Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More on the Judas Gem

I wish I had time to address all of your questions, but I have to get the revisions of the Thirteenth Apostle to my publisher by Friday. So briefly:

1. The gem is green jasper, like the Brummer gem that Josè mentioned. The lion-headed god is the same image as found on the Brummer gem, and on many many gems from the ancient world with names of the astral god including IAO, Abrasax, Chnoubis, Michael, etc. On the Judas gem, he holds a medusa-head on display. So the gem is likely a protective or aggressive magic gem. There are two cartouches with identical inscriptions on the front. They appear to me to be palindromes. Within them are hidden anagrams for the names Michael and Elieli, both angels associated with Ialdabaoth in Gnostic traditions. There are also a series of magical characters which represent various stellar and planetary signs. On the back, centered and alone appears the inscription "IOUDAS". The iconography of the god on the front suggests a 1st or 2nd c. date from a Greco-Egyptian workshop. The inscriptions on front and back are made by the same hand, so Judas was not added at a later date by someone else. I imagine that it was either mounted in a ring or in a pendant, although the mount does not survive as far as I know.

2. The Mithras leoncephaline god is another example of this same astral lord that I have been talking about. The best books on the subject are Howard Jackson, The Lion Becomes Man, and David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. This astral lord goes by many names among the ancient people. Some Gnostics called him Ialdabaoth, Saklas, Samael, Nebruel, Michael, Elieli, and Judas. Other ancient people called him IAO, Chnoubis, Abrasax. We don't know the name of the Mithraic version, although he seems to have been a very fierce and terrifying god. This astral god was feared by the ancient people because he controlled the universe. He ruled it and our fates. He usually has a leonine head or a cock-head, solar rays, and also serpentine form. He is the pole serpent, the one who controls (or is) the axis of the universe. My student Franklin Trammell is making a complete study of the pole serpent now for his dissertation, so perhaps I can encourage him to write a short guest post on the subject.

3. I am so discouraged that the hero Judas has made it into the Sunday school catechisms already. This was one of my main fears, and why I so quickly published my book. The NGS is so influencial. People take the Society's claims as true. This business if very sad to me because the public has been misled, and I see no honest attempt to correct this misperception. The more I study this document, the more evidence amasses that Judas remains a demon. The Gnostics took the canonical gospels at face value - that Satan entered him (John 14:27). Who was Satan in the Christian tradition? He was the "ruler of the world" according to the Gospel of John. It is not such a big leap for the Gnostics to have called this ruler Samael (Satan's alternative name in Judaism) and Ialdabaoth (the magical name for the astral ruler), and to have said that this is the figure that Judas became. This is just ancient logic. Nothing more.


Wieland Willker said...

The question in my view is if this IOUDAS has anything to do with Christianity.

Frank McCoy said...

Hopefully, Franklin Trammell can make a post on the pole serpent--the inspiration for which, I suspect, might be Set.
1. Beginning--Egyptian Religion. E. A. Wallace Budge notes in the Gods of the Egyptians (Vol. II, pp. 244-45 that, in combats with Ra, "the form which Set assumed on these occasions was that of a monster serpent,...". A little later (p. 249), he notes, "The kingdom of Set was supposed to be placed in the northern sky, and his abode was one of the stars which formed the constellation of Khepesh, or the 'Thigh,' which has been identified with the Great Bear..." He shows (same page) an Egyptian depiction of this constellation, which consists of seven stars. The four center stars are directly above and below a bull. A figure is attacking the bull with a spear. Behind the bull is the goddess Reret, who holds a chain attached to the bull's back leg. The bull is Meskheti and the figure attacking the bull is Horus the Warrior An (see Budge, p. 312)." Budge(p. 250) further notes, "In the text from which these details are quoted it is said definitely that the 'Meskheti is the Thigh of Set,'..."
2. End--the Mithras Liturgy. In the Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (p. 105), David Ulansey says this about the Mithras Liturgy, "At one point in the magical ritual described by the text, seven gods appear who are called the 'Pole Lords of heaven,' and who are greeted as follows, 'Hail, O guardians of the pivot, O sacred and brave youths, who turn at one command the revolving axis of the vault of heaven.' Immediately after the appearance of one of these seven pole-lords, another god appears, 'a god immensely great, having a bright appearance, youthful, golden-haired, with a white tunic and a golden crown and trousers.' This god, continues the text, is 'holding in his right hand a golden shoulder of a young bull: this is the Bear which moves and turns heaven around, moving upward and downward in accord with the hour.'"
3. Proposed Linkages Between Beginning and End: The inspiration for the seven pole lords of Mithraism are the seven stars of Khepesh, the Thigh which is also Meskheti the Bull, which roughly corresponds to the Great Bear. This Thigh that is also a Bull and that roughly corresponds to the Great Bear is the inspiration for Mithraism's bull's shoulder--the (Great) Bear that is the pivot of the revolving axis of the vault of heaven. The inspiration for the Mithraic youthful solar deity who possesses this bull's shoulder is Horus (as the Warrior An?)--a youthful solar deity.
4. Into Deeper Waters--Part I: If the polar serpent be the one who controls the pivot of the revolving axis of the vault of heaven (as opposed to being this pivot), then the inspiration for this serpent might be Set. Set can manifest himself as a great serpent. Most importantly, he possesses the Thigh, which, I suggest above, becomes, in Mithraism, the bull's shoulder that is the pivot of the revolving axis of the vault of heaven (Note in support: Ulansey (p. 105) states, "Beck then points out that in Egypt the Great Bear was known as the Bull's Shoulder." However, I can't confirm this, since all the Egyptian texts I have read and recollect only speak of either the the Thigh or the Bull, but not of the bull's thigh or shoulder.) Perhaps Trammell can shed some light on all of this?
5. Into Deeper Waters--Part II: In Franz Cumont's the Mysteries of Mithra (p. 185) there is depicted a red jasper Mithraic cameo which, on the back, has a lion above which are seven stars amid magical Greek inscriptions. Might the lion be the Mithraic leontocephalous deity as the controller of the pivot of the vault of heaven with the seven stars being the seven stars of the Great Bear and with each being, as such, one of the seven pole lords? Also, as respects the green jasper gem illustrated on p. 48 of Birger A. Pearson's Ancient Gnosticism, might the lion-headed deity, called Ariel and Ialdabaoth, be the Mithraic leontocephalous deity as the controller of the vault of heaven, with the seven archons listed on the back being the seven stars/seven pole lords? Can anyone shed some light here?

Jim Deardorff said...

Re your discouragement that the Judas-as-hero theme has so quickly spread: the surviving translation of the ancient Aramaic document discovered in Jerusalem in 1963 (the Talmud of Jmmanuel, or TJ) indicates he was not a demon, but a hero in the sense of having written the TJ. Its co-discoverer, Eduard Meier, is still alive in Switzerland to vouch for the original TJ’s authenticity, and there are many others (identities on record) who have known Meier that vouch for his honesty and lack of deceit.

This TJ indicates that following the crucifixion Judas was falsely blamed for betrayal of his lord, when it had been a young Pharisee named Juda, an acquaintance of the disciples, who had pointed J out to the arresting party. Decades later, when the first gospel was written, its writer, who believed the false rumor, was the one who first demonized Judas, for having written the TJ and not committed suicide after all. The other Gospel writers followed suit, as did most of the Gnostics.

Anyone with curiosity (and courage if you’re an NT scholar) can look into this and learn the facts.

Leon said...


You have expressed more than just skepticism about a hero Judas or a positive assessment of Judas, but something closer to hostility. I cannot comment with any great knowledge on the Gospel of Judas, but I can tell you that there are good reasons for a positive view of Judas in the canonical Gospels. You have complained of the ulterior motive of combatting antisemitism in re-evaluating Judas, but you never take note of the witch trial atmosphere that has reigned against Judas. No one has ever given a rational argument that the Gospels portray Judas as a traitor. The evidence just is not there, yet this does not bother the majority of scholars.

Mark does contain one feature of a story of betrayal. He does not use the word for betray, he presents no motive for Judas or any conflict between Judas and Jesus, or indeed any conflict between Judas and any other disciple, and he does not even mention any recriminations aimed at Judas after the supposedly dirty deed was done. It is the worst sort of logic to go from "Mark is missing every element of a story of betrayal" to "therefore, Mark is telling the story of a traitor". Even if one were to argue that the word Mark uses has a secondary meaning of betray, you would have to justify why that translation should be used when Mark gives no other features of a betrayal story to support it.

In fact, it is possible to demonstrate that Mark does not even contain one unequivocally negative detail about Judas. It is all ambiguous. You can read something negative into some of these details, but that it is us reading it into the text. You can also read something positive into each and every detail. Mark tells a perfectly ambiguous story. The rational thing to do is ask why. Yet scholars refuse to ask this question because they simply will not acknowledge the facts.

No one has ever made a good case against Judas. Religion and then supposedly secular scholars made Judas into a traitor, and then claimed they proved it. This is pure witch trial. That should be the subject of conversation. To make arguments based on no evidence is a really bad thing to do (and certainly the major evidence necessary to prove a betrayal is lacking), but scholars go on misrepresenting what the Gospels say.

Leon Zitzer

Geoff Hudson said...

Well here's another good Judas - you can't keep a good man down even if you'd like to!

Acts 9.11.The Lord told 'him', "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a 'man' from 'Tarsus' named 'Saul', for he is praying.

Now we even have a 'house of Judas' but the 'man' in it praying is clearly not Judas. It is almost as though the house was where the followers of Judas were staying. In effect, the 'house' represented Judas' movement. Thus it wasn't 'Saul' who was praying, but someone who was used to prayer, a prophet may be. Nor was the Lord speaking to a believer 'Ananias', but he was telling someone to go to the 'house' so that he might be filled with the Spirit. Now in my book, that someone was Josephus. The man praying was James the son of Judas, and the Straight Street was in Rome to which city James had fled after the execution of his father Judas. And Josephus was in Rome, having been raised in the court of Claudius with Nero. There is a history of a good Judas - remember the one seen in the sanctuary in the Gospel of Judas - you can't get away from that April.

Geoff Hudson said...

And by the way: I suggest the 'man from Tarsus named Saul' was a prophet from Jerusalem named James - a typically reversed in the extant text by the Flavian editor.

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