et al.). In the text, a fictitious Jesus tells Judas, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom…You will be cursed by the other generations— and you will come to rule over them...You will exceed all of them, for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”
One fact you are not likely to hear on network news programs is that the early church rejected this text. Irenaeus (180 AD), a bishop in the early church, labeled this text a heresy [Gordon Robertson: 'Gospel of Judas' an Ancient Heresy]. There are valid reasons why the early church did not receive this “other” gospel as a genuine account of the life of Jesus. First, it was obviously an attempt by someone or some group to pervert the true gospel and to destroy men’s faith in it. Secondly, it was written almost two centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thirdly, the text contains blatant inconsistencies with the true records of Jesus’ life and teaching. For example:
- Jesus called Judas a betrayer, which is by definition one who “breaks faith with; fails to meet the hopes of” another. How could Judas be a betrayer if he and Jesus were of one mind? Judas attempted to hide his plans from Jesus and the other disciples (Matthew 26:16; Luke 22:4, 6; John 6:64, 71; 12:4; 13:2, 11, 21).
- The “mysteries of the kingdom” were for all twelve disciples to know. Judas was never singled out for special knowledge about the kingdom which was soon to come in his time (Matthew 13:11; Luke 8:10).
- Jesus promised the apostles thrones of judgment (Matthew 19:28), but like all divine promises, there were conditions attached to it. Judas nullified the Lord’s promise by transgressing the commandments and thus he inherited eternal condemnation instead of a throne (Matthew 26:24; John 18:1-5; Acts 1:16-25).
There is nothing to fear from this “other” gospel. It will take its place alongside other ancient writings that claim to be something divine when they are not. The so-called gospel of Judas has already proven itself to be nothing more than a pretender to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Irenaeus about 180 A.D., Against Heresies (i, 31, 1):>
>"Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."
H.-C. Puech and Beate Blatz, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, p. 387:
"Dating: the Gospel of Judas was of course composed before 180, the date at which it is mentioned for the first time by Irenaeus in adv. Haer. If it is in fact a Cainite work, and if this sect - assuming it was an independent gnostic group - was constituted in part, as has sometimes been asserted, in dependence on the doctrine of Marcion, the apocryphon can scarcely have been composed before the middle of the 2nd century. This would, however, be to build on weak arguments. At most we may be inclined to suspect a date between 130 and 170 or thereabouts."