The Gospel of Judas

And Jesus said to Judas: “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal.”

Yesterday, the National Geographic Society unveiled a previously unknown manuscript dubbed the Gospel of Judas. It is a Coptic manuscript, representing the same Gnostic school of thought as the Gospel of Thomas and others.

A 3rd century manuscript is certainly a big discovery and scholars will undoubtedly benefit from the insights into early thinking that can be gained from studying this. At the same time, conspiracy theorists are rushing to the party, even linking Dan Brown to the case, hoping for a few minutes of fame.

Does this change anything? Hardly. As with the Gospel of Thomas, it may show us that other people believe otherwise, but that should be no surprise. The quote I included is easily recognizable as Gnosticism. (I did a uni report last year on a dedication to the Isis mysteries.)

Of course there are other texts, but the Canon is there for a reason. These are the writings deemed correct by the first Christians, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Other sources may describe other beliefs, but to me this only strengthens the validity of Jesus as a historical (and controversial) figure. The Qur’an will depict Jesus differently, as will Josephus. As a Christian, I believe the Bible.

This does, however, lead me to another point; that the sometimes admirable desire to return to the Apostles’ faith is not that simple. For one, we don’t have real-life eye witnesses among us anymore, so our authority is in the New Testament, not in humans. Furthermore, it is obvious that Christianity has evolved and changed through the course of two millennia.

Not all changes are good, as we are taught by the fixes made by Reformation. But ignoring Church History would be pointless. Augustine was not in the same place as Paul. Calvin was not in the same place as Thomas Aquinas. Ellen White was not in the same place as John Wesley. And I live in yet another time. But I acknowledge the contributions of great people throughout history to understanding the Gospel.

God stays the same. The Bible stays the same. But people change. As it happens, this is a very Adventist thought; we used to call it the notion of ‘present truth’.

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