Finding Jesus and the Gospel of Judas

The annual publication from the School of Humanities at Rice University, HUMANITAS: THE MEANING OF BEING HUMAN, just came out.  There is a featured article in it on my adventures on the CNN set of the FINDING JESUS film.  I took a photo of the article because it is not on line yet.  I see back issues in pdf on line, but not the 2015 magazine.

The story is meaningful to me because it contains my reminiscences of filming in Geneva and seeing the Gospel of Judas for the first time. Hope it is clear enough to read.

CNN, Finding Jesus, Gospel of Judas

I had hoped to be able to link to a streamed version of CNN's broadcast on the Gospel of Judas which aired Sunday evening.  But I have not had any luck discovering a link.  We went over to a friend's house to watch the episode (admitting we don't have cable).  It was the first time that I saw the episode so I was curious what they would do with the two days of filming that I alone was involved in.  We ate a fine dinner and sat back and enjoyed the show.

A screen shot from CNN New Day Weekend, Sunday March 15, 2015

A screen shot from CNN New Day Weekend, Sunday March 15, 2015

For all of those who have been writing me, yes, there is much more to the Gospel of Judas then was put into the film (all these details are in my book, The Thirteenth Apostle, and on the rest of the footage they shot in Geneva but didn't use in the film itself). 

The analysis of the Gospel of Judas runs deep and has very significant ramifications for our understanding of early Christianity.  The person of Judas is only one issue and it is rather small compared to what else the Gospel of Judas tells us. 

My take away from the Gospel of Judas is that Christian Gnostics were a big part of the Christian movement and had developed sophisticated forms of Christianity that were at odds (even violently) with catholic or apostolic Christianity (precursor to Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy).  The Gnostics who wrote the Gospel of Judas thought that the concept of Jesus' death as a sacrifice to God for the atonement of sins was horrid.  Absolutely and fundamentally wrong. 

These Gnostics thought that sacrifice to gods of any kind was sacrifice to demons.  So they were criticizing the catholics of their time for their central doctrine (atonement) and practice (eucharist or communion meal when Jesus' body and blood were sacrificed on the church altar weekly and eaten).  The demon Judas was responsible for this horrific act and the twelve disciples were responsible for teaching Christians to believe that this demonic act was really for the worship of God.  The Gnostics thought the true God hated sacrifices.

Whatever else we might take away from the Gospel of Judas, this I know.  The doctrine that Jesus' death was a good thing for humankind, a sacrifice that God wanted to atone for the sins of humankind, was not universal among the early Christians.  Some of them abhorred it.

New Day Weekend Interview: Gospel of Judas

Another early morning Sunday.  I went to Video Houston to be patched into CNN New Day Weekend edition.  While staring at a blue light ring around the lens of a camera, I spoke with Christi Paul about Judas' betrayal and the lost Gospel of Judas.  Here is a link to the interview.

CNN Special on the Gospel of Judas

Last October, I traveled to Geneva to the Bodmer Library where the Gospel of Judas is housed.  My purpose?  To take part in the filming of a new documentary about the recovery, conservation and interpretation of the Gospel of Judas. 

It was an absolute thrill to see the Gospel of Judas firsthand, rather than on my computer in photographs.  The manuscript, although grossly damaged, was quite beautiful in its script and legibility.  I was surprised given all the rumors I had heard about its physical state. 

The filming was exhausting but very productive.  I was asked to take the audience through the Coptic text and explain what I think is going on with its translation and interpretation.  Aside from my contribution, there is also comment from Elaine Pagels, Nicola Denzey-Lewis, and Stephen Emmel.  The series consultants are Mark Goodacre, Joshua Garroway, and Candida Moss.

The film is finished.  It will air on March 15th on CNN at 9 pm.  It is the third film in a 6-part series on ancient relics associated with Jesus.  “Finding Jesus. Faith. Fact. Forgery.”  The series blends science and archaeology to examine six Christian relics.  To retell “the greatest story ever told” using state-of-the-art scientific techniques and archaeological research, the series covers the Shroud of Turin, True Cross relics, the Gospel of Judas, John the Baptist relics, the ossuary of James Jesus’ brother, and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.  The first in the series premiers on March 1.  A companion book to the film, Finding Jesus. Faith. Fact. Forgery, written by David Gibson and Michael McKinley, will be released on February 24.

Campus Conversations on Judas

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to President Leebron of Rice University about my research.  A video was produced from that conversation by our media department and was posted as part of a series of talks that President Leebron is doing with our faculty: Campus Conversations with the President.  Hope you like it.

Gospel of Judas Update: Published news about the OHIO fragments

I just received offprints of an article published in the first volume of Mohr Siebeck's new journal

Early Christianity

(link

HERE

). The article is a preliminary report written by Herbert Krosney, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst about the status of the OHIO fragments of the Gospel of Judas. In the first part of the article, Krosney explains the court battle over the OHIO fragments and their photographs which were analyzed by Gregor Wurst who recognized that they contained the balance of the Gospel of Judas, allowing us to read 90-95% of it.

According to Krosney's account, the fragments have made their way to Egypt in April 2010 and are under the care of Dr. Zahi Hawass who did not want the fragments to go to Switzerland for conservation first. The rest of the Tchacos Codex remains in Switzerland in the hands of the Maecenas Foundation who is now in a financial battle with Mrs. Frieda Nussberger.

The rest of the article is a sketch of the contents of the fragments and a preliminary transcription and translation based on photographs of the fragments possessed by Nussberger. There has been no distribution of the photographs to scholars other than Meyer and Wurst as far as I know. There is mention that Wurst and Meyer are consulting with the administration in Egypt in order to discover how to proceed in the critical publication of the fragments.

Gospel of Judas

"I didn't find a sublime Judas. I found a Judas more demonic than any Judas I know in any other piece of early Christian literature." -April DeConick

New York Times Op. Ed. on the Gospel of JudasApril DeConick writes that mistakes were made in the initial translation and interpretation of the Gospel of Judas
Gospel Truth published 12-1-07

Chronicle of Higher EducationAuthor Tom Bartlett follows the story of the Gospel of Judas and the Codex Judas CongressThe Betrayal of Judas: Did a "dream team" of scholars mislead millions?

Publication of The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says (see sidebar)
  • In 2006, National Geographic released the first English translation of the Gospel of Judas, a second-century text discovered in Egypt in the 1970s. The translation caused a sensation because it seemed to overturn the popular image of Judas the betrayer and instead presented a benevolent Judas who was a friend of Jesus.
  • Writers and academics have been quick to seize the opportunity to "rehabilitate" Judas as to re-examine our assumptions about this archetypal figure.
  • In The Thirteenth Apostle April DeConick offers a new translation of the Gospel of Judas which seriously challenges the National Geographic interpretation of a good Judas.

  • DeConick contends that the Gospel of Judas is not about a "good" Judas, or even a "poor old" Judas. It is a gospel parody about a "demon" Judas written by a particular group of Gnostic Christians, the Sethians. Whilst many other leading scholars have toed the National Geographic line, Professor DeConick is the first leading scholar to challenge this "official" version. In doing so, she is sure to inspire the fresh debate around this most infamous of biblical figures.
An Interview with April DeConick about the Gospel of Judas

Can you tell me about the background of the Gospel of Judas? When does it date from, where was it found?
The manuscript was discovered in the 1970s in an ancient catacomb that was being looted by local peasants living near the cliffs of the Jebel Qarara. The Jebel Qarara hills are only a few minutes on foot from the Nile River not far from El Minya, Egypt. Although we know that the Gospel of Judas existed in the middle of the second century because Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons mentions it (ca. 180), the manuscript that we have is a fourth- or fifth-century Coptic translation. It was only one text in a book of Gnostic Christian writings.

It was buried along with three other books that had been copied in the fourth- or fifth centuries a book of Paul's letters in Coptic, the book of Exodus in Greek, and a mathematical treatise in Greek. All four books had been sealed in a white limestone box and buried in a family tomb. If nothing else, their burial in this tomb points to their favoritism in the life of an early Christian living in ancient Egypt, a Christian who seems to have had esoteric leanings, and no difficulty studying canonical favorites alongside the Gnostic Gospel of Judas. In fact, he appears to have wanted to take them with him in death.

Why did it take so long to make the first English translation?
The English translation wasn't what took so long. What took the time was recovering the text from the antiquities market, which finally was done in the early 2000s.It also took time to restore the manuscript so that it could be read. The book that contains the Gospel of Judas was in the worst possible shape due to terrible handling once it left the grave. It had been torn in parts to make quicker and more profitable sales. The pages had been reshuffled so that the original pagination was gone. It was brittle and crumbling thanks to a stay in someone's freezer. The ink was barely legible because of exposure to the elements. Members of the National Geographic team have told me that initially they photocopied every fragment and then used the photocopies to piece together the pages. They worked with tweezers to fit together the scraps of papyrus and also relied on state-of-the-art computer technology.

Once the restoration was complete, the manuscript could be read. It is written in an old Egyptian language called Coptic. The Coptic text had to be transcribed, which was no small job given the fragmented nature of the restored pages and the eroded ink. After the initial transcription was made, it was then translated into English.

What was it about the National Geographic translation that inspired you to make your own translation?
When National Geographic finally released the transcription and translation of the Gospel of Judas, I was enthusiastic because my area of expertise is ancient Gnostic religiosity and early Christian mysticism. Most of my career as a professor has been devoted to the study of the Nag Hammadi texts.

The Gospel of Judas came upon most of us out of a whirlwind. I had heard whispers about the Gospel of Judas for years, but nothing really concrete. Then there it was captured on film and on the web. I was repelled by the sensationalism of its release, but still attracted to the idea that here was a brand new Gnostic text that no one has read for how many centuries?! I guess I wanted to know what stories it had to tell us about the Christians who wrote it in the second century. And once I started to work out my own translation, I realized that I had an obligation to other scholars and to the public to set the record straight about what the Gospel of Judas actually says.

What makes your interpretation so different from the National Geographic version?
For a long time, scholars have thought that the Gospel of Judas featured a Judas hero because testimony from a couple of Church Fathers led us to believe that there were a group of Gnostics known as Cainites. The Cainites were said to believe that all the bad characters in the bible, including Judas, were actually heroes. I tend to be extremely skeptical of the testimony of the Church Fathers on these sorts of issues for the sheer fact that the Fathers saw the Gnostics as their opponents and they did everything they could to undermine them, including lying. So I didn't have an opinion on what the Gospel of Judas should say about Judas.

Once I started translating the Gospel of Judas and began to see the types of translation choices that the National Geographic team had made, I was startled and concerned. The text very clearly called Judas a demon. Why did the team feel it necessary to translate this "spirit"? The text very clearly says that Judas will be "separated from" the Gnostics. Why did the team feel it necessary to translate this "set apart for" the Gnostics? And so forth.

I didn't care if Judas was good, bad or ugly. I just wanted to hear what the Sethian Gnostics had to say about him, and make sense of the text as a whole.

Why do you think that the National Geographic interpretation doesn't work?
Not only is this interpretation based on a problematic English translation, rather than on what the Coptic actually says, but the opinion that Judas is a hero and a good guy is nonsense in terms of the bigger gospel narrative. For instance, this gospel berates sacrifice and understands it to be a horrifying practice dedicated to the god who wars against the supreme Father God. If this is the case, then Judas' sacrifice of Jesus simply cannot be a good thing. To say it is, is to rip apart the logic of what the text is saying as a whole.

Why do think so many scholars and writers have been inspired by the National Geographic version?
I have been truly amazed at the number of people who have jumped on this bandwagon. One of my colleagues upon hearing my concerns at a conference, stood up and said, "I just don't see why Judas can't be good. We need a good Judas." This really stopped me in my tracks and took this discourse to an entirely new level for me.

There is something bigger going on here, in our modern communal psyche. I haven't been able to put my finger on it exactly, but it appears to have something to do with our collective guilt about anti-Semitism and our need to reform the relationship between Jews and Christians following World War II.

Judas has been a terrifying figure in our history, since he became in the Middle Ages the archetypal Jew who was responsible for Jesus' death. His story was abused for centuries as a justification to commit atrocities against Jews. I wonder if one of the ways that our communal psyche has handled this in recent decades is to try to erase or explain the evil Judas, to remove from him the guilt of Jesus' death. There are many examples of this in pop fiction and film produced after World War II. It seems to be that the National Geographic interpretation has grown out of this collective need and has been well-received because of it.

Who do you think wrote the Gospel? Why do you think they wrote it?
The Gospel of Judas was written by Gnostic Christians called Sethians in the mid-second century. They wrote it to criticize Apostolic or mainstream Christianity, which they understood to be a form of Christianity that needed to reassess its faith. Particularly troubling for these Gnostic Christians was the Apostolic belief in the atonement, because this meant that God would have had to commit infanticide by sacrificing the Son. They wrote the Gospel of Judas to prove that this could not be the case. Why? Because Judas was a demon who worked for another demon who rules this world and whose name is Ialdabaoth. How did they know this? Because Jesus had revealed this to Judas before Judas betrayed him. That is the bottom line. That is what this gospel says.

What do you think this manuscript tells us about early Christianity? Why is the Gospel of Judas important?
This gospel's voice is different. It represents the opinions of Christians in the second century who came to be labeled as "heretical" by later bishops who wished to gain control of the religious landscape. Because this is a Gnostic Christian tradition that did not survive, the chance find of this gospel has let us tune into a second century discussion about theology. And the voice we are hearing is the voice of the guy who lost the debate.

Not only is the recovery and integration of this voice into our history important, but also its contribution to Christian theology, which is enormous. The challenge against atonement theology as it is presented in the Gospel of Judas is a challenge that rocked the Apostolic Churches, forcing them to refine and recreate their position. The end result is a doctrine of atonement that became very popular in the Christian Church, a doctrine that understood the sacrifice of Jesus as a ransom paid to the Devil. This doctrine exists as a response to the Gnostic criticisms of atonement that we find in the Gospel of Judas.

What do you think it is about the figure of Judas that seems to fascinate both scholars and the general reader?
Judas Iscariot is a frightening figure. For Christians, he is the one who had it all, and yet betrayed God to his death for a few dollars. He is the archetype of human evil, the worst human being ever to live. He is the antithesis of the true Christian. Because of this, his image works as a religious control - he is someone the Christian never wants to become. For Jews, he is terrifying, the man whom Christians associated with Jewish people, whose story was used against them for centuries as a religious justification for their abuse and slaughter. Even his name "Judas" has been linked to "Jew," due to their root similarities (Judas/Judea/Jews). I think that Judas is someone whose shadow haunts us.

Reading on the Gospel of Judas


Andrew Cockburn, May 2006. "The Judas Gospel." Pages 78-95 in National Geographic Magazine.
This is National Geographic's story of the year, perhaps of the century. Mr. Cockburn, a National Geographic author, writes an overview of the discovery and restoration of the Gospel of Judas in fine journalistic style. Beautiful photographs by Kenneth Garrett grace the pages. 17 pages.
Bart D. Ehrman, 2006. The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Professor Ehrman discusses his own involvement in National Geographic's project to analyze the Gospel of Judas along with the tale of the discovery of Judas. He describes the contents of the gospel, its relationship to the New Testament gospels, suggesting that it presents a unique view of Jesus, the twelve disciples, and Judas who is the only one who remains faithful to Jesus even to his death. 198 pages.
Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, with additional commentary by Bart D. Ehrman, 2006. The Gospel of Judas (Washington D.C.; National Geographic).
The original publication of the English translation of the Gospel of Judas made by Professors Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, in collaboration with François Gaudard. It includes chapters of commentary on the story of the Tchacos Codex (by Kasser), Judas as a typical Gnostic text and alternative vision of Judas (by Ehrman), early mentions of the Gospel of Judas by the Church Fathers (by Wurst), and Judas as a Sethian gospel (by Meyer). 185 pages.
Herbert Krosney, 2006. The Lost Gospel of Judas: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot (Washington D.C.: National Geographic).
Herbert Krosney is an investigative journalist who traces in his book what can be known about the discovery, recovery, and restoration of the Gospel of Judas. Includes a brief foreword by Bart Ehrman and an epilogue by Marvin Meyer. 309 pages.
Nicholas Perrin, 2006. The Judas Gospel (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press).
Nicholas Perrin provides us with a brief history of the discovery of the Gospel of Judas in this pamphlet. He makes an overview of the contents as a second century Gnostic gospel. He argues that the text has little historical value in terms of telling us anything about Jesus and Judas. Rather its value comes from what it reveals about gnostic alternatives to what Perrin understands as "authentic" Christianity. 32 pages.
James Robinson, 2006. The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and his Lost Gospel (San Francisco: Harper).
Professor James Robinson discusses what can be known about the historical Judas from the Bible and other ancient Christian texts. He recounts the story of the discovery of the Gospel of Judas and its sensationalistic release by National Geographic, criticizing the way in which the publication of the text has been handled. 192 pages.
N. T. Wright, 2006. Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books).
Bishop Wright argues that the Gospel of Judas tells us nothing about the historical Jesus or the historical Judas. Its rehabilitation of Judas in this second century text cannot be linked to the real Judas who betrayed Jesus. He thinks that the publication of this gospel is part of a scholarly agenda to find an alternative Jesus, which has another sensationalistic life in popular literature like The Da Vinci Code - financial profit. 155 pages.
Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King, 2007. Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (New York: Viking).
This book contains Karen King's own English translation of the Gospel of Judas, followed by a brief running commentary. The other chapters are written collaboratively by Professors Pagels and King. These chapters attempt to contextualize Judas within the milieu of early Christian persecution and martyrdom, suggesting that the Christians who wrote this gospel were condemning church leaders who were encouraging their flock to die as sacrifices to God. 198 pages.
Craig A. Evans, 2006. Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press).
Included in the back of this book is a brief appendix, "What Should We Think About the Gospel of Judas?" He mentions his own involvement on the National Geographic team and the text's recovery. He outlines the contents of the Tchacos Codex yet to be published. This is followed by a short description of the contents of the gospel and its meaning, weighing in on the perspective of the Church Fathers - that the gospel honored Judas because it was written by a Gnostic who revered all the "evil" men in the scriptures. These villains like Judas were only "evil" in the eyes of Yahweh the lesser god because they worked for the God of light in his war against Yahweh. So in reality, the villains were the good guys. 6 pages.
Favorite Posts about the Gospel of Judas

Augsburg exhibition and Tchacos material

Christian Askeland contacted me about the Pauline codex from the El-Minya horde. He has a post with additional information

HERE

. For those interested in Coptic NT matters, Askeland is preparing a dissertation on the Coptic John and has put up a resource page of links to information about Coptic on his website

HERE

. He comments on his website that "for early Christianity scholars, Coptic is the new Greek." So I'm impressed and am delighted that someone is working on sorting out the Coptic NT manuscripts. A BIG job indeed. Best of luck with your work Christian.

Some of the El-Minya materials are being displayed at Augsburg in an exhibition this year. Information about the exhibition was posted by Martin Heide

HERE

. Direct link to exhibition information is

HERE

. I also learned more about the exhibition from Professor Bethge who kindly forwarded me more detailed information about the exhibit.

The exhibition opened on the 13th and will run until April 30th, 2010. The exhibition includes biblical and apocryphal papyri from the 4th c. to late Middle Ages. Three pages from the Tchacos Codex are on display (pp. 28, 33, and 46) Page 28 is from the

1 Apocalypse of James

, and pages 33 and 46 are from the

Gospel of Judas

. There is also displayed two leaves from the unpublished Coptic papyrus codex of Paul's letters.

There is a catalogue being sold for 10 euros. If you plan to go to the exhibit and are willing to pick up a brochure for me, please let me know. I would love to have one.

PHOTO: from the exhibition web site

HERE

. From a quick reading of the top of the page, this is a page from Hebrews 11:30 ff. It is from the unpublished Pauline Codex from the El-Minya horde. It is the first time in thousands of years that this page from the Coptic letters of Paul has been viewed!

Aeon Byte interview

I meant to post this a few days ago, but I got overrun (what else is new? does life ever slow down?).

I had the pleasure of interviewing with Miguel Connor for his radio show and podcasts: Aeon Byte. The subject was more revelations about the Gospel of Judas and we talked quite a bit about gnosticism. If you want to check it out, go to this link to AEON BYTE homepage and scroll down until you see my pic and link to the interview. Hope you enjoy it.

Update on EBAY sales of Ferrini's horde

I communicated with Robert Kraft yesterday and found out that Mr. Ernest Muro was the main person who was keeping track of the "Geneva wares" that Ferrini was offering for sale on EBAY. He thought that he had identified a piece of Philippians from the Coptic Paul codex and possibly other pages. So he purchased several of the Coptic pieces.

PHOTO: Piece identified by Muro as Coptic Philippians. Photo from

Robert Kraft's article.

Unexpectedly Muro died and someone disposed his collections, including the papyri. Kraft has worked to put up all the images from the EBAY sales. These can be accessed via the article link he wrote,

"Pursuing Papyri"

and posted.

I am thinking that it would be a good idea to get all the information about the distribution of the El-Minya horde up on a web page(all four books: Tchacos Codex; Paul's Coptic Codex; Exodus' Greek Codex; and the Mathematical Treatise). So I'm going to start working on that project.

I'll share information as I get it.

The Codex Judas Papers

What to my wondering eyes should appear but

The Codex Judas Papers

! It arrived this morning in my mailbox, all 650 pages of it, and remarkably published in the year after the Codex Judas Congress had convened here at Rice University (March 13-16, 2008).

April DeConick (ed.). 2009.

The Codex Judas Papers: Proceedings of the International Congress on the Tchacos Codex held at Rice University, Houston, Texas, March 13-16, 2008.

Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 71. Leiden: Brill.

It is an expensive volume so you might need to check it out of your library. See my

earlier post about the book for ordering information

.

The papers in it are of the highest quality, and the volume represents a landmark in Gnostic studies and our understanding of the

Gospel of Judas

. Scholars address issues of identity and community, portraits of Judas, astrological lore, salvation and praxis, text and intertext, and manuscript matters. Although the contributions show a variety of interpretations of the Tchacos texts, several points of agreement emerge, including the assessment that the Codex belonged to early Christians affiliated with classic Gnostic or Sethian traditions who were in conflict with other Christians belonging to the apostolic or conventional church.

Contributors include (in order of their appearance): Alastair Logan, Karen King, Johannes van Oort, Marvin Meyer, Gesine Schenke Robinson, John Turner, Birger Pearson, Fernando Bermejo Rubio, Kevin Sullivan, Ismo Dunderberg, Pierluigi Piovanelli, April DeConick, Nicola Denzey Lewis, Grant Adamson, Niclas Förster, Franklin Trammell, Elaine Pagels, Bas van Os, Johanna Brankaer, Tage Petersen, Louis Painchaud, Serge Cazelais, Matteo Grosso, Lance Jenott, Simon Gathercole, Gregor Wurst, Wolf-Peter Funk, Antti Marjanen, James Robinson.

Ohio Fragments of the Gospel of Judas

I have been intending to write about this subject since New Orleans, but I got sick and had so many family obligations over break that I haven't had a clear moment to do so.

The Ohio Fragments of the Gospel of Judas are coming to light. In New Orleans, Professor Meyer distributed initial transcriptions of the fragments which were made by he and Professor Wurst last year from photographs they have access to. My understanding is that very soon the fragments will be moved to Europe and rephotographed, and those photographs will be distributed to scholars working on the Gospel of Judas.

Professor Meyer has kindly uploaded his SBL talk, transcriptions and translations of the fragments to his official website HERE.

I don't want to say too much about the fragments, because I do not yet have access to the photographs which I will need to make my own transcription and translation. I have put together a seminar here at Rice to begin this work with my graduate students, and hope that the photos will be available very soon.

From the transcription done by Meyer and Wurst, it appears that Jesus is the one who ascends in the cloud at the end of the gospel and Judas is left behind on the ground looking at him, only to betray him a few lines later, fulfilling the fate of his ignorant star.

The Codex Judas Papers to be released

Excitement everywhere.

The Codex Judas Papers

are going to be published in a couple of weeks.

The Codex Judas Papers

is the collection of papers written by scholars who attended the

Codex Judas Congress

last year on the Rice campus. I am the main editor, and these papers are top notch. Many people have asked me for purchasing information once the book was released. So here it is.

The people at Brill have kindly offered a 25% discount for the book to my blog readers. It is an expensive book ($256) - nearly 700 pages - so this will be a substantial discount ($64) which reduces the price to $192.

People always ask me why these books are so expensive. I am not in the publishing business, but what I am told is that the reason that these kinds of academic books are so expensive has to do with the print run. They have very small print runs - just enough to sell to the world's libraries.

When you place your order with

Brill

, use the discount code 47900, and you will receive 25% discount. ISBN: 978-90-04-18141-0. The toll-free number for ordering in the States is 800-337-9255. The discount is valid until December 31.

My response to Robert Eisenman and "Redemonizing Judas"

Robert Eisenman has updated and republished his Huffington Post piece on "Redemonizing Judas." I mention this not because I think it is a good article (things are quite mixed up in his article), but because again I am characterized by Eisenman as a "conservative" scholar who thinks the NT gospels are more historical than the extra-canonical gospels, all because I argue that the demon Judas is in the Gospel of Judas rather than the hero. The fact that I argue for a demonic Judas is the only point that Eisenman appears to know about my work. From this fact he appears to have drawn the incorrect conclusion that I am a "conservative" scholar who is a "theologian" interested in pushing a conservative Christian platform in my writing for which I am criticized. Indeed, such a characterization of me or my work could not be more off the mark.

In my opinion, it is sad that Eisenman would publish such a mixed up article on a widely read blog like Huffington Post, leaving his readers with the wrong impressions about the scholars he mentions. He calls Michael Williams and Jim Robinson "conservative" theologians too, so at least I am in good company.

It is humorous that I receive criticism for my work on the Gospel of Thomas from those interested in maintaining canonical authority and historicity, while also getting slammed for my work on the Gospel of Judas by those on the other side of the fence who want to trump the canonical stories with (in my view) misunderstood extra-canonical literature.

The fact is I am a historian with no interest in apologizing for Christianity or maintaining Christian tradition. When I read texts, I do so as an historian and I say it like I see it with no concern about whether or not it "fits" with the traditional Christian picture of things.

My studies of the Gospel of Thomas have led me to conclude it contains a very old kernel gospel that pre-dates Paul and likely Quelle in the forms we have it in Matthew and Luke. The mystical tradition and encratic perspective it upholds was developed in response to the delayed eschaton and became the basis for much of Christianity in eastern Syria. So the gospel is both young and old. Because of this, we must use caution when addressing the text in our work. But it contains an essential "missing" piece to the puzzle of early pre-Pauline Jerusalem Christianity.

My studies of the Gospel of Judas have led me to conclude that the Sethian Christians who wrote it were very careful exegetes of the canonical gospels. They took seriously the claims in Luke and John that Judas was a demon, even the demon Satan who ruled the world. As such, they identified Judas with the Ialdabaoth demiurge (the demonic ruler of this world), and understood Judas' astral destiny to be identical with Ialdabaoth's, the god of the thirteen realms. If anything, this conclusion turns upside down the expected narrative based on past scholarly readings of Irenaeus and Epiphanius. It is hardly a "conservative" argument, nor is does it represent an attempt on my part to forward a "conservative" traditional Christian agenda.

The fallacious 'paradidomi'

Today I want to speak about the verb 'paradidomi' since there have been a number of discussions about this verb left in the comments of previous posts. What can and can't it tell us about Judas?

I want to say up front that my reading of Judas and this verb has nothing whatsoever to do with the angst between so-called liberal and conservative scholars. In fact, I resent this sort of labeling because it is nothing more than theology rearing its head in the academy. Scholars aren't "liberal" or "conservative". In our field, whether a scholar is "liberal" or "conservative" is not an academic designation, but a theological designation (is the person in favor of progressive, evangelical, fundamentalist, etc. Christianity).

When I read internet perspectives on my work, particularly my views on the Gospel of Judas, I am stunned how often I am labeled a conservative, when all I am is a historian doing her job recovering the best history possible given the sources with no apology for Christianity. My views on the Gospel of Judas are actually "liberal" by strict definition, since they go completely against the status quo and the established tradition that scholars have held for hundreds of years - that Judas in the Gospel of Judas should be a Gnostic and a hero. He is not.

Nor can the arguments about the term 'paradidomi' exonerate him from the biblical sources. What is the argument? That 'paradidomi' means only "hand over" and not (necessarily) "betray."

How is this argument made? By turning to NT references to the word such as Paul's use of it in 1 Cor 11:23-24 (where Paul says: "For I received from the Lord that which I also handed over to you"); Rom 8:32 (God "handed over" Jesus for us all); etc. Once it is established that 'paradidomi' means 'to give or hand someone or something over to someone else' the coast is clear to make the argument that Judas may not have been such a bad guy historically, especially since the NT gospel writers each portray the reason for Judas' 'handing over' of Jesus quite differently. Guess no one really knew and they were just scapegoating a good guy (or a guy that didn't exist at all).

Now here is the problem. 'Paradidomi', like most words, has a range of acceptable meanings and uses. You have to know the context of most words to know which meaning is intended. In fact its several definitions across Greek literature include: 1. to transmit or impart as a teacher, or hand down legends or information; 2. to give a city or a person into another's hands, such as surrender and treachery; 3. to allow or permit someone to do something.

So how do the NT gospel writers use the verb contextually in their telling of Judas' story? Mark 14 has Jesus say to the twelve at the table, "one of you will hand me over." The disciples begin to grieve ('lupeô') when they hear this statement. Then Jesus damns the man who will hand over the Son of Man: "Damn that man by whom the Son of Man is handed over! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Mark's story clearly uses the word in its treacherous sense. Judas is doing a terrible thing by turning Judas in. He is a disciple who is a turncoat.

Matthew's version (c. 26) isn't any better. Relying on Mark's story, he transmits the same use of 'paradidomi': The disciples grieve when they hear that one of them will hand Jesus over; this man is damned, better not to have been born. And - here is the difference - verbally identified as Judas!

Luke's version (c. 22) is equally scathing. He begins by telling us that Satan entered Judas who then went to talk to the high priests about how he would 'hand over' Jesus. So the word is now connected to the action of the chief demon and ruler of this world. Jesus later says at the table that one among them will hand him over. He damns the man who will turn him in.

John's version doesn't rely on the synoptics. He tells us as early as c. 6 that Jesus knew when he choose the twelve that one of them was a devil. This one is identified by John as Judas who would hand him over. Thus in c. 13 we learn that the devil had already put into Judas' heart the plan to hand over Jesus. Jesus predicts Judas' plan to hand him over as fulfilment of scripture that "He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me." Once Judas eats the morsel served by Jesus, Satan himself enters Judas and he goes out to do the deed. Judas' connection with Satan the ruler of the world is even more pronounced during the Farewell Discourse when Jesus says that he has run out of time to talk to them because "the ruler of this world is coming" in reference to Judas' plan to come to the garden and hand over Jesus to the authorities. This is all portrayed by John as part of God's plan to overthrow the ruler of this world.

My point is that in every one of these Judas cases, 'paradidomi' means treachery and betrayal. The contexts could not be more explicit.

The fact that each author gives a different motivation for Judas' betrayal says nothing more to us than all our authors knew that Judas had done something so bad that they felt the need to explain why he would have done such a terrible thing. So they suggest money, demon possession, and "it was part of God's plan" as answers.

As far as the Sethian Gnostics who wrote the Gospel of Judas - they were very faithful to scripture. Judas Iscariot was identified by them with Satan, the ruler of this world, whom they also called Saklas and Ialdabaoth.

So the next time you read about how 'paradidomi' exonerates Judas, think again, because it is a fallacious argument.

The Gospel of Judas in The New Yorker

This morning Jared on Antiquitopia brought our attention to and posted his thoughts on the August 3rd THE NEW YORKER article written by Joan Acocella, in which she argues that the push to heroify Judas by the National Geographic team of scholars and their supporters is part of a trend to counter fundamentalism by academics. She writes in support of Susan Guber's new book, Judas: A Biography (in which Guber takes a "cold view of the Gospel of Judas" according to Acocella):
(Final paragraph of THE NEW YORKER article): All this, I believe, is a reaction to the rise of fundamentalism—the idea, Christian and otherwise, that every word of a religion’s founding document should be taken literally. This is a childish notion, and so is the belief that we can combat it by correcting our holy books. Those books, to begin with, are so old that we barely understand what their authors meant. Furthermore, because of their multiple authorship, they are always internally inconsistent. Finally, even the fundamentalists don’t really take them literally. People interpret, and cheat. The answer is not to fix the Bible but to fix ourselves.
Acocella mentions the second edition of National Geographic's translation of the Gospel of Judas and how it differs from the first, wondering how much our need to revise history may have affected their first publication of the Gospel of Judas (I have written about this extensively in the NEW PREFACE to the revised edition of THE THIRTEENTH APOSTLE: WHAT THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS REALLY SAYS):
(Center of THE NEW YORKER article): Even the gospel’s translators may have felt the need to augment its revisionist credentials. When Jesus, in the gospel, tells the disciples that no mortal, or almost none, will be saved, one assumes that Judas will be an exception, and that’s what National Geographic’s translators said in the first English edition. But then a number of other scholars took a look at the Coptic text and objected that this was a misreading. The translators must have seen their point, because in the second edition of their version, published last year, the line has been changed—to mean the opposite. Jesus now says to Judas, “You will not ascend on high” to join those in Heaven. In other passages, too, the second edition tells a widely different story from the first.

In fairness, no expert can tell us exactly what the Coptic said. That is not just because of the terrible condition of the codex; even when the words are there, they are often enigmatic. But, as April DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University, pointed out in the Times in 2007, there was a troubling consistency to a number of the mistranslations in the first edition: they improved Judas’s image. If the gospel was truly the earth-shaking document that the National Geographic Society claimed it was—if it promoted Judas from villain to hero—then to have him denied admission to Heaven would be decidedly awkward.

So there you have it. The information that my blog and book readers have known for two years running is finally making its way into the public arena. I wonder if it will matter.

Revised Version of 13th Apostle NOW available

I've been watching Amazon and it looks like the revised version of 13th Apostle is now in stock. So if you have pre-ordered it, I imagine that it will come clambering into your mailbox very soon.

This is not a paperback release of the first edition. I revised this book substantially, including two new chapters - one on Judas and astrology (my paper from the Codex Judas Congress) and another on Judas and ancient magic (I cover the magic gem that I think is related to the ideology put forth in the Gospel of Judas). I also have a new preface, covering what has been happening with the Gospel of Judas since its initial release, and I added a section on Thomasine church in the chapter on early Christianity.

I hope you enjoy it.