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Report on the Society of New Testament Studies Meeting In Lund, Sweden and the Gospel of Judas by Darrell L. Bock

Categories New Testament Guest Posts

The following post, somewhat expanded, also appears on Darrell Bock’s blog.

Lund Lund University, Sweden

Just finished the SNTS meetings in Lund, Sweden, a beautiful city in Southern Sweden, near Malmö, the country's third largest city. The university has been here since 1666. The meetings were a great time to catch up on all things New Testament--and beyond.

During the meetings I sat in on a presentation by Gesine Robinson of Clairemont Graduate School on the Gospel of Judas. We have blogged about this text on my own blog at two different key times, (1) the original release and (2) about April DeConick's critique of that reading, along with my review of the issues.

Gesine had the most sane take on the book I have heard. She disagrees that Judas is a hero in the book, as those tied to the original release with National Geographic claimed. She also thinks April DeConick went too far in claiming that the 13th realm and other translation issues makes a demonic like figure out of Judas (so neither is he a horrible anti-hero). Nor should we tie Judas to Wisdom as Marvin Meyer does. Rather, according to this much hyped, extra- biblical gospel, Judas simply carried out the will of God and followed the "star" that guided him. But there was no real harm done to Jesus because Jesus' spirit left his body before the suffering on the cross (in good Gnostic fashion), so that only the corrupted shell of the body that Jesus' spirit occupied went to the cross (This means, as in many such Gnostic texts, there is no salvation through Jesus' death). 

She sees the text playing with Judas and possessing much irony. This reading makes Judas neither a hero nor an anti-hero in this work. This gospel is a polemic against those who follow the apostolic teaching written in the second century by some who did not like the approach of the tradition rooted in the apostles. In this gospel, Judas is in the thirteenth realm above the rest of the Twelve, but he is short of being saved or of being a hero. He simply knows more than the twelve. The one problem negative readings of Judas as a demon like figure in this gospel have is that Judas is the one who receives the revelation from Jesus. This places him in a role that in other gnostic texts elevates the recipient into a beneficial position. What in fact we appear to have in this gospel is that Judas is in a slightly better position than the others, but still falls short of being headed to heaven as a pure spirit. Key to this is understanding the thirteenth realm as associated with this corrupt world but not seen as fully negative. As I said, this appears to be the most balanced of the readings advanced so far on this gospel. Nothing about this changes the assessment that Judas tells us nothing directly about the first century ministry of Jesus or of the historical Judas.

BockdDarrell Bock is Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author of many books, including Luke in the NIV Application Commentary series. He is a contributor to the forthcoming Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

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