Judas & Jesus


The recently published Gospel of Judas, writes biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, “has a completely different understanding of God, the world, Christ, salvation, human existence-not to mention of [sic] Judas himself-than came to be embodied in the Christian creeds and canon. It will open up new vistas for understanding Jesus and the religious movement he founded” (see “Christianity Turned Upside Down” in Rodolphe Kasser et al., The Gospel of Judas [National Geographic Society]).

I doubt it. In fact, I venture to say that almost any reader, religious or irreligious, who takes the trouble to download the text of the Gospel of Judas (available at www.nationalgeographic.com) will come away less enthusiastic than Ehrman. Aesthetically, the newly published text is quite without charm, a few numinous verses notwithstanding. As for historical importance, one is sadly accustomed to seeing a newly discovered text, the relevance of which is no more than incremental, inflated into an epoch-making new departure.

Ehrman subtitles his essay, “The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas.” Alternative indeed. Is Jesus, as Ehrman argues, the founder of the Cainite sect that evidently produced the Gospel of Judas? Were these Cainites-who drew their name from the fratricidal Cain of the Book of Genesis-not simply practicing another religion, one in which Jesus had been...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Jack Miles is Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and Senior Fellow for Religion and International Affairs for with the Pacific Council on International Policy.