"I suspect, however, that if the National Geographic team's interpretation is flawed as DeConick claims, it is not a matter of the scholars unconsciously seeking to assuage a collective guilt. More likely it is simply a result of them working from their expectations of what the text was supposed to contain. All the scholars on the team, for instance, would have known of the Church Fathers' descriptions of the gospel, and these descriptions would have inclined them to preconceive a positive portrait of Judas, which in turn would have influenced their translation choices--one line at a time. Building up their own portrait step by step, and leaning meanwhile on their expectations of what the gospel was supposed to contain, once their translation was finished none of them would have gone back and questioned too carefully the individual snippets. But, as DeConick shows, those snippets added up."
In my own analysis of the Gospel of Judas, I purposely kept away from the Church Fathers. And I continue to find them not only unhelpful in terms of the Gospel of Judas, but downright harmful in terms of interpretation. Why? Because:
1. We don't know if any of them actually had a copy of the Gospel of Judas, or merely were writing from rumors that were circulating about the Gospel of Judas.My approach to the Gospel of Judas is simple. Forget about the Church Fathers and what they say. Read the Gospel of Judas and figure out what IT says. Then go back and critique what the Church Fathers say.
2. We don't know if any of them had the copy of Judas that we now possess.
3. Pseudo-Tertullian's and Epiphanius' descriptions of the Gospel of Judas are UNLIKE the Gospel of Judas we possess. This makes me conclude that neither of these theologians possessed or read the Gospel of Judas we have now.
4. Irenaeus' description has some affinities, but ONLY in that Judas THE TRAITOR is said to know more than the others, and that his BETRAYAL resulted in cosmic chaos.
5. If Irenaeus had a copy and read a copy of the Gospel of Judas we have, I am not certain that he understood it. If he did, was he being generous and characterizing it accurately? Or not?
When this is done, we find out that the Church Fathers weren't reading the Gospel of Judas we possess, except maybe Irenaeus. But rather than associating the authorship of this text with Sethian traditions as he should have done, he wrongly connects the writing of this text with an unnamed group of Gnostics who he says think that the villains of the scripture are the good guys whom Sophia saves. But our text mentions none of these villains - neither Cain nor Esau nor Korah nor the Sodomites - nor does it mention Sophia saving anyone. This means that either Irenaeus was doing this to be polemical, or he wasn't reading our Gospel of Judas.