Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book Review: The Gospel of Judas.

I've read the long-lost, but newly published The Gospel of Judas.

Before you get impressed, it is a very short book. In fact, I can summarize it with a single pithy quote attributed to Jesus, speaking to Judas. "But you will exceed all of them [the other discliples]. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006, p. 43.)

You now have the gospel's dual theme.

First, the text turns conventional wisdom about Judas on its head. In other words, it's more the Gospel for Judas. It seeks to convert Judas from a villianous zero to hero. The book posits that Judas deserves adulation because he obeyed Jesus' ulitimate command.

Second, Judas' "betrayal" should be viewed as a liberation, according to this gospel. It's a liberation to the gnostic because it allowed Jesus to free himself from the prison of his earthly body into the superior spiritual world.

Now you know.

The book provides superb insight into a type of gnostic philosophy (Sethian) prevailing in the first 100-200 years after Jesus' death. In addition, the book is wrapped in excellent commentaries, especially those of Dr. Bart Ehrman (author of Lost Christianities and Misquoting Jesus), and Dr. Marvin Meyer of Chapman University.

If you are interested in early church history or gnosticism, I strongly recommend.