The Gospel Observer (October 9, 2016)

Contents:

1) Question About Judas and Jesus (Keith Sharp)
2) News & Notes
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Question About Judas and Jesus
Keith Sharp

Question

“You can’t show Jesus existed. There is no historic record. Judas is the ‘sacrifice’ in the Gospel of Judas, so what does it say about Jesus being sacrificed? It was just a scam to start a new religion.”

Answer

Of course, the canonical gospels, those accepted by believers in Christ for twenty centuries as the inspired, accurate record of the life of Jesus, present Judas as the evil (John 6:70-71), covetous (John 12:5-6) betrayer of Christ (Matthew 26:14-15, 21-25, 47-50; Mark 14:10-11, 18-21, 43-46; Luke 22:3-6, 21-22, 47-48; John 13:10-11, 18, 21-30; 18:2-5) who subsequently committed suicide (Matthew 27:3- 5; Acts 1:16-18) and is lost (Acts 1:25).

Should we believe the canonical gospels or the “Gospel of Judas”?

Luke, a physician, was Paul’s traveling companion (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11). He probably wrote the account of the life of Christ that bears his name in A.D. 60, toward the end of Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea, when he had the opportunity to interview Judean eye witnesses of the life of the Lord (Luke 1:1-4). Early Christians characteristically considered the account by Matthew to be the earliest record of Jesus’ life, so the apostle Matthew probably wrote before A.D. 60.

Mark was as close to Peter as Timothy was to Paul (1 Peter 5:13). Writers of the second century believed that Mark recorded Peter’s sermons about the life of Jesus Christ. In fact, Peter’s sermon on Jesus to the Roman centurion Cornelius is almost a very brief version of Mark (Acts 10:36-43). Early Christians generally believed his account of Christ was third in time order.

John lived longer than the other apostles, though he was exiled to Patmos for the cause of Christ (Revelation 1:9). He wrote five New Testament books: John, First, Second, and Third John, and Revelation. They were probably written toward the end of the first century.

We have the first hand testimony of Matthew and John (Matthew 28:16-17; John 20:1-10, 19-29, 21:1-24), who were intimate with the Lord during His ministry. We have the historical record of Luke, who researched his subject by interviewing the eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4, New American Standard Bible; Luke chapter 24; Acts 1:1-11), and the testimony of Mark, who was probably the spokesman for Peter, the eyewitness.

In history as well as in a court of law, the most powerful witnesses are those who, while confirming the testimony in question, are either disinterested or hostile. The apostle Paul qualifies as a hostile witness, for, as Saul of Tarsus, he “persecuted…to the death” the disciples of Christ and, before those who could refute his testimony if it were false, called upon the high priest and elders of the Jews as his witnesses to this fact (Acts 22:4-5). Yet, Paul’s own letters confirm the truth of the gospel story (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Josephus, the great Jewish historian contemporary with Paul, qualifies as a neutral witness. Leaving out the part of his notice of Jesus that negative critics claim Christians later added, Josephus testified:

“At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man….. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin…. And when Pilate, because of accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who loved him previously did not cease to do so…. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out” (Johnson. 114).

The parts of the quote from Josephus which are omitted confess Jesus to be more than a man, to be the Messiah, and to have appeared to the disciples after His death in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets. The quote actually reads smoother with those portions still intact, and there is just as much textual evidence for them being the words of Josephus as to the portion quoted. But the quote which even the negative critics allow testifies that Jesus lived, was a wise teacher who worked great deeds, taught the truth, gained a wide following, was crucified by Pilate at the instigation of the Jewish leaders, and still had a wide following of people named after Him.

Finally, the unbeliever cannot account for the most important fact of all concerning the witness of the gospel writers. Why were they willing to be savagely persecuted and even killed for their testimony, when they had nothing earthly to gain for telling it? (cf Acts 4:1-31; 5:17-42; 6:8-8:4) Not even one of the apostles of Christ ever changed or recanted His testimony, although tradition assigns a violent death at the hands of persecutors to all but John, who was exiled to a lonely, barren, rocky ancient Alcatraz (the island of Patmos) for his faith.

The writings of many early Christians and heretics, particularly Gnostics, from the second and third century have been preserved, are available in English translation, and bear witness to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the true historical records of Jesus. In the first generation after the apostles there is Clement (letter to Rome, A.D. 95), Ignatius (martyred before 117), Polycarp (letter, 108-117), Basiledes, a Gnostic (117-139), and the Epistle of Barnabas (not the New Testament Barnabas, sometime between A.D. 70 and 130). The second generation includes Marcion, a Gnostic, before 140, Papias, about 140, and Justin (martyred in 148). Other early witnesses to the New Testament canon of Scripture are the Muratorion Canon (about 170), the Peshitto (Syriac New Testament, mid second century), and the Old Latin Version (second century). By the year 170, there is credible witness to the existence and acceptance of every one of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and to no others. As Professor R. Laird Harris has written:

“It seems clear that the New Testament books arose in the latter half of the first century A.D., and almost all of them were clearly known, reverenced, canonized, and collected well before a hundred years had passed” (202).

This is almost incredible, when we consider that Christians were a small, persecuted, group of social outcasts without means of publishing books, communicating, or enforcing a standard on all believers in Christ. Furthermore, the various books were originally handwritten parchments produced in a single copy.

By the middle of the third century (about A.D. 250), all the books of our present New Testament and no others were known and accepted as Scripture. Origen (185-253) “names the books of the New Testament as we recognize the canon now” (Frost, 12). This was a lifetime before the Emperor Constantine or any church councils.

The Gospel of Judas was developed by a Gnostic sect in the second century A.D. and was originally written in Greek around 130-170. This fact alone tells us that it was not authored by Judas himself. The oldest extant copy is a Coptic manuscript written in Sahidic (last phase of ancient Egyptian) in the fourth or fifth century.

The Gospel of Judas apparently depicts Judas in favorable terms and commends him as doing God’s work when he betrayed Christ to the Jewish religious leaders. This, of course, contradicts what was written by the apostles in their gospels of Matthew and John as well as those gospels written by Mark and Luke who are under the direction of Peter and Paul.

“The Gospel of Judas falls into the category of pseudepigraphal writings. This means that the gospel is not authentic but is a false writing. In fact, the gospel was not written by Judas, but by a later Gnostic sect in support of Judas. Gnosticism was an ancient heresy that taught salvation through esoteric (understood by or meant for only the select few — K.S.) knowledge. Gnosticism was known at the time of the writing of the later epistles in the New Testament and was rejected by the apostle John.

“The ancient writer Irenaeus (A.D. 130-202) in his work called Refutation of All Heresies said that the gospel of Judas was a fictitious history….

“We can conclude that the Gospel of Judas is not authentic, is not inspired, and was properly rejected by the early church as an unreliable and inaccurate depiction of what really happened concerning Judas.

“Of course, the complaint is often raised that this opinion, like that of the early church, simply rejected anything that opposed a preconceived idea. But, this complaint falls by the wayside when we understand that the early church knew which documents were authored by the apostles and which were not. God did not make a mistake when he led the Christian Church to recognize what is and is not inspired. The Gospel of Judas was never recognized by the church as being inspired” (Slick).

The skeptic through prejudice rejects the only primary sources we have for the historical Jesus and is thus both confused and ignorant of Christ. He does not accept the facts of Jesus’ life, does not understand their significance, and fails to acknowledge who the Lord is. His stubborn adherence to unbelief leaves him incapable of knowing the real Jesus.

The informed Christian accepts the Jesus of the gospels, not through blind, unreasoning faith, but because of the evidence from multiple, unimpeachable, primary sources. Thus, Christians alone truly know the historical Jesus, the real Jesus, the risen Lord of glory. He is the Christ the Son of the living God, God who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Skeptics vainly inquire, Will the real Jesus please rise? Christians triumphantly declare, He is risen!

*****

Works Cited

Gene Frost, History of Our English Bible.

R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible.

Luke Timothy Johnson. The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels.

Matt Slick, “The Gospel of Judas,” https:// carm.org/.

— Via Highway 5 South church of Christ, Mountain Home, AK, October 5, 2016
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News & Notes

Two of those whom we have often mentioned for prayer in our bulletin have recently passed away: Sue Wooten, who had been in the Baptist Village nursing home for quite some time, left this world October 14; and Raylee Metts, who was just 6 years old and had been battling with cancer, passed away October 13.  Let those of us who are Christians be remembering in prayer all of their loved ones.

Let us also continue in our prayers for the following as well:

LaDonna Andrews (who has now begun her chemo treatments, following her recent surgery for colon cancer.  It was found that the cancer had also spread to her liver); Kay Byars (as she heals from her 3rd cancer surgery); Lexi Crawford, Camp Tatum, and Kelli Fleeman (as they also deal with cancer); Shirley Davis (as she heals from her toe surgery); Bennie Medlock (as he heals from infection in his lower back, which he goes to the hospital for every day and will continue to do so until the 26th of this month.  Prior, he was going twice a day); Jim Lively and Ray Richards (as they heal from open heart surgery); and Mary Vandevander who remains housebound, due to her health.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes
(Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com
(Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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