"We surely stand at the threshold of a great adventure of the
human spirit — a new synthesis of knowledge, a potential integration of art and
science, a deeper grasp of human psychology, a deepening of the symbolic
representations of our existence and feelings as given in religion and culture,
the formation of an international order based on cooperation and nonviolent
competition. It seems not too much to hope for these things. The future, as
always, belongs to the dreamers."
The Gospel of Judas
Edge, May 2007
Edited by Andy Ross
The Gospel of Judas is a fascinating dialogue between Jesus and Judas about
what happened when Judas handed Jesus over for arrest, and why he did it.
This gospel presents Judas Iscariot as Jesus' favorite disciple.
people see the main message of Jesus as "Jesus died for your sins" — and see
Jesus' death as a sacrifice God requires to forgive human sins. This gospel
asks, What does that make of God?
The Gospel of Judas says that Jesus
not only anticipated that he would die and went into it with his eyes open,
so to speak, aware that this somehow had to happen because there was a deep
mystery in it, asked Judas to perform this act as a friend, and that Judas
was the only one who could and would do it, and the others completely
misunderstood it and stoned him to death.
Anyone who joined this
movement was aware that he or she could be killed for it. It was very
dangerous to be a part of this movement. And one of the most troubling
problems was, what do you do if you're arrested? There is a Jewish tradition
about persecution and about martyrdom which sees dying for God, as they
called it, as a way of witnessing God's power.
When Jesus' followers
tried to make sense of how their messiah died, some suggested that Jesus
died as a sacrifice. So the worship of Jesus' followers became a sacred meal
in which people drank wine and ate bread, ceremonially reenacting the death
of Jesus. But whoever wrote the Gospel of Judas has Jesus laughing at the
disciples, to say, what you're doing is ludicrous. Turning the death of
Jesus into something like an animal sacrifice. This author sees the idea of
Jesus dying for our sins as a complete misunderstanding of the whole message
AR I find myself
immediately sympathetic to anything Elaine Pagels writes or says for the
idiosyncratic reason that she was married to Heinz Pagels. Heinz was a
brilliant physicist who wrote three wonderful books before dying young in a
hiking accident in 1988. I loved the two of the books I read, The Cosmic
Code (about quantum physics as the code of nature) and Perfect Symmetry
(about big bang cosmology and the first moment), but moved to Germany before
his third, The Dreams of Reason (about complexity theory), appeared, and
spent so much time with other books on chaos and complexity theory that I
was sated before discovering it.
Returning to the gospel of Judas, of
course we should rethink the foundations of Christianity in the light of
this and other recently discovered gospels. Many thinkers in recent years
have come to regard the orthodox Christian doctrine of sin as a nasty
distraction from anything that Jesus might plausibly have wished to promote.