Archive for the ‘Gospel of Judas’ Category

Is the Gospel of Judas a Forgery?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

I have been reading Robert M. Price’s Secret Scrolls: Revelations from the Lost Gospel Novels (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2011). Occasionally Price contextualizes some of the books he examines with discussions of theories and results of biblical scholarship. Sometimes, however, this contextualizing is drawn from what most of us would consider “fringe” scholarship—for example, dating the composition of the canonical gospels to the mid-second-century,  Barabara Theiring’s ideosyncratic views on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the New Testament  as “put together and heavily rewritten by Polycarp” (p. 169, appealing to David Trobish, The First Edition of the New Testament [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000]).

Another of Price’s contextual nuggets is the claim that the Gospel of Judas is a forgery (p. 76-77, 181). Price appeals here to an article by Richard J. Arthur, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Unification Theological Seminary (“The Gospel of Judas: Is It a Hoax?” Journal of Unification Studies 9 [2008] 35-47, available online HERE). Price summarizes the article in three points: the text betrays an awareness of modern moral issues (“it seems to be editorializing on the priestly scandals of our time, as it depicts priests sleeping with women and ‘sacrificing’ children, this last perhaps pointing to abortion or molestation”), part of the gospel copies from The Secret Book of John (“the impression one gets from reading it is a patch transferred out of context, no longer making the sense it did in the original”), and it contains a scribal error found also in one of the extant copies of John from Nag Hammadi (Price asks, “what are the chances that the scribe of Judas copied from another [i.e., non Nag-Hammadi] copy of The Secret Book of John that made the very same goof in the very same spot?”).

Price accedes that the papyrus on which Judas is written is genuinely ancient (and, I might add, it was carbon-dated by the National Geographic Society to between 220 and 340 C.E.) but the text is not (but, again, the ink appears to be an ancient recipe). He goes on to declare that the forger is one of the members of the NGS team, but does not say which one (the team includes: Rodolphe Kasser, Gregor Wurst, François Gaudard, Marvin Meyer, and Florence Darbre). Arthur does not make this charge in the original paper, but he does say, “that our hoaxer is a member of the community of modern Coptic scholars who have special regard for Codex II as the first exemplar of the Apocryphon of John from Nag Hammadi to be published. He concludes the paper on a conciliatory note, despite the severity of the accusation: "The Gospel of Judas is probably a hoax, and all the writings in it of recent authorship. These writings were prepared in our time, on some old papyrus leaves, probably from a palimpsest, without a binding. There is no cause for rebuke. One of our colleagues has created great excitement; he is a jolly fellow and has done us all a favor.”

I’m not able to interact with Arthur’s theory on a linguistic level, but I do find his literary and text-critical arguments unconvincing (that the second-century church suffered from similar problems in leadership and its critics hurled at it typical insults does not surprise me, and it is not improbable for a similar error to occur in texts drawing upon common material). I can only assume other scholars have not been convinced by Arthur’s arguments given that I have not come across any other reference to his article. Those interested in the debate over the origins of Secret Mark may find the issue of interest since, once again, we get cavalier accusations of forgery against an eminent scholar in the field.

New Fragments of Gospel of Judas Published

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

April DeConick mentions on her blog The Forbidden Gospels the publication of an article in the journal Early Christianity giving the contents of the Ohio fragments of the Gospel of Judas. Read her post HERE.

Reflections on Teaching Gnosticism II: The Gospel of Judas

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The first assignment due in my current Gnosticism course is a translation comparison. The goal of the assignment is for students to see how much work is involved in putting together an edition of a text and how the editor’s decisions can greatly affect how one reads or understand the text. This is particularly so with fragmentary texts. In previous years I have used the translations of the Apocalypse of Adam in Layton’s Gnostic Scriptures and Robinson’s Nag Hammadi Library.

This year I opted for the Gospel of Judas by Marvin Meyer (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures) and April DeConick (The Thirteenth Apostle). I chose this text for three reasons: it is well-known to (though not well-read by) the wider public, the assignment would force the students to read the gospel very carefully and thus lead (hopefully) to a rewarding discussion of the text, and the interpretation of the text is highly contentious.

Meyer and DeConick have been in conflict over their particular interpretations of the text; their positions are available for all to read in an article on Meyer’s site (see HERE) and a series of responses on DeConick’s blog (see HERE). But I hoped the students would not see this exchange before writing the paper; it is preferred that they find the major contentious passages themselves and thereby avoid trying to understand why each scholar arrived at his/her position but focus purely on the general issue of the choices involved in the editorial/translation process (the temptation is to label DeConick “conservative” for seeing the traditional Judas in the gospel, and Meyer as “liberal” when, in reality, they are both “liberal”).

I suggested to the students to focus on three areas when presenting their findings: presentation (e.g., use of headings, footnotes, line numbering, punctuation, etc.), approach to damage in the manuscript (i.e., are gaps filled in with emendations? Or left indicated with ellipses?), and major readings that dramatically affect the interpretation of the text (e.g., Judas as a “demon” or “spirit”).

The majority of the class seemed to favour DeConick’s translation. They appreciated her clear presentation of the manuscript evidence—she presents the text line-by-line, with damaged sections clearly marked; she hesitates to fill in the missing material, and tends toward a literal translation. But Meyer was praised for being more readable and less leading in his subheadings and translation choices (though his choices are contentious, at least his notes present other options).

In the course of our discussion several readings came up that left the class wondering about the actual content of the manuscript. If anyone out there who reads Coptic would like to provide solutions to these questions (are you there, April?), we would certainly be appreciative.

1. At 39, 24 DeConick has “And the animals that were brought for sacrifice” while Meyer has “And the cattle brought in are the offerings you have seen.” Is the Coptic “animals” or “cattle”?

2. At 52, 4-6 DeConick has “The first [is Ath]eth, the one who is called the ‘Good One,’” while Meyer has “The first is [Se]th, who is called Christ.” Again, what is the Coptic?

3. At 33, 19-21 DeConick has “Often he did not appear to his disciples, but when necessary, you would find him in their midst,” while Meyer has “Many a time he does not appear as himself to his disciples, but you find him as a child among them.” Both editors note the difficulties in translating this passage. One student thought the key to the solution might be in the words translated “as himself”—if this is present in the manuscript, he asked, then “as a child” might be the superior reading. So, what is in the manuscript?

4. In 40, 5-6 DeConick has “and generations of the impious will remain faithful to him,” while Meyer has “and generations of pious people will cling to him.” So, what is it: pious or impious?

UPDATE: April DeConick graciously answered these concerns in a post on her blog (read it HERE). Thanks April.

A Judas Compendium

Monday, October 8th, 2007

April DeConick at The Forbidden Gospels mentions a forthcoming book by Marvin Meyer on the full range of Judas traditions from early Christian writers. The book is due in November and is titled Judas: The Definitive Collection of Gospels and Legends About the Infamous Apostle of Jesus. This is a welcome resource as these traditions, though not all contained in gospels, are nevertheless apocryphal traditions and deserve greater exposure and discussion.

Tchacos Codex Conference

Thursday, May 31st, 2007
April DeConick of Rice University (and administrator of the Forbidden Gospels blog) has announced a conference on the Tchacos Codex (the codex that features the Gospel of Judas) for March 2008. Read her post HERE.

Gospel of Judas Roundup

Saturday, April 21st, 2007
Elaine Pagels promoted her latest book Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (with Karen L. King) on the Colbert Report this past week. You can also read about a recent talk by the author from the Columbia Missourian.

April DeConick of the Forbidden Gospels blog has posted several articles lately on her work on the Gospel of Judas including this one about the forthcoming critical edition.

Gospel of Judas Roundup

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
John Dominic Crossan offers this review of Karen King’s and Elaine Pagels’ The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity.

April DeConick’s The Forbidden Gospels blog features a preview of her new book The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says.

Mark Goodacre’s NT Gateway blog has a post on Jeffrey Archer’s Gospel According to Judas novel.

Ehrman vs. Bock on the Gospel of Judas

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Bart Ehrman and Darrell L. Bock (author of The Missing Gospels) are interviewed on The Things That Matter Most (based in Dallas) about the Gospel of Judas. For a recent on-line review of Bock’s book see Mike Aquilina’s The Way of the Fathers Blog.

Popular New Thriller Features Gnostics

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Jim Davila at Palaeojudaica has a few posts (HERE and HERE) on the new thriller The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori (read a review HERE). The book features a battle between a group of chosen ones, the lamed vovniks, mentioned in the Talmud and a rival group called the Gnoseos. Comparisons to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code are inevitable but there have been plenty of decent biblical or medieval thrillers that are worthy of mention. Ian Caldwell and Diustin Thomason’s The Rule of Four and Lev Grossman’s Codex are both highly readable literary thrillers dealing with efforts to thwart evil efforts to hide important medieval manuscripts. There are numerous Jesus novels that feature apocryphal traditions—far too many to mention.

Another early biblical thriller is the now-infamous The Mystery of Mar Saba written by in James H. Hunter 1940 which some claim inspired Morton Smith to “forge” Secret Mark. For a discussion of the book in connection with the gospel see HERE. Novelist Jeffrey Archer will add to the CA-related fiction next month with his The Gospel According to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot. You can read about it HERE, but here’s a quick publisher’s summary:

The Gospel According to Judas, by Benjamin Iscariot sheds new light on the the mystery of Judas—including his motives for the betrayal and what happened to him after the crucifixion—by retelling the story of Jesus through the eyes of Judas, using the canonical texts as its basic point of reference. Ostensibly written by Judas’s son, Benjamin, and following the narrative style of the Gospels, this re-creation is provocative, compelling, and controversial.

The Gospel According to Judas, by Benjamin Iscariot is the result of an intense collaboration between a storyteller and a scholar: Jeffrey Archer and Francis J. Moloney. Their brilliant work—bold and simple—is a compelling story for twenty-first-century readers, while maintaining an authenticity that would be credible to a first-century Christian or Jew.

Another thriller named The Gospel of Judas by Simon Mawer appeared in 2002, before the rediscovery of the ancient text.

New Christian Apocrypha Blog

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Prof. April DeConick of Rice University in Houston (and author of Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas) recently launched her blog The Forbidden Gospels. Already she has discussed her views on the Gospel of Judas (adding to the growing number of voices that declare that Judas has been mischaracterized by previous scholars of this text) and the origins of the Gospel of Thomas.