Original Christianity: A New Key to Understanding the Gospel of Thomas and Other Lost Scriptures
The Gospel of Judas is the best birthday present I've ever received. The text of Judas' long-lost scripture was published one day after I turned 48 years old, and it is almost everything I could have hoped it would be. Widely regarded as the most important archaeological discovery of the last 60 years, this lost scripture from the earliest days of Christianity had lain buried in Egyptian dust for over 1700 years. I had been on pins and needles ever since last summer's press release announced its impending publication, because I knew my 18 years of research into early Christianity would be put to the test by the unveiling of this new document. My research predicted that if any more lost scriptures from the earliest days of Christianity ever surfaced, they would contain text supporting the binary soul doctrine and the co- Messiahship of Judas Thomas. This new gospel does just that.
For almost two decades, I have supported the unpopular position that the original form of Christian theology revolved around the ancient binary soul doctrine (BSD), a once-world-wide belief that human beings possess two spiritual components, both a soul and a spirit, which are in danger of dividing apart at death. In my book The Lost Secret of Death, I delineate depth how this ancient belief is reflected in modern psychology's distinction between the conscious and the unconscious, or the left brain and the right brain, and I also demonstrate how the ancient idea of soul-division elegantly accounts for the majority of afterlife phenomena reported today, from deathbed visions, ghosts, and poltergeists to near-death experiences and past-life regression. BSD cultures around the globe believed that the afterdeath division of the soul and spirit was the worst possible fate, but that it was not inevitable and could be avoided if one took appropriate measures.
The newly recovered Gospel of Judas contains this same belief system. In passages 67-68 and 122-123, this recovered gospel specifically declares that human beings possess both soul and spirit, and that these two components of the self divide apart at death. This gospel also agrees with the BSD that the human spirit is immortal and never dies, while the human soul is vulnerable and can die. It also agrees that those whose souls and spirits divide at death are damned, while those whose souls and spirits stay together at death are blessed. All in all, the postmortem theology of the Gospel of Judas reflects remarkable alignment with the binary soul doctrine.
The Gospel of Judas also provides substantiation for my argument that Jesus and Judas were equal partners in a dual or binary Messiahship. In my book Original Christianity : A New Key to Understanding The Gospel of Thomas and Other Lost Scriptures, I pointed out that the ancient Jewish ritual sacrifice of Yom Kippur was a precise reflection of the BSD's vision of the afterdeath fates of the soul and spirit. Two identical goats were brought to the sacrifice, and like the spirit that goes on to reincarnate after death, one goat would be allowed to go free, while the other would be put to death, just like the soul that goes on to heaven or hell after death. I then noted that the Biblical report of Jesus and Barabbas was also strikingly similar to this Yom Kippur ritual. Two men were brought before Pontius Pilate, and just like the identical goats of Yom Kippur, they too seemed to have been virtual twins. Both had the same name, the same title, the same history, and the same status. And just like on Yom Kippur, one of them was randomly allowed to live and the other sacrificed, even though both were saddled with a similar burden of blood guilt. The apparent connection between the BSD, the Yom Kippur ritual, and the story of Jesus and Barabbas also seemed to provide support for the ancient belief in the Syrian and Indian churches that Jesus' brother Judas Thomas was in fact not only His biological twin, but also His co-Messiah, who also performed great miracles and, seemingly, also rose from the dead.
As everyone expected, the Gospel of Judas supports the ancient hypothesis of a secret partnership between Judas and Jesus, but it goes much farther than that, and actually indicates the existence of the sort of co-Messiahship I described in Original Christianity. This newly recovered scripture describes Judas as Jesus' closest intimate friend and ally, the most holy of all the disciples and the only one who truly and fully understood His teachings. In one remarkable passage where Jesus challenges His disciples to prove they are 'perfect' enough to stand before Him, only Judas is able to do so, suggesting that Judas is, on some level, on an equal par with Jesus Himself. Indeed, in this newly unearthed text, Judas is transfigured into a radiant cloud just the way Jesus was in Matthew 17:1-5, suggesting for the second time in this lost gospel that Jesus and Judas shared a similar divinity. According to this scripture, Judas turned Jesus over to the authorities at Jesus' own request. In handing him over, the text suggests, Judas not only performed the highest service to his master, and not only facilitated Jesus' redemption of humanity, but essentially sacrificed himself right alongside Jesus in the process, voluntarily becoming the most loathed man in human history. Just as I claimed a year ago in Original Christianity, there were not one but TWO men who sacrificed themselves to save humanity. It is no surprise to historians that Judas' gospel presents this view, because the ancient Christian apologist Irenaeus of Lyon briefly mentioned Judas' scripture around 180 AD. However, it is a surprise to the world that this ancient scripture links this perspective to the binary soul doctrine, just as I did in Original Christianity the year before Judas' gospel was made public. Written around the same time as the Biblical gospels, Judas' gospel demonstrates that a significant portion of the earliest Christian community viewed Judas not as a traitor at all, but as a hero on par with Jesus Himself, just as I claimed in Original Christianity. This gospel also declares that Judas would eventually rise, as Jesus did, to an exalted position of honor and authority in heaven. If in fact this is the same Judas Thomas who went on to found the church in India and write the Gospel of Thomas, that prophecy would indeed seem to have been fulfilled.
For the last 18 years, my books have advanced the hypothesis that Christianity originally revolved around the binary soul doctrine, and that Jesus and Judas Thomas were co-Messiahs who worked in concert, each sacrificing themselves in different ways to save humanity. Today's unveiling of the long-forgotten Gospel of Judas contains powerful evidence that my line of research has been on the right track.
-Peter Novak, April 09, 2006
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