From Paris Murray (Manila, Philippines): For any interested, here's the full meal deal on the Gospel of Judas thus far. Very fascinating -- there's a lot to learn hear about the discovery and preservation of texts, which you'll see is very similar to what Douglas has shared elsewhere. The discovery of any ancient text is always cool, particularly this one which sheds light on 2nd century Gnostic heretical teachings.

For our AIM enrollees who wrote essays concerning the false teachings addressed by John in 1 John, you're well aware Gnostic-type teachings are nothing new--compelling heretics (and less compelling wackos) have been committing their thoughts to writing long before and long since the Gospel of Judas (check out 2 Thessalonians 2:2--wonder who's looking for that "gospel"). No need to be swayed by National Geographic's supposition that the Gospel of Judas tells us something new about what "really happened" between Jesus and Judas--as if the mere fact of a writng being ancient means it must also be true. Such an assumption is on par with "if it's on TV it must be true".

Might this be problematic in our ministries, where disciples are already asking about our position on the "Gospel" of Judas? Since I suspect our churches have as many or more noble TV-watchers as noble Bereans, probably. Be encouraged that the upcoming release of The Da Vinci Code will likely minimize its potential for distraction.

GOSPEL OF JUDAS from National

The National Geographic Society has been part of an international effort, in collaboration with the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, to authenticate, conserve, and translate a 66-page codex, which contains a text called James (also known as First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes, and the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas.

The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus' request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities.

An ancient Coptic manuscript dating from the third or fourth century, containing the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas, has been restored and authenticated after being lost for nearly 1,700 years.

In order to be certain of its age and authenticity, the National Geographic Society put the codex through the closest scrutiny possible without doing it harm. This included submitting minute samples of the papyrus to a rigorous radiocarbon-dating process, analyzing the ink, submitting the manuscript to multispectral imaging, and consulting with leading scholars well-versed in the fields of paleography and codicology.

The National Geographic Society collaborated with the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery. Rodolphe Kasser, of Switzerland, one of the world's preeminent Coptic scholars, was recruited to restore the text, transcribe it, and translate the manuscript, which contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but also a text called James, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes.

During the first centuries A.D. in a constantly shifting political environment, church leaders shaped the New Testament around four chosen gospels. But divergent beliefs jostled for prominence in Christian thought. In recent decades long lost chronicles have been found, originally hidden during those turbulent times. Such manuscripts describe a world of ideas originally lost to us for nearly 1700 years.

The Gospel of Judas predates the A.D. 180 publication of St. Irenaeus' Against Heresies. The Bishop of Lyon's influential volume sought to unify the Christian church by savaging alternative views and interpretations, referred to as "fictitious histor(ies)."

Irenaeus' targets included the Gospel of Judas and anyone who, because of this text, looked favorably on Jesus' betrayer. The Gospel is one of redemption for Christianity's greatest villain. It relates that Judas was the chosen disciple and a tragic hero selected by Jesus to betray him.

In this Gospel Judas is the only disciple to recognize Jesus' true nature as a divine being. The text describes how, as Jesus' final days unfold, he requests that Judas betray him, warning him, "You will become the accursed one."

The betrayal enabled Jesus to transcend what Gnostics viewed as the flawed physical world and return to his rightful place in the spiritual realm. In this interpretation the Crucifixion, enabled by the betrayal, is necessary not so much for the forgiveness of human sins, but to free Christ's divine self from its mortal cloak.

The Gospel of Judas was inscribed on papyrus, most likely at a Gnostic monastery in Egypt . Its existence has long been known, primarily because of surviving anti-heretical works that denounce its tenets. But no copy was discovered until the late 1970s and none has been available to scholars or the public until now. The one surviving copy was likely hidden in a tomb in Middle Egypt, perhaps during St. Athanasius's fourth-century campaign to destroy "heretical" texts.

Diverse writings and beliefs competed for prominence during the early centuries of the Christian church. In these formative times several notable figures helped to chart the course of Christian belief by championing scriptures that they believed truly represented the life and teachings of Jesus. They relentlessly attacked others whom they believed to be heretical.

One such theologian was St. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon for much of the second century, who lived from approximately A.D. 130 to 200. He was a prominent force in developing the early Christian canon, particularly the four New Testament Gospels. Irenaeus' own writings establish that as a young child in Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey) he saw and heard Polycarp, the martyred saint some consider a living link between Jesus' Apostles and the early fathers of the orthodox Christian church. Polycarp may have studied under the Apostle John. If so, only one generation would separate Irenaeus from the Apostles themselves.

Irenaeus' Adversus haereses (Against Heresies), also known as The Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So-Called , was a scathing attack on the mystical Gnosticism that influenced and threatened to absorb the church in his day. The text was originally written in Greek around A.D. 180, but is now known only from a later Latin translation.

Irenaeus strived to obliterate Gnostic ideas and the writings that espoused them. He and other ecclesiastical leaders were so successful that before the discovery of a surviving Gnostic library at Nag ' Hammadi , Egypt , in 1945, Irenaeus' detailed refutations of the Gnostic movement were among the only modern sources explaining its beliefs.

The bishop stressed a single "Rule of Faith" for all Christian churches, consistency between Old Testament and New Testament texts, and the sanctity of scriptures which were not open to interpretation.

He supported the apostolic succession of bishops'the belief that all bishops can trace their authority through a succession of bishops stretching back to Jesus' Apostles'as a proper way to refute Gnostics' claims that their faith is truer to Jesus' actual teachings. Among Irenaeus' targets were the Gospel of Judas and anyone who looked favorably on Jesus' betrayer.

"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," Irenaeus wrote in the Doctrines of the Cainites. "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."

Origen, who lived from about A.D. 185 to 254, was a slightly later ecclesiastical scholar who produced a version of the Old Testament, called the Hexapla. The book showed six versions of the texts side by side in columns, which combined several different Greek and Hebrew Old Testament texts.

His Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) was a resounding answer to the thinker Celsus' indictment of the Christian faith entitled On the True Doctrine . One complete copy of Against Celsus survives, at the Vatican .

Celsus argued that Christianity was incompatible with long-standing traditions of Greek philosophy. Origen's comprehensive repudiation of Celsus' ideas stands as an important source for pagan ideas about Christianity'since Celsus' original texts do not survive.

St. Epiphanius was bishop of Salamis (Constantia) in Cyprus . A former ascetic monk and a zealous persecutor of heresies, he was an energetic theologian who traveled widely, and argued fiercely, in his quest to defend the orthodox canon. Though he was widely respected, he was also known to sometimes overstep his bounds in his enthusiastic pursuit of heresies.

The writings of the venerable Origen were among his favorite targets. Although Origen refuted the Greek philosophical ideals of Celsus, Epiphanius considered Origen himself more of a Greek philosopher than a Christian. He believed Origen to be the primary source of many heresies, including Arianism.

Epiphanius' most comprehensive writing was the Panarion, which details and counters some 80 "heretical" beliefs. To this day it remains an invaluable source for scholars of the era's religious and philosophical thought'though Epiphanius might not be pleased by his important role in the survival of these non-canonical texts.

The surviving Gospel of Judas was probably copied sometime between A.D. 220 and 340, decades after the original was written. Radiocarbon dating of four samples of the papyrus pages and one sample of the leather binding places the codex in this time period. The Gospel was one of three texts bound together in a codex, or ancient book.

Leading scholars who have examined the fragile document conclude that both the theological concepts outlined in the text and its linguistic structure are very similar to those found in other non-canonical documents of the period from the Nag 'Hammadi library in Egypt .

The handwriting is another important clue to the codex's antiquity. Experts in Coptic script say that the document is the work of a professional scribe of this period. The codex features distinctive hallmarks unlikely to have been duplicated at any other time.

The manuscript's ink has been dated as well. An imaging technique called transmission electron microscopy confirms that the ink contains carbon black and metal-gallic components bound with gum'a formula consistent with third- and fourth-century A.D. inks.

The Gospel of Judas was lost for nearly 1,700 years before its discovery in the 1970s. But the controversial text revealed itself only briefly before disappearing once again'this time into the secretive world of global antiquities dealing. It is not known who first uncovered the codex, but it is believed to have been hidden in a tomb on the east bank of the Nile River near the Egyptian village of El Minya . In May 1983 scholar Ludwig Koenen of the University of Michigan received an intriguing phone call that led him to Switzerland , where he and a small group of scholars viewed some ancient Coptic documents for sale by an Egyptian owner. Joining him was a Yale doctoral student in Coptic studies, Stephen Emmel.

In Geneva , Emmel and his colleagues were shown shoeboxes of papyruses wrapped in newspaper. A brief examination suggested that the documents were ancient, unknown, and terribly important.

But the mysterious sellers demanded three million U.S. dollars for the documents'a sum vastly exceeding anything the University of Michigan scholars or Emmel could offer.

With the deal unconsummated, the documents vanished for 17 years.

Their owner during this period, an Egyptian antiquities dealer, attempted unsuccessfully to sell the codex in New York to one of America 's leading rare book and manuscripts dealers. An additional examination of the documents was made by classicist Professor Roger Bagnall of Columbia University . A sale did not materialize. The owner placed the codex a safe deposit box in Hicksville, Long Island . The trail that had led the documents from their ancient hiding place to New York is full of twists and turns, under constant threat of deterioration of the manuscript.

In 2000 the dealer finally sold the documents to an Egyptian-born Greek dealer named Frieda.

Nussberger-Tchacos, who turned the documents over to experts at Yale University 's Beinecke Library, whom she viewed as possible buyers. At Yale, papyrus expert Robert Babcock and Coptic scholar Bentley Layton discovered the truth'Nussburger-Tchacos possessed the Gospel of Judas.

But "ownership" of such a document is a difficult concept. Its murky history presents problems of provenance'had it been removed from Egypt illegally? Yale passed on purchasing the Gospel because of such concerns. In 2001 Nussburger-Tchacos determined to sell the codex to the Swiss-based Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art. The foundation had clearly stated its goal to restore, preserve, and publish the long-hidden text and then return the original to its country of origin.

To this end the foundation entered into partnership with the National Geographic Society, which now brings the Gospel of Judas to the world after nearly 1,700 years of seclusion.

The restored original will be delivered to Cairo's Coptic Museum .

That the Gospel of Judas was found after 1,600 years was an incredible stroke of luck. Yet the real miracle may be that it survived the few decades following its discovery. The fragile codex spent some 20 years in a cardboard box and was shopped to potential buyers in Egypt , Europe, and the United States .

In 2001, Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos and Maecenas foundation director Mario Roberty engaged a Swiss scholar, the veteran Coptologist Rodolphe Kasser to undertake and supervise translation and restoration. By the time it reached Rodolphe Kasser, the manuscript was in a truly deteriorated condition. The eminent scholar had never seen a period manuscript in worse condition.

The papyruses had scattered into nearly a thousand fragments. They crumbled at the slightest touch.

For five years Kasser's team, including conservator Florence Darbre and Coptic scholar Gregor Wurst pieced the Gospel back together so that the entire codex could be photographed. Using tweezers, they preserved each piece between sheets of glass. They then painstakingly used their own knowledge and computer technology to reassemble the scattered fragments into a coherent whole.

Once the codex's alarming deterioration was arrested, a team of scholars'Kasser, Wurst, Marvin Meyer, and François Gaudard'produced an English translation that has brought this long-lost Coptic (Egyptian Christian) text to modern audiences nearly intact.

Although perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the original document was lost, the remainder is a revelation'more than sufficient to tell the tale of Judas and Jesus as we've never heard it before.



What is a codex, and why is this document called the Codex Tchacos?
A codex is an ancient book consisting of folded pages, bound at one side. Codices were the preferred form for scriptural or classical texts, as they could contain a lot more information than scrolls and were easier to manage. Codex Tchacos is named after Dimaratos Tchacos, father of Zürich-based antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos, who bought the document in September 2000.

What does the Codex Tchacos contain?
The codex contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but also a text titled James (otherwise known as the First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes.

Where was the Codex Tchacos discovered?
The codex, containing the Gospel of Judas, was discovered in the 1970s near El Minya , Egypt , and moved from Egypt to Europe to the United States . Once in the United States , it was kept in a safe-deposit box for 16 years on Long Island , New York , until antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos bought it in April 2000. After two unsuccessful resale attempts, Nussberger-Tchacos'alarmed by the codex's rapidly deteriorating state'transferred it to the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Basel, Switzerland, in February 2001, for restoration and translation. The manuscript will be delivered to Egypt and housed in Cairo 's Coptic Museum .

How did the codex containing the Gospel of Judas survive for so many centuries?
Because the Gospel of Judas was hidden in the Egyptian desert for more than 1,600 years, the papyrus remained intact. However, the document severely deteriorated when it was kept in a safe-deposit box on Long Island , New York , for 16 years. As a result, the conservation process to rescue and preserve the manuscript has been an enormous undertaking, as Rodolphe Kasser and his team worked to piece the document back together by reassembling nearly a thousand broken fragments of papyrus.

What is the history of the codex containing the Gospel of Judas?
The National Geographic Society has worked with a team of international experts to analyze a collection of ancient papyrus documents, which include the Gospel of Judas, first discovered more than 30 years ago in Egypt . The rare religious texts in the codex are written in the ancient Egyptian Coptic language and are about 1,700 years old. National Geographic collaborated with the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art, and scientific experts, historians, and theologians from around the world to authenticate, reconstruct, conserve, and translate these extraordinary documents, and explore their significance.

Was the Gospel of Judas known to scholars?
Scholars knew of the existence of the Gospel of Judas because of references in other ancient texts. The oldest known reference to a Gospel of Judas is by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, in A.D. 180. However, this codex containing the Gospel of Judas was not discovered until the 1970s in Egypt , and it wasn't until 2001 that a team led by Professor Rodolphe Kasser of Switzerland , a world-renowned Coptic scholar, began to translate and conserve the ancient text.

Who wrote the Gospel of Judas?
The author of the Gospel of Judas remains anonymous. The original Greek text of the gospel, of which this is a Coptic translation, is thought to have been written by a group of early gnostic Christians sometime between when the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were penned and A.D. 180.

Why were these early texts developed? What was their purpose?
Different groups of Christians in the second century appealed to different writings to authenticate their distinctive beliefs and practices. Numerous gospels appeared, often written in the names of the Apostles; these pseudonymous writings were revered as scripture by one group or another, although eventually most of them came to be labeled as "heretical" and proscribed by orthodox Christianity in later times.

What does the publication of this text mean for Christian teachings?
This is a dramatic archaeological discovery of cultural interest, which offers an alternate portrayal from the first or second century of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, and enhances our knowledge of history and preservation of theological viewpoints from that period. National Geographic realizes that the information provided by this document is complex and deserves a great deal of further study and assessment, a process that will take time. To find out what leading scholars believe the significance of the document to be, visit National Geographic's official Gospel of Judas Web site at How did National Geographic get involved in the project?

The document changed hands a number of times following its discovery. The Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Switzerland approached National Geographic to play a key role in the authentication and conservation of the codex. National Geographic gathered numerous experts to bring the project to completion. After conservation is complete and the codex has been exhibited to the public, the codex will be given to Egypt , where it will be housed in Cairo 's Coptic Museum .

Why has National Geographic decided to get involved in a project of this type?
The codex that contains the Gospel of Judas is the most significant discovery of ancient, non-biblical Christian or Jewish texts of the last 60 years. Because of National Geographic's commitment to discovery and conservation of artifacts that support the study of ancient culture and enhance historical knowledge, the Society felt compelled to take part in the rescue of this ancient document.

Why did it take so long to publish?
Because the manuscript had deteriorated so badly during the past 30 years, restoring, conserving, and translating its text has been an enormous undertaking. Compared with the length of time it took to conserve, translate and publish the Nag 'Hammadi manuscripts (about 25 years) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (about 50 years), the publication process of the Gospel of Judas, which has taken just five years, has been quite an expedited one.

What was the translation process and who was involved?
The Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art recruited Professor Rodolphe Kasser of Switzerland , one of the world's leading Coptic scholars, to lead an international team of scholars, translators, scientists, archaeologists, and historians to translate the document.

How was the artifact, known as the Gospel of Judas, restored?
This was a daunting process, because the document's condition had deteriorated significantly over the last two decades. Kasser enlisted the help of papyrus conservator Florence Darbre of Switzerland and Coptic scholar Gregor Wurst of the University of Augsburg, Germany, to piece together the 26-page Gospel of Judas. With the help of computer programs that record text, register gaps and try to match gaps to text, and with careful, visual inspection of suggested matches to confirm papyrus fiber continuity, Darbre, Wurst, and Kasser have been able to reassemble more than 80 percent of the text in five painstaking years.

How did National Geographic authenticate the document?
The codex has been authenticated as a genuine work of ancient Christian apocryphal literature on five fronts: radiocarbon dating, ink analysis, multispectral imaging, contextual evidence, and paleographic evidence. Full details of the authentication process are available here .

How much money was spent on the restoration of this document?
National Geographic engages in many different types of projects and makes it a practice not to disclose the amount of money spent on each. Furthermore, both the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery also played significant roles in the restoration and conservation of this extraordinary artifact.

Are the documents available for review online?
The Coptic text is available in its entirety online so that scholars around the world can have immediate access to it. The National Geographic Society has published the complete translation in a book with extensive footnotes. THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS (ISBN 1-4262-0042-0, April 2006, U.S.$22) is available in bookstores now.


Ascetic     A simple lifestyle of self-denial and self-discipline, often with religious or spiritual aims. Ascetics often refuse worldly comforts, food, sex, and money.

Canonical   Conforming to recognized rules or church dogma.

Codex   An ancient book consisting of folded pages, bound at one side. Codices were the preferred form for scriptural or classical texts, as they could contain a lot more information than scrolls and were easier to manage.

Coptic   An ancient Egyptian language employing Greek letters. It was used to write many ancient manuscripts including the Gospel of Judas and the Nag 'Hammadi codices. Coptic endures as the Coptic Church's liturgical language.

Gnosticism   From the Greek gnosis (knowledge). A diversity of pre-Christian and early-Christian beliefs. A central tenet is the corruption of the physical world, and the ability of some to transcend it through acquisition of esoteric spiritual knowledge.

Gospel   A doctrine or truth, often religious. The four New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) describe the life and teachings of Jesus.

Heresy   An opinion or belief that is against orthodox church teachings. Heretics are members of the church or faith with which they disagree and thus distinct from non-believers.

Lacuna(e)   Gaps or holes in a manuscript, typically caused through wear, rot, or insects.

Martyr   A person who willingly accepts death rather than renounce his or her religious faith.

Monasticism   A total dedication to spiritual pursuits, usually sought through isolation and/or ascetic lifestyle which can include vows of poverty, silence, and celibacy.

New Testament  The second part of the Christian Bible, written soon after Jesus' death. It includes the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), Epistles, the book of Acts and the book of Revelation.

Non-canonical   Outside the realm of church dogma or recognized rules.

Old Testament   Hebrew scriptures, written before the birth of Jesus, which comprise the first part of the Christian Bible.

Orthodox   Conforming to conventional church doctrine, as determined by some authoritative body.

Paleography   The study and deciphering of ancient writings.

Papyrus   An ancient Egyptian writing surface made from the plant of the same name.

Sethian Gnosticism   Belief reflected in some gnostic documents that Seth, the son of Adam, was the forebearer of enlightened humanity.

The Coptic transcription made available in this online edition is a preliminary edition of the Coptic text of the Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos. The transcription is dated to February 2006, and it has served as the basis for the English translation published in the book:

The Gospel of Judas . Edited by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst with Additional Commentary by Bart D. Ehrman. Washington , D.C. : National Geographic Society, 2006.

The on-going work of reconstruction and the emergence of new fragments of Codex Tchacos, with readings previously available to the editors only in photographs, will lead to minor textual changes in the critical edition of Codex Tchacos, which is scheduled to be published by the National Geographic Society in the fall of 2006.


The National Geographic Society assembled a nine-person Codex Advisory Panel to review and comment on the codex and advise the Society as to its importance and value to scholarship. The members, leading international scholars and religious authorities, provided their assessments of the codex, including the social and cultural context in which it is written and of the works it contains, its importance to modern scholarship, its potential impact on modern Christianity and its value to contemporary Jewish-Christian relations. The panelists are experts in Coptic studies, gnostic studies, early Christian church history and religious studies. They also include theologians representing a variety of religions and views, from orthodox to progressive.

Bart Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . He is known for his many publications on aspects of early Christianity.

Stephen Emmel is professor of Coptic studies, University of University of Münster , Germany . In 1983, he was the first known scholar to view the Gospel of Judas, when he was sent by Southern Methodist University to Geneva , Switzerland , to examine the codex for authenticity and possible purchase.

Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville , Nova Scotia . He is the author or editor of more than 50 books on the New Testament and its Jewish backgrounds.

François Gaudard , Egyptologist and research associate for the Demotic Dictionary and the Epigraphic Survey at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, is a scholar specializing in the various stages of evolution of the ancient Egyptian language, in particular Coptic and Demotic. He assisted Coptic expert Rodolphe Kasser in the translation of the codex.

Amy-Jill Levine is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion and Director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality. She is widely published on Christian origins and Formative Judaism.

Marvin Meyer is Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies and director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Chapman University , Orange , California . He is one of the foremost scholars on Gnosticism, the Nag 'Hammadi library, and texts about Jesus outside the New Testament. He is one of the translators of the codex.

Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University . Author of numerous articles and books, she is one of the world's most widely known authorities on the Gnostic gospels.

Rev. Donald Senior, C.P. , is president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago , where he is also professor of New Testament studies. He is a past president of the Catholic Biblical Association of America and was appointed in 2003 by Pope John Paul ll to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Gregor Wurst is a professor of ecclesiastical history and patristics at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of University of Augsburg, Germany. He is widely published in the field of Coptic and Manichaean Studies. Collaborating with Rodolphe Kasser, he is one of the two editors of the original Coptic of the Gospel of Judas and one of the translators of the text.