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.



Robinson said that early in November he learned that Kasser and several European, Canadian and U.S. scholars had signed agreements with the National Geographic Society to assist with a documentary film and a National Geographic article for an Easter 2006 release and a succession of three books.

Robinson was critical of the secrecy and inaccessibility surrounding the document—a recurring academic problem that delayed for decades the publishing of translations of some Dead Sea Scrolls and many Nag Hammadi codices. In his talk, Robinson called the practice “skullduggery”—with a glance at fellow panelist Marvin Meyer of Chapman University, a longtime colleague in the field and one of the contracted authors.

Meyer refused to describe the text’s content, but he essentially confirmed the basic publishing arrangements to Robinson and to the Century at the Philadelphia meeting.

In amended remarks to his speech, Robinson said Meyer told him that he was sworn to secrecy—not by the document’s owner but by the National Geographic Society, a procedure Meyer said was justified by the organization’s large financial investment.

[…]

The Coptic texts, owned by the Maecenas Foundation, consist of 62 pages and also contain “The First Apocalypse of James” and “The Letter of Peter to Philip”—two texts also found at Nag Hammadi. How many of the 62 pages contain the Gospel of Judas has not been disclosed.

Hedrick said the last six pages of the Judas document describe a heavenly scene in which Allogenes is being tested and tried by Satan, followed by an earthly scene in which Jesus is being watched closely by scribes. At one point Judas is told, “Although you are evil at this place, you are a disciple of Jesus.” The last line of the text says, according to Hedrick: “And he [Judas] took money and delivered him [Jesus] over.”

So, Hedrick said, “it appears that Judas is working at the behest of God when he betrays Jesus as part of the divine plan.” When translations of the Gospel of Judas are released with accompanying analyses, Hedrick expects that “there will be a lot of sensationalism, but it will dribble out, leaving only the scholars interested.”

Yet, in academic and religious circles, the text may stir excitement for years, according to a scholar from the University of Ottawa. “It is a major discovery not only for Coptic, Gnostic or apocryphal studies, but also for ancient Judaism and early Christianity,” said Pierluigi Piovanelli in an e-mail to colleagues in 2004 when the first plans to publish were announced.

Some scholarly discussions will focus on whether the document was produced by a branch of the Sethian Gnostics called Cainites by church leaders. The Cainites were said to have glorified Cain and other disgraced figures in the Bible because, according to Gnostic viewpoints, they were doing God’s work.

Church discussions conceivably could revolve around the extent to which New Testament Gospels present events in Jesus’ life and passion as ordained from the start. Judas Iscariot, depicted minimally by the Gospel of Mark, receives elaboration in Matthew, Luke and John. The latter Gospel says Satan entered Judas at the Last Supper just before Jesus told the disciple, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

For Robinson, the significance of the Gospel of Judas has to do not with first-century history but with second-century mythology. Still, he offered these half-serious reflections in his closing remarks last month: “Where would Christianity be, if there had been no Judas, and Jesus—instead of dying for our sins on the cross—had died of old age?” he asked. “So: Thank God for Judas? Even the most broadminded among us would call that heresy!” […]

– Source: Long-lost Gospel of Judas to be published, The Christian Century, USA, Dec. 27, 2005