Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reading the Gospel of Judas X: Theology

In the Gospel of Judas, when Jesus approaches the twelve disciples, they are “sitting together studying theology” (Gospel of Judas 33.24-26). Judas was depicted as one of those doing so, but so were all the other apostles.

The term used for theology in this passage is a calque of the Greek term. The term was literally translated into Coptic rather than borrowed as it was in English.

The term theology is first used by Plato, in his dialogue, The Republic. Plato means by it lies told about gods to children and child-like adults to manipulate them for political purposes.[1] In that passage Plato reasons that as long as one says nice things about the gods, no harm can come from them. It does not matter whether or not they are true. For Plato, theology is a useful tool to silence prophets or other people who are inspired.

The early Christian church did not have a positive view of theology. The word itself does not occur in the New Testament. The earliest Christian to use the word, Clement of Alexandria, refers to the “theology of idols” had among the pagans.[2]

On the other hand, Gnostics (the term is simply the Greek word for “intellectual”) liked philosophy and theology.
In the Gospel of Judas, when Jesus sees his disciples engaged in theology, he laughs at them (Gospel of Judas 34.2-3). Clearly, doing theology was not a good thing, not even from the perspective of the author of the Gospel of Judas.

[1] Plato, Republic 2.378-379.
[2] Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 7.