The Gospel of Judas debuted Thursday in Washington, D.C. What's the Gospel of Judas, you ask? Well, it's not a gospel. And it's not written by Judas. But it's still important, if not the most important nonbiblical text discovered during the last 60 years, as a National Geographic Society executive told The New York Times.

The text, a copy of the document written during the second century, reveals some big news. Turns out Judas wasn't the renegade disciple who betrayed Jesus and committed suicide after remorse overwhelmed him. No, this Judas was just doing what Jesus told him to do. Jesus explained to Judas that he would "exceed all of [the disciples]" by getting Jesus crucified.

Well, that sure would change things. If it were true. This "news" isn't what makes the Gospel of Judas significant. Rather, thanks to this text, we can further confirm what we already know about Gnostics—those pesky heretics condemned by early-church leaders like Irenaeus. Don't get confused by mentions of Jesus and Judas. This is no Christian text. The Gospel of Judas did not circulate until about 150 years after Jesus died. Let's put it this way: This new text tells us nothing more about Jesus' relationship with Judas than does Jesus Christ Superstar.

Until the release of the Gospel of Judas and other Gnostic texts discovered decades ago near Nag Hammadi in Egypt, we learned about Gnosticism mostly through the polemics of Christian apologists. Now thanks to the Gospel of Judas, we can further verify two major Gnostic teachings. According to many Gnostic teachers, Jesus either did not actually appear in the flesh, or he at least wanted to shed his skin as soon as possible. Jesus longed to return to the spirit world. Judas helped make that happen. ...

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