Saturday, April 15, 2006


An excerpt from N. T. Wright's Maundy Thursday sermon with reference to the Gospel of Judas (so called). Read the full text here.

"I was studying this newly discovered little tract, the ‘Gospel of Judas’, yesterday morning, and reading what some of its editors had written about it; and there crept over me the horrible sense of a lie cheerfully told, a lie which people are eager to believe, a lie which could sap the vital energy of the church and individual Christians unless we name it for what it is, see the danger, and know why we reject it. There is a willful blindness about today which is uncomfortably like what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians. …let me just say three things about this ‘Gospel of Judas’, and about the contemporary movement which is so eager to fasten on documents like this and to make out that they represent the hidden truth about Jesus which the church has hushed up.

First, as a historian I want every scrap of information about the ancient world, every coin, every inscription, every papyrus. I am delighted at every new find and publication. But, precisely as a historian, I have to say that this ‘Gospel of Judas’ has no historical worth at all. It tells us nothing about the true Jesus, or for that matter about the true Judas. It breathes a totally different air from that of early first-century Palestine. It is that crass.

But, second and more important, the ‘gospel of Judas’ and the worldview it represents are deeply, dangerously, damagingly opposed to the goodness of creation… Gnosticism declares, very explicitly in the ‘gospel of Judas’, that the world was made by a lesser, low-grade divinity, and that the thing to do is to find the way to escape, to get rid of this human nature which is bottling up the divine spark within us. That’s why the ‘gospel of Judas’ declares that it was Judas who truly understood Jesus, the ‘Jesus’ reinvented in the gnostic imagination, the ‘Jesus’ who wanted to be killed so that he could get rid of his body and live as a pure spirit.

And that is why the word ‘gospel’ is itself a cheat when applied to books like this. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are good news about a good God who made a good world and who loves this world so much that he has rescued and redeemed it, has defeated the evil which has intruded into it, and has launched his project of new creation.

First, then, this document is worthless historically. Second, it is opposed to the fundamental Jewish and Christian doctrine of the goodness of creation. And third, it cuts the nerve of working for God’s kingdom in the real world. Who cares about speaking the truth to power if the real task is to escape? Why bother following the real Jesus and standing defenceless before the powers of the world if you can invent a fake Jesus who panders to your inner desires?

Gnosticism doesn’t bother about healing for the body… because the point is not to heal the body but to escape from it. Gnosticism doesn’t envisage the followers of Jesus going out to make the kingdom happen out on the street, because it’s only interested in nurturing its private spiritual interiority. We are here today because we want to follow the real Jesus and seek the real kingdom in the real world."

1 comment:

Dennis E. McFadden said...

Wow! That's the best thing I have seen written on the Gospel of Judas! Thanks!