Gospel of Judas

News tracker and news archive about the Gospel of Judas

In his book Adversus Haeresis (Against Heresies), written about 180 AD, bishop Irenaeus (ca. 130-202 CE) mentioned a ‘Gospel of Judas’ that was in use among among the Gnostic sect of the Cainites:

[Some] 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.
– Source: Refutation of All Heresies I.31.1

Some two centuries later, Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, criticized the Gospel of Judas for treating the betrayer of Jesus as commendable, one who “performed a good work for our salvation.” [source]

About 2,000 years after the Gospel according to Judas sowed discord among early Christians, a Swiss foundation says it is translating for the first time the controversial text named after the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus Christ.

The 62-page papyrus manuscript of the text was uncovered in Egypt during the 1950s or 1960s, but its owners did not fully comprehend its significance until recently, according to the Maecenas Foundation in Basel.

The manuscript written in the ancient dialect of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community will be translated into English, French and German in about a year, the foundation specialising in antique culture said on Tuesday.

“We have just received the results of carbon dating: the text is older than we thought and dates back to a period between the beginning of the third and fourth centuries,” foundation director Mario Jean Roberty said.

The existence of a Gospel of Judas, which was originally written in Greek, was outlined by a bishop, Saint Irenee, when he denounced the text as heretical during the second century.

“It’s the only clear source that allows us to know that such a Gospel did exist,” Roberty explained.

The foundation declined to say what account Judas is said to give in his alleged gospel.

According to Christian tradition, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ by helping the Romans to find him before he was crucified. […]

Jean-Daniel Kaestli, an expert on gospels who has seen the manuscript, said the discovery was “very interesting”, although the papyrus was in a bad state.

He added that it was not going to lead to a revolutionary change in the vision of the Bible, although it could shed some new light on parts of Christianity’s holy text. […]
– Source: Gospel of Judas back in spotlight after 20 centuries, Middle East Online, UK, Mar. 30, 2005



Retired Claremont Graduate University professor James Robinson, general editor of the English edition of the Nag Hammadi Library, said he was first contacted in 1983 about negotiations to buy certain texts, including the Gospel of Judas. Many years later, he saw blurry photographs of part of the text.

This post was last updated: Feb. 27, 2006