Wednesday, April 12, 2006

All the fuss about Judas

The Gospel of Judas (found in a cave in the 1970’s) has recently been published after painstaking restoration. Read about it in Newsweek.

And of course, it’s turning people on their ears. I guess it tells the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus before the crucifixion as though Jesus had planned it all out with Judas. Meaning it was Judas’ assignment.

It’s kind of reminding me of Wicked, the novel that tells the Wizard of Oz story from the witch’s point of view. It’s a musical now, too. In the novel, the witch Elphaba is a sympathetic character who rises to the top after a poor upbringing and vile circumstances. Oz the Wizard is a rival politician who wants the witch out of the way to satiate his own ambition. Dorothy is a dimwit who mindlessly traipses through Oz and kills her. Etc.

Everyone’s got a point of view. I’ve had a theory for years that even the most hardened criminal thinks they’re doing the right thing. That there’s some overriding reason that makes their actions correct to themselves, even if totally selfish. The rest of us, looking in from the outside, think we can condemn because whatever they’ve done is outside the norm of accepted behavior. But to the perpetrator, what they did was just fine. Punishment doesn’t change that; reform only comes when the criminal can see what they were doing was wrong. Only then can they change their ways.

So, Judas. A friend once proposed the theory that of all the disciples, Judas was in charge of the money. And, he’d seen Jesus disappear through angry mobs, walk on water, raise the dead. When the offer of 30 pieces of silver came to him, he may have thought this would solve all their money troubles, and that Jesus would be fine. Jesus could always escape, and they would have the money. No one would be mad at him once it was all over. When it didn’t turn out that way, he was horrified.

Newsweek quotes Nag Hammadi scholar James Robinson: “[The Gospel of Judas] tells us nothing about the historical Jesus, nothing about the historical Judas. It only tells what, 100 years later, Gnostics were doing with the story they found in the canonical Gospels.”

Seems like we’re always struggling to make sense of this world we live in, as though we could figure it out and understand each other completely. Why would Judas do such a thing? Why do people kill each other or cheat each other or hurt each other?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s any reason beyond a limited sense of what goodness is. Meaning, we think we’ll achieve or acquire something we perceive as good if we do these things. Then, it doesn’t turn out right and we learn our mistake, or what we’ve acquired disappoints us.

What’s needed in all this is understanding that the source of all good is Spirit. We can’t acquire good by scrambling around humanly. We must lift our gaze upward and see that it’s already raining down on us continually. This upward view keeps us from criminal scrambling.

And, to my thinking, any criminal, including Judas, can be redeemed by learning this truth.

Some food for thought:

A magistrate sometimes remits the penalty, but this may be no moral benefit to the criminal, and at best, it only saves the criminal from one form of punishment. The moral law, which has the right to acquit or condemn, always demands restitution before mortals can "go up higher."


Lust, malice, and all sorts of evil are diseased beliefs, and you can destroy them only by destroying the wicked motives which produce them. If the evil is over in the repentant mortal mind, while its effects still remain on the individual, you can remove this disorder as God's law is fulfilled and reformation cancels the crime.


Have a wicked good day. :)

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At 4/12/2006 10:29:00 AM, Anonymous Emily said...

I liked the way Judas was depicted in the TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, which first aired in the late '70s. The filmmakers chose to portray Judas as a zealot who didn't quite get what Jesus' mission was all about, and who was trying to push Jesus into making a big, grandiose demonstration of His power to overthrow the Romans, or something along those lines. You get the impression, watching the film, that Judas had seen all these miracles and figured Jesus would just save Himself in some dramatic and spectacular fashion. When it didn't work out that way, Judas hanged himself instead of waiting around to see what would happen next.

I appreciate that reading of the character so much, because I think at one time or another, we've all been Judas. We turn away from Spirit and rely on mortal mind to solve a problem of its own making. When we don't get exactly the results we want, exactly when we want them, we have two options: Be patient, stop trying to solve the world's problems ourselves, and wait to see how Love resolves the situation, or panic and do something impulsive and foolish. Like Judas, we often choose to "lean upon [our] own (materially based) understanding," which of course fails us, instead of getting out of the way and trusting divine Love to meet "every human need."

Incidentally, if anybody hasn't seen Jesus of Nazareth, it's a phenomenal film. It's worth renting just to see Anne Bancroft's powerful performance as Mary Magdalene. My mom and I cry every time she says, "He said to tell you, and I have told you" after she reports the resurrection to the disciples, who are understandably skeptical.

At 4/12/2006 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous Carrie said...

You know, Judas never really botherd me that much. I mean he did something stupid, but I never really bought into the all the scolding that Judas seems to get. He couldn't have been one of Jesus' desiples without working very hard and he must have been a good guy trying to do what he could.

and honestly, it's the other desiples who annoyed me for denying Jesus and all just when he really needed them, and sleeping on him... though they have their story I feel like they get more then their fair share of rationalization compared to Judas.

either way though, I like hearing other theories about that man because it seems to open up the possiblities of the story - outside of just "the facts" chosen to be recorded.


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