>The Truth Behind the Gospel of Judas

>April D. Deconick, a fellow blogger who specializes in discussing the Nag Hammadi literature and other Christian apocrypha, has written an excellent op-ed piece for The New York Times, published on December 1, 2007.

In her article, Deconick discusses how the scholars who translated the Gospel of Judas for the National Geographical Society made serious mistakes in their representation of Judas. The following is an excerpt from Deconick’s article:

AMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn’t betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. Judas’s reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.

It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society’s transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic’s translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.

Several of the translation choices made by the society’s scholars fall well outside the commonly accepted practices in the field. For example, in one instance the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a “daimon,” which the society’s experts have translated as “spirit.” Actually, the universally accepted word for “spirit” is “pneuma ” — in Gnostic literature “daimon” is always taken to mean “demon.”

Likewise, Judas is not set apart “for” the holy generation, as the National Geographic translation says, he is separated “from” it. He does not receive the mysteries of the kingdom because “it is possible for him to go there.” He receives them because Jesus tells him that he can’t go there, and Jesus doesn’t want Judas to betray him out of ignorance. Jesus wants him informed, so that the demonic Judas can suffer all that he deserves.

Perhaps the most egregious mistake I found was a single alteration made to the original Coptic. According to the National Geographic translation, Judas’s ascent to the holy generation would be cursed. But it’s clear from the transcription that the scholars altered the Coptic original, which eliminated a negative from the original sentence. In fact, the original states that Judas will “not ascend to the holy generation.” To its credit, National Geographic has acknowledged this mistake, albeit far too late to change the public misconception.

Read the op-ed piece in its entirety by clicking here.

Deconick has received many responses to her op-ed piece. You should also read her elaboration of the concept of Judas the demon and the concept of demons in the Gnostic literature by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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3 Responses to >The Truth Behind the Gospel of Judas

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Good work, thanks. This whole document needs serious, transparent, wide-spread review by real experts like this, not just national geographic.


  2. >Dear Friend,I agree with you. When a controversial issue like this one is not reviewed by other scholars, all kinds of mistakes can be made and the poeple who read those mistakes will believe that the mistakes are truth.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  3. Robert says:

    >April DeConick’s New York Times piece on the Gospel of Judas fiasco is excellent. I was particularly interested in what she said about the Dead Sea Scrolls:”The situation reminds me of the deadlock that held scholarship back on the Dead Sea Scrolls decades ago. When manuscripts are hoarded by a few, it results in errors and monopoly interpretations that are very hard to overturn even after they are proved wrong.”From what I understand, the consequences of the Scrolls monopoly are indeed still continuing today, in an exhibit taking place in San Diego. Several articles by University of Chicago historian Norman Golb have raised serious questions concerning the scientific and ethical legitimacy of this exhibit: see, e.g.,http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/san_diego_virtual_reality_2007.pdf andhttp://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/dss_review_sandiego_catalogue_2007.pdfSo I would suggest that we ask an important question: will serious biblical scholars like April DeConick frankly and unambiguously condemn the slanted, and quite possibly erroneous, presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls in one museum exhibit after another? Or will we rather have another decade of silence, innuendo and embarrassed shrugging of shoulders?


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