Gospel of Judas’ offers new spin on Christian tradition

Nomaan Merchant

As Easter, the anniversary for Christians of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, approaches, the discovery of new information about the man who betrayed Jesus has sparked nationwide debate. In Evanston, reaction to the so-called “Gospel of Judas” has been tempered.

According to Christian tradition, Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, who was hiding from Roman authorities near the time of his death.

Christians say Judas betrayed Jesus’ whereabouts to the Romans, leading to Jesus’ death by crucifixion on Good Friday. Judas is said to have committed suicide soon after.

But the Gospel of Judas, which dates back to the third or fourth century and was released by the National Geographic Society last week, offers a new spin on these events. According to the document, Judas and Jesus secretly planned for the betrayal before Good Friday.

Northwestern religion professor Cristina Traina said this view is most often taken by supporters of Gnosticism. Gnostic teachings of differ from orthodox Christian teachings.

“Gnostic speculation on what is the relation between Judas and Jesus is not necessarily out of line,” said Traina, who teaches various classes on Christianity. Traina said the information in the Gospel of Judas is not unique.

“This is one of many things that didn’t make the cut in the Bible,” Traina said. “There are so many gospels that so closely mirror it.”

Rev. Ann-Louise Haak from the Lake Street Church, 607 Lake St., said the church often uses the Gospel of Judas in confirmation classes.

Haak said the story of Judas raises questions about his free will in deciding to betray Jesus. According to the widely accepted belief, Jesus knew Judas would betray him.

“The story of Judas is a very iconic story,” Haak said. “It provides a way for anyone to resonate issues such as trust, friendship, betrayal and reflection.”

Traina said the new information about the Gospel will not seriously impact the way Christianity is taught, but the Gospel is “something (Christians) would consider helpful.”

Haak said he believes the Gospel could change beliefs about Easter.

“There’s certainly room for the Gospel of Judas in re-examining the Easter tradition,” Haak said.

But Medill freshman Melanie Wanzek, a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, said the Gospel of Judas does not influence her ideas.

“It doesn’t change the basis of the Bible or of Jesus’ resurrection, which is what Easter is really about,” Wanzek said. “(The Gospel) doesn’t really have an effect on that.”

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