Another Easter, Another Gospel
Vol: 55 Issue: 15 Saturday, April 15, 2006
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)
Let’s start a little differently. Who’s up for a quick Bible quiz? I know it’s early, but mental calisthenics help get the thought processes flowing.
Quick, if somebody preaches another Gospel, what does the Bible say about that preacher?
Got it? Good. Now a follow-up question: If the person PREACHING another Gospel is accursed, should Christians be studying the ‘other Gospel’ on their own?
Or put another way; can there be anything spiritually edifying to be obtained from something that God Himself has declared to be ‘accursed?’
I’m sorry, is this hard? It seems pretty straightforward. The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that there is but one True Gospel and pronounced a rare Scriptural curse on those who would purvey another.
Despite Paul’s admonition, ‘Christian’ leaders are hailing the allegedly ‘lost’ Gospel of Judas as a ‘watershed breakthrough’ that ‘might change our understanding’ of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I set off Christian and ‘watershed breakthrough’ in quotes because I doubt both. The most outspoken proponents of the Judas Gospel are professors of religion at major US universities.
Noted the New York Times’ account of the find, “The Gospel of Judas is only one of many texts discovered in the last 65 years, including the gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Philip, believed to be written by Gnostics.”
“As the findings have trickled down to churches and universities, they have produced a new generation of Christians who now regard the Bible not as the literal word of God, but as a product of historical and political forces that determined which texts should be included in the canon, and which edited out.”
The Gospel of Judas portrays Judas Iscariot as the Lord’s most favored disciple and willing collaborator. The four Gospels say Judas betrayed Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of silver and later killed himself in remorse.
The Judas Gospel manuscript has been authenticated and carbon-dating says it is about 1700 years old. The authentication effort was organized by the National Geographic Society, aired the documentary on Thursday and plans a second airing on April 22nd.
National Geographic quotes Rodolphe Kasser, whom it identifies as a ‘clergyman and former professor in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Geneva in Switzerland’.
“This lost gospel, providing information on Judas Iscariot considered for 20 centuries and by hundreds of millions of believers as an antichrist of the worst kind bears witness to something completely different from what was said [about Judas] in the Bible.”
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2nd Corinthians 11:3)
The National Geographic describes the Judas Gospel in breathless terms, saying the “text not only offers an alternative view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas but also illustrates the diversity of opinion in the early Christian church.”
Baloney. The ‘diversity of opinion in the early Christian church’ was hardly a secret. Neither was the Gospel of Judas.
The ‘Lost’ Gospel of Judas was composed by members of a Gnostic sect sometime around AD 180. It had already been thoroughly vetted by Iraenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, in his book Adversus Haereses (“Against Heresies”)
Iraenaeus, who published ‘Against Heresies’ in AD 180, dismissed it out of hand, saying of its Gnostic authors, “They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”
The Gospel of Judas opens with the words;
“The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated Passover. … Jesus said to him, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal.”
(No wonder the Apostle Paul lamented, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” [Galatians 1:6])
What sets the True Gospels apart from the various alternative gospels is immediately apparent. The spurious Gnostic accounts all claim to offer a secret teaching.
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene allegedly reveals secret teaching that Jesus showed Mary in a vision. The spurious Gospel of Thomas opens with the claim; These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote them down.”
Iraenaeus insisted that Jesus did not teach any of His disciples secretly, and the Scripture’s Gospel accounts bear that out.
When His disciples came unto Him ‘privately’ to ask Him of the signs of His coming and of the end of the world, His reply was recorded in three separate Gospel accounts.
Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world and teach what He taught them.
Iraenaeus wrote that “the heretics say that they have more gospels than there actually are; but really, they have no gospel that is not full of blasphemy.”
To suddenly embrace the Gospel of Judas in the 21st century as a ‘watershed’ that will ‘change our understanding’ of the Gospel while ignoring the perspective of Iraenaeus is nothing short of willful ignorance.
Iraenaeus lived within living memory of the Apostles themselves. The events described by the Gospels were as recent to Iraenaeus’ time as the First World War is to our generation.
There remained living links to the events of Jesus’ day in Iraenaeus’ time — and Iraenaeus dismissed the Gospel of Judas out of hand as a work of fiction.
To suggest that Judas will ‘reveal’ new insights into the Gospels to this generation that it didn’t reveal in Iraenaeus’ time is breathtakingly arrogant.
It is worth noting [again] that the ‘Gospel of Judas’ is mainstream news — [and so suddenly!] — because this is Easter.
This is the time of year when Christians recall the true Gospel of Jesus Christ:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Every year at Easter, there is a major media push to mythologize Jesus, to discover some ‘new’ and ‘secret’ evidence that Jesus was not really God come in the flesh, but some kind of religious huckster who has pulled the wool over the eyes of generation after generation. . . until this one.
It is a source of endless fascination to me to watch it unfold each Easter season. Every generation, from that of Iraenaeus to this one, has attempted to ‘prove’ the Bible is wrong, the Gospels are a work of fiction, and that there is no God.
There is no literary work of history that has been more thoroughly vetted, debated, examined and subjected to the level of textual criticism than the Bible.
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their’s also was.” (2nd Timothy 3:8-9)
Every generation has raised its crop of skeptics determined to disprove the truth of Scripture. Each generation has had its share of thinkers shouting ‘Eureka’ — only to have their alleged ‘proof’ evaporate under the weight of new discovery.
Eighteen centuries after Iraenaeus’ evaluated and rejected the Gospel of Judas as a work of fiction, a new generation is shouting ‘Eureka’.
Every year at Easter, Jesus is suddenly discovered by the media to have been a fraud. Every year, being a Christian becomes a bit less fashionable, and, in some parts of the world, a bit more dangerous.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2nd Timothy 3:12)
Despite the two thousand year constant assault on Scripture’s veracity, nobody has ever conclusively disproved a single word of Scripture.
Not a single point of science, medicine or history mentioned in Scripture has ever been contradicted by direct evidence.
Not a single thinker in all the generations of skeptics who ever shouted ‘Eureka’ in the last two thousand years ever became known to history as the man who disproved the Bible and destroyed the underpinnings of Judeo-Christianity.
And if such a person ever lived, we would certainly know of him.
Instead, on Easter, Christians talk about Jesus the Savior. The world talks about Jesus, the Myth.
Nobody seems to find anything of evidential value in the fact that, no matter what their perspective, whether their confession is positive or negative, EVERYBODY is talking about Jesus.
“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11)
I pray each of you has a happy and blessed Resurrection Sunday.