Colombo Telegraph

Judas: The Apostle Who Helped Jesus

By Jagath Asoka

Dr. Jagath Asoka

Everyone knows that Easter is always on a Sunday, but most people do not know that Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox and that is why it is held (in the Western Church) between March 21 and April 25.

If you have some free time, read the Gospel of Judas, a Gnostic gospel that consists of conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot; it is available on the net. When you read the Gospel of Judas—Gnostics were also Christians, not orthodox Christians— keep in mind that , like Christians, they had a frame of mind, with definite contents, which cannot be amplified or associated with orthodox Christians, Jewish, Islamic, or Buddhist ideas, believes, and emotions. Gnostics were labelled as heretics by the orthodox Christians. Every religion is an attitude peculiar to consciousness that has been altered by the experience of the numinousness.

If you read Mark, Mathew, Luke, and John, Judas betrayed Jesus and delivered him to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver; however, in the Gospel of Judas, Jesus tells Judas, “You will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”

During the second century AD, there was a gnostic group—Cainites, the followers of Cain, the first biblical murderer—who believed that this world was not created by the One True God because this world is a cosmic disaster: if you do not believe, just look around.

The god who punished Cain was the god who created this world. Cain was on the side of the One True God. The Cainites believed that the god who created this world should not be obeyed. This belief led to some unusual readings. According to the Cainites, all the bad biblical characters, including Judas Iscariot, were good characters.

Cainites had the Gospel of Judas, which relates the story of Jesus’ death from the viewpoint of Judas that propounded Gnostic teaching. Of course, the Greek Gospel of Judas, which was written around 150 AD, was not written either by Judas Iscariot or an eyewitness, and is not a historically accurate account of what happened in the life of Jesus. Yet, it is an interesting and important gnostic gospel because it is one of the oldest non-canonical gospels that is in existence: a more nuanced understanding of alternative interpretations of the Christian tradition.

For Gnostics, faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection were not important for salvation; salvation came through knowledge: gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge. Gnostics were the people who were “in the know.” What did they know? Gnostics believed that they came from the world above, knew who they were, where they came from, how they got here, and how they could return. The goal of Gnosticism was to provide the knowledge—gnosis—that they needed to return to their heavenly world. According to the Gnostics, the true God is unknowable; there were many divine beings who came from the Pleroma, an imperishable realm, the fullness of being of the divine life, comprising the eons; a divine power emanates from the Supreme Being and plays various roles in the operation of the universe.

Sophia (wisdom), one of the divine beings, fell from the Pleroma and generated other imperfect divine beings outside the Pleroma. These imperfect divine beings created this world as a place to entrap sparks of the divine in human bodies. So, in this world some people have within them a spark of the divine, and the Gnostics provided the esoteric knowledge to set them free. This knowledge was given only to those who had a divine spark within them. So, some of us are here even though this earth is not our home. You cannot acquire this knowledge. This knowledge has to come from the divine realm. A redeemer from the divine realm must come down to give this knowledge, and Jesus was this redeemer who would bring the gnosis that would set you free.

The Gospel of Judas is a secret revelation that Jesus delivered specifically to Judas. According to this gospel, Judas is the only disciple who understands the words of Jesus. Only Judas knew who Jesus was, where he came from, and why he came here. According to this Gospel, this world was made by a bloodthirsty rebel and a fool. Jesus tells Judas, “You shall be cursed for generations” and then added, “You will come to rule over them” and “You will exceed all of them, for you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”

The physical body is a prison which needs to be escaped from. So, Jesus came here to give this secret knowledge to the divine sparks—this knowledge is not available or given to everybody—to let them know who they were; Jesus, too, was in a human body. So, Jesus had to shed the human body so that he could return to the Pleroma. Judas is the one who helped Jesus; Judas is not a traitor. Jesus’ mission was to show that salvation lies in connecting with the divine spark within the man. The One True God is gracious and thus does not demand any sacrifice.

So, according to this Gospel of Judas, things are not what they seem, or what most Christians think, such as there is only one God; the world is controlled by the One True God; humans were made in the image of God; Jesus is the son of God; Jesus’ death and resurrection bring salvation; and the Apostels of Jesus are the Ones who know.

Most non-Christians would ask: How can Jesus, who could not save himself, save others?

The best answer to this question—how can someone who cannot save himself save others? —was given by Nietzsche. Supposing I have the key to your chains, why should your lock and my lock be the same?

Whatever you think of Judas, I always wonder, “What would have happened to Jesus, had he not been betrayed by Judas?

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