While the publishers of Apologetics Index operate from an orthodox, evangelical Christian point of view, the intent of this site is to provide research resources from a variety of perspectives.
Therefore, unlike many other websites that deal with the issues we address, many topics on this site include links to Christian, non-Christian and secular research resources, presented from neutral, pro, and contra viewpoints.
Note: A simple color-coding system is used to help you identify the general background of sites, articles and other listings.
How to use Apologetics Index
Suggest additional listings The Hunt for the Gospel of Judas
[See also articles in the Gospel of Judas news tracker]
When the Gospel of Judas was unveiled at a news conference in April 2006, it made headlines around the world — with nearly all of those articles touting the new and improved Judas. “In Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal,” read the headline in The New York Times. The British paper The Guardian called it “a radical makeover for one of the worst reputations in history.” A documentary that aired a few days later on National Geographic’s cable channel also pushed the Judas-as-hero theme. The premiere attracted four million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated program in the channel’s history, behind only a documentary on September 11.
But almost immediately, other scholars began to take issue with the interpretation of Meyer and the rest of the National Geographic team. They didn’t see a good Judas at all. In fact, this Judas seemed more evil than ever. Those early voices of dissent have since grown into a chorus, some of whom argue that National Geographic’s handling of the project amounts to scholarly malpractice. It’s a perfect example, critics argue, of what can happen when commercial considerations are allowed to ride roughshod over careful research. What’s more, the controversy has strained friendships in this small community of religion scholars — causing some on both sides of the argument to feel, in a word, betrayed.
“It presents a completely different cosmology and theology from what we find in the New Testament,” said George Guthrie, the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University, a Baptist-affiliated university in Jackson, Tenn.
Guthrie and other Christian studies faculty members at Union said the Gospel of Judas document is unreliable as a source for the actual historical events in the life of Jesus and promotes the heresy of Gnosticism, an ancient teaching condemned by the early Christian church.
“It is not in any way, shape or form a writing that tells us anything reliable about either the real Jesus or Judas,” added Greg Thornbury, dean of Union’s school of Christian studies.
Thornbury referred to a quote from Elaine Pagels, a Princeton University religion professor who was a paid consultant for the National Geographic project that translated and published the Gospel of Judas. Pagels pointed out that the people who wrote and circulated these gospels “did not think they were heretics.”
“When do heretics admit that what they believe is, in fact, heresy?” Thornbury asked. “Whether one is talking about the fourth century or the 21st century, there has been no shortage of people trying to discredit the Christian faith.”
Ray Van Neste, associate professor of Christian studies at Union, said it’s important to distinguish between authentic and authoritative.
“Sure it’s authentic, meaning it came from that time,” Van Neste said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the true gospel.”
The Gnostic Gospels represent a body of material written at least 200 years after the four gospels of the New Testament. The early Christian community treated these writings as heretical from the beginning and they were soundly rejected by most all of the Church Fathers. They are second century rantings which do not match the eyewitness accounts of the four Gospels. There are literally hundreds of these Gnostic, apocryphal texts which tell us nothing about the Bible and much about the competing false religious systems which attempted to supplant Christianity while it was still in its infancy.
Why did one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the century remain hidden for such a long time? Almost two thousand years the ‘blasphemous’ Gospel of Judas was banned by the Church. Until the seventies of last century when Egyptian farmers accidentally found a copy in a cave. But even long afterwards nobody dared to get their fingers burned by the manuscript. “Forget the Da Vinci code, this is the real thing!”
In short, the Gospel of Judas is an interesting historical find that should shed some light on Gnostic thought and second-century interactions between Christians and Gnostic Christians. As compared to the Christian Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, not to mention Paul’s letters, they are worthless as sources of information about the real Jesus and about the beliefs of the earliest Christians.
The truth of the Gospel stands, and Christians will retain firm confidence in the authenticity of the New Testament and, in particular, of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Nevertheless, old Gnosticisms are continually repackaged and “rediscovered” even as new forms of Gnostic thought emerge in our postmodern culture.
Informed Christians will be watchful and aware when confronting churches or institutions that present spurious writings, rejected as heretical by the early church, on the same plane as the New Testament.
In actuality, the discovered texts, while a considerable historical find, seem to be adding little to what was already known about Gnostic theology, from the evidence that had been available for many centuries.
Nevertheless, the discovery struck a nerve with some who find mainstream Christian theology and morality to be distasteful, or who claim that the early church suppressed Gnostic theology in a bid for political domination. Most media outlets are keen on the metaphor of faiths’ “fighting it out,” and so they inaccurately describe Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity as vying for the same (and apparently very gullible) audience.
But what is often lacking in recent accounts of Gnosticism is the critical admission that these dead religions — besides typically denying Christ’s birth, execution, and resurrection — selfishly play up a devotion to personal “inner awakenings,” while demoting social responsibility and morality, as well as self-sacrifice.
Hence the heresy: In denying Christ’s incarnation, human reality becomes separate and subordinate to esoteric spirituality. Structurally, then, Gnosticism could not — and cannot — focus well on the troubles of humanity.
So the church did what it had to do. It vigorously rejected Gnostic influences and sustained its canon by remaining faithful to the fundamental teachings of Christ, as passed on by the apostolic communities that actually knew him.
“I write as a scholar, and, as you will see as you read my narration, I have been involved to a very large extent over the past generation in this adventure. Yet you will also see me, in my capacity as scholar, expressing dismay, even disgust, over much of what has gone on. I lay it all out, with as much documentation as I can muster, for you to see for yourself.”
– Source: – James M. Robinson, Preface to The Secrets of Judas