"[The Cainites] declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."The Cainites were a "heretical" Gnostic Christian sect who claimed to descend from the vilified biblical character Cain. "These things" that Judas knew about were ostensibly their "mysteries," which apparently centered around a group of people who are deliberately created to be "God's foil," so to speak, in carrying out his more unpopular missions. This thinking is quite sensible, since God is depicted as the creator and master of all creation - if he is all-powerful, then he must have created Cain and Judas for a reason.
In the gospel tale, Judas serves an important role, a fact that these ancient Christians recognized. As Judas's master, Jesus charges his disciple to betray him, so that Christ can be served up as a salvific or expiatory sacrifice - a fate that Jesus, as God, is fully aware has been divinely ordained. The entire perspective of Christianity as a faith depends on Jesus's sacrifice being expiatory, not punitive. In other words, for Christianity to be a religion, Jesus has to be killed in a sacrificial ritual as a representative or proxy of God, not as a punishment for being a political rebel, a commonly held viewpoint. In this regard, Judas is no "betrayer" but a crucial agent of God's will. This fact the Cainites apparently recognized, as they thus portrayed Judas as an agent of the Almighty, rather than a heinous criminal who betrayed the gentle Jesus.
The existence of the Gospel of Judas, which was surely not written by Judas, as well as numerous other gospels that were excluded from the canon but that were held sacred by a wide variety of groups throughout the Mediterranean, demonstrates that there was no one gospel story or perspective set in stone, and contributes heavily to the rational notion that the tale is fictional. There is no contemporary record of Jesus Christ or any of his disciples, not even of Paul, who is depicted as a notorious rabblerouser guilty of mass murder but who oddly nevers makes it into the history books. Judas appears to have been a literary device, much as Jesus Christ himself, as part of ancient, pre-Christian mysteries, in which a sacred king destined for a ritual scapegoat sacrifice is betrayed to the authorities in order to carry out God's will. In other words, the Passion Play really is a play, not a historical event, and it occurred thousands of times prior to the Christian era, with numerous people involved, not just once with the only begotten Son of God. In this drama, Judas plays a pivotal role, which is how he is portrayed in the Gospel of Judas.
The details of the Gospel of Judas reveal the peculiar "anti-matter" bent of the Gnostics, whose defining characteristic was that they abhorred "the flesh" and wanted to be released from this base, lower world. So much did these Gnostics despise the flesh, in fact, that they vehemently disagreed that the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had ever appeared on Earth as a man. In other words, the Gnostics denied that Jesus Christ as a historical person ever existed.
At this point in time, with a significant amount of profound and important scholarship produced over the past three centuries that roundly demonstrates just such a thesis - that Jesus Christ was not a real person but a mythical character - it seems erroneous to label anyone an "expert in Christianity" who does not at least entertain that possibility/probability.
"Gospel of Judas" gives new view of Jesus' betrayer
By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Judas Iscariot, vilified as Christ's betrayer, acted at Jesus' request in turning him over to the authorities who crucified him, according to a 1,700-year-old copy of the "Gospel of Judas" unveiled on Thursday.
In an alternative view to traditional Christian teaching, the Judas gospel shows the reviled disciple as the only one in Jesus' inner circle who understood his desire to shed his earthly body.
"He's the good guy in this portrayal," said Bart Ehrman, a religion professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "He's the only apostle who understands Jesus."
The Judas gospel's introduction says it is "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot." Later, it quotes Jesus as saying to Judas, "You will exceed all of them (the other disciples) for you will sacrifice the man who clothes me."
"The idea in this gospel is that Jesus, like all of us, is a trapped spirit, who is trapped in a material body," Ehrman said. "And salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existence, and Judas is the one who makes it possible for him to escape by allowing for his body to be killed."
Rev. Donald Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said the document revealed the diversity and vitality in early Christianity.
"The question becomes ... does this tradition, this alternative story, if you like, in the gospel of Judas have a claim that in some sense is equal to the rival claim of the gospel tradition?" Senior said.
It is not known who wrote the Judas gospel. The copy unveiled on Thursday is of a document mentioned critically in the year 180 in a treatise called "Against Heresies," written by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon in what was then Roman Gaul. It spoke out against those whose views about Jesus differed from those of the mainstream Christian Church.
In the Bible's New Testament, Judas is portrayed as the quintessential traitor, accepting 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus by identifying him to Roman soldiers. The biblical Gospel of St. Matthew says Judas quickly regretted his treachery, returned the silver and hanged himself.
The New Testament contains four Gospels -- of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- but many more so-called apocryphal gospels were written in the first centuries after Christ's death, attributed to such disciples as Thomas and Philip and to his female follower Mary Magdalene.