“The Gospel of Judas” Again

New York Times has an op-ed by April D. DeConick of Rice University revealing that National Geographic made some major mistakes in transcribing and translating that old Gnostic test, “The Gospel of Judas.”

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.

Much more–all showing that National Geographic is in a sorry state. Heads should roll over this.

Update: See her book, The Thirteenth Apostle, for more (details about the book on her webpage). Baptist Press notes that she is organizing a conference at Rice in March.

DeConick and other scholars are planning a much closer look at the Gospel of Judas at Rice University in March 2008. Then, the university will host an international panel of scholars, including those who translated the work for National Geographic, to discuss the Tchacos Codex, which contained the Judas text. The meeting, she said, will create an academic climate that has, heretofore, been unavailable.

“I wanted to create a situation of free and open academic exchange so that we can move past this deadlock,” DeConick said. “I hope that the facsimiles will be released by then so that we can all work from them.”

Codex Judas Congress, March 13-16, 2008.

3 thoughts on ““The Gospel of Judas” Again

  1. I read this in the Times today as well. This should have been a major story. Instead, the facts are relegated to the opinion pages. I suspect the NYT did nor want to offend, with journalistic copy, National Geographic, of late a constituent and fellow traveler. On a more positive note, Dr. DeConick’s piece must have left Elaine Pagels apolectic. One need not be the amazing Kreskin to anticipate a rejoinder.


  2. I was particularly interested in what DeConick 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 a misleading exhibit taking place in a “natural history” museum in San Diego. See this article for details:


    So I would suggest that an important question is whether so-called liberal Christian scholars — by which I mean scholars of Christian faith who, like April DeConick, seek to do their research in accordance with fundamental scientific principles rather than any religious agenda — will part company with their Evangelical-minded colleagues and frankly condemn what is going on with the Dead Sea Scrolls in one museum exhibit after another.

  3. I’d say that article to which you link is biased. These are not fundamentalists and evangelicals it is condemning–it’s condemning mainstream and liberal scholars at respected institutions, as well as Catholics. David Noel Freedman is no evangelical–he’s the editor of the “Anchor Bible” series. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in San Diego is one of those authorized by the Israeli Antiquities department (link). The author of this piece picks and chooses things–the person who said we shouldn’t use the term “Jewish” is making the point that rabbinic Judaism arose after the destruction of Jerusalem, with the gathering of the rabbis at Javneh/Jamnia–that first century “Judaism” was a cluster of disparate movements, of which the Essenes were one. The SD exhibit is holding to the view that an Essene community at Qumran produced the Dead Sea Scrolls–this critic rejects that view. Who is Charles Gadda? What is his expertise in the field? He seems to be someone who just likes to go around the internet stirring up contention on this point (see this blog). It seems he has an anti-Christian agenda, and can’t distinguish between liberals, evangelicals, and Catholics. He cites Frank Cross and Roland deVaux and then insinuates a connection with Dispensationalists!! Please.

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