Friday, April 07, 2006

St. Judas?

A Gnostic gospel makes the headlines.,2933,190826,00.html


  1. Some other links to stories on G. Jud. below. (There is a particularly learned comment in the Times story...!) The National Geographic website also has pictures of mss. which have not been public yet, and you can download Coptic text and ET from

    News stories:,,3-2122524,00.html;jsessionid=5MO5OC3HYRNA5QFIQMGCFFOAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2006/04/07/njudas07.xml,,2-2006160160,,00.html,,1748968,00.html.

  2. Yes I enjoyed the Gathers quote in the Times, although the anachronisms in GJud are of a somewhat different and more difficult to define quality than Queen Victoria talking about CDs.

    I think the key thing is to get the ET and read it (here is a link to the NG ET: Anybody could read a real NT gospel and this GJud and it is hard to imagine any fair-minded person thinking there was anything historical/first-century in it (G. Vermes in the Guardian is very clear on this).

    In terms of TC, since we are very interested in the second-fourth century, there are a lot of things to study: where do allusions to the NT come from?; any specific text-type information?; is it really the GJud known to Irenaeus?; have any allusions to the NT been assimilated to the Coptic Gospels?; what about earlier traditions?; what about its relationship with the Gospel of Thomas and other Nag Hammadi texts?

    There are some lovely pictures on the NG web-site too; and a presentation on the reconstruction of the manuscript itself, which is interesting.

  3. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. I.31.1): Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They 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.

  4. Peter,

    I'm not sure that the anachronisms are so difficult to define. The references to Allogenes, Barbelo, the God above all the aeons, the site of the transfiguration as Mt Tabor, etc. etc.

    Re the Irenaeus reference (it's also picked up in Theodoret's Haer. Fab. Comp. and Epiphanius's Panarion) is an intriguing one. My impression is that most people (Stephen Emmel, for example) are assuming that Irenaeus is talking about our Gospel of Judas, but the reference to 'et terrena et celestia omnia dissoluta' might cast doubt on this. Obviously we have the accuracy of Irenaeus or his source to take into account, but there are plenty of examples of multiple works under the same name in antiquity.

  5. It's unfortunate that the tone of so many that are presenting this find is one of "look, we've now blown the roof off of Christianity! Da Vinci Code? Ha! That's nothing. This is the real deal!..." It always amazes me how little effort is made to present discoveries like these within their greater historical context. People are more interested in discrediting Christianity than with anything else.

  6. Gathers,

    I don't think we are really in any significant disagreement here. Perhaps there is a difference between implausible and impossible. It is impossible that Queen Victoria spoke about her CD collection.
    Are: "The references to Allogenes, Barbelo, the God above all the aeons, the site of the transfiguration as Mt Tabor, etc. etc." absolutely impossible in a first-century context or (just?) completely implausible?

    Judas says (to/of Jesus): 'You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo'. (GJud 35)
    When is this likely to be said:
    a) AD 30 in Jerusalem by a Jew.
    b) c AD 200 by a gnostic.
    c) c AD 400 by a later gnostic.

    It may be difficult to chose between b) and c) but it is not very difficult to exclude a) as implausible.

  7. I was reading the preface (James M. Robinson) to my recently acquired Crums. He notes two other publications in Coptic due to be published.

    "Vestiges of an ancient Coptic Codex will be published in 2006 by Charles W. Hedrick." It look like it only contains homilies on a Psalm and a Gospel, though. This is due this year.

    "The Polish excavation at the Hermitage at Thebes has, in 2004, discovered Coptic literary material yet to be published. Preliminary reports refer to the remains of two papyrus codices and some parchment leaves, with the one on the top containing part of The Acts of Peter 36-37."

    This second one might provide some more controversial material. It looks like it took the National Geographic team 7 years to properly deal with their text, so I think that we shall not see this one for a matter of years.

  8. I'm still reading N.G.'s "The Gospel of Judas - from Codex Tchacos;" here are a few early impressions.

    (1) Candidly speaking, the phrase "Much Ado About Junk" comes to mind. To me, GJ fills in a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is Gnosticism, but not so much that the picture substantially changes from what the Nag Hammadi finds provided.

    (2) GJ has been depicted as a text in which Judas is a hero. But it looks to me like GJ's main interest is not to vindicate Judas' actions; it offers just enough vindication to sustain Judas as a superior-to-the-(other)-apostles authority for the Gnostic secrets explained in GJ. The "secret knowledge," is the centerpiece of the text, not Judas.

    (3) I'm having a hard time taking Bart Ehrman seriously. Does GJ "rock the world of scholars"? Maybe that's the case for some Gnosticism specialists, but that's about it, istm. Is GJ "the most important archaeological discovery of the past sixty years"? More important than the Bodmer Papyri???

    And, "In the case of the Gospel of Mark, we don't have any surviving copies until after the third century." What about P45?

    GJ -- a work which is thoroughly Gnostic, not Christian -- tells us a bit more about second-century Gnosticism than we knew before, but it doesn't tell us anything (anything historical, I mean) about Jesus. If scholars would make this perfectly clear, I suspect there would be a lot less hoopla (and perhaps less money-making and fad-following; sigh).

    I could keep going, but won't. I'll just add this: the next time some cultist-booklets or Maitreya-Christ ads show up on your doorstop or in your newspapers, keep them safe! If the Lord tarries, someday someone is sure to pay a lot of money for them!

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  9. For what it's worth, here's the URL for my Gospel of Judas page: