Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Gospel of Judas: An Interview with Professor Charles W. Hedrick - Bible Resource Center

The Gospel of Judas: An Interview with Professor Charles W. Hedrick - Bible Resource Center

BRC: The text makes reference to a number of interesting figures—Barbelo, Sophia, Adamas, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, Seth, Nebro, Yaldabaoth, Saklas, the stars, the twelve aeons, and the rulers. Could you tell us something about the most important of these characters?

HEDRICK: In Gnostic texts there is a bewildering array of mythical figures that inhabit the heavenly realm. Their role frequently differs from text to text, so it is not possible to define their overall significance with definitive specificity. Gnostic texts do not describe things logically. That said, the roles played in the Gospel of Judas by the figures you named are as follows: Barbelo is the name of the highest realm of divinity where dwells the Ineffable One. Sophia, mentioned in a fragmentary section as “corruptible Sophia,” is “Wisdom.” In some Gnostic texts she commits error in the heavenly realm that results in the formation of matter, which becomes the cosmos (the created world). This cosmos is a prison for the sparks that have broken off from the divine realm and that remain trapped in the cosmos.

Adamas is the first human being (Adam) of Genesis and also the paradigm for all human beings in the heavenly realm. Autogenes, (the Self-Generated One) in this text, is the first angel of the heavenly realm, who creates himself and gives birth to other denizens of the heavenly realm. Seth is the son of Adam, but in this text he is part of the heavenly realm where he is the progenitor for the race of Seth in the world, an enlightened generation of Gnostics. Nebro, Yaldaboath, and Saklas are names given to the wicked demiurge, who is the creator God of Jewish and Christian faith. He creates a whole series of creatures like himself who lord it over the cosmos.

BRC: What does the text mean when it says that God ordered Michael to “loan” people their spirits? How does this relate to Jesus’ promise to Judas that he would “exceed” the others on account of “sacrificing” the man that “clothes” Jesus?

HEDRICK: At this point in the text (page 53) there is a contrast between the kingless generation and the rest of the generations of the world. To the kingless generation is granted (given as a gift) both soul and spirit; to everyone else the spirit is “loaned.” The significance is that the souls of the kingless generation will survive death; when the spirit leaves them their souls survive and they will be taken up. The souls of everyone else will die (p. 43). Why that is, I have no idea. This text is only at the beginning of its study. It will have to be analyzed in contrast with other similar Sethian texts for proper understanding. By betraying the man who “clothes” the heavenly Christ, Judas is performing a service to the Ineffable One (perhaps the Great Invisible Spirit) that far exceeds the service of all others (see page 45 where people are loaned spirit in order to perform service). The idea of being clothed by a body is a traditional Docetic concept (that is: “Jesus” is not human he only appears to be human). The essential essence of the figure who Jesus (the human) being clothes does not belong to the earthly realm, the cosmos, but comes from the immortal realm of Barbelo. With Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the spiritual essence of this immortal figure is free to return from whence he came. What Judas does for Jesus is the greatest service possible in this text, one for which Judas will be rewarded with a star that leads all the rest. In this text everyone has a “star,” perhaps the spiritual essence of each individual.

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