Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gospel of Judas; A short summary

So what does the Gospel of Judas really say? Because of copyright laws, I can’t reproduce the Gospel of Judas here, but I can provide a detailed summary in my own words. The following, therefore, is my detailed summary of The Gospel of Judas, based on the account published in The Gospel of Judas, edited by Rodolphe Kasser et al., Washington DC : National Geographic, 2006). Phrases below in quotes are direct quotations from this book. My explanatory comments are in brackets.

The Gospel of Judas begins by saying this is a secret account that Jesus revealed to Judas just days before Jesus’ death. Jesus appeared, doing great miracles for people's salvation. He chose twelve disciples and would sometimes appear to them as a child. One day Jesus found his disciples praying [in context, probably a reference to the Last Supper] and he laughed, saying they were just trying to praise their god. His disciples say that he is the Son of God and he responds by saying that no one really knows him.

This infuriates the disciples and they begin thinking blasphemous thoughts against him. Jesus says that their God within them has provoked them to anger, and challenges any of them to stand before his face. Judas alone rises to the challenge and tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is really from the immortal aeon of Barbelo [a virgin god mentioned constantly in 2nd-4th century Gnostic literature]. Jesus calls Judas away from the rest of the disciples to tell him the secret mysteries. Jesus tells Judas that someone will replace him so the disciples can “come to completion with their god." Jesus then goes away.

The next day, Jesus explains that he went away to another realm. When asked about this realm, Jesus laughs and says that no one of this aeon, of mortal birth, will see that generation.

On another day, the disciples tell Jesus about a dream they had, in which twelve priests commit many sins, such as sacrificing their children and sleeping with men. These priests invoke Jesus’ name as they stand before the altar. Jesus responds saying something about the “generations of the stars” [part of the text is missing] and that they “have planted trees without fruit…in a shameful manner.” Jesus tells his disciples that they are the twelve priests and that the cattle they sacrifice are the men they lead astray. Jesus says other men will come after them, who kill children, sleep with men, and assure people that God has received their sacrifice from the priest [possibly a reference to the offering of Eucharist]. Jesus says they will be put to shame on the last day and commands them to stop sacrificing and “struggling” with him.

Judas asks what kind of fruit this generation produces and Jesus responds saying that people’s body will die but their souls will be taken up. Judas asks about the rest of humanity and Jesus says fruit cannot be harvested from seed sown on rock. Jesus says this is the way of the “corruptible Sophia.” Then Jesus left.

The next thing that happens, without transition or explanation, is that Judas tells Jesus that he has seen a vision. Laughing, Jesus calls Judas “You thirteenth spirit” and says he will listen. In Judas’ vision, the twelve disciples were stoning Judas. Judas came to a huge house with many people around. Jesus tells Judas that Judas’ star has led him astray and that no one “of mortal birth” was worthy to enter that house because it was only for the holy. Jesus says he has explained the “mysteries of the kingdom and has taught “about the error of the stars,” and something about “the twelve aeons” [the text is defective].

Judas asks if “his seed” could be under control of the archons. Jesus says that Judas “will become the thirteenth,” and “will be cursed” but will eventually “rule over the other generations. Jesus then invites Judas to learn about secrets no one has ever seen. Jesus tells Judas about “a great and boundless realm” in which there is a “great invisible Spirit,” using language very similar to First Corinthians 2:9. Then “the enlightened divine Self-Generated” comes out of a “luminous cloud” and creates “myriads” of angelic beings and “enlightened aeons.” Someone [Adamas, or Adam is mentioned in the context, but the text is defective] makes the incorruptible aeon of Seth appear, as well as seventy-two luminaries. The seventy-two incorruptible luminaries cause “three hundred sixty” incorruptible luminaries to appear. Then there are “twelve aeons, and “six heavens for each aeon” for a total of “seventy-two heavens for the seventy two luminaries.” Each of them have five “firmaments” totaling three hundred sixty firmaments.

Then out of a cloud appears “Nebro” or Yaldabaoth [in other Gnostic writings, Nebro mates with Saklas, resulting in twelve aeons. Yaldabaoth is often associated, in one way or another, with the God of the Bible]. “Nebro creates six angels as his assistants. One of these is Saklas [Aramaic for “fool,” a reference to the God of the Bible]. These six angles produce twelve more angels. Five angels rule over the underworld: Christ, Harmathoth, Galila, Yobel and Adonaios. “Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.” They then create Adam and Eve.

Judas then asks Jesus how long people will live and Jesus responds saying that God ordered the angel “Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan” but he ordered the angel of Gabriel to give spirits to the “great generation” apparently as a gift.

Judas asks what those generations will do. Jesus says “the stars bring matters to completion” and when Saklas’ time is completed, “their first star will appear with the generations,” and that they would fornicate in Jesus’ name and kill their children. Then Jesus laughs because the “six stars wander about with these five combatants, and they will be destroyed….”

Judas then asks about those baptized in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ response is unclear due to defective text, but he apparently says something about those who offer sacrifices to Saklas and something about “everything that is evil.”

Then comes one of the key passages in the whole gospel: Jesus tells Judas that Judas will “sacrifice the man that clothes me.” After this, Judas sees a “luminous cloud” and enters it.

Finally, Jesus goes into the upper room for prayer and the high priests murmur. The Scribes want to arrest Jesus but are afraid to do so because all the people regard him as a prophet. Then, without transition or explanation, they ask Judas what he was doing there, Judas told them what they wanted to know, received his money, and handed Jesus over to them. Thus ends the Gospel of Judas.

If you think the summary is confusing, the original is just as confusing. Come back tomorrow for some commentary and explanation of this nonsense.