So now some people are poised to make a bundle of money on a twist on the betrayal of Jesus to the Jewish and Roman powers-that-were. The “Gospel of Judas” has been verified as being sufficiently old (1,700 years) so as to possibly be considered an authentic gospel. Typical mainstream media stories may be found at the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
What makes this latest apocryphal gospel interesting is that it places Judas Iscariot in a more favorable light. Which would not be hard, since “Judas” has become synonymous with “traitor.” However, in this latest find, instead of being portrayed as a completely evil man, there is the notion that Jesus requested Judas to betray Him in order to fulfill prophecy.
What a shock. The Man who was fully divine, and a co-equal Person in the Trinity, carrying out His Father’s plan. There’s no surprise in this, at least for me. This has always been my understanding of Judas: that he was a necessary part of salvation history. Somebody had to betray Jesus; somebody had to give the authorities a pretext to put Him to death. And when I write “had to”, I mean precisely that: since this was God’s plan, it had to be done.
One of the alleged consequences of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus has been anti-Semitism. Well, the true Gospels, especially of John, mark “the Jews” as the betrayer of Jesus. Judas was merely one Jew, and even absent his role, the Sanhedrin of the day (basically the evil Herod’s crew of select elders) could reasonably be blamed for wanting Jesus dead. He was, to coin a phrase, a thorn in their side.
So, it was “the Jews” who killed Christ? No. What killed Jesus were the worldly powers, who could not tolerate one who preached the kingdom of heaven. At the time and place chosen by God, first century Palestine, it was the Roman occupiers and the high priests of the Temple. Judas merely played out a role defined for him by God, under either the traditional version (e.g. Matthew 26:14-16), or, this new apocryphal gospel.
The question to be answered is, “does this new document change anything about our understanding that Jesus is the Messiah?” So far, it doesn’t seem to.
| technorati tag | Gospel of Judas|