Professor talks about Judas’ role in Jesus Christ’s ascension

Talynn Soghomonians

Although the “Gospel of Judas” was discovered near the middle of Egypt in the 1970s, the National Geographic Society published the first modern text of the gospel in April 2006. It caused a stir among biblical scholars and the general population, to say the least.

Karen L. King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, discussed “The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity” at CSUN on Nov. 15.

The “Gospel of Judas,” which is considered a Gnostic text, contradicts the New Testament in several ways, mainly the perception of Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot.

“The ‘Gospel of Judas’ raised more questions than answered questions, but “The Gospel of Judas” does tell us much about what early Christians were fighting about,” King said.

While the gospel was written in the Coptic language, some scholars argue it’s actually a translation of the early Greek language, King said.

In the New Testament, Judas is portrayed as a betrayer, as he delivers Jesus to Jerusalem’s Temple authorities for crucifixion. However, “The Gospel of Judas” portrays Judas as an obedient disciple who followed Jesus’ instructions to help him release his spirit from this world and leave his bodily constraints behind.

Furthermore, the gospel doesn’t interpret the relationship between Jesus and his loyal disciples as the New Testament does. According to “The Gospel of Judas,” Jesus taught the true gospel only to Judas and felt negatively about the other disciples.

“Jesus separates Judas from the other disciples and Jesus says the other disciples are acting hypocritical,” King said.

Moreover, King explained this gospel doesn’t praise the act of sacrifice.

“Christians wanted to convert everyone by saying that they died for something-for God. Here, there is a contradiction because the disciples are condemned. “The Gospel of Judas” is controversial and a very difficult text. It indicates something political. Sometimes people die or are tortured and it is necessary to take a stand but God does not want that.”

Because Jesus appointed 12 disciples and religious leaders claim their authority through that succession, the disconnect Jesus had with his disciples questions the church today, King said.

“By criticizing the disciples, you criticize the church and its bishops and religious leaders,” King said.

The author of the gospel is unknown and about 30 to 40 percent of the text remains destroyed because discoverers mishandled it, King said.

Historians argued scholars put more validity into texts written or discovered first and that other texts written or found later aren’t as valid and this isn’t correct, King said.

“Professor King is absolutely right. All religious texts should be studied carefully to better understand religion without bias,” said sociology major Leyla Akhyari, who attended the event.

The gospel was kept in a safety deposit box in the United States for 17 years before being put in a freezer where it deteriorated into a thousand pieces. It has taken five years to restore it to its current condition, King said.

“If we had the complete text, it would settle some of the arguments between scholars, but not all of it,” King said.

“No text has authority. The issue is to learn how to read and look at texts critically. I don’t personally like the “Gospel of Judas” very much. It is a different sort of gospel. But we need to keep it in front of us because it gives us a broader understanding of Christianity.”

The Harvard Divinity professor told the audience to read complex readings like the Judas gospel because they all have spiritual value to a certain group of people.

“The lecture offers a global approach to the study of humanities as it expands and considers various cultures,” College of Humanities Dean Elizabeth A. Say said.

King and scholar Elaine Pagels have published a book entitled, “Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity,” which is available to read on the Internet.