The Gospel of Judas is an early Christian text that explores the significance of Jesus, Judas, and the crucifixion from a Sethian perspective. It is a book filled with supposedly “secret teachings“. When we read this text today, we might ask ourselves, “what should we take away from this?” We may wonder, “what would it look like for us to apply these concepts to our lives”?Old books like the Gospel of Judas might appear

Indeed, it would be silly– absurd, even!– to argue that the early Christians wrote it to protect “secret teachings”. After all, if one has secret teachings, the absolute worst thing one could do is write them down! Why would you write down something which you wouldn’t want to risk being distributed? This is particularly important considering that this text is a “gospel”– it is good news, meant to be shared.

So, let’s assume that the Gospel of Judas was, in fact, good news. What is the good news that it has to share? This article will share one possible explanation: that the good news of the Gospel of Judas has to do with exposing hypocrisy. How so? Click below to learn more!



Who Is God?

“What is God like?”

Even for those inside the Christian faith (as the writers of the Gospel of Judas certainly would have considered themselves), there is tremendous disagreement about what God is like. Some Christians make horrific claims like saying that God wants LGBT to face the death penalty. Other Christians think that God designed who are LGBT to be that way. These two perspectives are irreconcilable, and yet both would claim to worship God. How can that be?Angry man, arguing

Some Christians claim that racial division and strife are antithetical to what God wants. Other Christians argue that racist thoughts and actions are aligned with God’s will. These two positions also cannot be reconciled, yet both claim to worship God. What are we to make of this?

Some Christians claim that Jesus died on the cross to satisfy God’s wrath. Other Christians say that this completely misses the point– that God didn’t want Jesus to suffer any more than he wants us to suffer!

The point is that Christians today vehemently disagree on who God is. This disagreement is not new– it predates Christianity, certainly, and continues on into the period of time in which the Gospel of Judas was written.

Who is God in the Gospel of Judas?

A key tension in the Gospel of Judas is that between Judas himself and the other disciples. Who do the other disciples think God is?

Well, they think that God wants us to be doing things performing ritualistic prayers when eating. In the text, Jesus laughs at this; he claims that it’s not God who wants you to do that kind of thing, but the demonic ruler of this world who pretends to be good, the Demiurge! Jesus tries to confront them about their hypocrisy, but they “started to get angry and furious and started to curse him in their hearts”.

What else? Well, when the disciples learned about Jesus’ true mission– to overthrow the power of the Demiurge who pretends out of hubris to be God– the disciples did not repsond well:

When his disciples heard these things, they were each troubled in their spirit. They couldn’t say a thing.

The disciples even had a dream about conducting burned offerings to God, which culminated in them sacrificing their own children and families. Jesus confronts them and says that their dream is a reflection of reality– that their sacrifices are to the Demiurge, and they are complicit in the horrific and sinful acts that perpetuate its power!

Called to be Like Judas

In this story, Judas is the only disciple able to truly confront reality. He’s the only disciple able to come to terms with the true mission of Jesus. In fact, the Gospel of Judas reports that Judas was called to do the very thing that those in power– the other disciples– considered evil: to turn over Jesus to the authorities.

From Jesus’ perspective in the text, this was necessary, important, and ethical. It was vital to the success of his mission. However, the other disciples were still under the sway of the Demiurge to such a degree that they could not understand Jesus’ true mission, nor could they make the hard decision that Judas had to make.

Think about it from the perspective for Sethians at the time who might have used the Gospel of Judas as part of their religious observances. Other Christians might’ve said that they were unchristian, that they were outsiders, that they were not worshiping the same God that they did. And perhaps, in some sense, this was right!

Standing aloneThe Gospel of Judas suggests the Sethians recognition that, though many people might say that they worship “God” (and might really believe it), the true followers aren’t ones who fall in line with what religious authorities tell them. Rather, the true followers of God are those who take a stand against what is wrong. Who stand against homophobia and who racism. Who stand up for God’s heart and God’s mission, even when that puts them at odds with those who stand to gain from the exertion of power.

As we read the Gospel of Judas, how should we insert ourselves into the narrative? What takeaways should we have? One path, which this post has explored, is to consider ourselves in the role of Judas, and to consider Judas as a hero of the faith. As one who understood God not from what those around him (and in power) said, but from Jesus. For Judas, Jesus revealed God’s will for humankind, and the other disciples (and their traditions) were not the authority.

The case for Judas in this text is compelling and fascinating. Of course, there are other perspectives as well. What do you think? Do you find Judas’ role in the Gospel of Judas to be that of a heroic figure? Or, as some scholars have argued, does he play a far darker role? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments!


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