The "Gospel of Judas": National Geographic Attacks Christianity With Biased "Research"
by Rich Deem


The Best National Geographic Can Do?

National Geographic is well known for its popular expositions of ancient civilizations - most of which are quite well researched. However, at the beginning of Christianity's Holy Week in 2006, National Geographic aired a television special that can best be described as a hatchet job on Christianity's leader, Jesus of Nazareth. Their biased reporting was quite evident with their failure to report what the Gnostics really believed, along with some of the less easy to swallow claims of the "Gospel" of Judas.

Rich Deem

A 62-page codex, dated to the third or fourth century and written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, was found in the Egyptian desert in the 1970's. It was passed around for several years and eventually sold and acquired by National Geographic in 2001. After four years of restoration and translation, the "Gospel of Judas" was revealed in a much-hyped National Geographic Channel special on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2006. The "gospel" reported an interesting twist on the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Judas Iscariot, instead of being the evil one controlled by Satan, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, is portrayed as the obedient one who did Jesus' bidding by turning Jesus into the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders. Reportedly, Jesus wanted to escape from His human body and return to the spiritual realm by being executed. So, Jesus conspired with Judas and ordered him to betray Him, so that the Old Testament prophecies might be fulfilled. According to the "Gospel of Judas", Judas was actually the hero of the world!

The timing of the release

The timing of the National Geographic special with the beginning of Christianity's Holy Week was not by accident. What better way to hype their anti-Christian message then run their "Gospel of Judas" special on the high Christian holiday of Palm Sunday. This technique has been used previously to attempt to discredit Christianity's founder at a time of the year when popular interest focuses on His death and resurrection.

Does the dating make it a "gospel"?

The "Gospel of Judas" manuscript was carbon dated at 220-340 A.D. In addition the ink was analyzed, confirming the radiocarbon date of the manuscript. However early the date, it is still at least two centuries after the actual events. In contrast, the biblical manuscripts date as early as 125 A.D., with most scholars agreeing they were all written in the first century. However, National Geographic-hired scholars claimed that the manuscript found represents a translation of an earlier second century Greek document. However, there is no physical evidence to back up this belief. There is circumstantial evidence for the existence of "Christian" Gnostic writings from the writings of leaders early Christian church, such as Irenaeus, who wrote Against Heresies in 180 A.D.1These Christian leaders strongly denounced the Gnostic writings, which were attempting to cash in on the growing popularity of Christianity, as factually untrue and heretical in their theology.

Promotion of the National Geographic program and book ignores such evidence and makes claims that are obviously untrue. For example, their website claims the gospel of Judas comes from "the earliest days of Christianity":

"Dramatic recreations portray and clarify the complex story of intrigue and politics of the earliest days of Christianity, and reveal the contents of the Gospel itself."2

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the GospelsThere is no way that writings, optimistically be assigned to a period at least 150 years after the ministry and death of Jesus, can be called "the earliest days of Christianity." Even the title, "gospel", given to the manuscript, is misleading, since all the truly Christian gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the events in the first century (with the possible except of Luke, who composed his gospel by interviewing eyewitnesses). Such obvious bias by the National Geographic demonstrates their desire to smear Christianity and make a buck in the process.

Who wrote the "Gospel of Judas"?

Obviously, since the "Gospel of Judas" cannot be attributed to Judas Iscariot, because its earliest possible dating is late second century, it must have been written by someone else. The content of the document tells us exactly who wrote the "Gospel of Judas" and for what purpose. Besides the question of whose idea the betrayal of Jesus was, the manuscript clearly presents a Gnostic distortion of fundamental Christian and Judaic theology. Gnosticism combined Greek mythology with Christian theology and Far East religions. According to Gnostic "Christianity", the self-generated one was the goddess Barbelo, who created the goddess Sophia, a virgin deity who gave birth to god Jehovah (Yahweh), who created the Earth and became the god of the Hebrews. In Gnostic theology, he was portrayed as being jealous, uncompassionate, and likely to commit genocide.

The Gnostics believed that they were given special hidden, knowledge that was given only to them. In accordance with this idea, the "Gospel of Judas" indicates that Jesus revealed this special knowledge only to Judas Iscariot:

"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.'"3

An excerpt from the "Gospel of Judas" reveals how the Gnostic deities were created:

"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. The Self-Generated said, 'Let [...] come into being [...] and it came into being. And he created the first luminary to reign over him. He said, 'Let angels come into being to serve him, and myriads without number came into being.' He said, 'let an enlightened aeon come into being,' and he came into being. He created the second luminary to reign over him, together with myriads of angels without number, to offer service. That is how he created the rest of the enlightened aeons. He made them reign over them...The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos�that is, perdition�by the Father of the seven-two luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his seventy-two aeons. In him the first human appeared with his incorruptible powers. And the aeon that appeared with his generation, the aeon in whom are the cloud of knowledge and the angel, is called [...] after that [...] said, 'Let twelve angels come into being to rule over chaos and the underworld.' And look, from he cloud there appeared an angel whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood. His name was Nabro, which means rebel. Others call him Yaldabaoth. Another angel, Saklas, also came from the cloud. So Nabro created six angels�as well as Saklas�to be assistants, and these produced twelve angels in the heavens, with each one receiving a portion in the heavens."3

Gnosticism's roots in Greek mythology and philosophy are evident in their belief in multiple minor deities (called "aeons" in the example above). The idea that there are multiple gods and goddesses is abhorrent to Christianity and also Judaism, from which it was derived. Since all the apostles of Jesus were Jewish, it is clear that the "Gospel of Judas" was not written by a real disciple of Jesus.

Conclusion Top of page

The "Gospel of Judas" and similar Gnostic texts were rejected by the early Christian Church not because of their unfavorable portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth, but because Church leaders knew they were not written by the original disciples, but fabricated much later by splinter groups, who incorporated heretical teachings and false historical claims into those documents. The content of the "Gospel of Judas" clearly indicates that its origin derives from second or third century Gnostic teachings, which incorporate both Greek mythology and Far East philosophy in an attempt to hijack Christianity's rising popularity. The theology in the "Gospel of Judas" is polytheistic, which is why it was labeled as heretical by early church leaders. Such aberrant theology was clearly outside the mainstream of both Christianity and Old Testament writings. The fact that the National Geographic promoted the "Gospel of Judas" manuscript as an authentic early Christian document testifies to their unscholarly attempt to discredit Jesus of Nazareth as worthy of worship.

El "Evangelio de Judas": National Geographic Ataca al Cristianismo con una "investigación" Parcial

References Top of page

  1. "Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."
    Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies c. 175-185 A.D.
  2. The Gospel of Judas "Show Description", National Geographic Channel
  3. The Gospel of Judas Translated by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, in collaboration with Fran�ois Gaudard.
Last updated April 11, 2006


Rich's Blog