On Paul Harvey's Friday broadcast, April 7th, came the following news item:
National Geographic has located an ancient manuscript in the Egyptian desert. It's written on papyrus. It has authenticated itself with carbon dating. It has been translated by Biblical scholars. And unlike the other four gospels, this one indicates that Judas betrayed Jesus at Jesus' request-hear this carefully, that Judas helped Jesus get rid of His physical flesh and liberate His spiritual self.
This announcement is not nearly so damaging as it sounds-in fact, it is not damaging at all. What makes this "news" item sound even remotely interesting is our modern-day ignorance of church history and writings. Most of us are unaware of how many "gospels" were actually written. There was the Gospel according to Thomas, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, and others listed below. The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature was first published from 1867-1887. The Gospel of Judas was mentioned by them:
Of the gospels no longer extant, we know little more than that they once existed. We read in Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Origen, Eusebius, and other ecclesiastical writers of the Gospels of Eve or of Perfection, of Barnabas (ancient and modern), of Bartholomew, of Basilides, of Hesychius, of Judas Iscariot, of the Valentinians, of Apollos, of Cerinthus, of the Twelve Apostles, and several others (3:940) (emphasis gws).
Many of these were known but rejected and perhaps lost because they were fabrications-counterfeits considered unworthy of any merit. That someone found a manuscript of a lost, bogus book might be news, but it is not news that the writing existed. Before anyone makes another stupefying find, there are plenty of other works that were written. Philip Schaff, in his monumental work History of the Christian Church, points out that many apocryphal books of Acts were written, including The Acts of Peter and Paul, The Acts of Thomas, The Acts of Thaddeus, The Acts of Barnabas, The Acts of Andrew, The Acts of Simon and Jude, and several others (1:188).
Many of these apocryphal books were written to establish some heresy that a sect had developed over the years. They all contradict the truth of the 27 books of the New Testament. They were written after the first century, after inspiration had ceased, and were fairly easily identifiable as fraudulent.T
he very idea that Jesus asked Judas to betray Him is farcical. There were several times that they wanted to put Him to death; our Lord did not need any help in raising the ire of the Jews or giving them opportunities. But consider these facts (from the real gospel accounts).
- Jesus said: "The Son of Man goeth as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24). How hypocritical would have been to have asked Judas to do that which he would regret eternally? There is a vast difference between God allowing men to sin and encouraging them to do so.
- Jesus' spiritual self did not need to be liberated. He was God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). He was so spiritual that He told Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).
- Judas did not betray Jesus to help Him, but rather for 30 pieces of silver- because he was a covetous man- a thief, who stole from the money box (John 12:4-6).
- Judas betrayed Christ because he was motivated by Satan (Luke 22:3-4)-not by some alleged request from Jesus.
The Gospel of Judas is nothing more than an attempt to justify Judas and discredit Jesus-to turn light into darkness and darkness into light (Isaiah 5:20). The world would not have missed a thing if it had remained lost, but, having been found, it is certainly no threat to Christianity. It is just as apocryphal and invalid today as it was then. Most people will soon realize this fact.
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