Understanding The Gospel Of Judas -- By: Craig A. Evans

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 20:4 (NA 2010)
Article: Understanding The Gospel Of Judas
Author: Craig A. Evans


Understanding The Gospel Of Judas

Craig A. Evans

Acadia Divinity College

The discovery and publication of the Gospel of Judas created a sensation in scholarly and popular settings alike. Much of the interest in the new publication grows out of the interpretation that was advanced, in which Judas Iscariot is understood as a hero, more or less, the greatest of the disciples, to whom Jesus entrusted his most important teaching. Ongoing critical study of the Coptic text, however, has raised troubling questions about this interpretation and on what basis it rests. The recent recovery of more fragments of the text also undermines the widely reported interpretation. The present study reviews several recent publications that suggest a very different interpretation.

Key Words: Judas Iscariot, Gospel of Judas, Codex Tchacos, Irenaeus, Cainites, National Geographic Society, Marvin Meyer

Thursday April 6, 2006, the National Geographic Society held a press conference at its Washington, DC, headquarters and announced to some 120 news media the recovery, restoration, and translation of the Gospel of Judas. The story appeared as headline news in dozens of major newspapers around the world and was the topic of discussion in a variety of news programs on television that evening and subsequent evenings. A two-hour documentary aired on the National Geographic Channel, Sunday evening, April 9, and has aired several times since.

At the center of the media storm is the claim that the Gospel of Judas presents the infamous disciple in a completely new light: Judas is not a villain but a hero, not the worst of the disciples but the greatest. Some have even wondered if the rehabilitated Judas of the Gospel of Judas might lead to a new and more collegial dialogue between Christians and Jews. However, not long after the announcement of the find and its publication, Coptic scholars began calling into question the proposed interpretation. Indeed, some have questioned the reconstruction and translation of the Gospel of Judas, at the very places in the text where Judas is supposedly placed in a positive light. The purpose of this essay is to review the announcement and initial publication of the new discovery and to assess some of the challenges that have been raised against the much-talked-about interpretation, in which Judas in the Gospel of Judas was understood as a sort of hero.

The Discovery Of The Gospel Of Judas

As best as investigators can determine, a leather-bound codex (or ancient book), whose pages consist of papyrus, was discovered in the late 1970s, perhaps in 1978, in Egypt, perhaps in a Coptic burial cave.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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