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Jesus: The false vengeful God demands such needless sacrifice


Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
"In the second century CE, Christianity as we know it was solidifying under the auspices of bishops and clergy. Recent discoveries show that other interpretations of Jesus' death co-existed with the now dominate view. In other words, Christianity was not as homogenous as tradition suggests. Over time the fringe groups, along with their documents, were suppressed and outlawed as heretical. The Gospel of Judas, argue the authors, represents one of these alternate, or dissenting, ideologies. At the time of its composition Christian persecution was widespread and expanding. Certain founders of the nascent church, such as Tertullian, Ireneaus, and Heracleon, began to glorify the suffering of those who were killed in horrifying and unimaginable ways by the then pagan Roman government. Others Christians followed them 'to glory' and met similar ghastly ends. Pagels and King argue that the Gospel of Judas' fervent anger stems from the church's encouragement of martyrdom. The 'false vengeful God,' according to the Jesus of the Gospel of Judas, demands such needless sacrifice. But the 'true God' never would. Jesus demands that the Apostles 'cease sacrificing!' So was the Gospel of Judas a protest piece? Maybe. It definitely paints an alternate picture of Jesus and Christianity."

From Great Deceiver to Bosom Buddy, June 11, 2007
By ewomack "ewomack" (MN USA)

Judas Iscariot has played the role of Christianity's ultimate traitor for centuries. Tradition, as portrayed in the synoptic gospels, claims that he handed Jesus over to the Romans for thirty silver pieces. This vile act led to Jesus' crucifixion and death. So repugnant was this that his name has become synonymous with deceit and betrayal. For example, when Bob Dylan abandoned folk music for electric rock in 1966, an appalled audience member at the Royal Albert Hall yelled "Judas!" Right or wrong, everyone knew what that single name implied. Some cheered, some hissed. Pope Benedict XVI upheld the tradition in 2006 by accusing Judas of greed and power mongering. And why did the leader of the Catholic Church feel the need to reiterate this well-worn point in the twenty-first century? Because the long lost Gospel of Judas had resurfaced. A translation of this document's extant text appears in Part Two of "Reading Judas." Written sometime before 180 CE, the short gospel inverts tradition by depicting Judas as Jesus' most trusted Apostle, as his bosom buddy, his confidante. Not only that, Jesus shares the "mysteries of the Kingdom" with this great deceiver. And only with him. The gospel portrays the other Apostles as weak and conniving dolts who, according to Jesus, worship the wrong God through cruel sacrifice. Jesus' delineation of the "Mysteries" evoke elements similar to Pythagorianism, Platonism, Vedanta, and Buddhism. Certain sections of the gospel read more like Plato's "Timaeus" than the New Testament. In these passages, Jesus outlines a mystical mathematical transcendental cosmology involving a pantheon of lesser imperfect gods, one of which, called Saklas, created humanity, and the all knowing all seeing "Great Invisible Spirit" (the "real God") from which everything emanates. Humans have this Spirit within them, but they must search for it by examining the Self. Jesus' death will serve as an example to humankind that they can escape their physical bodies and enter the Heavenly Kingdom via the discovery of this inner Spirit. Jesus entrusts Judas with initiating this sacred event. Judas then identifies Jesus to the accusers as instructed, receives some copper coins, and the text ends. Thus does Judas become, in this long lost gospel, the catalyst to humanity's salvation. Judas also sees the vision of his demise. The other Apostles will apparently stone him to death. But, as Jesus points out, such is the price for the "Mysteries of the Kingdom."

Part One of "Reading Judas" analyzes the Gospel in historical context. Drawing from voluminous sources, including the Bible, other Gnostic gospels, and various miscellaneous ancient texts, the essay's authors, Pagels and King, frame the Gospel of Judas as a text infused with anger. What caused this anger? In the second century CE, Christianity as we know it was solidifying under the auspices of bishops and clergy. Recent discoveries show that other interpretations of Jesus' death co-existed with the now dominate view. In other words, Christianity was not as homogenous as tradition suggests. Over time the fringe groups, along with their documents, were suppressed and outlawed as heretical. The Gospel of Judas, argue the authors, represents one of these alternate, or dissenting, ideologies. At the time of its composition Christian persecution was widespread and expanding. Certain founders of the nascent church, such as Tertullian, Ireneaus, and Heracleon, began to glorify the suffering of those who were killed in horrifying and unimaginable ways by the then pagan Roman government. Others Christians followed them "to glory" and met similar ghastly ends. Pagels and King argue that the Gopel of Judas' fervent anger stems from the church's encouragement of martyrdom. The "false vengeful God," according to the Jesus of the Gospel of Judas, demands such needless sacrifice. But the "true God" never would. Jesus demands that the Apostles "cease sacrificing!" So was the Gospel of Judas a protest piece? Maybe. It definitely paints an alternate picture of Jesus and Christianity.

Overall, "Reading Judas" enables general readers to grasp the document's significance. Most helpful are the some forty pages of commentary that accompany the translation. Though Pagels and King claim that this gospel doesn't belong in the Christian canon, they argue that it nonetheless demonstrates that the Christianity we have today was written by the winners. And those winners suppressed dissent so effectively that the Gospel of Judas, among others, remained lost for almost two millennia. All together, these ancient texts help scholars piece together the story of Christianity's development. "Reading Judas," though unlikely to alter anyone's faith, provides fascinating and provocative glimpses into the history of western civilization's dominant religion.

Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
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