Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A seminar on 'Gospel of Judas' on 30th Sept 06

I attended the ‘Gospel of Judas’ seminar which took place on 30th Sept 06 in Orchard Rd Presbyterian Church by Dr Wu2 Rong2 Tu2 and I had gleaned quite a number of valuable insights from it. I would like to take this opportunity to share about what I have learnt and my afterthought. During the seminar, Dr Wu introduced us to the basic concept of Gnosticism. From there, he showed us how the Gospel of Judas was fabricated within a Gnostic framework and how the Gnostic views the snake in the Garden of Eden, Eve, Cain, Saul, Korah and his followers, Sodomites and finally Judas. Below is a very brief introduction to Gnosticism which I found somewhere.

Gnosticism, as its name implies (derived from the Greek gnosis, "knowledge"), was a system that promised salvation by knowledge. God, said the Gnostics, was too great and too holy to have created the material world with all of its baseness and corruption. The Gnostics held that from the supreme Deity had proceeded a series of successive emanations, each one a little inferior to the one from which it sprang, until finally the last of these emanations, or "aeons," as they were called, created the world.

Matter was thus equated with evil. If man wished to obtain salvation, he could do so by renouncing the material world and seeking the invisible world. Two contradictory ethical conclusions arose from the argument. The first was asceticism, which contended that since the body was material, it was evil, and should therefore be kept under strict control. Its appetites should be curbed and its impulses should be disregarded and suppressed. The other conclusion was drawn from the assumption that the spirit was real and the body was unreal. If the body were only temporary, its acts were inconsequential. Full gratification of its desires would thus have no effect on the ultimate salvation of the spirit, which alone would survive. (Taken from New Testament Survey, by Merrill C. Tenney, Eerdmans, 1999)

As such, those who rebelled against God in the Old Testament who created the world were actually rebelling against the evil aeons, not the Supreme Deity. The Supreme Deity cannot be known and these rebels have been interpreted in this framework as heroes. Even Judas who freed Jesus from his encased body has been re-cast as a hero, not the condemned betrayer as portrayed in the traditional gospels.

Especially valuable in the seminar is Dr Wu’s sharing on how we Christians should react to the Gospel of Judas. Dr Wu narrated to us on how the New Testament took shape during the 1st four centuries and he emphasized that it was not decided by an individual and within one generation. This is to debunk the National Geographic’s version of Bishop Irenaeus (c. 130–202) who is portrayed as the person who single-handedly determined the canon of the New Testament. This is also the case in Da Vinci’s Code’s depiction of Emperor Constantine who lived in the year 272-337.

Dr Wu also emphasized the need for Christians to be educated in the teachings on the doctrines of God, creation, Christology, salvation and on being equipped in apologetics so as to be able to respond to current issues and to be able to decipher the pre-supposition of various topics related to the faith such as the Gospel of Judas and not to look at the surface only. He summarized by highlighting to us the truth about Judas Iscariot and the nature of the Gospel of Judas. Lastly, he concluded by exhorting all Christians to be consistent and thorough in reading our Bible.

Gnosticism posits spiritual knowledge as a pre-requisite to salvation and this spiritual knowledge cannot be attained by anyone but only by someone with high spiritual insights. Built into this system are cascaded layers of angels to account for the creation of material world which is deemed as evil. Spiritual and material are to be viewed as good and evil separately. This system of thought when weaved with some terms borrowed from Christianity caused sufficient confusion to warrant the need to respond to them in 1 Corinthians, Colossians, 1 John, the prologue of the Gospel of John, the Pastoral Epistles, Jude and 2 Peter by the various apostles. Those who were condemned by God in the Bible could be re-interpreted to be commendable heroes in the framework of the Gnosticism.

In our world today, we must know what we believe in and to present and defend our faith within our sphere of influence, be it as a form of living testimony in our own life or be it in the ethical conduct that governs our decision making process within our working area. If possible, it should include the arena of human thoughts which constitute the various branches of specialized knowledge such as philosophy, science, ethics, other religions, politics, etc. which have direct impact on how we should live. If our faith is unworthy of our time and effort, we do not need to stand up for what we believe in. But if our faith is indeed true, we must know and stand up for what we believe in and be willing to invest time, money and effort in it, just like what Jesus said in Matt 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Without the martyrs who died for what they believe in, we would not inherit the faith that has been passed down to us today since the 1st century. We must take our faith seriously.

Arthur Koh

Taken from the Gospel of Judas
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.”

“A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud. Because of him, four other angels came into being from another cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated.

“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.
“But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.

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