The So-Called ‘Gospel’ of Judas

Welcome to Holy Week, American style. Just as millions of Christians are preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the media is once again out to debunk historical Christianity. Just last weekend I was in an airport bookstore and saw the new book counter filled with numerous editions of The Da Vinci Code. Then I picked up the New York Times, and there I was greeted with the headline on the front page that read, “In Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal.” You probably have seen the hype, including a one-hour National Geographic TV spectacular: After seventeen hundred years, the story goes, the long-lost text of the so-called “Gospel of Judas” has re-surfaced. It claims that Jesus secretly told Judas to betray Him; so Judas is really a good disciple. Well, it’s not a new discovery. This “new gospel” and the heresy it espouses—Gnosticism—were rejected as fiction by Christian leaders and the Church as early as 180 A.D. Gnosticism was an attempt to add to Christianity an essentially Eastern worldview dressed up with Christian language. It was presented to the Roman world as the true Gospel—complete with endless mysteries that only those with secret knowledge could unravel. Many unsuspecting people were enthralled with Gnostic writings, particularly their sometimes gory and salacious initiation ceremonies. Christian pastors and theologians repeatedly rejected all forms of Gnosticism, until, by the middle of the third century, it had all but disappeared. But now it is back with a vengeance, with supposed discoveries and works like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. It provides the means for Christianity’s detractors to debunk the historical Jesus, and it certainly sells books. Seven million copies of The Da Vinci Code is testimony to that. Gnosticism has particular appeal today because of the postmodern age, which has rejected historical truth. So you can find God any way you wish, through your own group. This, of course, is the belief that is at the root of the spreading New Age movement. The danger is that we have a biblically illiterate population. People today don’t know—maybe don’t care—whether there is a difference between the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of John. They are unfamiliar with the work of the ancient canonical councils of the Church (which rejected the Gnostic “gospels” time and again) or even of the basic creeds or confessions of the Christian Church. Sadly, people are as gullible today as ever. Now it is tempting to get angry at National Geographic and the liberal press for unleashing this fraudulent “gospel” at the beginning of the holiest week of the year. But don’t. Instead, let’s use the media attention to debunk the debunkers, to point out to friends that this regurgitated Gnosticism—the Da Vinci Code and the “gospel” of Judas included—is nothing more than historically unsupportable fantasy. Then we can point them to the knowledge that is accessible to all people that has been accessible to Christians for two thousand years and proven historically accurate. It’s called the Bible.


Chuck Colson


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