Bock

SNTS in Lund, Sweden and the Gospel of Judas- a Third Take Aug 2

Just finished the SNTS meetings in Lund, Sweden, a beautiful city in Southern Sweden, near Malmö, the country’s third largest city. The university has been here since 1666. The meetings were a great time to catch up on all things New Testament.

Just finished the SNTS meetings in Lund, Sweden, a beautiful city in Southern Sweden, near Malmö, the country’s third largest city. The university has been here since 1666. The meetings were a great time to catch up on all things New Testament.

I sat in yesterday on a presentation by Gesine Robinson of Clairemont Graduate University on the Gospel of Judas. We have blogged about this text at two different key times, (1) the original release and (2) about April DeConick’s critique of that reading, along with my review of the issues.

Gesine had the most sane take on the book I have heard. She disagrees that Judas is a hero in the book, as those tied to the original release claimed. She also thinks April DeConick went too far in claiming that the 13th realm and other translation issues makes a demonic like figure out of Judas (so neither is he an anti-hero). Nor should we tie Judas to Wisdom as Marvin Meyer does. Rather, Judas simply carried out the will of God and followed the "star" that guided him. But there was no real harm done to Jesus because Jesus’ spirit left his body before the suffering on the cross (in good Gnostic fashion), so that only the material and corrupted shell of the body that Jesus’ spirit occupied went to the cross (This means as in all such Gnostic texts there is no salvation through Jesus’ death). She sees the text playing with Judas some and being full of irony.

This reading makes Judas neither a hero nor an anti-hero in this work, which is a polemic against those who follow the apostolic teaching. Judas is in the thirteenth realm above the rest of the Twelve, but he is short of being saved. The one problem negative readings of Judas can have is that Judas as the one who receives the revelation from Jesus is placed in a role that usually places the recipient in a beneficial position. What in fact we appear to have in this gospel is that Judas is in a slightly better position than the others, but still falls short. Key to this is understanding the thirteenth realm as associated with this corrupt world but not seen as fully negative. As I said, this appears to be the most balanced of the readings advanced so far on this gospel. Nothing about this changes the assessment that Judas tells us nothing directly about the first century ministry of Jesus.

Lund University, Sweden

6 Comments

  • Avatar

    Ben Pascut

    Question
    Dr. Bock,
    Is there a reason why the Synoptics consistently list Judas last on the list (Mk 3:19; Mt 10:4; Lk 6:16), and does the order of the names of the Twelve reflect any sort of hierarchy? Peter for example is always listed first, and Judas last. Also, if the list has any hierarchical connotations, should this impact the way we read the Gospel of Judas?
    Ben Pascut

    • Avatar

      bock

      Question dlb

      Ben:

       

      The first and last names are always the same (and a few other items; you can see the details in my big Luke commentary). The gospel of Judas lacks any real historical content, so that any "hierarchy" does not impact it. I am not sure there is a hierarchy int he list anyway, other than Peter being a lead figure and Judas at the end.

       

      dlb

  • Avatar

    Geoff Hudson

    The Cross
    Darrell,

    The Gospel of Judas gives no indication that the writer was aware of the cross of Jesus or that Jesus’ spirit left his body before death or suffering. The latter idea would imply that the the writer had no concept of real suffering which is clearly not the case with regard to his thoughts about ‘priests’.

    The writer believed that God via Michael gave spirits to people as a loan. Presumably the writer also believed that when a spirit left a body, the body was dead – no longer animated, something like traditional Jewish beliefs as in the case of so-called Essenes, and the authors of the DSS with their two spirits.

    So is the Gospel telling us by default that the prophet ‘Jesus’ was not crucified?

  • Avatar

    bock

    Cross dlb

    Geoff:

    I think the premise that in Judas’s gospel there was no view that the body Jesus occupied was crucified is wrong. The book follows events according to timing tied to the last week. What was common in Gnostic gospels was that the body that went to the cross was crucified Jesus’ spirit had already departed it, having occupied it on loan. The Apocalypse of Peter has such a text as well. So there is a crucifixion and the view has nothing to do with the view of the Essenes.

    dlb

    • Avatar

      Geoff Hudson

      The Cross
      Darrell,

      I can’t find the text you described in the Apocalypse of Peter. The Apocalypse seems closer to traditional Christianity than gnostic, and is centered around resurrection, judgement and punishment in the body.

      • Avatar

        bock

        Cross Apoc of Peter 81:7-23 dlb

        Geoff:

        Here is the passage:

        Apocalypse of Peter 81:7-23:
        "I [Peter] said, “What am I seeing, O Lord? Is it you yourself whom they take? And are you holding on to me? Who is this one above the cross, who is glad and laughing? And is it another person whose feet and hands they are hammering?” The Savior said to me, “He whom you see above the cross, glad and laughing, is the living Jesus. But he into whose hands and feet they are driving the nails is his physical part, which is the substitute. They are putting to shame that which is his likeness.”

        In this text, Jesus declares that at his death it was only the material holder of Jesus that died. Jesus’s spirit had departed beforehand. The laughing Jesus is an indication that misunderstanding has taken place. So Jesus is laughing because they thought they had crucified him, but he did not suffer at all, having departed.

        dlb