This Pascha, the media keeping up with its annual policy, has found something else with which it can attack the faith of Christians. The National Geographic Society is headlining its May edition with a sensationalized report on what it claims challenges one of the most firmly rooted beliefs in Christian tradition. For the next few weeks, newspapers, magazines, television and radio will be proclaiming this newly discovered Gnostic text called The Gospel of Judas.
This manuscript of The Gospel of Judas is a fourth or fifth cnetuary copy of an earlier document produced by a Gnostic sect called the Cainites. Gnosticism is a collective name applying to various pantheistic sects, which flourished from before the coming of our Saviour. These pagan sects borrowed the phraseology of Christianity but otherwise had little in common with the Faith. Their pantheistic thought was based on the belief that this world was the creation of an evil creator-god and that the parent-gods, through a series of descending steps came into contact with humans in order to lead them to the return to the parent-god. This process was facilitated by various saviours who would set free the divine spark captured in the evil human body.
St. Irenæus of
Lyons was one of the many Holy Fathers that combated the teachings of the multitude of Gnostic sects that existed at his time. In his great work Against Heresies, he describes a Gnostic sect called the Cainites. They were related to another sect called the Ophites. The Ophites, a name based on the Greek word for snake, worshiped the snake in the Garden of Eden because it showed Adam and Eve how to escape from the evil creator-god. The Cainites worshiped Cain, wo killed his brother Abel and in this way freed him from the captivity of the creator-god (Against Heresies 1, 31:1).
This manuscript, which is being portrayed as a great find, portrays Judas as obeying a divine ordinance in betraying our Saviour. The text begins by announcing that it is the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover. It continues by having our Lord say that it is necessary for someone to free him finally from his human body and he preferred that this liberation be done by His closest friend, Judas.
This manuscript has a vague background but it seems that it was found in the 1970s. In 1983 the then owner was asking for three million dollars. Eventually it was acquired by The National Geographic Society and today they are trying to make a profit on their investment by sensationalizing this pagan document which was known as early as the second century.
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