The very concept of “secret teachings” can raise eyebrows among those who are only versed in canonical Christian texts; after all, isn’t part of the point of Christianity that there are no secrets, that all are equal before God?
As it turns out, this isn’t quite right. All three of the synoptic gospels claim that Jesus had secret teachings. Want to learn more about role of secret teachings in the canonical gospels, and the content of the secret teachings in the Gospel of Judas? Click below to read more!
Who was Judas Iscariot? Did Judas betray Jesus, or are there other understandings of the story?
In the canonical Gospel According to John, Jesus says: ““This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14). If the greatest act of love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, what act is most strongly opposed to love? Perhaps it is betrayal– to lay one’s friend for one’s own life.
But what if there were more to the story? After all, in John 13, Jesus clearly knows what Judas is going to do and authorizes him to continue. John tells it in such a way that Satan literally “entered into” Judas (John 13:27), but this is far from universal– the gospel according to Luke reports Satan entering Judas, but there is no mention of this in the stories found in the gospels according to Matthew or Mark— both of which were before John and possibly before Luke.
Most early Christians did believe that Judas betrayed Jesus, of course. But what if there were early Christians who believed that, rather than betraying Jesus, Judas was the only one of the apostles who truly understood Jesus’ mission and helped him achieve it?
When scholars discovered the Gospel of Judas, the story they found shocked and troubled them. To this day, there are a variety of scholarly positions on how to understand this complex (and unfortunately fragmented) text. In this post, we’ll take a cursory dive into one position commonly held– that in this Gospel, Judas was not a betrayer, but was truly the only disciple who understood and helped carry out Jesus’ mission.