©2006 Baker Books, Grand Rapids
The name of N. T. Wright is fairly familiar in the arena of theological thinkers. Modern Christian ministers, if they haven’t read some of his writings or about him in places like Christianity Today, have at the very least heard the name or seen it on the spine of a book or two when they were looking for the latest pop culture influenced book at their local Christian bookstore. Wright is not only a bishop in the Church of England, but is a Biblical historian and teacher of New Testament at institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge.
In recent years when another “new” gospel started creeping into theological circles, he half-heartedly ordered a copy of the translation and began piecing together what this so-called “Gospel of Judas” had to add to serious theological study. What he found was an authentic third century document that attempted to discredit and/or “correct” the New Testament account found in the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
Lauded by modern-day Gnostics, the document in question is part of a larger find which was discovered in the 1970s but was not finally studied and translated until thirty years later. The text of the document, while not considered a forgery and hoax (as many Believers would hope), turns out to be an early Gnostic tale about how Judas Iscariot was really the hero of the New Testament story because he was acting in obedience to Jesus in His conspiracy to rid Himself of the earthly body in which He was trapped.
This and several other heretical Gnostic teachings are addressed in this book of historical apologetics. Wright takes time to explain some of the basics of Gnosticism and contrast them with what has been taught as orthodoxy throughout the centuries. Ideas like the Creator-God is evil and should not be worshiped as should the greater gods than He. Wright does two things in this short and readable book that are well worth the reader’s time to see:
- He sets aright the true Gospel in contrast to what proponents of this “new gospel” have tried to topple—namely, the Biblical record of Christ.
- He addresses issues that seem to sidetrack modern-day Christians who get caught up in one tangent or another in their faith-walk. In doing so, he reminds readers that they need not fear what intellectuals with big vocabularies are spouting when we have Truth on our side.
Conservative Evangelicals will thrill and cheer as Wright discredits the Gnostics and the supporters of this new “Gospel of Judas.” But then we begin to understand the audience of the Old Testament prophet Amos when he was proclaiming the oracles against all the nations surrounding Israel. You might recall that each nation was called down for their sins against God. Finally, the prophet narrowed the focus to Judah and then to Israel herself—and the proclamation against Israel was far more serious than that of her neighbors because of the depth of her transgression. Israel, after all, as a nation was “the people of God” and should have known better.
In this same manner, Wright after setting the scene for the dismissal of the Gospel of Judas as authoritative (even if it is an authentic third century document) and Gnosticism in general (either the early New Testament era version or the more modern variation), he levels his sights on the modern evangelical movement (American Protestantism in particular) to call us on our propensity to amalgamate certain teachings of the Gnostics into our own instruction just to keep from having to take part in debate over issues we’d rather ignore. The last chapter of the book is a bit harder to take, but its truth cannot be denied. We as Christians ought to be less defensive over our man-made traditions and more concerned with living as the Scriptures dictate.
Even though I feel a bit scathed having read the last pages, I can’t help but give Wright four and one-half reading glasses. This defense of the True Gospel in light of late archeological discoveries which would try to disprove that Gospel is one that will be helpful to both the academic and the layman alike. It will help you know more why you believe what you believe about the Passion of the Christ.
—Benjamin Potter December 6, 2012