The Gospel of Judas IV
Bill Long 4/18/06
Jesus' Great Revelation to Judas
Even though Judas knows that Jesus is from another realm, that of Barbelo, Judas is worried that his "seed is under the control of the rulers" (46)--i.e., whatever powers, lesser than the true God, which control the current world. Jesus assures him, however, that he
"will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations--and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy [generation]" (46-47).
By becoming the thirteenth, Jesus may be referring to Judas' being replaced by a new twelfth disciple after his death (Acts 1), thus making him the "odd man out" or the "thirteenth." But this new position for Judas would really be an exalted one, since he will come to rule over the rest. Kind of reminds me of the Weird Sisters' prophecy to Banquo...
Jesus' Teaching About the Cosmos--Introduction
For the next 10 pages Jesus tells Judas the secrets that no person has ever seen (47). Indeed, Judas, by his insight "will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me" (56). This last sentence shows that because of his exalted and privileged position as the one who knows the secret things of Jesus--his origin and destiny--Judas will be the one chosen to enable the sacrifice of "the man that clothes me." The picture is of a soul or spirit that is immortal trapped in a physical body which must be peeled off in order for the spirit to be liberated and return to its true home. Judas will do that for Jesus. Thus, the act of betrayal, at least as it is portrayed here, is really a gift that Judas brings to Jesus because this act enables Jesus to return to his heavenly abode.
Before I briefly describe the nature of the cosmos, I need to make one cautionary observation. Whenever literature of any sort presents itself as "revelatory" literature--that it has a secret to tell about God or the universe--almost always this secret is either banal or seemingly irrelevant. It is as if someone grabbed me by the lapels and told me in the most serious terms, "Bill, the secret of the universe is....'BLUE!'" Therefore, be warned.
Jesus' Teaching About the Cosmos--The Upper Realm
Jesus teaches Judas that there is a boundless realm of the great invisible Spirit. A luminous cloud seemingly surrounds this realm (47), and an enlightened angel came into being and created luminaries and aeons and myriads of angels (47-48). Adamas was in the first luminous cloud and he brought forth the incorruptible generation of Seth. It appears that the author is not speaking of the actual creation of Adam (Eve?) and the birth of their third-born, Seth, but of some kind of heavenly generation of these figures, who will take on earthly life considerably later. Seth is an important figure in some brands of gnosticism because he represents the "fresh start" with humanity that God chose after the slaying of Abel. But I have to pause here for a second. If The Gospel of Judas is supposed to be an expression of Sethian gnosticism (Prof. Meyer so argues), why does Irenaeus (in this essay), place the Gospel of Judas in connection with Cain, the murdered one? That is, Irenaeus' understanding of the provenance of the Gospel of Judas is from those who also celebrate famous other people who were judged or incinerated or swallowed up by the wrath of God. Seth is definitely not one of these people.
Back to our story. One of the characteristics of Gnostic cosmology is the astonishingly large number of heavenly creatures which inhabit the heavenly realm. So it is here. Adamas, in the first luminous cloud, made seventy-two luminaries. These seventy-two made three hundred sixty luminaries, so that each would have five (49). Then there are twelve aeons, with six heavens for each aeon, so that there are seventy-two heavens for the seventy-two luminaries. And, just when our brain is bursting trying to understand all of this, we are told that each of the luminaries has five firmaments, for a total of three hundred sixty firmaments (50). I'm getting dizzy, so I will stop describing this heavenly realm.
But then things have to come to birth in some fashion. And so an aeon appeared in whom there was something known as "El," which is the name of the Hebrew (biblical) deity (51). Then a number of other angles appeared with names such as Yaldaboath (sometimes known as Nebro) and Saklas. Rather than to go into laborious detail with poetry and prose that isn't very clear to me, I can say that we have a series of intermediary angels who rule over the underworld and inhabit various realms in the cosmos. Then Saklas, one of the angles says, "Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image" (52). This quotation, lifted straight from Gen. 1:26, represents the classic gnostic doctrine of creation of this world by a lesser force than a good or pure God. Then, after humans are created there is a little story about two angels: Michael and Gabriel. The former gives spirits to people as a loan, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it (53).
Concluding the Secret Teaching
The revelatory teaching concludes with, to me, a confusing section on the role of the stars in bringing all matters to completion (54-55). Fornication will follow in Jesus name, but the stars will be consumed and destroyed eventually along with all their creatures. The revelation of the final fate of these stars is another occasion for Jesus to laugh (55). But Judas has a special role, becuse he "will sacrifice the man that clothes me" (i.e., Jesus) (55). Jesus then closes with these words:
"Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star" (57).
Though the imagery is fairly wild, and some of it is missing due to lacunae in the text, we have a fairly clear picture of the general direction of the text. Judas has been selected for special knowledge of the role of Jesus in the universe, and he (Judas) will be exalted, even though he will be rejected by humans. Even though the text does not use the words or concept, Judas will experience the imitatio Christi.
One more essay will conclude my thoughts.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long