Non Canonical Books Introduction Study Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Christianity was in its infancy when the New Testament was created, and it would have been important to the leaders of the Christian community to inspire some level - even a lot - of fear of retribution for failing the community and their faith.

This is supported by Joseph Gaer (1952), whose book the Lore of the New Testament, provides the insight into the stories of the New Testament, and those stories are frightening to people whose change in direction from religious paganism, to a monotheistic following is relatively new. For instance, as concerns Judas Iscariot, the New Testament has Jesus casting Satan out of the demonically possessed Judas when they meet.

Satan took possession of the sick boy and, as he was accustomed to, the boy tried to bite the person nearest to him. But as soon as he touched Jesus, Satan jumped out of the possessed boy in the form of a mad dog, and fled. And the name of that demented boy, out of whom Satan issued the form of a mad dog, was Judas Iscariot (p. 85)."

This story, and stories like them, which are included in the New Testament concerning the life of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus are potent warnings of what the devil is capable of, and that the devil was in possession of Judas also suggests that when Judas betrayed Jesus, he might have this time willingly taken with Satan, who had possessed him earlier, when Judas denied his faith by betraying Jesus.

Today, of course, contemporary Christian society is perhaps equally as well served to think of Judas in terms of a co-conspirator, as opposed to a traitor. This, because the early Christians and Church were based in Rome, and is represented by Catholicism, when today there are as many offshoots of Catholicism as there are perhaps Catholics. Would it not serve the offshoots from a religious and social perspective to think of Judas in terms of a co-conspirator then? Probably not, because it would serve to bring the Bible in whole into question, and this is probably one area that scholars will find the Catholic Church and the Protestants in agreement on.

Historian and author James Moffatt (1913) discusses the non-canonical or Gnostic Gospels in his book, the Theology of the Gospels. Moffatt reflects the contemporary experience with the Bible as it pertains to the revelations of the Gnostic, and, most recently, the Gospel of Judas wherein Judas is portrayed as a co-conspirator, rather than a traitor.

To be deep in the history of the church, and especially of its creeds, is for many just persons to acquire a more or less legitimate suspicion of theology in connection with the vital religion which breathes upon them as they turn back to the simple pages of the gospels. They know, or think they know, what theology has been and done; in a number of cases its services to Christianity seem to have been accompanied by results which are irrelevant, if not positively injurious, to such faith in the living Christ as the gospels commend; its associations have been so generally with intellectualism and formalism, with a stereotyped presentation of the Christian religion in the phraseology and categories of some philosophical system, which rapidly became a source of embarrassment to ordinary people, that it is not altogether surprising to catch a persistent sense of relief in the popular conviction that the gospels at any rate leave no room for the intrusion of theology, and at the same time to detect a corresponding sense of resentment when that conviction is challenged or modified. Nearly forty years ago a German critic published a rather bitter and despairing monograph upon what he called Die Christlichkeit der heutigen Theologie (pp. 1-2)."


While there are some, such as Jevan Singh Deol (2001), who suggest that exclusion of the Gnostic Gospels was as a result of having been written by the Seventh and Ninth Sikh Gurus; the greater evidence suggests that the Gnostic Gospel messages to the Christian community were not the message or moral of the story deemed appropriate for the community at the time.

As we look at the lost Gospel of Judas, whose very theme runs in contrast to the other works of the New Testament, one must wonder if it is so bad that this work appears in time as it does today having only recently been translated. While there will no doubt be much analysis and debate on Kasser, Meyer and Wurst's translation, there is also currently a disconnected Christian following that is looking for "something" to sustain it, and in doing so are turning towards the Gnostic Gospels and even mysticism to fill the void that contemporary Christianity has left them with. That Judas is deemed a co-conspirator as opposed to a traitor in this lost Gospel of Judas, might not be such a bad thing for those disconnected Christians. It is the message that the contemporary Christian community perhaps wants to hear; not all things, not even the Bible, are carved in stone as were the Ten Commandments. Rather, the Gnostic Gospels, and even the lost Gospel of Judas, serves to accomplish what the earliest leaders of the Church and community wanted; to inspire, guide, and elicit moral and social behaviors within the limits of the norms of those societies at the time. The Gnostic Gospels are perhaps the source of updating the Christianity community and contemporary Christian community needs.

Works Cited

Dart, John. "Long-Lost Gospel of Judas to Be Published." The Christian Century 27 Dec. 2005: 12+. Questia. 23 Feb. 2008


Deol, Jeevan Singh. "Non-Canonical Compositions Attributed to the Seventh and Ninth Sikh Gurus." The Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.2 (2001): 193. Questia. 23 Feb. 2008


Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make it into the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Questia. 23 Feb. 2008


Gaer, Joseph. The Lore of the New Testament. 1st ed. Boston: Little Brown, 1952. Questia. 23 Feb. 2008

Kasser, Radolphe, Meyer, Marvin, and Wurst, Gregor. The Gospel of Judas, the National Geographic Society, 2006.


Moffatt, James. The Theology of the Gospels. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913. Questia. 23 Feb. 2008


Thorburn, Thomas James. The Mythical Interpretation of the Gospels: Critical Studies in the Historic Narratives. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916. Questia. 23 Feb. 2008

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