Sunday, June 27, 2021

Gospel of Judas: Geography and Named Places

Some time ago I ran a series cataloging and measuring different points about the Biblical gospels and the alternative gospels. This included an analysis of the extent to which they were rooted in the physical world of geography and named places. At that time that I ran the series, the Gospel of Judas was still somewhat new to an English translation and there had been recent disputes over the translation and meaning of various parts of the text. With some time having gone by, I'd like to add the Gospel of Judas to the analysis. 

In the surviving text, there is one reference to a named place in the earthly world: a single reference to Judea: "One day he was with his disciples in Judea," very close to the beginning of the text as we have it, setting the scene for what follows. 

For those who are used to the Biblical gospels, the entire surviving text containing a single mention of one geographical region is relatively little grounding in the physical world. Though to take the Gospel of Judas on its own terms, it is relatively little interested in the earthly world, and might take exception to the Biblical gospels for how little reference they make to spirit-beings, aeons, and generations -- without a single reference to the angel or spirit-being Saklas among the four of them.

Ultimately, the Gospel of Judas has a different focus, and takes place in a different spiritual setting than the canonical gospels. There is more to be said of the Gospel of Judas in general; this focuses simply on the geography.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Word Cloud: The Gospel of Judas

Some years ago I made word clouds of the better-known non-canonical documents that are sometimes labeled as gospels. I have always intended to revisit that and add a word cloud for the Gospel of Judas. Finally, this week, I found the opportune block of time. The source text used is the National Geographic Society 2008 text (the second edition).

created at

The threshold cutoff for the cloud was the top 50 most frequent word. This one has some points of interest compared to some other documents previously reviewed. 

  1. While Jesus is a major focus, his name takes second place in the word rankings, mentioned less often than "generation". 
  2. "Aeon" is mentioned more than "God". 
  3. The only disciple whose name is in the top 50 words is Judas. 
  4. While other disciples do not make the list, the spirit-being Saklas gets a fair amount of mention and makes the cutoff.
  5. In the Gospel of Judas, one of Jesus' most common actions is laughing, often at the expense of people around him. 
  6. When the name Judas occurs, it is not accompanied by a disambiguation-phrase based on an awareness of more than one man named Judas in the narrative.
  7. The phrase "Holy Spirit" does not occur in the translation that I have. Neither do the names Mary, Joseph, Peter, James, John, Matthew, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, or any of the less-commonly-known disciples, as far as I can find. 
  8. As in more familiar texts, "Truly" here is a translation of Amen, according to the notes from the translator(s).

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Be still 2021

For the last few years, the world seems increasingly loud and chaotic. Intentionally so. As if to drown out thought, or the clarity of thought that comes with calmness. As God's children, we can offer a measure of peace to this world. As God's children, He offers a measure of peace to us.

Be still, and know that I am God -- Psalm 46:10

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in pieces.
He burns the chariot in fire.
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:9-10, AV modernized)

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He grounds the war planes and missiles
He demolishes the tanks (2021 technology)
Be still, and know that He is God.

Who listens to His voice?
Who hears His word?
Who guards the value of a moment's silence?
Be still, and know that He is God.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The unknowability of God, and God's character

It's all about character.

Back when I taught teen Sunday school, at one point I used coins as an illustration. It's only really necessary to have two coins for the illustration: pennies and quarters are useful since the images on them are more readily recognized. 

If I hold up a penny, ask someone to look closely at the image, then ask "Who is that?", the answer comes back: Abraham Lincoln. If I do the same with a quarter, the answer comes back: George Washington. And with decent likenesses, we can answer questions from looking at them. "Who had a beard: Washington or Lincoln?" We can see that it's Lincoln. "One of them had a wig with a long strand of hair in back. Which one?" We can see that it's Washington.  

And then: I place the quarter on my thumb, flip the coin so that it spins in the air many times before I catch it, slap it face-down on my other arm in traditional coin-toss fashion, and with the coin still covered I ask one question: "Is George Washington dizzy?"

At which point they laugh but they get the point. You can tell a lot from an image. The better the image, the more you can tell. But the image is separate from the original. We could use the same quarter in a coin-toss all day, and it would never make George Washington dizzy. 

The word "character" is originally a Greek word, used in engraving and in minting coins which were made by stamping an impression. In this sense, "character" is used in a famous passage in the New Testament, discussing Jesus' relationship to God: "Who being a reflection of his glory and an impression of his substance" -- or in the words of a more familiar translation, "Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person ..." (Hebrews 1:3). 

If you have ever spoken to someone who is not used to the ideas of Christianity, sooner or later we are called to explain what we mean about Jesus and God. "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," Jesus told his disciples. And yet when Jesus died on the cross, God did not cease to exist. Much like, when I tossed the coin, George Washington was not dizzy. The analogy is imperfect but it makes its point.

We can look at the image and learn about things unseen. It is often the purpose of an image: to make known or make present things that are not seen. The better the image, the more clearly we see what we could not otherwise see. Jesus was born in a certain time and place in human history; there was a time before he existed. Much like the coins were minted long after the time of the persons represented. Yet it is a key part of Jesus' essence: whoever has seen him has seen the Father. 

That is my two cents' worth for the day.