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Was Judas Really a Traitor?

by Bob Prichard
via House to House, Vol. 17, No. 5

In conjunction with "Easter season:' the National Geographic Society released an ancient document dubbed the "Gospel of Judas."

In their news releases, National Geographic indicated the information in this third century papyrus codex threatened the "official" doctrine of the church by offering an alternative view of the gospel story as revealed by biblical writers.

In this "Gospel of Judas," Judas was given special insight into the plans of Christ, and as His most favored disciple, it was his task to "betray" Jesus so that His plans could be carried out. The text does not include any mention of the crucifixion or resurrection.

It is interesting that the "Gospel of Judas" is supposed to be a secret conversation between Jesus and Judas, although it is written in the third person, and could not have been written either by Jesus or Judas. Since neither Jesus nor Judas could have written it, how did this unknown writer know about this secret conversation?

The document is a papyrus codex discovered near El Minya, Egypt, in the 1970s. It is no doubt a copy of an earlier Greek text that was condemned by Iranaeus, an early church father, about 180 A.D. It was probably produced by a second century member of a Gnostic sect. The Gnostics [from the Greek word for knowledge] believed that they had special knowledge not known to others, and taught many things contrary to the Bible.

The "Gospel of Judas," like many other ancient documents (Gospel of Thomas, Shepherd of Hermas, and Ecclesiasticus), is interesting, but provides little real insight into the scriptures. Just because it is an old document, it is not necessarily true or valuable.

"And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him" (Mark 14:10-11). Judas remains a tragic man caught up in his own greed. He is a warning to us.