GOSPEL OF JUDAS has been creating quite a stir in the news this week. Click here to read it in PDF. Newly published and hyped by a television program, people are acting like it is the only extra canonical piece ever found. We have lots of these, especially since the discoveries at Nag Hammadi in 1945.
These books did not make it into the Bible but shed light on the diversity of thought surrounding the followers of Jesus after his death. See my previous post for my thoughts on diversity during his life. Many communities were formed and many stories were preserved to show how the followers perceived his importance in their lives. After reading the Gospel of Judas I can see why, IMO, this one did not make it. It portrays a community that believes a very dualistic version of the spiritual life. The body and the soul are separated - the body being a trap for the soul from which true spiritual beings have to be released. This is counter to my belief in the goodness of the body and Jesus revealing that goodness by being born into our midst. It also encourages a belief that Jesus was not really human. The belief that Jesus was truly human (as well as divine) is one of the most important points of Christianity. God who comes into our midst in real human mind, body, and soul - born, lived, suffered, and died - shows me the way to become the person I was created to be and how we are to live together in this world. Resurrection teaches that I have nothing to fear -even death. I don't find this in the Gospel of Judas and many of the other extra-canonical Gospels.
I do like the references to Jesus laughing in the Gospel of Judas - I like to think that Jesus loved to laugh with people and enjoyed a party with whomever would attend. I don't like the passages that lump men who sleep with men with people who kill their children as a sacrifice. I know that it comes from a time when our ideas of mutual loving relationships between persons of the same sex were not current but still hate to think that it could be used to support anti-gay arguments.
Overall it is interesting to read things that were written by people of faith who center around Jesus and to discover the various ideas. It makes me think that there has never been a perfect time of true belief. The journey of faith is one of testing and learning and growing. The best advice is probably Jesus' "by their fruits shall you know them."
What is the outcome of faith - does it build up community and respect the uniqueness of each human being? Or does it tear down community and individuals? The building up of both is the balance and the proof for me.