uploaded : Tuesday 11th Apr 2006 at 13:07
by : Barry Shaw
The View from Here
Subject: Judas the Jew.
National Geographic's latest edition is highlighting the recent discovery of ancient parchments recounting the Gospel according to Judas.
This remarkable document challenges Christianity's deepest beliefs. Was Judas, the betrayer, in fact a loyal hero? Was Judas, depicted for centuries as the personification of the despicable Jew, in fact a true and brave friend of the Christian messiah?
The tale of its discovery and subsequent revelations read like a saga from Indiana Jones.
In 1978, a farmer entered a cave in the Egyptian desert in search of treasure among the burial chambers. He found, among the bones, a stone box. Inside was a leather bound book. The Codex.
The farmer knew that old books fetch a high price in Cairo.
It was bought by an Egyptian merchant who tried, unsuccessfully, to trade it to experts in antiquity. His exorbitant price was rejected, and he stored it in the vaults of the Hicksville, New York, branch of Citibank, where is lay, decaying, for decades.
Twenty two years later, Freda Nussberger Tchachos, who had heard of the discovery of a document thought to be the Gospel of Judas, tracked down the Egyptian owner, and negotiated a deal.
She found the parchments in fragile condition. She sent it to Yale where experts tried to decipher the text. They transferred the crumbling pages to Florence Darbre and Rudolph Kasser in Zurich, experts in ancient Nostic documents and the Coptic language, to ascertain whether the pages were authentic.
While small sections of the parchment were examined for chronological dating and testing for authenticity, the team in Switzerland set about piecing together the hundreds of delicate fragments.
Slowly, painstakingly, as they pieced together the ancient pieces of this jigsaw, words, then sentences, came together. More experts were brought in to confirm the hand written text.
What was uncovered was an authentic revelation, a shocking rejection of centuries of Christian belief, and of traditional anti-Semitism.
The four known Christian Gospels increasingly portray Judas an evil character, condemned for all time.
In Mark, the first Gospel to be distributed in around 60 A.D., Judas is not a villain. In Matthew, which was produced in around 70 A.D., put guilt on Judas for identifying Jesus to the Romans.
In John, the last of the known Gospels, Judas was fully exposed as a villainous character by Jesus. "One of you will betray me!" as he passed a piece of bread to Judas at the Last Supper.
Christianity became anti-Jewish as they strove to gain recognition by separating themselves from their Jewish roots. The Passion, the interpretation of Judas as an untrustworthy Jew, are set in anti-Semitic features. Jude was the word sewn onto Jewish breasts by the Nazis.
Judas Iscariot became the most hated man in Christian history. He is depicted as the man who brought about the crucifiction of Jesus and, therefore, deserving to be damned. Judas, and Jews, became linked by identity and by demonization. Portrayed as avaricious, treacherous, thieving, to be despised by all righteous men.
But what if there was a different story? What if Judas was a saintly and righteous man, carrying out the command and mission of Jesus at a risk to his own life and reputation?
The ancient parchment, buried for so long in the sands of Egypt, and a New York bank vault, has turned out to be the authentic Gospel of Judas. Its revealing pages has thrown a new and breath taking light on the character of Judas.
Three days before Passover, Jesus and the twelve disciples were eating, when Jesus challenged their faith. "Let the perfect person stand up and show yourself."
Only Judas stood in modesty and simplicity.
"Judas!", Jesus declared in the Judas Gospel, "the star that leads the way is your star."
Jesus took Judas aside and revealed his truth to him. He warned Judas that he will be hated and condemned for what Jesus is about to ask him to do. Judas understood that his act would be the ultimate sacrifice. That Jesus had to die for his spirit to live on, and that Judas would pay a very heavy price.
For Judas, and for Jesus, this was not an act of betrayal. It was not an evil act. It was a holy mission, desired by Jesus. A test of true faith from the man, identified by Jesus, as his most loyal disciple.
When Judas brought the Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the kiss he planted on the cheek of Jesus was not a kiss of betrayal. It was a genuine kiss of love and devotion.
Thus is the act of a true Jew, a genuine, loyal, and brave friend.
The portrayal of Judas, and the Jews, has been a reprehensible feature of Christianity that has been a burden to the Jewish people to this day.
To this day, certain orthodox branches of Christianity is still attacking Israel.
David Parsons, of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, explained to me the theory of Replacement Theology. It was this repressive rejection of the truth of Jesus that bears the origins of Jewish persecution to this day. Christian history is replete with attacks on those who supports the Jewish people. Recent history, and current events, show that certain branches of the Christian church side with those who denigrate and terrorize Israel. Could this have its roots in the origins of Christianity?
The Quakers, who believed in the Jews as the Chosen People, and of the Jewish return to Zion, were driven out of Europe by the powerful Christian clergy.
There are many Christians who share the Quakers philosophy and belief in the return of Jews to Zion.
However, today we are witness to a situation where important Christian leaders make Israel the modern Judas. They target Israel with boycotts, while supporting a radical Islamic Palestinian campaign that will deny the Jews their rightful place in the world.
Perhaps, with full admission that Judas was a true and loyal Jew, the Church will also come recognize, and to ask forgiveness, for the suffering caused to Judas, to Jews, and to the Jewish state, by Christianity.