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Was Judas Saved?

The Gospel of Judas and Issues of Canonicity

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Question #1:  What was Judas Iscariot saved? Please explain these passages below:

        1. John 18:9: This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

        2. John 6:39: And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

        3. Matthew 27:3-4: 3: When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

I have a friend who, using these passages as references, believes that Judas Iscariot was saved by God even though he betrayed Jesus.  What is the truth?

Response#1:  Judas was not saved. To take the third passage here first, it is important to remember that while turning away from sin is a preliminary step (Heb.6:1), being saved is most definitely not provided merely upon confession of sin. Salvation requires genuine faith in Christ. It is all very nice that Judas realized he had done something wrong. But salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph.2:8-9), faith in His person and his work, and faithful following of Him in this life (as all true Christians know very well). The fact that Judas seems to have been repentant after his act of betrayal not only does not change the fact of that betrayal, but it is also no indication whatsoever that he ever turned to Jesus in saving faith.

The first two passages above both amount to the same argument. They can be answered easily by the following words of our Lord:

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name; those thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.
John 17:12   KJV

Judas is the "son of perdition" (Jn.6:70-71), so that this verse qualifies the two your friend mentions (Jn.6:39; 18:9). This is not any sort of a contradiction. What it means for the other two verses is that we as readers of the Bible understand, from John 17:12 and elsewhere, that it goes without saying that Judas is not one of those whom the Father "gave" to our Lord. The NIV translates "son of perdition" as "the one doomed to destruction" and that is an excellent way to translate the Greek phrase “ho huios tes apoleias” based upon the Hebrew idiom that lies behind it. This is the exact same phrase which Paul uses for antichrist in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3. The meaning of the originally Hebrew idiom "son of + a qualitative noun" is to make the very closest identification possible between the individual and the quality the noun expresses. Hence "doomed to destruction" is an excellent way to put it. No one would think of using this phrase for someone who was later saved. Finally on this point, there had to be a traitor who was damned by his lack of faith and confirmed in his damnation by his actions, for this was prophesied in the Old Testament (Ps.41:9; 55:13-14; 109:4-8).

Peter's analysis of Judas' behavior in Acts 1:15-26 indicates that he and the rest of the other eleven clearly viewed Judas as having no genuine part in their ministry, a clear indication that Judas had never been a person of faith, during the three year ministry of our Lord or after his act of “repentance” for his betrayal. No replacement was ever proposed for any other apostle, even though some of them died fairly soon thereafter (cf. Acts 12:2). Since Peter was certainly not without blame in his own denials of Christ, his analysis of Judas would have been blatantly hypocritical but for the critical distinction that Peter, for all his failures, did believe but Judas did not (cf. Lk.22:31).

Judas seems in the end to have realized the horror of what he had done, but we get no sense from these passages (or anywhere else) that he ever thought of Jesus as “my Lord and my God!” (Jn.20:28; etc.). He did a horrible thing that he couldn't live with. That does not make him a believer. The only unpardonable sin is the sin of not believing in Jesus Christ, and scripture clearly points to Judas' perseverance in unbelief right to the end.

Please also see these links:

Two questions about Judas Iscariot.

Judas' "demonic children"?

Judas and the Sanhedrin's Plot to Kill Jesus

In the One died that all who turn to Him in faith might live forevermore, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

Dear Bob,

I thank you very much for your extremely helpful biblical scholarship and for being available, especially now as we rumble into more of our tribulation. An acquaintance asked me what I thought about the "Gospel of Judas." Here is what I wrote:

The "Gospel of Judas" may be of interest for discussion, like other more recently found Gospels (e.g., The Gospel of Thomas"), and will need a great deal of further scrutiny to determine its real value.

I told him that I'd write to my friend Bob Luginbill (ICHTHYS.com) to see what he has to say about "The Gospel of Judas." If you have time for a response, I'll share with him whatever you send.

With Love and Blessings, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and Savior.

Response#2:  

As far as the gospel of Judas is concerned, I would heartily agree with your synopsis. Most people are not aware that there was a veritable cottage industry of the production of works of fiction of this sort in the early centuries of this era. We are all curious to know things that the Bible doesn't tell us and there have always been people more than willing to "fill in the blanks" (that is how we get things like "The Book of Adam and Eve"). It is for exactly this reason that such materials are dangerous. They purport to be "biblical" and fill in a legitimate desire for information in an illegitimate way.

"Apocrypha and Pseudipigrapha" constitute an entire genre of pseudo-biblical literature, and they all have one important thing in common: they are fictive works written by human agency and have nothing to do with the Bible. The "Gospel of Judas" definitely falls into this category. My understanding is that this non-canonical work was produced most likely in the late second century, whereas the true gospels were written in the first century by eyewitnesses in two cases (Matthew and John), and by associates of apostles in the other two (Mark with Peter and Luke with Paul). While there are numerous reasons why no one who is seeking God should waste any serious time on the "Gospel of Judas" (or any other such phony productions), as in all pseudepigraphal works, the best proof is "in the pudding". One only has to read a few pages of such works to see immediately that they are not inspired by God. The secular world, all who do not have the Spirit of God, may not understand this, but to any true child of God the phenomenon of the power of true scripture is real and blessed - it moves and affects us like nothing else in this life, and no other literature, no matter how refined, can even come close to producing this effect. So while one could go on about the late date of "The Gospel of Judas", or the fact that the story therein is completely antithetical to the biblical story, or talk about the process of forming the true canon and what constitutes genuine scripture, really, all one has to do is "taste" and any true believer will immediately be able to tell that the flavor of such works is way off.

As to any utility in works of this sort, I have some course work in it at seminary and have invested in a number of books (texts mostly) and have spent some time researching the subject and examining some of the texts in Greek (most are in Greek, though a scant few are in Hebrew and many more in Coptic), but I don't feel that I got much out of my investment. It was probably necessary for me to spend the time I did on the subject, just for purposes of orientation, apologetics, and answering questions such as this! But I find very little value in these materials, even from a linguistic point of view (after all, we have so much contemporaneous Greek, there is next to nothing these works provide that is unique).

I always find it amusing when one of these texts pops up on the media radar screen to see the public reaction. Why is it that so many people are so interested in "new information" when for years they haven't really been interested in the true story of the scriptures? God has provided us so much information that is true, so much, in fact, that no one can possibly get to the bottom of it all in one lifetime, and yet "something different" seems to stoke the fires. This is a natural tendency of our sin natures, and one that the devil is well-versed in exploiting. No wonder then that these "new" revelations are inevitably contrary to scriptural truth. What better way for Satan to get people who are only marginally interested in the truth off on the wrong foot entirely, and possibly even draw them away from the Lord altogether.

One last thought as I sit reading a newspaper article about this very thing: although we are in possession of the very Word of God, it seems that the world, turning up its nose at the truth, is very eager for any new revelation from any other god besides the true One (cf. 2Cor.11:4). This is very fertile ground for antichrist's Messianic claims soon to come, and I fear that the ground is becoming ever more fertile with every passing day. Before one accepts what is false, what is true must first be rejected. All the more reason for those of us who understand full well that the Bible is the only source of special revelation available to us until Christ's return to treasure it and diligently seek the truth from it without being distracted by the multifarious false claims of alternative "truth", of which the "Gospel of Judas" is only one very small part.

On canonicity, please also see . . .

The Author of Hebrews

The so-called "Documentary Hypothesis"

The Relationship between the Books of Kings and Chronicles

More on the Documentary Hypothesis

The Canon (from "Read Your Bible")

Jesus' use of "I AM" from Exodus 3:14 in John 8:58 (for LXX quotes)

The Canonicity of the book of Hebrews

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dear IXTHUS,

I would like to start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoy the way the author of this site writes. The information is presented in a way that is clear, concise, and interesting. However, I have a few questions, and was hoping that I may get them answered.

        Question (1): The ideas contained within the website are interesting and copious, but what do you say for the history of ancient Christianity? The website seems to be built entirely on the "Word of God," but a complete Bible was not constructed until 362 C.E., and that was only done when Bishop Athanasius wrote a letter mentioning his own opinion of what should be included. So, where does Church tradition stand in these arguments? Historically, the Church and its traditions came first...the Bible came second.

        Question (2): Would the works contained within this website be considered scholarly? To understand Christianity, one must understand many kinds of contexts. When studying these contexts, a different version of Christianity usually emerges. Hardcore Religious scholars are usually not fundamental, so I wanted to know if the author's field of study reached in the studies of ancient Christianity, or if it was the personal beliefs of an individual that emerged after close reading of the New Testament manuscripts?

        Question (3): How would the author of this site account for the great discoveries of ancient manuscripts that were once counted as scripture. The find in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and the 2006 release of the translation of the wonderfully written Gospel of Judas have all given scholars clearer views into the happenings of Christianity before 325 C.E. We know now that what emerged as the Orthodox Church - now referred to as the proto-orthodox Church when speaking before 325's council in Nicea - was not the only form of Christianity that considered itself Orthodox. How would the author account for these other traditions?

Furthermore, I would like to stress that I am not criticizing the author(s) of this website. My intentions are purely academic, and I am very interested in the subject. I know that when one writes emails, the tone of the person's words are not present, so this message could be taken as critical. It is NOT. I am merely interested, and would like to start a correspondence with this site, because I think that it can offer interesting points of view.

Response#3:  

As an academician by profession, I completely understand where you are coming from with these questions. To take question #2 first, I would say that that all depends upon how one defines "scholarly". If by this you mean "written within the traditional or emerging paradigm of biblical studies as they now stand in the west", I would say definitely not. That is not to say, however, that I have not taken pains to adhere to normal conventions of academic ethics and honesty, or that there is any lack of due diligence when it comes to the research behind these writings. The distinction is rather to be found in the differences in perspective and purpose between these materials and main stream academic writing. In my profession, many sorts of materials can be claimed as evidence of scholarly activity for promotion and other purposes. I have never done anything of the kind with the studies posted to Ichthys. That is not their purpose. I do see value (or at least potential value) from academic work in this area, but more often than not the nature of that process (not to mention its various pressures) generally serves to squeeze out anything of a truly spiritual nature, so that even in cases of authors who do possess some measure of personal spirituality, this tends to be invisible in their academic work. I certainly do not claim to be immune to this same calculus - which explains my rule of keeping my academic work and my work done for the edification of the body of Christ separate. The purpose of this ministry is the advancement of the spiritual growth of my brothers and sisters in Christ. In my understanding and teaching of the Bible, growing closer to Jesus can only be accomplished through learning, accepting, and applying the truth. On the other hand, conforming to academic conventions in these non-academic works is only beneficial when and to the extent that the conventions themselves are beneficial. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is getting to the truth of what scripture actually and genuinely teaches (regardless of context). I certainly would not disagree that my process has always included personal, "close reading" of the text, but I would also argue that God has so constructed the text that all who truly seek will eventually (given enough time and proper effort) end up in the same place. The fact that this proposition is not, in fact, what we see in the church-visible at present, only goes to show how little "proper effort" based upon adequate preparation is being deployed at the present time (at least the way I would interpret things).

The above no doubt already gives you a pretty good idea of my response to questions #1 and #3. Your questions bespeaks an academically traditional way of seeing things. In my undergraduate days, I had a very famous professor who informed us as an aside one day that "the Trinity was only invented in the fourth century". To me that sums up the difference in perspective and approach between those on the one hand who see Christianity from a social or a historical perspective as an essentially human invention, and those on the other hand who have the personal experience of God through the saving work of Jesus Christ (i.e., unbelievers and believers respectively). Were I to look at Christianity with the same lens I would employ to dissect the cult of the Eleusian mysteries, I would likewise explore various contexts and analyze the social and historical data in an academic way. In such a parallel, the remaining literary evidence would indeed be considered an amalgam, and one about which we could argue as to what generally reflected the "faith and practice" of the community of believers at any given point in time (as that surely would have been in flux). My position on the Bible and Christianity is completely different because I know them to be true. As to the historical evidence about the early Church, it is extremely fragmentary and not inspired. These reports don't change the truly important facts as I see them (pace Athanasius et al.), namely, that the scripture as we have it is indeed the Word of God as God wanted and wants us to have it. It is certainly true that there are some small issues with the text (textual criticism is another matter), and it is certainly true that the canon and its integrity deserve a far fuller defense than the bold assertion I offer here (this topic is scheduled to be covered in the final installment of the Basics series, sadly several years out at present). And I am more than happy to discuss the particulars, whether of legitimate inclusions or apocrypha and pseudepigrapha (e.g., the "Gospel of Judas" et al.). But for me the bottom line is that true scripture possesses an inherent power that trumps any academic discussion on this point, even when viewed from a purely secular perspective. The Bible is, to paraphrase L.S. Chafer, "a book that a mere man could not write if he would and would not write if he could". The Trinity exists because it exists, not because after generations of spiritual decline some Greek scholars and churchmen produced descriptions of it for political reasons in the fourth century. Likewise, the Bible is the Word of God because God produced it for us as such, not because we deign to place our imprimatur on parts of it. It is certainly true that this position can never be satisfactorily "proven" in an academic way. But that, I think, is also part of God's point. We are here to make choices, and the most important, the most fundamental choices we make are choices of faith. Since we cannot at present inquire of God face to face, it stands to reason that He would make available to us all the knowledge of which we had need by another means, and that is scripture's role. Beyond the irrefutable proofs of His existence, power, knowledge and goodness written in His creation, whatever we would know of Him this side of heaven can only come through His Word, and only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Finally, I appreciate your perspicacious analysis of e-mail, and I too would wish to impart that if my tone has come across as a bit too strident, it is only because of my passion for my Lord Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, and my desire to help you and everyone else with whom I come into contact see the light of the truth more clearly. In this as in all other things I am imperfect, but I do hope that my good intentions will serve to plaster over some of the other failings contained herein. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Him who is the true light of the world, the Word of God incarnate, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


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