A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius," in addition to articles on other related subjects and many new era Christian sermons.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

15 Introduction to the Gospel of Judas - 2

15 Introduction to the Gospel of Judas - 2

Last week we began a review of the Gospel of Judas. We discussed gnosticism in general,  and I mentioned that I had begun to suspect that the study of the Gnostic Gospels was not mostly about the content of the material, but, rather, about enjoying a collection of spiritual allegories and poetic inventions, stylistically characteristic Jesus' time and place. I specifically and repeatedly emphasized the idea that the Gnostic view of the physical as a prison, (from which the spirit must enthusiastically escape), is not particularly harmonious with the idea that Jesus proclaimed about the possibility of a Heaven on Earth. To be sure, Jesus taught us to focus our perception of identity on the spiritual component; He taught us not to feel bound to the body, and to look forward to an ultimate destiny free of the body. But He did NOT say that the body is total dross, and ought not to be glorified. Indeed, Jesus taught us that the experience of spirit in the physical  is, in some ways, just as legitimate and necessary for the evolution of the soul, as its entry and reentry into and out of etheric dimensions. He taught us to see Heaven on Earth, to see God in everything. And remember that this is not pantheism, because our God reveals Himself Personally, through Jesus Christ, and that has made all the difference.

The more I get to know about the Gnostic Gospels, the more I begin to suspect that the Gospel of Judas is a work of fiction. Now, that does not mean that the Gospel of Judas does not have something important to say, and true to say. The historical details, such as whether Judas really betrayed Jesus or not, are not of primary interest to me. It's like whether the world was created in six days or not: I don't really care. I don't care if Judas did or didn't betray Jesus; I don't care if Judas escaped to India; I don't care if he was stoned to death by the other disciples. I don't know these people, and I don't really have anything to do with what exactly happened. I am a Christian Ex Post Facto--AFTER THE FACT. That Jesus is available  to me, in spirit, is the most important ramification of the historical Jesus. Something happened, Jesus became a personal savior, and how He got there, is less important to me than that HE IS. Furthermore, remember that most of the Gospels, most of these sacred texts inspired by God, both the accepted and the unaccepted ones, are compositions created by mere by men, who may not even have had direct experience of the events they are reporting; thus it becomes easier to endorse the sacredness of the Gospel of Judas.

Now, we will re-enter a scene we left mid-way last week;

the disciples are gathered over a meal, and have been praying a blessing over the food. Jesus walks in on them and begins to laugh. The disciples get all offended, because they think He is making fun of  them. Jesus comforts their bruised egos, but then goes on to challenge them:

"When Jesus observed their lack of understanding, he said to them,

“Why has this agitation led you to anger? Your god is within you and yet these outward signs have provoked you to anger within your souls.
Let any one of you who is strong enough among human beings bring out the perfect human and stand before my face.”

They all said,

“We have the strength.”

But their spirits did not dare to stand before Him, except for Judas Iscariot. He was able to stand before him, but he could not look him in the eyes, and he turned his face away.

Judas said to him,

“I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.”

[Sidebar (from Wikipedia):

"The Gnostic term "Barbēlō" (Greek: Βαρβηλώ) refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as 'Mother-Father' (hinting at her apparent androgyny), 'First Human Being', 'The Triple Androgynous Name', or 'Eternal Aeon'."]

Now, in this story from Judas there are many features of Jesus' personality and Jesus' wisdom that are consistent with the portrait of Jesus drawn in the synoptic gospels; one of the big differences, is that, in this story, Jesus laughs. Jesus is never depicted as laughing in any of the other gospels. This is particularly resonant with me, because I have always known, intuitively, the Jesus had a smile on His face all the time. Being One with the Spirit is so powerful, and so positive, and so full of joy, that He must have smiled all the time, and I bet He was a jokester too. I just have this feeling, and I don't have anything to back it up with except an intuitive impression acquired from what He says, and from the kind of answers to prayer I get.

Another archetypal element of this story is the "Competition-for-the-Place-of-Best-of-the-Best" scenario. This is a theme that is echoed in a number of other places in the Bible and elsewhere--The first story that springs to mind is from Mark:

Mark 9:33-35:
"33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them,
“What were you arguing about on the road?”
34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

The Jews, in particular, were very Place/Face conscious, and it was important to them to establish, among themselves, who was worthy to claim authority. This passage, where Judas steps forward to meet the infinite gaze of Jesus, contributes to the perception, suggested by the gospel, of Judas as "the only disciple with true understanding of Jesus' teaching".

A similar scene occurs in the Gospel of Thomas--in this case Thomas is the cool dude:
"(13) Jesus said to his disciples,
"Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like."
Simon Peter said to him,
"You are like a righteous angel."
Matthew said to him,
"You are like a wise philosopher."
 Thomas said to him,
"Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like."

In King Lear, Shakespeare begins the play with the old prideful King posing this question to his three daughters:
“Who loves me best?”
The first two daughters sing out their love to the heavens, in rhapsodies accompanied by angels voices and harps, their vain tunes signifying nothing--while the most truly loving daughter gives this answer to the audience in an aside:

(to herself) What will I say? I can only love and be silent."

Thus, the battle to be the best of the best must always be defeated by the pronouncement,

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

I find the portrait of Jesus, in the Gospel of Judas, to be beautifully literate; it really helps to hear Jesus at His most eloquent and mystical, even if the intrusion of the demiurge associates him with the most primitive aspects of gnosticism.

Another interesting scene is when Jesus takes Judas aside, and honors him by telling him that he, among all the disciples, understands best the teaching of the Messiah:


Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him,
“Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal. For someone else will replace you, in order that the twelve [disciples] may again come to completion with their god.”
Judas said to him,
“When will you tell me these things, and [when] will the great day of light dawn for the generation?”
But when he said this, Jesus left him."

There is more than one place in the gospel that merely states, "Jesus left." Very abrupt, very final. We recall, from the episode of Jesus at Nazareth, where the prophet goes unrecognized in His own country, and from several other scenes where Jesus has had to escape from a crowd--we recall that He just "disappears". The way that Jesus mysteriously comes and goes, in this gospel, is consistent with the rumor that Jesus could disapparate and reappear at will--definitely a Gnostic idea, but not unheard-of in the annals of the great saints.

Interestingly, this passage from Judas is very like a passage in the Gospel of Thomas:

"And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, 
"What did Jesus say to you?"
Thomas said to them, 
"If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up."

The same scenario occurs in the Gospel of Mary; apparently Jesus, was able to give highly personal insights to his disciples, thereby making them each feel that they had personally been given the unique keys to the Kingdom. Nothing has changed--Jesus still gives us all exactly what we need.

The passage from Thomas, concerning the disciples stoning someone, along with the idea that the victim will be vindicated, anticipates similar developments in Judas. We will get there.

Now, we know that any discussion of the Gospel of Judas must eventually work its way around to the question of whether or not Judas was working FOR or AGAINST Jesus--was Judas following or NOT following Jesus' specific instructions in the matter of the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane? This is the most difficult controversy in the book, and it is a central idea around which all the other material revolves. So let us take a look at that portion of the text for a moment.


Judas said to Jesus,

“Look, what will those who have been baptized in your name do?”

Jesus said,

“Truly I say to you, this baptism is done in my name. Truly I say to you, Judas, those who offer sacrifices to Saklas make a righteous sacrifice to God.
But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me."

[Sidebar: Interesting expression, "the man that clothes me." With this sentence, Jesus is denying identification with His physical body--His body is just a suit of clothes He wears to walk around in, on Earth. This expression helps Judas realize that he is not betraying anything permanent, but is merely helping Jesus in staging His extravaganza!


"For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.

Already your horn has been raised,
your wrath has been kindled,
your star has shown brightly,
and your heart has been hardened"

[Sidebar: It is interesting how, when Jesus sends Judas off to betray Him, the text mentions that Judas must harden his heart. I think this means that Judas really loves Jesus very much, and, even though he can see the big picture, he still regrets turning Jesus over to the Pharisees, thus insuring Jesus' execution. Jesus is saying, here, "Buck up man, and do your duty. How else am I ever going to get crucified on Passover?!" My point is that: if Judas were truly betraying Jesus, his heart would be hardened already.

Back to Judas:]

“Truly your last place will become first, so do not grieve. And then the image of the great generation of Adam will be exalted, for prior to heaven, earth, and the angels, that generation, which is from the eternal realms, exists. Look, you have been told everything. 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.”

Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud, and he entered it.
Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud.

Their high priests murmured because He had gone into the guest room for his prayer."

[Sidebar: This bit is interesting, too: it is not illogical that Jesus might have been apprehended in a room of the same house where He had His Last Supper; but this version does away with some of our favorite Jesus portraits--the whole Garden of Gethsamane story, and the Peter cutting-off-the-ear story--bummer:]

"But some scribes were there watching carefully in order to arrest him during the prayer, for they were afraid of the people, since he was regarded by all as a prophet. They approached Judas and said to him, “What are you doing here? You are Jesus’ disciple.” Judas answered them as they wished. And he received some money and handed him over to them."

Many points in this text deserve comment. Let's begin with the mention of Saklas. As we learned last week, Saklas is a name associated with one of the founding angels of the universe, perhaps the Creator God Him(Her)Self:

"And the aeon that appeared with his generation, the aeon in whom are the cloud of knowledge and the angel, is called. And Saklas said, ‘Let twelve angels come into being to rule over chaos and the underworld.’ And look, from the cloud there appeared an angel whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood.

Another angel, Saklas, also came from the cloud.

“Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.’ They fashioned Adam and his wife Eve, who is called, in the cloud, Zoe. For by this name all the generations seek the man, and each of them calls the woman by these names. And the [ruler] said to Adam, ‘You shall live long, with your children.’”

This concept is clearly in agreement with the fundamentals of Gnostic philosophy, but it is not clear whether it is in agreement with Christian philosophy. However you slice it, this theology is Old testament stuff, and does not bear crucially on the role of Jesus in our lives here and now.

Here, let me remind you of the sidebar above, about Barbelo, taken from Wikipedia):

"The Gnostic term "Barbēlō" (Greek: Βαρβηλώ) refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as 'Mother-Father' (hinting at her apparent androgyny), 'First Human Being', 'The Triple Androgynous Name', or 'Eternal Aeon'."]

The idea of the MOTHER-CREATOR, (Saklas or Barbelo, it is not clear which) is an item included in many primitive, aboriginal mythologies; it is not unfamiliar to C.S, Lewis, who has much to say on the subject; he speaks, always, of the Father-Creator in preference to the Mother-Creator, especially in light of the sacrifice on Calvary, which changed the relationship of God to Man. For instance, at the climax of Till We Face Faces, the primordial Mother-God, Ungit, is contrasted with the newly articulated sculpture of the Goddess, Psyche; Ungit has no face--Psyche does. It will be apparent from this historical comparison of God's relationship to Man, before and after the crucifixion, (Ungit the Old God, Psyche the New God), that Lewis is in agreement with many statements, we quoted from Rudolf Steiner, emphasizing the significance of the Historical Jesus.

On the subject of masculine versus feminine, there is this illuminating principle set forth in his so-called "science fiction" novel, That Hideous Strength. In this excerpt we encounter the PERSON of God, not as a mothering birth-giver, nor as a pantheistic non-entity, but as a supra-masculine Identity:

"But she had been conceiving this world as "spiritual" in the negative sense--as some neutral, or democratic, vacuum where differences disappeared, where sex and sense were not transcended but simply taken away. Now the suspicion dawned upon her that there might be differences and contrasts all the way up, richer, sharper, even fiercer, at every rung of the ascent. How if this invasion of her own being in marriage from which she had recoiled, often in the very teeth of instincts, were not, as she had supposed, merely a relic of animal life or patriarchal barbarism, but rather the lowest, the first, and the easiest form of some shocking contact with reality which would have to be repeated-- but in ever larger and more disturbing modes-- on the highest levels of all?

"Yes," said the Director. "There is no escape. If it were a virginal rejection of the male, He would allow it. Such souls could bypass the male and go on to meet something far more masculine, higher up, to which they must make a yet deeper surrender. But your trouble has been what old poets called daungier. We call it Pride. You are offended by the masculine itself: the loud irruptive, possessive thing-- the Gold lion, the bearded bull-- which breaks through hedges and scatters the little kingdom of your primness as the dwarfs scattered the carefully made bed. The male you could have escaped, for it exists only on the biological level. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it."
. . .

[Sidebar: Skipping ahead, C.S. Lewis gives this vivid report of a heroine's DIRECT ENCOUNTER with this supra-masculine, PERSONAL IDENTITY:]

"What awaited her there was serious to the degree of sorrow and beyond. There was no form nor sound. The mould under the bushes, the moss on the path, and the little brick border, were not visibly changed. But they were changed. A boundary had been crossed. She had come into a world, or into a Person, or into the presence of a Person. Something expectant, patient, and inexorable, met her with no veil or protection between. In the closeness of that contact she perceived at once that the Director's words had been entirely misleading. This demand which now pressed upon her was not, even by analogy, like any other demand. It was the origin of all right demands and contained them. In its light you could understand them; but from them you could know nothing of it. There was nothing, and never had been anything, like this. And now there was nothing except this. Yet also, everything had been like this; only by being like this had anything existed. In this height and depth and breadth the little idea of herself she had hitherto called me dropped down and vanished, unfluttering, into bottomless distance, like a bird in a space without air. The name me was the name of a being whose existence she had never suspected, a being that did not yet fully exist but which was demanded. It was a person (not the person she had thought), yet also a thing, a made thing, made to please Another and in Him to please all others, a thing being made at this very moment, without its choice, in a shape it has never dreamed of. And the making went on amidst a kind of splendor or sorrow or both, whereof she could not tell whether it was in the moulding hands or in the kneaded lump.

Words take too long. To be aware of all this and to know that it had already gone made one single experience. It was revealed only in its departure. The largest thing that had ever happened to her had, apparently, found room for itself in a moment of time too short to be called time at all. Her hand closed on nothing but a memory. And as it closed, without an instant's pause, the voices of those who have not joy rose howling and shattering from every corner of her being."

I would love reading that, in any context, but its relevance, to the subject of Judas, is this: whereas, in the section from Judas we clearly recognize obvious Gnostic authorship, with its attendant Heathen vision of the Mother-God, in the Lewis section presents, we see, in no uncertain terms, a clear refutation of that primitive theological concept. Too bad. But we knew this--we knew that the author of the Gospel of Judas was a gnostic, so why be surprised when information we believe in gets mixed up with information we don't believe in?

Much more pertinent (and much LESS dependent on the gnostic prejudices of the author) is the question of whether Judas' betrayal was truly a betrayal, or merely an element in a conspiracy, led by Jesus Himself. The idea of Judas being in on the plot to get Jesus crucified is not a new idea. I thought of it myself many, many years ago, and I believe it appears in several New Age authors of the mid-20th-century. There are even plays and movie scripts that delight in casting Judas in a murky light. Did he, or didn't he? Judas has always been a complicated guy.

Now, if you accept this premise, you can play an interesting kind of word game: take all of the pertinent passages from the Synoptic Gospels, and interpret them from the perspective of Judas as villain. Then, re-interpret--perform a switcheroo, and run through all the pertinent lines from the perspective of Judas as saint. I, myself, am not personally involved in the history, so I don't have any trouble re-interpreting the story from the saint point of view. For instance, if Judas were, indeed, working to set up Jesus, we have to look at the various lines in the synoptic Gospels that appear to blame Judas and accuse Judas. The thing is that: if you think of Jesus instructing Judas to betray him, then none of the instructions he gives Judas at the Last Supper seem out of character. For instance, "Go and do what you need to do quickly," etc. These instructions are perfectly consistent with the idea of a conspiracy, rather than an actual betrayal.

[Sidebar: On the subject of "Go do what you must do quickly," it is fun to imagine Jesus in a spy movie, privately leaning over the table to Judas' ear, looking at his watch, saying, "Synchronize watches, sixteen hundred in 5-4-3-2-1. Now, go you quickly and do what must be done--and stay on schedule."]

Now, what about when Jesus says to the other disciples, "One of you is about to betray me. One of you is a bad dude, and it would be better if you had never been born."? That quote is consistent with the next portion of the Judas gospel, my favorite part, where Judas comes to Jesus and reports that he's had a vision of himself being stoned--but then sees himself going up to a heavenly mansion in upper Heaven. (We will dwell on that next week.)

One of the ramifications of the idea that Judas was working with Jesus to arrange the spectacle of His own execution, is that it turns the whole crucifixion into a kind of performance art piece. It seems sort of crass to think of the crucifixion as a dramatic show, (with Jesus as the star, kind of like a gladiator), and yet we've said many times that Jesus was sent to sacrifice Himself; he was sent as the Lamb of God to be slaughtered; so when? It had be sometime--Jesus showed Himself often to be able to evade crowds and authorities when He wanted to, so I find it hard to believe that He just fell into the clutches of the Pharisees against His will. He even says so to Pilate.

"36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."

(Again, we will develop this idea next week.)

So Jesus admits that He is CHOOSING to submit to the power of Pilate--that Pilate has no power over Him that is not freely given to him by the Messiah in accordance with the Divine Plan. Thus, it makes much more sense, to me, for Jesus to have choreographed this entire event, planned it out, and executed it (ha ha) by Himself, possibly assisted by an organization, possibly the Essenes working with Jesus at their head.

Remember that Jesus often called upon the authority of prophecy to prove His claims to the Christ-hood. Perhaps the precise date and time of the crucifixion were chosen on the basis of some sort of prophetic timetable that they were attempting to adhere to--or had no choice but to adhere to. Jesus often mentions that He's fulfilling prophecy. This cannot be accidental. And remember that we have often spoken of prophecy, hope, sehnsucht, and pre-destination--all as choices that are made outside time, choices made before the world began. Indeed, sometimes Jesus goes out of his way to fulfill prophecy, and sometimes you can see that he is riding on a tide which nothing could ever interrupt; so, the idea that Jesus engineered his own death, using Judas as one of the instruments to fulfill His plan, is not inconsistent with the idea of God sending his own son to be sacrificed.

What, truly, was the significance of the crucifixion? Perhaps the entire event was symbolic! Perhaps Jesus was working as the Father's press agent--announcing to the world this attention- grabbing headline:

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Death no longer has any power over the spirit. Video at Sundown! Come and see! Bring the kids!"

Perhaps the whole thing was a grand ritual, designed to interrupt the inertia of history, and divert the flow of time into new paths!

We have spoken, on many occasions, about the significance of ritual--going through our little motions, here at the empty Basin Bible Church, every week, we enact these precious little ceremonies, which somehow solemnize our lives. I just participated in a wedding in which a bundle of sage was set on fire and pointed in the four directions of the compass, as if that meant anything! What purpose did that serve other than as a ritual which solemnized the moment?

Jesus announced to the world, from the cross, in the most flamboyantly dramatic object lesson in history, that there is no death, and that there can be Heaven on Earth. Death is not our final condition, so the eternal moment of NOW ought to be celebrated with every breath we take in this physical plane. Remember that Jesus chose the time of his execution--he chose Passover, the most solemn feast of the Jewish year, and the time when the Big Apple, Jerusalem, was most densely populated with penitents and pilgrims. At Passover, more than any other time of the year, Jerusalem was packed with people, that is to say, WITNESSES.

In terms of sheer showmanship, He did a very similar thing on the occasion of the death of Lazarus; you will remember that He could have come to Lazarus immediately, but He chose to tarry a few days to pump up public interest; this, so when He brought Lazarus back from the dead, more people would hear about it, more people would be affected by it. If He could orchestrate the "Raising-Lazarus-from-the-Dead Show" why couldn't He do the same with his own execution?

Again, I am not proposing an ironclad belief in any of the scenarios I'm suggesting, here. I have an open mind, but I don't have a hidden agenda, so I have nothing to lose by any admission, one way or the other. But you must admit that, logically speaking, dramaturgically speaking, these scenarios are well within the realm of possibility. Indeed, it is not the actuality but the POSSIBILITY that transforms history into myth, such that, in spiritual terms, the history may lie, but the myth always tells the truth--the spiritual truth.

As I mentioned earlier, I intend to review several more of the Gnostic Gospels, over the next few weeks, and search them for nuggets of meaning. Next week we will review two more stories from the Gospel of Judas. I do not expect we will be in universal agreement about the significance of these texts, but there can be no doubt that they should be considered; it remains to be seen whether I will remain as interested in the subject as I now am, but it will be a ride.

Next week we will consider Judas' prophetic dream of his own martyrdom.

For now, let us pray: Jesus, we thank you for the opportunity to test our spiritual acuity with texts which pose as many problems as they offer solutions. We praise the power of your Magnificent Personality to enlighten our minds with images of Truth, which transcend the literal and evoke the eternal. Amen.

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