April 16, 2006

Judas: A Saint for Our Seasons

If we betray the people who love us, what's to stop us from betraying the country that makes us possible?


Have you ever betrayed your promise?
Did you ever break a vow?
Have you traded love for money,
And are you happy now?

Did you kiss him in the garden,
And then abandon him to fate?
Is your final sin forgiven,
Or is it far too late?

WHEN IT COMES TO DISCOVERING new ways to cheapen the human soul, the "professional intellectuals" of our society have cornered the market. So it was last week when, timed carefully to cash in on the Easter holiday, the "serious" editors of National Geographic chose to release their gleanings from a sheaf of rags and call them "The Gospel of Judas."

Having risen through the echo chamber of "higher" education and survived the ruthless but quiet vetting process of their "profession," these editors knew full well that what they were putting out into the world was not a "gospel." They also knew that calling it a "gospel" would ensure greater attention and greater sales. Beyond that, the editors, secular cultists all, also got a quiet little tingle by having, in their minds, "stuck it" to the Christian church once again. As usual, such secularists love to stick it to Christianity. Addicts of auto-erotic spiritual asphyxiation, their onanistic pleasure in these deeds is only enhanced if they can be performed during the most holy days of the Christian calendar. Only then can maximum profit and pleasure be assured.

This dark thrill of denigration has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming them in their own Church of Zero, and the secondary benefit of being much, much safer than, say, sticking it to Islam, a faith that enforces its demands for respect with bombs and beheadings, and whose central message to all cowards is "Don't mess with Muhammad." The sad fact of our modern era is that if you denigrate Islam, you often have to bag up body parts and hose down the sidewalk, but when you denigrate Christianity the most you need to clean up after yourself is a warm washcloth.

Your gedankenexperiment for today is to ask yourself, regardless of your religious beliefs, if the editors of National Geographic, being given an ancient manuscript that "proved" the Koran was nothing more than the blatherings of some ergot-besotted Bedouin who had munched one too many hallucinogenic plants while hanging out in a cave near Mecca, would have published the same "proof" as loudly and as broadly? Would they have done so, or would they have issued a Press Release citing concerns for the "provenance" of the manuscript and their employees' safety? Regardless of your religious beliefs, you know the shameful answer.

But beyond these considerations, the publication of the "Gospel" of Judas has another, deeper and more lasting benefit to our neophytes of nihilism. It puts one of the final elements of their anti-morality play at center stage. It seeks to sanctify treason.

It was never a question of "if," but only a question of "when" our contemporary society would discover an avatar who would make treason acceptable. It only codifies the realities of their secular belief system. Treason against others or one's country has long been as common as adultery in this country. Like adultery the rate of treason is on the rise because, like adultery and similar forms of personal betrayal, it no longer has any consequences at all.

It is true that the federal crime of treason is not easily established and is rarely if ever charged. But the formal crime of treason is not what I am discussing here. Rather the more common, garden variety of treason as understood by plain people -- the rabid and unremitting hatred, expressed in word or deed, of the country that gives you the freedom express your hatred. It is the treason of the ingrate, the soul-dead, the politically perverted, and the bitter; it is, as Roger Kimball at The New Criterion discusses, the treason of the intellectuals and "the undoing of thought."

It's a fact of our self-centered contemporary existence that betrayal has become one of the common forces that shape our lives. For when our own desires ride us like a drunken demon lodged on our shoulders, betrayal is the first order of the day when others seek to thwart our desires, or even when others become a mere inconvenience to our wants and whims.

We've long permitted greater and greater levels of betrayal in our society. We've codified them as law, policy and custom as far as the wishes of the individual are concerned. It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal. That word is so harsh when, after all, we are only speaking of "differing needs," aren't we. When the betrayal of others is glossed over with phrases such as "I needed to be me," or "I needed my space," or "I needed more money,"or "We were just on different paths," then the elevation of this disease of the soul from the betrayal of another into the larger realm of treason against all is only a question of degree.

The problem is that shame, a vestigial thing in many shrunken souls, persists, and shame must be driven out of the soul if the secular is to thrive. Both betrayal and treason are still weighted down by a lingering sense of shame within at the same time they are made safe from the onus of blame without. Both are permitted by our cults of personal freedom and "sensible" selfishness, but both are formed of dark matter and not easily expunged from one's soul no matter how reduced it may have become.

There was, perhaps, only one moment in history when humans "knew not what they did." In all other times we know, at the deepest level, exactly what we do when we betray another, or others, or ourselves, or our country. We know it clearly and so we bury the ugly deed deeply. Still it persists, remains and rots in the tomb of our souls. A wiser culture called this "sin" and sought to have it confessed and forgiven as meaningless in the shadow of the greatest sacrifice. Our therapeutic culture calls it "guilt" and seeks to palliate and expunge it so that we may live a guilt-free life regardless of our acts. More and more of us live in the latter culture and seek a life forever free from sin, from guilt, from the consequences of our betrayals. And yet this final freedom eludes us.

What is needed, in this secular age of self-intoxication, is a Saint who will remit our sins of betrayal; who will by his very existence sanctify treason. And who better fits this role than the man who betrayed the greatest love for the smallest change, Judas?

The worshipers of the Church of the Self need Judas today more than they need Christ, and they need Christ more than they can know. They need Him so much that they are compelled to reject Him utterly lest their shabby Church be seen as it is, a hovel made of mud and wattle, of empty objects, shabby dreams and promises broken. A statue of Judas would blend right into the niche above their television; a household god whose only requirement is an offering of silver, from time to time, or a shopping spree at the mall to secure his love and blessing; our "Saint Judas of Perpetual Extortion."

Betrayal is a common catechism in the Church of the Self. Hymns to Me are the hosannas it hurls at an empty heaven. The politics of such a church require as First Things a rejection of all things not of, by, and for the self. A religion or a country of the people, by the people, and for the people is high on the list of things to be abhorred since it requires an allegiance that is other than to the self. The Church of the Self effectively mandates treason, and we see it now manifested daily in the bright robes of "unstiffled dissent" which shroud an increasingly vicious anti-Americanism that has its roots, not in reasoned criticism, but in unreasoned hate. We hear the hate but what we have not been allowed to see is the treason behind it.

That is now "changed, changed utterly."

Now our traitors to God and Country have found a sheaf of rags that "prove" that the greatest treason was really "all good;" that Judas was really the greatest friend Jesus ever had and was, with a kiss, doing him the greatest favor ever done.

Treason, done with the kiss of "my personal freedom," proves that you do not really hate your country, you love it. You are, in the final analysis, your country's best friend. In these "new" old tales about Jesus we read that Judas betrayed the Son of God because Jesus told him to do it. Really? Or did his betrayal come, not from any request that may or may not have been made, but from humanity's persistant lust to sin freely and without even the thin penalty of remorse? Was this final treason done because this sin had been secretly blessed by God, or for the sheer dark thrill of asserting the self at the expense of life in the light?

"I betrayed my friend, because he gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for him."

"I betrayed my country because it gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for it."

Black is white. Hate is Love. Slavery is Freedom. Treason is Loyalty. That last phrase fits right in to the secular catechism, doesn't it? All it needs to become holy writ is an avatar, a solid historical personage with the power to turn darkness into light, lies into truth, and betrayal into something that was, in the final analysis, "all good."

Saint Judas, step right up to the Gates, ring that bell, and don your halo -- you the man.

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Posted by Vanderleun at April 16, 2006 11:58 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


Diamond-cut and truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thank you

Posted by: mrp at April 16, 2006 1:32 PM

"This dark thrill of denigration has the immediate benefit of pleasingly confirming them in their own Church of Zero..."

Wonderful stuff. Thanks.

Posted by: Bill Parnell at April 16, 2006 1:50 PM

I have been reading this blog for one year and I must tell you that you are an inspirational wordsmith. Very impressive...Wow.

Posted by: Captain Dave at April 16, 2006 1:52 PM

And did not Jesus, at the Last Supper, say that one of his 12 chosen would leave to betray him? Prophesy or astute observation?

As for God forgiving Judas. He forgive me my suicide, else I would not be here. Is it truly that much greater a thing to forgive a man his treason, be that man contrite and ready to atone?

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 16, 2006 2:36 PM

An excellent take, beautifully told.

Posted by: AmericanPapist at April 16, 2006 3:23 PM

Gerard, have you ever read anything by William F. May, an ethicist who taught at SMU for many years and was also a member of the President's Council on Bioethics? I first came across May when I was doing research for my dissertation-- he published an article in Cross Currents in 1965 called "Betrayal: The Sin Against the Friend." May's article has much in common with your essay in its meticulous dissection of our easy cultural acceptance of betrayal. Among other things, May looked at Dante's assignment of Judas to the lowest circle of hell-- a place of frozen ice. In searching for that 1965 article on the Web (couldn't find it online, but it's worth a trip to a library to retrieve), I came across an SMU web page about a lecture May gave in 2001 on "Media Professionals and Celebrities: Unordained Teaching Authorities Today." (link: http://www.smu.edu/newsinfo/releases/00291.html) I think you'd find May a kindred spirit in a number of ways.

This essay on Judas is one of your very best. A blessed Easter to you and your family.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee at April 16, 2006 4:07 PM

Church of Zero. At the final analysis, that is what they are, what they do, what they worship, and what they have to bequeath those they loved - if in spite of their own best efforts they were ever able truly to love at all.

Gerard, you have done it again.

Posted by: AskMom at April 16, 2006 5:10 PM

"In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side."

Bob Dylan, 1963

Enigmatic? As always.

Posted by: Roy Lofquist at April 16, 2006 5:41 PM

These pagans should be honest and change the name to National Geocentric.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at April 16, 2006 6:01 PM

Man, as Chambers said is a beast without God, may God help us all. Your words capture the moment and beyond.

Posted by: jeffersonranch at April 16, 2006 7:02 PM

The Judas Apologetics brings to mind another Judas Apology - this time from American Literature - John Knowles' "A Seperate Peace."

Gene is Judas - who kills Phineas as surely as putting a bullet in his head - while coming to a rationalization of his horrible crime committed in a spate of self-doubt and Phineas-jealousy.

Posted by: red river at April 16, 2006 7:24 PM

G, I wish I'd written this, but I never could have. It's brilliant and right and wise. Great job.

Posted by: The Anchoress at April 16, 2006 7:34 PM

"It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal."


So plainly self-evident these days that it is overwhelmingly powerful to see it captured in a sentence. And it resonates in my personal life so much so that I am compelled to say:


Posted by: RattlerGator at April 16, 2006 7:48 PM

I can only say Thank You, Sir.

And can add nothing otherwise, but to add my;


Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim at April 16, 2006 8:05 PM

Not too surprised the selfish-generation has made betrayal a proof of love.

It is, after all, all about them.

Posted by: lancer at April 16, 2006 8:34 PM

The real question is why you believe in a religion that thinks a mythical being actually existed on earth.

Jesus walks on water and no historical record from his time on earth actually exists.

Maybe Jesus was just a really good male prostitute and over time the stories about him grew and changed from their original stories about him. Specifically his speeches:

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. A nice sweaty sword that all the boys in town will love."

-Another message from the secular left.

Oops, actually the banality of being a leftist sickens me.

-Another message from the secular right.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Posted by: Guy at April 17, 2006 2:05 AM

Thanks to Guy's devastatingly intellectual arguments against the Savior, I have renounced my belief in Christianity.

Oops, I meant that I have renounced my belief in Guy.

Posted by: Chris at April 17, 2006 4:59 AM

Actually, this is an old heresy that had been dealt with by the Holy Mother Church close to 18 centuries ago. Nothing new here folks, other than the media coverage.

I'm now waiting for them to trot out the Arians and Albegensians again.

Posted by: Eric Blair at April 17, 2006 5:03 AM

And on Holy Thursday, as Blitzer celebrated the Retired Generals. They are not betraying Rumsfeld they are betraying the troops in the field and their own honor. As I watched on Thursday I could only think of the jingle of silver coins.

Zinni's new book. Whose payroll/honorarium will these "persons" show on 2006, 2007 & 2008's tax returns. (I will not call them MEN)

Just finished reading John Fund's column in today's WSJ - the jingles got louder.

So the line that Rattlor Gator cited matched my thoughts dead center. They have given away the safety of our troops, encouraged AQ and the Mad Mullahs that they are safe from us, encouraged Iran's pawns in Iraq that holding out on forming a government is a winning strategy, they have giving away their honor for checks in the mail, and dreams of the Crusader cannon firing on an Army practice range, playing at war games, building and fitting the greatest pretend military in the world for going along to get along with the despots & the UN.

"It is no longer sophisticated or fashionable to speak of selfishness as betrayal."

You remember John Kerry's opening line at the Dems' convention. But can you visualize the flag behind him? Do you recall the RED was gone, that messy blood peace'd out, the flag was WHITE & BLUE. The first time I saw the Dems' set, I said to my grandson, "That is so wrong. Look at that. What do you see?" And he knew, "I don't see America. I see the UN!"

Then on the 3rd day Kerry stood before that UN/French blue flag, saluted and reported for "duty!"

"I betrayed my country because it gave me the freedom to do so. Feel my love for it."

Posted by: LARWYN at April 17, 2006 5:43 AM

let he who is without sin cast the first stone

hell is a mighty warm place..see you there

[Editors Note: Along with a demonstrated cluelessness vis-a-vis periods, capitals and elisons, our anonymous commentator obviously believes we are discussing the ways of God when what we are actually discussing is the ways of men. He initially was presumptuous enough to take the name of the savoir to himself. I have rectified this error. ]

Posted by: An ignorant, thoughtless buffoon at April 17, 2006 8:15 AM

Last weekend I watched the National Geographic produced "The Gospel of Judas." Over the course of the show they were able to determine that the document was, in fact, old. They showed the parchment to be from the period 200-300 A.D. That's all they proved. But the implication was that it was also TRUE and it had been suppressed by a certain bishop in A.D. 180. Fortunately for me, my father-in-law, an Episcopal priest who specialized in church history was able to point out several issues that were never presented in this misleading show.
1. In 153 A.D., almost 30 years prior to the stated time in the show, the church leaders decided that to be a part of the canon, a Gospel must have been written before 100 A.D. The rationale was that later writings would necessarily be second or third hand accounts rather than the words of people who walked with Jesus and the Apostles. This book was written 100-200 years after this arbitrary, but reasonable, cut-off. Also, note that the carbon dating of the document puts its creation later than the date that the bishop allegedly decided to edit it out of the New Testament.
2. While the Gospels in the New Testament were written in Greek, the literate language commonly used in Israel and Syria during the time of Christ, the Gospel of Judas was written in Coptic, an Egyptian language. This could be a translation from Greek, but there was no reference to an original document, so there is no reason, at least from what was presented by National Geographic, to believe there was a Greek precursor.
3. Most importantly, there is no way this could be anything but a fiction. Consider - Judas helped arrest Jesus in the Garden late at night on Thursday. Overcome with guilt, he commits suicide sometime early on Friday morning. If these accounts are accurate, who wrote his gospel? Who did he tell? Why would they have believed him? And if it were true, why would he be so disconsolate for doing Jesus' will that he took his own life?

Posted by: Spike72AFA at April 17, 2006 8:27 AM

Excellent essay!

Posted by: Fausta at April 17, 2006 9:42 AM

Another amazing essay, Gerard. Thanks.

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at April 17, 2006 10:11 AM

A wonderful essay. Puts what I've been thinking lately into crystal clear and elegant words.

Posted by: DC at April 17, 2006 10:13 AM

Thank you for this essay. Are you Catholic?

Can you also believe the Lefty that signed his dull and predictable message "Jesus"?

Fine for him to condemn, but not you.

Posted by: Gerard Gibbs at April 17, 2006 10:14 AM

Gerard and readers:

I recommend to you Jorge Luis Borges' viciously funny short satire, "Three Versions of Judas." It recounts a short biography of a (fictional) theologian who commits professional suicide by discovering, and adopting, the last remaining heresy.

To Borges' mad philosopher, and the 21st-century left, Judas is not Jesus' closest compatriot - he is FAR more important... (But you should read the story and draw your own conclusions.)

Posted by: Michael Andreyakovich at April 17, 2006 11:00 AM

H F S!!!!! More later. Whew.

Posted by: Dennis at April 17, 2006 12:01 PM

Judas Iscariot is a prime example of what can happen when you let your frustrations take control.

BTW, in the Book of Acts Judas buys a plot of land with the silver, and drops dead while plowing it. As the Man from Galilee once said, "It comes as a thief in the night."

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 17, 2006 12:21 PM


I posted your words on a site frequented by membes of the Religious Left (http://desperatepreacher.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=12945#12945) and the following was posted in reply:

I spent some time reading the text along with some commentaries today.
What becomes readily apparent is that no one really takes the codex seriously and generally accepts that its circulation was limited to a mystery cult that can be placed among the broader categories of the Gnostics.

Why anyone would write a piece that views the release of these writings as some kind of conspiracy to justify a culture of self ( a subject we touched on in another thread) is beyond reason and demonstrates succinctly the paranoia that is evident in those of the fundamentalist bend.

Again, in the gathered community- that is, as Paul states, the body of Christ- there are the gifts of the word of God cradled to us in Scripture that keep us oriented to the inclusive Gospel of God’s reign for all people.

The writing by Vanderleun is simply a piece of crap meant to stir his gullible readers into some kind of self-righteous hysteria.

I kind of love it when self-righteous hystericals abhor self-righteous hysteria nevertheless I thought you should see this for yourself. I'd love to see you respond however I can understand if you choose give it a pass.

Posted by: Rick at April 17, 2006 4:07 PM

I was in a play with a broad spectrum of ages and brought up the "Gospel of Judas" backstage. The very first comment, from a high schooler, was, "Yeah, just another Gnostic gospel."

This is the same one who immediately understood the humor of a "bell book and candle" comment I'd made earlier. And people say they fear for the education of high schoolers...

Posted by: B. Durbin at April 17, 2006 5:30 PM

What we nowadays call "treason" is a special form of the original meaning of the word: it is high treason, betrayal of the Sovereign (or, nowadays, the State). The Middle Ages recognized the crime of petty treason, which encompassed other instances of the murder of one's lawful superior, usually stated as the killing of husband by wife, prelate by cleric, or master by servant. Your essay cleaves rather well to this, I should say.

Posted by: ConservativeMutant at April 17, 2006 9:23 PM

Our therapeutic culture calls it "guilt" and seeks to palliate and expunge it so that we may live a guilt-free life regardless of our acts.

Alan Fraser writing at American Thinker:

Bill Clinton's legacy

Everywhere the headline in the MSM for a couple of Clinton speaches was “Bill Clinton Learns To Laugh At His Past.” Thank God; we had all been losing sleep.

Posted by: LARWYN at April 17, 2006 9:37 PM

Not in any way to condone the likely motivations behind the NatGeo executive's decisions and (hopefully) not to offend the devout Christians in the audience, but there is (I think, an important) gedankenexperiment for Christians to consider, namely:

If the betrayal and sacrifice of Jesus were necessary for God's plan to redeem mankind, if Judas could not have acted in any other way than he did, in what way is Judas's sacrifice not greater, since he not only lost his life and honor but will also suffer in hell for all eternity?

I think many people can simply say that it was his choice and the very worst he or anyone could've made, but for people will less of a notion of free will or more of an active sense of God's ineffable plan, it is hard to justify the villainy of someone likely confused in his decision by his Zealous or Jewish culture.

Posted by: jay at April 17, 2006 9:48 PM

I come from a forgotten time. War baby, 1942, two days before Fermi's chain reaction at Chicago. Now I'm one of "The Old Men", calloused hands, still strong back, and a clear memory of America before the corruption of political correctness. I have, many times, suffered the pain of personal and professional betrayal, each time wondering why they even bothered.

You're right, there is a sickness upon us. I feel as though we are at a confluance of history, as in the run up to the American revolution, and later the American Civil War. In those times, as now, the winning ideas were the minority and the ememy were our self possessed neighbors. The "Me Generation" of their time. Many traitors among them.

For the past forty years, at the point of the government's gun, they have waged a war of words, political correctness, against the American Dream.

Grab your guns boys, it's time to kill the lawyers.

Posted by: DirtRagsRanch at April 17, 2006 10:09 PM

An important read!

Posted by: les and Marcia Randall at April 17, 2006 10:56 PM

Nice writing of course and the analysis of selfishness and treason is briliant. Nevertheless I don't think the story disturbed too many Easter weekends unless fatwa envy brings us up short. Nor do I agree with the Gnostic ideas, but I think this Judas story shows the value of the marketplace of ideas. I thought I learned from it. I'd rather bore you with my thoughts on the underlying issue however. It is a principle of Catholic moral theology that good ends can not morally flow from bad means. For example, if Secretary Dulles approved of terrorist acts committed in Saigion, appearing to be the work of communists, to bolster a case for our paid VN general, that is despicable however it should have turned out. We celebrate the last supper in every Mass but was a morally reprehensible act by Judas necessary for it. If so, then it taints the good end. Did Judas retain moral responsibility; if not, then he was treated as a means and not an end in a very formally important occasion. The Gnostic apocrypha does, in my view, highlight usefully a moral problem in the Gospel.

Posted by: michael at April 18, 2006 12:44 AM

I posted a critique of your post at my site.

Posted by: Chris at April 18, 2006 1:31 AM

It tickles me to think these educated morons believe Judas managed to pump his 'gospel' out between betrayal and suicide. Hmmm...'between betrayal and suicide' locates them pretty well.

I also appreciated how when I added you to my favorites you leaped automatically to first place.

Posted by: Boldwin at April 18, 2006 2:15 AM

Thank you. This is my first easter as a believing christian. Being an apostate of the chruch of zero, your discription of it is chillingly accurate. The behavior it condones. I believe now it is an agent of evil. To my great horror, my devotion to scientific materialism let me murder some of my own children. It reminds me of baal.

Posted by: Joe at April 18, 2006 4:43 AM

Never thought of the fact that this was told first at Eastertide...
By the way, I believe that I have heard something saying that this was probably originally written in Greek. Can anyone say what percentage of Gnostics were Egyptians?
One other question: if, in AD 153, the Church decided that the canon had to have been restricted to anything written before 100, how did they know when 100 was? Our current calendar was not invented for several hundred years yet.
Nevertheless, I yet continue firmly to believe in God in one God, the Father, the Almighty...and in in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God...and in the Holy Spirit.
By the way: is the Nicæne Creed older than this "gospel"?

Posted by: Nathaniel at April 18, 2006 4:48 AM

Very astute article! My compliments to the author...

Jesus asked Judas to hang himself too? Is that what I'm to believe as a Christian? I have often wondered if the brilliant humanists of National Geographic and company ever give thought to just how mixed their message of Jesus is or are they just that clueless? The Da Vinci code is no different.

These secularists don't have a clue to whom Christ claimed to be. Either Jesus was God manifested in human flesh or Jesus was a liar. Jesus wasn't Ghandi or Martin Luther King - a man of nice words. Jesus doesn't start at Matthew 1 and end at Acts 2.

John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

That last line would include the editors of National Geographic.

Posted by: B. Taylor at April 18, 2006 5:18 AM

I cut my teeth on Jesus Christ Superstar, so my "relationship" with Judas has always been ambivalent; that Judas, I think, was like the Judas who I understand appears in "his" "gospel," although at least that groupie-Judas was filled with torment as he did what he felt he had to do.

Years later, I read The Moon Beneath Her Feet (I think that was the name), in which Judas was Jesus's twin brother, Jesus's crucifixion was like some kind of Green King human sacrifice (as, in the book, Judaism had been pretty much completely infiltrated and corrupted by the pagan religions around it - Mary Magdalene was a high priestess in a temple prostitution cult and, foreshadowing our modern-day Gnostic Gospel DaVinci Code, mother of Jesus's child) - and felt no guilt, only a kind of mild regret that his brother was going to be the victim of a torture-murder. Sheesh.

So I'm grateful to hear Judas's betrayal spoken of as betrayal again.

As for the anti-mythos fella up the way, Guy? Guy, you don't have to believe in our mythos to understand that dinking around with something as fundamental to it as The Betrayal Of Jesus by his close friend changes the meaning and significance of the entire Passion story. The story has moved hearts and changed lives for two millenia; surely you can get your mind around its power, and the danger of this attempt to render part of it impotent. One never knows what would arise to fill that void, but a "doctrine" that betrayal is excusable behavior certainly doesn't bode well for moral development.

Posted by: Jamie McArdle at April 18, 2006 5:58 AM

Nathaniel: The date 100 A.D. could well have been set back then. The formal reckoning using the A.D. formula hadn't begun, but people could still count. The Church fathers would know (probably a lot better than we do) when things close to them happened. They may have said "Within 100 years of Christ's birth" which was effectively the same thing, but in their terms it would have been based on the year of the City of Rome or the time since the first Olympiad.

They also could mark things in terms on consulships or an Emperor's reign "No texts from before the Second Year of Trajan's reign."

There were lots of ways to keep track.

And the Nicean Creed comes from the Council of Nicea, which was couple of centuries later.

Posted by: Posse Incitatus at April 18, 2006 7:04 AM

The gnostics were the left wing nihilists of their time.

Posted by: Steve at April 18, 2006 7:37 AM

I haven't read the National Geographic article, just a summary of the findings therein. Still, some things seem clear:

1) I would wager that Judas inherently KNEW more about the Savior's divine mission. More fully even than Peter ("Thou art the Christ"). He was, perhaps, less Beloved than John, and given less authority than Peter ("upon this rock will I build my church"). Perhaps there was jealousy? At any rate, I would wager that Judas DID know more than the others who Jesus was, making his betrayal that much more bitter.

2) These are perilous times, but that was foretold by Paul:

1 THIS know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of dpleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

-2 Tim. 3:1-5

Are these not the times we live in?

Thanks for a great article, Gerard.

Posted by: bdog57 at April 18, 2006 8:08 AM

I liked your commentary on the Church of Self, but I suppose I think the link to the Gospel of Judas is pretty tenuous.

Media reporting on the Bible is biased and ignorant. It is the same with the hard sciences as well.

The reason is simply that j-schools produce, by an large, liberals who don't know anything. It has been this way for a long time.

Posted by: Gabriel Hanna at April 18, 2006 8:10 AM

I second the Anchoress' sentiments. Thank you!

Posted by: Mike at April 18, 2006 8:12 AM

Excellent essay indeed, though the tone of it seems a bit SELF-righteous to me, because it doesn't leave much space for any doubt as to how we should interpret Judas.

And without doubt, faith is nothing but stubborn, self-righteous supersticion.

Posted by: Ivan Lenin at April 18, 2006 8:25 AM

in what way is Judas's sacrifice not greater, since he not only lost his life and honor but will also suffer in hell for all eternity?

Judas (we presume but do not know for certain) suffers in hell for eternity not because he betrayed Jesus, but because he failed to repent of that betrayal. If he had repented (as did Peter his denial of Christ), Judas would have been saved, as there is no sin too great to be forgiven. Judas's mortal sin was to despair and hang himself, revealing his refusal to believe in the mercy of God.

Posted by: MH at April 18, 2006 8:33 AM

Church of Zero
Zero-sum be Thy Name.
Zero will Come
Undo the One
Dust the final Reign.

Bless me Zero for I am Me.

-- It's a paltry belief in nothingness that masquearades as faith in Science.

Posted by: -keith in silicon valley at April 18, 2006 8:39 AM

Interesting Reading!

Posted by: James Jarrett at April 18, 2006 8:49 AM

I really enjoyed this essay and I feel it was right on the money.
I am not religious, and I do not believe in God.

If the above two comments seem to compose an impossible juxtiposition, to me, they do not. It is important to be ethical and even though I parted ways with the church a long time ago, I still see the importance in leading a moral life, for recognizing that reality exists, and for believing in and promoting the good in humanity. I also see the attempts to bolster Judas as some sort of misunderstood hero as an obvious ploy of the postmodern nihilists to 'stick it to the Christian church once again' to further the cause of a valueless metaphysics.

I am a man of Science, and I believe in the Self. But to blantantly disregard the welfare of other Selves, and to block the attempts of others to use Science to discover reality, is what I consider to be Evil. Though I may not agree with the bedrock beliefs of many who have responded to this well written article, I think we both share a common enemy, and I hope that in time we will accept our differences and destroy all attempts to promote what we both see as Evil. Values matter and defending morality matters.

Posted by: Jake at April 18, 2006 9:19 AM

That prayer to zero just got promoted to the main page. Good work.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 18, 2006 9:56 AM

You are obviously bending over backwards to show your hatred, disgust, and contempt, and you know this is the truth. You sound just like a mouth-frothing street preacher waving a ragged Bible on a dirty city street corner, and you make exactly as much sense.

I wonder what you would think if I told you that it was reading the Bible that made me an atheist five years ago. Would you wonder if there wasn;t something in this material that might have kept me in the fold?

I do agree with you on one point, though. None of this blather should be called a "gospel," because none of it is good, and none of it is news.

Posted by: speedwell at April 18, 2006 11:04 AM

...just like a mouth-frothing street preacher waving a ragged Bible on a dirty city street corner...

Your "words for the ages" have convinced me. Where may I find more?
I have been soooooo wrong and such a fool. So "lucky" that you have dropped by to release us from Gerard's mouth-frothings.
Many will thank you for your enlightenment.


Posted by: LARWYN at April 18, 2006 11:35 AM

If you're really interested, you can e-mail me and I'll tell you. I'm not going to get into a defense of atheism, which I can trust to stand on its own. But you won't, because you've already made up your mind. Faith is like that--it doesn't matter what the facts are, you've already made up your mind.

Posted by: speedwell at April 18, 2006 11:55 AM

Well, Speedwell, I see bathtub meth has been good to you. Glad that you've made up your mind to pick up on one and leave the other behind....

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 18, 2006 12:01 PM

You have so much respect for the facts that you'll stoop to calling me a meth addict when you don't know me and can't know what you're talking about.

Posted by: speedwell at April 18, 2006 12:36 PM

A related post can be found here. In brief, novelist E.M. Forster also tried to put a happy face on treason. It is, as Gerard intuits, the PoMo thing to do.

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at April 18, 2006 12:58 PM

Speedwell has a point, there. Christ commands us to love one another, even those so crushed in spirit that they reflexively lash out at a proffered hand. Jesus loved Judas, but the betrayer chose instead the path of annhilation.

And atheism is a death cult - Mao, Stalin, and Robespierre - able celebrants all.

Posted by: mrp at April 18, 2006 1:02 PM

My God - it's full of comments.

Well said, DirtRagsRanch. Gabriel Hanna, word to your mother, my mother, and Mother Mary on the J-school thing. Keith in SV and Jake, double word.

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at April 18, 2006 2:44 PM

Dear Speedwell,
I apologize for calling you a meth addict. I realize now that only someone whose psyche had long been dented by crack cocaine could lack a sense of humor in these matters and take such a quip seriously.

Best wishes for a new and glowing life in the Lord when you are released from rehab.


Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 18, 2006 4:36 PM

And atheism is a death cult - Mao, Stalin, and Robespierre - able celebrants all.

Please. Shall I start naming Christian mass murderers and say Christianity is a "death cult"? You would quite properly reply that Christianity teaches peace and forgiveness, and that Christian mass murderers do so in defiance of Christianity. Well, atheism doesn't teach anything. It is the absence of a religion. (And I would argue that Marxism is a religion, so Stalin and Mao don't even count.)

Atheists are the proverbial herd of cats. Without a holy book or a revelation to provide a moral code, atheists come up with as many as there are atheists. What did David Hume have in common with Robespierre, or Lucretius, or Ayn Rand?

There is no religion or philosophy that does not have evil men following it.

My own morality is not too different from the one Christians profess, despite my atheism.

Posted by: Gabriel Hanna at April 18, 2006 6:12 PM

2 things I'd have you acknowledge:

Note that both Jake and I, atheists, disagree with Speedwell, an atheist.

Note also the different forms of Christianity practiced in third-century Rome and 17th century Europe.

Man's ability to pervert good into evil is, as far as I can tell, limitless.

Posted by: Gabriel Hanna at April 18, 2006 6:17 PM

Came here by way of our very dear Anchoress. Yours was a quite a fine read and well worth my time and a bookmark for your site. As for Speedwell, I rather liked his last line about the "Gospel of Thomas": "...none of it good and none of it news." He is indeed blessed with a pithy delivery and a quick mind. I will happily use the quote and think of you often with a smile.

Posted by: Maribel at April 18, 2006 6:25 PM

Please. Shall I start naming Christian mass murderers and say Christianity is a "death cult"? You would quite properly reply that Christianity teaches peace and forgiveness, and that Christian mass murderers do so in defiance of Christianity. Well, atheism doesn't teach anything. It is the absence of a religion. (And I would argue that Marxism is a religion, so Stalin and Mao don't even count.)

Marxism is a religion so it doesn't count? Quite a missionary effort by its priests and ministers, in that case.

There is no argument from me that one can live a civil and contemplative life without a belief in a divine power. May all atheists live happy and peaceful lives.

But the promotion of atheism as an official government policy inevitably leads to violent persecution of believers and non-believers alike.
The use of militant atheism as an ideological weapon against cultural institutions has been the second order of business for any aspiring 20th-21st century socialist dictatorship (the first, of course, is the immediate liquidation of the political opposition). That is the context for my "cult of death" remark.

Just a question, though: What kind of life would there be in a country without a culturally-acceptable moral code?

Posted by: mrp at April 18, 2006 7:33 PM

Oops,sorry folks, I MEANT the "Gospel of Judas." The rest was rubbish but still think the comment was savvy.

Posted by: Maribel at April 18, 2006 7:33 PM

2 things I'd have you acknowledge:

Note that both Jake and I, atheists, disagree with Speedwell, an atheist.

So noted

Note also the different forms of Christianity practiced in third-century Rome and 17th century Europe.

I have!

Man's ability to pervert good into evil is, as far as I can tell, limitless.

No, there we disagree. Man's ability to pervert good into evil is not limitless. There is an eternal, relentless yearning in the hearts of men to seek truth and to live truthful lives. And where there is truth, there one stands with God.

Posted by: mrp at April 18, 2006 8:13 PM


You forget that the evil we do can be rather cliche.

It's a good thing we have a limited imagination, else we would've destroyed this planet centuries ago.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 18, 2006 9:02 PM

What kind of life would there be in a country without a culturally-acceptable moral code?

What's life like in a country where there are divinely-revealed moral codes that disagree with each other? We have many historical examples of such, besides those of the present day.

Suppose an book of the Gospel were discovered that was just as authentic, by any standard, as the other four, but it explicitly said that, say, child molestation was okay. Christians would refuse to accept it as authentic, no matter if Jesus' fingerprints were found on it.

There is a real example less extreme--there is not one word in Old or New Testament condemning slavery--on the contrary, it is unquestionably, though implicitly, condoning it, by setting rules for setting Hebrew slaves free in jubilee years, etc. Christians nearly universally condemn slavery, despite having no Word of God, so to speak condemning it--quite the opposite.

Your moral code comes fundamentally from your own conscience. If you want to think God inspired it, okay, but that is just as relativistic as saying everyone must follow their own conscience, because people have to make up their own minds about what God really wants. All you are doing by bringing in God is shifting the ground of the argument, from "what is right?" to "what does God tell us is right?"--and Occam's Razor at least would suggest cutting out the middleman.

As for your other point, militant atheism persecutes people, yes. So does militant Buddhism, or militant Christianity, or millitant environmentalists, or even militant vegans.

Posted by: Gabriel Hanna at April 18, 2006 9:04 PM

I think the reason totalitarians hate established religion (though not necessarily espousing atheism, see also Qaddafi) is because they do not want anyone accepting any authority not under control of the government.

One reason Hitler discouraged Christianity is because it competed with the Nazi ethis he wished to instill. But they didn't push atheism. They pushed a sort of unholy hybrid of neo-paganism and racial superiority theories. Hitler privately thought it all ridiculous.

An established religion has years of teachings and traditions that predate the founding of the state, and is a competing source of authority, and no totalitarian state worth its salt would accept that.

Posted by: Gabriel Hanna at April 18, 2006 9:10 PM

Roy Lofquist's quote from Dylan led me to think of another of his lyrics which may describe the secular press:

"Down the street the dogs are barkin'
And the day is a-gettin' dark.
As the night comes in a-fallin',
The dogs 'll lose their bark."

--One Too Many Mornings

A seasonal title, no? I guess dogs aren't exactly "watchmen" after all.

Posted by: Philip at April 18, 2006 9:31 PM

I agree with much of what you have to say in the last part of your essay, about modern culture's loss of a sense of shame, or belief in sin. But I don't agree with you that the publication of this "Gospel of Judas" is a sign of it.
But I think you're being much too critical of the scholars at National Geographic. Yes, you are almost certainly on to something when you note the timing of the release, so close to Easter. (But if you have information you believe is valuable and important, doesn't it make sense to share it when it is most likely to have a wide audience?) It's not as though they're making this up out of nothing. The early Church Father Irenaeus of Lyons writes of a Gospel of Judas (using those words), writing of course to condemn it: but the text he describes sounds very similar to the one National Geographic has published. In other words, it or something like it did exist in 180, when Irenaeus was writing. It doesn't seem to me as though National Geographic is trying to fundamentally challenge Christianity's legitimacy. Of course they'd like to generate controversy and sell books. But the fact is, there was not one single reaction to Jesus. People disagreed about who Jesus was and what he was doing. There was a group of people who actually believed the ideas put forward in this "Gospel of Judas". There is plenty of documentation of people who held ideas similar to those expounded in this "Gospel," the Gnostics, both from works they themselves wrote and from works by proto-Orthodox Christians condemning them. That some people at some time believed that Judas' betrayal was an act of obedience to the divine will is, as far as we can tell, historical fact. We Christians do not need to feel threatened by this fact; our predecessors in the faith (such as Irenaeus) forcefully anathematized this belief system soon after it arose. Rather, it seems to me that knowledge about reactions to Jesus other than the one that eventually came to be accepted as orthodoxy is interesting and valuable, even if it has no bearing whatsoever on what we ourselves believe about Jesus. The fact that a group of scholars is publishing a translation of a "Gospel" such as this one is not at all a sign of the depravity or moral emptiness of these scholars. In my opinion, knowledge is valuable. Unless one claims that this publication is outright fraud and forgery, it cannot be denied that it adds to our knowledge of the era from which it comes.

Posted by: penguinflying at April 18, 2006 10:17 PM

"a defense of atheism, which I can trust to stand on its own . . . Faith is like that--it doesn't matter what the facts are, you've already made up your mind."

And you haven't?

Posted by: cosmo at April 19, 2006 4:48 AM

No, Cosmo, I haven't. If someone should present me with sufficiently convincing evidence, evidence that needs Christianity to explain it and can't be explained by any other expanation, I reserve the right to change my mind. (Change it back, I mean, since I used to be a practicing born-again Christian.) Magna est veritas et praevalebit, and all that, but it has to betruth, not just claim to be true.

Want some really radical advice from an atheist? Read your Bible. Read it seriously. Read it like you have never touched it before, like it was a book in the lost library of Alexandria and you're the archeologist who first unearthed it. Don't rely on what anyone else told you. Read it for what it really says, not for what you hope it says, or what you've been told it says. Read the boring parts and the easy parts, the parts you know and the parts you don't know. Read it again. Read it like it was written today. Really get into it, understand it. Treat it like a conversation, not as magical mumbo-jumbo.

Pay attention to the life and teachings of Jesus, the protagonist. Everyone else around him is secondary. Can you live like that? There's virtue in the mere effort, if you are a believer. The closer you get, the better. How close can you come? How long can you keep it up? Can you become the example that convinces the convinced and saves the lost?

Or are you just interested in standing on your dirty street corner waving your magic book and shouting puerile insults?

Posted by: speedwell at April 19, 2006 6:15 AM

You forget that the evil we do can be rather cliche.

And banal.

Posted by: mrp at April 19, 2006 6:19 AM

Right, mrp, C.S. Lewis said exactly that, using that exact word, "banal", toward the end of his novel That Hideous Strength. (I re-read it recently; I'm rather a fan of his.) You notice that evil, in his view, tends toward the smutty, twisted, cheerfully destructive, unthinkingly cruel, and breathtakingly pointless.

Some Christians apparently think like that. They besmirch their conversation with toilet and sex language that would get them suspended from the third grade. You want to wash your hands after reading it. They may have good thoughts, but they're buried under a sort of blasphemous crudity that makes you wonder if they really mean it, or if they just need an outlet for their wrath.

We don't know anyone like that. Do we?

Posted by: speedwell at April 19, 2006 6:37 AM

OK, I've made my points. You have my e-mail address. I probably won't be returning. I need to get back to work. :)

[Editors Note: This is the famous "too hot for me in here so I gotta leave and do 'work' gambit." It is usually followed by the traditional reply, "Door. Ass. Bang." but we will restrain ourselves in this since the departing party usually peeks back at least once to see if anyone noticed the departure.]

Posted by: speedwell at April 19, 2006 6:41 AM

I need to get back to work. :)

... for the American people.

Posted by: mrp at April 19, 2006 7:41 AM

Dear Gabriel,

Thanks for your even, thoughtful commentary. just a couple of thoughts, if i may:

Suppose an book of the Gospel were discovered that was just as authentic, by any standard, as the other four, but it explicitly said that, say, child molestation was okay. Christians would refuse to accept it as authentic, no matter if Jesus' fingerprints were found on it.

First, while i think it is fair to say that at least "some" would say that molestation in that case were okay, i doubt that "all" would . . . i know that you were just giving an example, but "all" is a mighty big word to use in describing any group of people.
But our pilgrimage is not merely about pages in a book, at least for me and mine it is also about a relationship--one that has grown deeper and more significant over time. By way of example, if you handed me a letter from my wife exhorting me to devour our children, you are right to say that i would not take it as truth at first glance knowing her as well as i do after so many years together. i would need to know that it was a propositional statement and not something less . . . or more. That is not only (or even primarily) because i reject truth, but because the words would not jibe with the woman i know. i would have to investigate thoroughly in order to either toss the letter or hide the kids.

Posted by: alan at April 19, 2006 12:37 PM

alan, you underscore my point. The God that you know would not endorse, say, child molestation. But how do you know God? Is not Scripture one of the ways to know God? If the morality that purported Scripture espouses is to be used to judge the authenticity of that Scripture, then Scripture is not the source of morality. You have chosen the morality first, and selected the Scripture to fit it--and this is exactly why Christians today think slavery is evil while Scripture does not.

Where does your morality come from? Your personal experience of God may be a source for you, but it cannot be so for me or anybody else, since we can't know what God has told you--and so basing a morality on what God thinks is right provides no more of an absolute moral foundation than basing a morality on what I think is right. All you do, when you base morality on God, is shift the discussion to what God thinks is right, but no content has been added to the discussion by doing so.

Further examples would be situations which are not anticipated in the Bible, yet Christians have opinions about their morality anyway. Where do these opinions come from? For example, those stupid commercials "what would Jesus drive", or those stupid politicians who say Jesus wouldn't support tax cuts or welfare reform.

(Jesus was a carpenter from a small town. He would have driven an F-150, obviously. And Jesus said "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" and "give all that thou hast unto the poor", not "vote to take money forcibly from the rich and dribble it through a bureacracy to people making less than $12,000 and call it a virtue". But I digress.)

Well, one has to work from principles deduced from the Bible and apply those priniciples to analagous modern situations--and there is the rub. Which principles are most important, and what Scriptural examples are analagous? A man from Mars reading the Bible could be forgiven for thinking that God doesn't care nearly so much about slavery as He cares about what you eat, and he would be very puzzled by the nineteenth century's bitter debates about slavery.

Posted by: Gabriel Hanna at April 19, 2006 9:00 PM

Probably adverb Most likely; presumably. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company

I wouldn't have come back, actually, except a thoughtful Christian reader of yours from a church in California wrote to me in a very decent, sane and respectful way, and I wanted to see what he had posted in this thread (if anything).

You can't truthfully accuse me of turning tail and running away when I invited you and everyone else to write to me and provided a valid e-mail address to write to. The invitation stands. The same e-mail address is reposted again in this comment.

Posted by: speedwell at April 19, 2006 9:57 PM

Well, I'm not exactly running a lonely-hearts pen-pal club here, but people are free to do what they like.

Hope you don't get buried in that incoming avalanche of email.

Posted by: Vanderleun at April 19, 2006 10:33 PM

Don't keep your nose so far in the air that you get it tangled in overhead power lines, Grandmother.

Posted by: speedwell at April 20, 2006 3:48 AM

I am struck, in reading this post, by both your prose and your passion; in both historical and theological terms, however, you are well wide of the mark. Even before the suppression of the Gospel of Judas (whose contents have been known of for nearly two millenia, well before the National Geographic's translation), as well as other apocrypha, both churches--the Byzantine and the Roman--were locked in a bitter struggle against Gnosticism, which had its roots in the so-called 'Manicheaen heresy' of Dualism. This culminated in the suppression of the Bogomils by the Greek, and their heirs, the Cathars, by the Roman Catholic churches. The Gospel of Judas was suppressed not because it glorified treason or the traitor, but because it was part of this Gnostic tradition, which held that Jesus was not a real man at all, but rather a perfect spiritual being covered in a 'cloth of flesh' and that Judas was the greatest of his disciples because he had the courage to follow divine instructions and betray Christ to the Cross--which was after all, his pre-ordained destiny. This concept, incidentally, of the predestination of the Crucifixion, was retained by both churches, and has occasioned much debate over the centuries as scholars have pointed out Judas' necessary role.

Many may feel the church was correct to attempt to destroy this gospel; such concepts contained in Jesus' statement to Judas that the two of them worship another god than do the rest of the disciples, who 'worship a lesser god', is potentially more subversive than any of the sources for the 'Da Vinci Code'. I sympathize with the metaphorical thrust of your argument--but, alas, it doesn't hold water, theologically speaking.

Posted by: Kierkegaard at April 20, 2006 1:30 PM

You know, I can never figure out if you people are serious or simply remarkable satire. Amazing.

Posted by: donna at April 22, 2006 11:37 AM

I don't see anything satirical in Kierkegaard's remark. Is that what you were referring to?

The material in the National Geographic was old news and to portray it as some kind of serious move in a political or cultural war is pretty silly.

If, as most sects of Christianity teach, the crucifixion was necessary, then all who participated in it were engaged in some sort of sacred labor. If any of them were merely doing evil, then the crucifixion was unnecessary and Christian theology is mostly wrong. Take your choice. I didn't invent this problem; it's been debated for many centuries.

Posted by: anarcissie at May 7, 2006 7:10 AM
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