The Gospel according to Judas Debunked

Earlier this year I wrote about the so-called “Gospel according to Judas” that was being rolled out by the National Geographic Society (click here to read post). I pointed out then that this heretical document was being introduced to the public when it was for publicity reasons. The lead-up to Easter is attended annually by hucksters who like to exploit the holy season to peddle their religious (or in this case, irreligious) wares. What was surprising at the time was that the respected National Geographic Society and some noted scholars had gotten caught up in the hype.

The general public has long since turned its attention from the Gospel of Judas. The obscure little document simply isn’t on people’s radar screens anymore. But such is not this case with the scholarly investigation of the document. At the time of its release, only a handful of select scholars had access to the document, and the wider scholarly community had not yet scrutinized it. Now it has been read by other scholars, and there is strong reason to believe that the original interpretation of the document was wrong. In other words, the provocative thesis that was put before the public last winter was totally misleading.

I want to bring your attention to two popular articles that will explain everything that you need to know:

“Gospel Truth” – by April Deconick (New York Times)

“Judas is a ‘demon’ in new read of gospel” – by John Dart (The Christian Century)

It’s worth saying again that the Gospel of Judas doesn’t tell us anything reliable about Jesus. It does, however, tell us about a 2nd century Christian heresy and about 21st century people who are all too willing to recycle it.

14 Responses to The Gospel according to Judas Debunked

  1. jeremy z December 19, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    In several of the Jesus Seminar books (Funk, Price, and Crossan), scholars argue that it is necessary to rely on second and third century sources because our first century NT gospels are not reliable enough. I am sorry to say, but our first century NT sources are reliable enough.

    CS Lewis stated, “I have studied mythology my whole life, and the gospel are nothing but a myth.” If Jesus is a myth, it was the pagan’s who loved myths. Also, myths make people feel good and validate their culture rituals, traditions, and practices. Jesus was only validating His Father’s practices.

  2. Ken December 19, 2007 at 12:33 pm #

    jz: I don’t think that Lewis quote is quite right.

  3. Paul December 19, 2007 at 1:27 pm #

    Ken,

    CS Lewis was an atheist before he was a Christian. I am certain that he knew how to talk when he was an atheist as well. Maybe he was even quoted once or twice.

  4. MatthewS December 19, 2007 at 2:18 pm #

    Jeremy,

    Do you have a source for that quote?

  5. Ken December 19, 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    Paul: Possibly, but I don’t think so. Lewis was an expert in medieval literature and knew the structure of myth through and through. Although he and Tolkien talked about the concept of “true myth”–the qualities of myth actually come to pass in human history–in Christianity, I’m betting that the quote more accurately reads as “the gospels are nothing LIKE a myth,” meaning that they are composed and presented as historical narrative and not according to myth conventions.

    Besides, the quote as given undermines jz’s argument.

  6. MatthewS December 19, 2007 at 3:00 pm #

    Ken,

    My thought was that Lewis’s quote probably refers to the gospels in the sense of “true myth” instead of “myth as opposed to truth.”

    Also, the quote as given lacks subject-verb agreement. Either the verb is supposed to be “is” or else the subject is supposed to be “gospels.” The latter case is not a trivial difference.

  7. Denny Burk December 19, 2007 at 3:04 pm #

    I believe C. S. Lewis’ original words read as follows:

    “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this.”

    This is from an essay titled “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” (also published as “Fern-Seed and Elephants”). You can read the entire essay here.

    I love this little essay. It’s required reading in all of my intro to hermeneutics courses.

  8. MJH December 19, 2007 at 8:58 pm #

    Have you read “The Great Divorce”? Or the last in the Narnia series, “The Last Battle”? Both have some of C.S. Lewis’ theology towards the end of his life. I’d love to hear what you think of them.
    MJH

  9. jeremy z December 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm #

    I am still trying to track down where I got that quote.

    Also, Ken I was arguing that the gospels are not myths. How did that quote undermine my argumentation.

    I am one of you and you just jump on me right away.

  10. jeremy z December 20, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Denny you are right. I was reading a Craig Evans book: Fabricating Jesus and he summarizing Lewis’ quote, which is why I thought those words were exactly his words. My bad. Both were essentially saying the same thing: The gospels are not myths, but facts.

  11. Ken December 20, 2007 at 1:05 pm #

    jz: I wasn’t jumping on you.

    The quote as you rendered it states, “I have studied mythology my whole life, and the gospel[s] are nothing but a myth.” That sentence means the gospels are simply myths. It runs counter to the point you were trying to make that they are NOT myths.

    Really, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt by calling the quote into question, not your beliefs.

  12. Ken December 20, 2007 at 1:07 pm #

    I feel a bit like Gandalf confronting Bilbo over the Ring…

    :p

  13. jeremy z December 20, 2007 at 3:40 pm #

    I got you now.

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