The apostle John concluded his gospel by writing, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).

Unlike other Christian faiths, the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints does not believe that the Bible is complete. That is to say, they teach there are other books of scripture that are not contained in the Bible that also contain the words of God. Furthermore, they believe that God has not yet revealed all of his words to us but that "He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (9th Article of Faith).

We saw a partial fulfillment of this with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which has given us more scripture and has added to our knowledge of the religious beliefs of the Jews shortly before the birth of Jesus. This, in turn, has helped shed additional insight on the teachings of Jesus. Also, many of the things contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls verify the LDS belief that the Bible is not complete and that God will yet reveal more books of scripture.

Recently there has been much fanfare about another ancient book that has been discovered called the Gospel of Judas. This book is about the apostle Judas who betrayed Christ with a kiss. As Latter-day Saints, we might have a tendency to think that perhaps this could be another book of lost scripture that might fulfill the Lord's promise to bring forth more of His word, however, this particular book presents some problems for the entire Christian community including Mormons because it seems to be at odds with some of our core beliefs.

For the past 2,000 years Christians have taught that Judas fell from the faith by accepting money to help the Pharisees arrest Jesus, which then led to His death by crucifixion. As such, Judas has always been portrayed as someone who had committed an unforgivable sin. However, in the Gospel of Judas, he is portrayed as being more righteous than all the other apostles and that it was Jesus who deliberately asked Judas to betray his Master.

Of course, this is contrary to the accepted idea Christians have held for centuries so it is only natural that people would question whether this book is authentic or if it is merely a modern-day hoax. So far, from all appearances the book seems to be authentic. The parchment on which it was written has been carbon dated to around the second or third century. Secondly, it was written in the ancient Coptic language, which was used by the early Christians living in Egypt during that time. In addition to this, the book itself has been mentioned in some of the writings of the early Church Fathers. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that what we have today is indeed an ancient copy of a book used by Christians of the second and third century.

If that is so, then should we accept the things it teaches as coming from God? Before we can answer that question we first need to understand the history of the Church during that period of time.

Even while the apostles were alive there were members of the Christian church who were teaching false doctrines (for more information on this read "The Death of the Apostles" ), but especially after all the apostles were gone false teachers sprung up throughout the entire church, teaching for doctrine things that were not in harmony with what the apostles had taught. Some of these men claimed to be apostles themselves, some claimed they were prophets of God, while other merely claimed to be enlightened teachers. Many of them were very persuasive in their preaching and soon the Church began splitting into many different sects or denominations of Christianity.

To bolster their position, many of these false teachers produced their own scriptures. Some brought forth unheard of gospels, falsely claiming they were written by one of the original apostles, such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Revelations of Peter and the Acts of Bartholomew. In addition to these were other books written by people claiming to have received their own divine revelation, such as with the Gospel of Truth.

Although today we might wonder how people could have accepted such unheard of books we need to understand that back then the books of the New Testament hadn't been officially put together. It was not uncommon for Christians of the second to fourth centuries to use a variety of books or letters as scripture written by people they considered to be knowledgeable about the gospel. In fact, a letter written by Clement, the third bishop of Rome, was considered as scripture for nearly two hundred years, as were seven letters written by Ignatius, who was the bishop of Antioch early in the second century. Also, there was a book called The Shepherd of Hermas and another called The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles that were also approved as scripture by the Church. Therefore, it was not always easy to tell which books taught the truth and which were advocating false doctrine.

As early as 108 AD a group of bishops convened a conference among themselves to discuss how to thwart the growing problem of heresy within the Church. One way they sought to do this was by putting out a list of books they deemed approved for reading. However, over time the bishops themselves could not always agree on this list and so, for over two hundred years various lists were put forth by different bishops stating which books they thought taught the truth and which ones didn't. In 327 AD, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria listed twenty-seven books he approved of and eventually it was this list that formed the books we now have in our current New Testament.

Of the many false sects that vexed the early Church the largest was know as the Gnostics (pronounced: NAH-sticks). This particular denomination of Christianity was extremely popular and attracted a large following of Christians. Because of this, it was one of the most talked about heresies among the early Church Fathers. So wide spread was this religious movement that in 180 AD Irenaeus, the bishop of the city of Lyons, wrote a five volume book entitled "Against Heresies" exclusively dedicated to refuting each point of Gnostic doctrine by comparing them to what the Church taught to be true. In his writings Irenaeus mentions the Book of Judas as being one that the Gnostics have falsely produced to promote their heresy.

Even so, there are some today who claim that the recently discovered Book of Judas may not be the same as what Irenaeus was referring to. Therefore, they contend that perhaps this newly found ancient manuscript may accurately reflect what the Christian church believed in the first and second century. However, when we compare what Irenaeus said about this book with what the book we have today contains, we see it teaches the same message Iranaeus complained about.

For example, after detailing what it is the Gnostics believe Irenaeus wrote: "They (the Gnostics) declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas" (Book 3, chapter 31:1)

In other words, what the Gnostics believed is that Judas alone understood the teachings of Jesus better than any of the other apostles and that he helped bring about the mystery of redemption by his betrayal of Jesus. To help promote and prove this theory, Irenaeus says they falsely produced a book of scripture they called the Book of Judas.

Today, in the Book of Judas we now have in our possession, it states "Judas [said] to him (Jesus): I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you. Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted Jesus said to him: Step away from the others and I will tell you the mysteries of the kingdom."

Here it clearly states that because Judas understood who Jesus was and because Judas reflected upon exalted things, Jesus took this apostle aside from all the others and taught him the mysteries of God that were not imparted to any one else. This is exactly what Irenaeus says is contain in the Book of Judas that existed in his day.

Later in the text Jesus tells Judas "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]."

This is a prophecy that Jesus is making, saying that in the short term people will curse Judas but that in the end he will rule over all of them and they will then curse him because he has ascended higher than they in the eternal worlds.

And why will Judas be exalted above the others? The text states that Jesus said to Judas, "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… (this part is missing from the manuscript)."

In our current Book of Judas, it not only states that Judas will some day receive a greater reward in heaven than all others and that his star has already shone brighter than anyone else, but it also states that the reason for this is because he "will sacrifice the man that clothes me," meaning he will be the instrument that will cause Jesus to be sacrificed. It is for this act of betrayal that Judas will be exalted above all others. This again is what Irenaeus said was contained in the Book of Judas of his day.

Furthermore, the book we have today was written in the Coptic language which was the language of the largest group of Gnostics who lived in the Egyptian town of Nag Hamadi. It is there that archeologists have discovered a large library of Gnostic writings. Therefore, it seems certain that the Book of Judas we have today is the same as the one Irenaeus talked about in his day.

Also, the Book of Judas we have today was not written by Judas but rather is a book written by someone else about Judas. From all that we have been able to determine, this book was first written somewhere in the second century. Since Judas died more than a hundred year before then, it raises the question of where did the author of this book get their information? Was it written by divine revelation or was it produced by human imagination?

But the most important question we need to answer is, whose teaching contains the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ? Was Irenaeus right when he said the Gnostics were a heretical off-shoot of Christianity or were the Gnostics unjustly condemned by a corrupt church? In order to determine the answer to that question it is first necessary to understand what the Gnostics believed in the days of Irenaeus.

The Christian belief about man and his relationship to God is fairly straight forward and simple to understand. Christians believe there is only one God who lives in a place called heaven. This God created angels to assist Him and they also live in heaven with Him. God then created the earth along with such creatures as man whom He sought to some day have him inherit eternal life in heaven where he will live with God forever. Christians further believe in the resurrection, which is when the physical body will rise from the grave and be reunited with its spirit.

By way of contrast, the Gnostic concept of God is very intricate, complicated and often hard to follow because it contains a bewildering list of beings with strange names and who act in strange ways. Therefore, to most of us in the twenty-first century, their ideas seem rather implausible and far-fetched. And that is because it is a mixture of the teachings of Plato, Greek mythology, and Christian terminology.

Although Gnostics believe there is only one true God, whom they refer to by many different names such as Allogenes or "the self-generated one" or "the unknowable God" they also believe in a wide variety of lesser gods known as Aeons. And instead of there being one heaven they teach there are a vast number of heavens with one above the other where each level is superior to the one below it and inferior to the one above it. .

They further believe that these gods are spirits and that only spirit matter is good. Therefore, anything associated with physical matter is viewed by the higher Aeons as being evil or corrupted. Since that is the case, then it follows that the higher gods had nothing to do with the creation of our physical earth and universe. That means, according to Gnostic beliefs, the God of the Old Testament is evil and is not the same as the God of the New Testament, who is good.

Because of this concept of physical matter, Gnostics didn't believe in the resurrection of the body because to them we can only attain true spirituality by being liberated from the flesh. Therefore, death was a way to escape from this evil, corrupted world and then allows our spirits to advance to the higher realms of heaven where we can become perfect.

However, to do this, a person needs to have special knowledge that allows them to pass from one level of heaven to another. The Greek word for knowledge is "gnosis" and it is from this word that they get their name Gnostic. They believe that Jesus was a mortal man just like the rest of us except he understood this higher knowledge and he came to impart that knowledge to us. But they also believed that this knowledge was not for everyone. Therefore, this secret knowledge was given only to a special class of people who were allowed to possess it. Of course, those who were Gnostics believed that they belonged to this special class of people while everyone else would remain corrupted and under the influence of the evil God of the Old Testament forever.

To them, the death of Jesus was necessary in order for him to be freed from physical matter. Then, once freed, he could use the knowledge he had to rise to perfection by passing through the various levels of heaven until he came to the highest heaven, known as the Pleroma. However, this is not the place where the Unknowable God lives because only he is capable of living there, but it is the place where the highest Aeons live.

To the Gnostics anything or anyone who lives in a realm lower than the Pleroma is imperfect and therefore corrupted. They further believe that the god who created physical matter, including this earth and man - whom they call Achamoth - lives outside of the Pleroma and seeks to keep man under his rule. But Jesus came to teach us the secret knowledge of how to rise above this evil god and his angels and enter into the Pleroma ourselves.

That is why the Gnostics believed that Judas will be exalted for betraying Jesus. It was by him doing this act that allowed Jesus to be freed from his body so he could rise as a spirit through the various levels of heaven in order to reach perfection. Apparently, Jesus could not take his own life in order to accomplish this task therefore it was necessary for someone else to put him to death. And since it was Judas who knew and understood these mysteries or secrets of the higher realms more than all the other apostles that is why Jesus chose him to perform the betrayal.

However, to the Gnostics, Jesus was not the Christ. Instead, the Christ is one of the Aeons who lives in the Pleroma, who came to earth to dwell in the man Jesus at the time of his baptism. Then, when Jesus hung on the cross, the Christ departed him and returned to the Pleroma. That is why Jesus said on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me."

This, then, is a very brief summary of what the Gnostics believe. I say "brief" because it took an entire book for Irenaeus to describe the full theology of this sect. Yet, even a cursory glance at Gnosticism reveals a religion that is not based on fundamental Christian doctrine. Instead, a lot of it is based on the Greek mythology of that time. They deny that Jesus was the divine Son of God, they deny that the death of Jesus on the cross has any saving value for us, and they deny the resurrection of Jesus, which the apostle Paul says is the cornerstone of the Christian religion (1 Corinthians 15:14).

They further deny that salvation is for everyone and teach that salvation can only be obtained by acquiring a special secret knowledge rather than believing in Jesus as the Christ. They do not believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same but are actually enemies to one another. Therefore, the Gnostics dismiss the use of the Old Testament as scriptures. All of these beliefs are contrary to what the apostles taught as recorded in the New Testament.

The question now becomes, what kind of doctrine does this newly discovered Book of Judas teach and is it Christian in nature or is it more Gnostic?

In our current Book of Judas we read, "Jesus said (to Judas), [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."

Then Jesus goes on to explain about the "self-generated one" saying, "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 [50] [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."

In this passage we see several key concepts that are Gnostic in nature. The first is that there are secrets that need to be learned. The second is the term "self-generated." This is the word Gnostics use to refer to their concept of God but is never used by Christians. The third is the use of the word aeons, which is a name used almost exclusively by the Gnostics which refer to their wide array of Gods. Fourth is the explanation of the numerous levels of heaven, which the Gnostics believed in but Christians don't. Fifth is the use of the words "incorruptible generation." In the Gnostic religion this has reference to those who live within the Pleroma. In the Christian faith there is no corresponding belief. Sixth, is the idea that not even the highest angels or even the aeons have ever seen or can even comprehend the one, great, unknowable God. This again is strictly a Gnostic belief.

This passage also talks about "generations" and in other passages it talks about "a holy generation" and a family line of generations. In the Gnostic belief system, aeons beget other aeons through a process called emanations. Thus, it isn't the one great God who creates all things but rather there are successive generations of aeons who beget or emanate other generation of aeons. And each of these are inferior to the Unknowable God. Then, there are also the generations of the corruptible aeons. Those who belong to this family line do not belong to the "holy generation." In the Book of Judas we see Jesus teaching this same concept.

Jesus then goes on to tell Judas, "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"

In the Gnostic religion the name of the corruptible God who made the earth is called Achamoth, which means a builder. According to them, Achamoth saw the chaos that existed in the universe and organized it into physical matter. For this reason he is also known as the god, king, or ruler of chaos. We see this same expression used in the passage just quoted except here this person is called Yaldabath. But, as the text also points out, he is referred to by many other names. Here he is also referred to as a rebel, which is what the Gnostics believed about Achamoth. That is one of the reasons why he was forced to live outside of the Pleroma and was considered corrupt and evil.

In the Gnostic religion they also believe that Achamoth begat or emanated other angels. One of them is named Saklas. In the passage just quoted, Jesus tells the same story to Judas and even uses the same name. Also, in the Gnostic religion the name Saklas is synonymous with the name of Satan as used in the Christian faith. Thus to the Gnostics, Satan is one of the angels of Achamoth who created or emanated angels of his own.

Jesus then continues teaching Judas by saying, "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 [53] com[mand …] except […] the gene[rations …] this […]. And the [ruler] said to Adam, 'You shall live long, with your children.'" (From an English translation by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, in collaboration with François Gaudard as found at

According to the Book of Judas, it declares Jesus taught that it was not God who created man but Saklas who fashioned Adam and Eve, not out of the dust of the earth but from a luminous cloud. Furthermore, it states that Jesus taught Judas that it was Saklas who commanded the man and woman to have children and to live long. Also, in the Gnostic belief system there is no such concept as the fall of Adam nor is there any story about them partaking of the forbidden fruit yet that is the basis upon which Christianity is built. Since it was precisely because of the fall of man that made it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins the fact that the Gnostics did not believe in the fall also means they do not believe that the death of Jesus has any atoning quality to it because there is nothing in man's past to atone for.

When we closely examine the teachings of this newly discovered ancient manuscript we see that it bears no resemblance to doctrines taught by the early apostles as expressed in their writings. Instead, what we find is that this book is a recitation of the fanciful ideas put forth by the Gnostics. As such Christians in general and Latter-day saints in particular should have no concerns about disbelieving the things contained in the Book of Judas.

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