[The recovery & publication several years ago of the “Gospel of Judas” point as well to the numerous other apocryphal & heterodox, largely gnostic works from nearly 2000 years in the past that now present us, as Pierre Joris & I wrote of them in Poems for the Millennium, with religious & poetic propositions that open up new windows on reality – or reopen old ones. Poetry in this light (we wrote further) appears as a vehicle for keeping alive the insights repressed by religious & other authority systems, or for bringing them forward as a virtual/vital “clash of symbols” (P. Ricoeur) In Elaine Pagels’s idealized view of the matter: “Like circles of artists today, gnostics considered original creative invention to be the mark of anyone who becomes spiritually alive. Each one, like students of a painter or writer, is expected to express his own perceptions by revising and transforming what he was taught. .... Like artists, they express their own insight – their own gnosis (= ‘knowing’) – by creating myths, poems, rituals, ‘dialogue’ with Christ, revelations and accounts of their visions.” The emergence here of Judas Iscariot as a heroic & necessary confidant of Jesus – an outrider/outsider in the fullest sense – is a clue to other views & visions too long in the shadows.
[The full English translation of the “Gospel of Judas” was published by the National Geographic Society, which retains all rights, & can be found & read in its entirety here on the internet. (J.R.)]
JUDAS RECOUNTS A VISION AND JESUS RESPONDS
Judas said, “Master, as you have listened to all of them, now also listen to me. For I have seen a great vision.”
When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him, “You thirteenth spirit, why do you try so hard? But speak up, and I shall bear with you.”
Judas said to him, “In the vision I saw myself as the twelve disciples were stoning me and persecuting [me severely]. And I also came to the place where […] after you. I saw [a house …], and my eyes could not [comprehend] its size. Great people were surrounding it, and that house
[Jesus] answered and said, “Judas, your star has led you astray.” He continued, “No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen, for that place is reserved for the holy. Neither the sun nor the moon will rule there, nor the day, but the holy will abide there always, in the eternal realm with the holy angels. Look, I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom and I have taught you about the error of the stars; and […] send it […] on the twelve aeons.”
JUDAS ASKS ABOUT HIS OWN FATE
Judas said, “Master, could it be that my seed is under the control of the rulers?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Come, that I [—two lines missing—], but that you will grieve much when you see the kingdom and all its generation.”
When he heard this, Judas said to him, “What good is it that I have received it? For you have set me apart for that generation.”
Jesus answered and said, “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy [generation].”
JESUS TEACHES JUDAS ABOUT COSMOLOGY: THE SPIRIT AND THE SELF-GENERATED
Jesus said, “[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit], which no eye of an angel has ever seen, no thought of the heart has ever comprehended, and it was never called by any name.
And a luminous cloud appeared there. He said, ‘Let an angel come into being as my attendant.’ “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, and he created for them myriads of angels without number, to assist them.
ADAMAS AND THE LUMINARIES
“Adamas was in the first luminous cloud that no angel has ever seen among all those called ‘God.’ He […] that […] the image […] and after the likeness of [this] angel. He made the incorruptible [generation] of Seth appear […] the twelve […] the twentyfour […]. He made seventy-two luminaries appear in the incorruptible generation, in accordance with the will of the Spirit. The seventy-two luminaries themselves made three hundred sixty luminaries appear in the incorruptible generation, in accordance with the will of the Spirit, that their number should be five for each.
“The twelve aeons of the twelve luminaries constitute their father, with six heavens for each aeon, so that there are seventy-two heavens for the seventy-two luminaries, and for each [of them five] firmaments, [for a total of] three hundred sixty [firmaments …]. They were given authority and a [great] host of angels [without number], for glory and adoration, [and after that also] virgin spirits, for glory and [adoration] of all the aeons and the heavens and their firmaments.
THE COSMOS, CHAOS, AND THE UNDERWORLD
“The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos— that is, perdition—by the Father and the seventy-two luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his seventytwo 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 El. […] aeon […] after that […] said, ‘Let twelve angels come into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld].’ And look, from the cloud there appeared an [angel] whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood. His name was Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; others call him Yaldabaoth. Another angel, Saklas, also came from the cloud. So Nebro 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.
THE RULERS AND ANGELS
“The twelve rulers spoke with the twelve angels: ‘Let each of you […] and let them […] generation [—one line lost—] angels’:
The first is [S]eth, who is called Christ.
The [second] is Harmathoth, who is […].
The [third] is Galila.
The fourth is Yobel.
The fifth [is] Adonaios.
These are the five who ruled over the underworld, and first of all over chaos.
THE CREATION OF HUMANITY
“Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.’ They fashioned Adam and his wife Eve, who is called, in the cloud, Zoe. For by this name all the generations seek the man, and each of them calls the woman by these names. Now, Sakla did not com[mand …] except […] the gene[rations …] this […]. And the [ruler] said to Adam, ‘You shall live long, with your children.’”
JUDAS ASKS ABOUT THE DESTINY OF ADAM AND HUMANITY
Judas said to Jesus, “[What] is the long duration of time that the human being will live?”
Jesus said, “Why are you wondering about this, that Adam, with his generation, has lived his span of life in the place where he has received his kingdom, with longevity with his ruler?”
Judas said to Jesus, “Does the human spirit die?”
Jesus said, “This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it—that is, the spirit and the soul. Therefore, the [rest] of the souls [—one line missing—].
JESUS DISCUSSES THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WICKED WITH JUDAS AND OTHERS
“[…] light [—nearly two lines missing—] around […] let […] spirit [that is] within you dwell in this [flesh] among the generations of angels. But God caused knowledge to be [given] to Adam and those with him, so that the kings of chaos and the underworld might not lord it over them.”
Judas said to Jesus, “So what will those generations do?”
Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, for all of them the stars bring matters to completion. When Saklas completes the span of time assigned for him, their first star will appear with the generations, and they will finish what they said they would do. Then they will fornicate in my name and slay their children and they will […] and [—about six and a half lines missing—] my name, and he will […] your star over the [thir]teenth aeon.”
After that Jesus [laughed].
[Judas said], “Master, [why are you laughing at us]?”
[Jesus] answered [and said], “I am not laughing [at you] but at the error of the stars, because these six stars wander about with these five combatants, and they all will be destroyed along with their creatures.”
JESUS SPEAKS OF THOSE WHO ARE BAPTIZED, AND JUDAS’S BETRAYAL
Judas said to Jesus, “Look, what will those who have been baptized in your name do?”
Jesus said, “Truly I say [to you], this baptism […] my name [—about nine lines missing—] to me. Truly [I] say to you, Judas, [those who] offer sacrifices to Saklas […] God [—three lines missing—] everything that is evil.
“But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.
Already your horn has been raised, your wrath has been kindled,your star has shown brightly, and your heart has […].
“Truly […] your last […] become [—about two and a half lines missing—], grieve
[—about two lines missing—] the ruler, since he will be destroyed. And then the image of the great generation of Adam will be exalted, for prior to heaven, earth, and the angels, that generation, which is from the eternal realms, exists. Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.”
Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud, and he entered it. Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud, saying, […] great generation […] … image […] [—about five lines missing—].
CONCLUSION: JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS
[…] Their high priests murmured because [he] had gone into the guest room for his prayer. But some scribes were there watching carefully in order to arrest him during the prayer, for they were afraid of the people, since he was regarded by all as a prophet.
They approached Judas and said to him, “What are you doing here? You are Jesus’ disciple.”
Judas answered them as they wished. And he received some money and handed him over to them.
THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS