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An Introduction and Orientation to the "Gospel" of Judas

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In the 1970s four ancient papyri codices were found in El Minya, Egypt containing ancient texts written in Greek and Coptic. One codex of 55 + leaves contained a 4th C. Greek translation of Exodus,1 another was a 12 leaf work entitled “Mathematical Treatise” written in a cursive Greek script from the 4th or 5th C., and a third, with the title “Letters of Paul” included Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, Hebrews (!), and Galatians. These “Letters of Paul” were written in a Sahidic dialect of Coptic and date, once again, to the 4th or 5th C. The last of the four codices found which, after many vicissitudes, came to be known as the Tchacos codex, contains in 66 pages a compellation of four Sahidic Coptic texts dating to the 4th or 5th C. The first two, the “First Apocalypse of James” and the “Epistle of Peter to Philip,” were previously known from the cache of manuscripts in the Nag Hammadi find2 and represent the only known witnesses to these two Nag Hammadi texts. The fourth text is a fragmentary and hitherto unknown book which has been conditionally dubbed “The Book of Allogenes.”3

As valuable as the aforementioned finds may be, nothing can compare to the interest generated by the third text in the Tschacos codex, the so-called Gospel of Judas (Iscariot).4 This dialogue piece which portrays the interaction between Jesus, his disciples and principally Judas just prior to his betrayal, is written in Sahidic Coptic in a hand which dates it to the 4th C. The reason why this text has received so much attention is that it is said to portray Judas Iscariot in a manner far removed from his typical billing as the hardened, and even Satanic (Lk. 22.3; Jn. 13.2) betrayer of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.5 In fact, early publications and commentary on the Gospel of Judas (hereafter, GJud) contend that this document paints Judas as the most spiritually acute of all the disciples and though he does ultimately betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities, he does so only at the persistent requests of Jesus himself. In this way, the Judas encountered in GJud is a hero, a man whose spiritual acumen empowers him to do the ugly, yet necessary task of driving forward redemptive history by his willingness to betray the Son of Man and send Him to the cross.6

As interesting and striking as the contents of GJud are, the unprecedented notoriety and media attention this manuscript has received is truly remarkable. In April of last year, National Geographic ran a full spread in its magazine7 focusing on every aspect of GJud from its recovery, purchase, restoration, and interpretation, and on April 9, 2006, ran a 2 hour television special on the same. In addition, National Geographic also published two books with GJud as their focus8 in the same month, while HarperSanFransico released another GJud book by noted Nag Hammadi expert James M. Robinson.9 Since then, GJud has spawned the publication of a score of other books, some scholarly and some popular.10

Seldom, if ever, has a manuscript find been afforded the celebrity ascribed to GJud. A newly unearthed ancient manuscript is no doubt a remarkable discovery, yet the reverberations of the such discoveries are felt mainly in the academies and their contents appreciated most by the scholars who study them. However, in an age when questioning the beginnings of Christianity has become so much en vogue through the leading of the meteoric success and popularity of Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code and Bart Erhman’s Misquoting Jesus, finds like GJud take on an added, and considerably disproportional, significance. Consider the following excerpts from various media outlets:

“Judas: This is What Really Happened”

The Guardian (in the UK), 4/7/06

Julian Borger and Stephen Bates

“[The Gospel of Judas] gives new insights into the relationship of Jesus

and the disciple who betrayed him…”

“'Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years”

The New York Times, 4/6/06

John Noble Wilford and Laurie Goodstein

“These discoveries [i.e., the Gnostic gospels] are exploding the myth of monolithic religion…”

Elaine Pagels, Princeton University

Quoted in, “'Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years”

The New York Times, 4/6/06

John Noble Wilford and Laurie Goodstein

“As the findings have trickled down to churches and universities, they have produced a new generation of Christians who now regard the Bible not as the literal word of God, but as a product of historical and political forces that determined which texts should be included in the canon, and which edited out.”

“'Gospel of Judas' Surfaces After 1,700 Years”

The New York Times, 4/6/2006

John Noble Wilford and Laurie Goodstein

“Last week’s bombshell release of the Gospel of Judas had many Christians wondering whether the familiar story of Good Friday needed some updating.”

“No Revelations in Gospel of Judas”

In The Boston Globe, 4/11/06

James Martin

“[The discovery of GJud] rocks the world of scholars and laypeople alike.”

Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina

“Christianity Turned on Its Head: The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas,” in Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos (Washington, D. C.: National Geographic, 2006), 77.

“Here is a book that turns the theology of traditional Christianity on its head and reverses everything we ever thought about the nature of true Christianity."

Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina

“Christianity Turned on Its Head: The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas,” in Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos (Washington, D. C.: National Geographic, 2006), 119.

''It is probably the most important archeological find of the last 60 years,"

Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina

“A new Judas emerges from rediscovered gospel”

The Boston Globe, 4/7/2006

Article by Charles A. Radin

While GJud is a truly remarkable find, does it warrant the attention it has received, especially that which seems to suggest that as a result of its discovery the beginning stages of Christianity ought to be reconsidered? Does the scholarly interpretation of GJud’s portrayal of the events surrounding Jesus’ betrayal, which appears to be in dissonance with those presented in the canonical Gospels, now cast doubt upon the reliability of the latter?

What is to follow then is a brief introduction to GJud in terms of the history of its discovery and the religious beliefs from which it was birthed. The primary aim of this paper is to orient the reader to up-to-date publications regarding GJud and to add some perspective as to what GJud is and what its discovery means for readers of the traditional canonical Gospels. A detailed analysis of the quality of the reconstruction and translation offered by National Geographic or the various interpretations based upon them is beyond the scope of this paper. Being so close to the release of the initial publication of GJud, quality academic debate is just now beginning as more and more scholars gain access to the contents of the codex. The upcoming months and years are sure to be filled with conference and journal papers as well as book length publications which will provide a means to truly appreciate what we have and do not have in this ancient text.


In order to get to know GJud better, it may be helpful to unfurl some of its complicated history. When reading the popular accounts of GJud it might be easy to miss the fact while Codex Tchacos is a new discovery, the text of GJud has been known about for quote some time, for although GJud has just recently been published, it is first mentioned in print over 1800 years ago. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, an early church father writing in AD 180 in his work Against Heresies has this to say about it:

Others again 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 (emphasis mine). 11

Now that GJud has been brought fully into the light, it gives scholars an opportunity to examine it first hand. However, if one were left only with the media accounts of GJud it might be easy to come to the conclusion that it has caught the world by surprise, yet this is hardly the case. Scholars have not only known about GJud’s existence from early quotes such as the one by Irenaeus above, but have also been in conversation about in conferences and papers for many years due to the fact that GJud has taken a long and circuitous route from its discovery in the ‘70s to its publication by National Geographic in 2006 – a course spanning 28 years.12

Various accounts13 agree that the manuscript itself was discovered in 1978 in a tomb dug into the Jebel Qarara of the Nile River. After some perplexity on the part of local peasants as to what it was, the codex was sold by the locals to an antiquities dealer known only as ‘Hanna,’14 an exclusively Arabic speaker who knew of the codex’s value only intuitively. In preparing to show the manuscript to some potential buyers, Hanna laid out the codex along with a number of other antiquities only to have it stolen from his apartment at night.15 When some of Hanna’s stolen goods were showing up on the European antiquities market, he enlisted the help of a Greek dealer who was able to regain Hanna possession of the codex in 1982. However, prior to its absconding and subsequent recovery, Hanna had the codex accessed by unaccredited “experts.” As a result of their assessment, Hanna began looking for potential buyers, primarily well endowed academic institutions whom he felt possessed the means to meet his exorbitant asking price of $3 million. Hanna was successful in contacting Ludwig Koenen, a faculty member with the University of Michigan department of Classics, who in turn contacted leading Coptologist and Nag Hammadi expert James M. Robinson, now Professor Emeritus at Claremont University. While the other sections of the codex interested various scholars across the country, Prof. Robinson was particularly interested in the Coptic portions and in 1983 sent Stephen Emmel as his emissary to inspect the manuscript in Geneve and provide up to $50,000 for its purchase.16 While Hanna did not allow Emmel nor the other representatives to take photographs or notes, he was able to briefly handle the manuscript and so gave its contents a cursory perusal. It was only upon a trip to the restroom did Emmel seize upon a chance to jot down everything he could remember about the codex.17 So while the negotiations broke down and GJud was sent to its resting place in a bank vault to pine away,18 its existence was confirmed and rumors were spread, and this despite the fact that Emmel initially misidentified the “Judas” as Judas Thomas. After unsuccessful attempts to sell the codex to manuscript broker Hans P. Kraus and Colombia professor of Classics and History Roger Bagnall, he lowered his price and on April 3, 2000 appropriated a sale to Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos (hence the name “Codex Tchacos”), an antiquities dealer and Egyptologist. While the exact selling price is unknown, National Geographic quotes Nussberger-Tchacos as paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000.19 In the months to follow, Nussberger-Tchacos allowed the codex to be examined by experts at Yale and attempted to sell it to the Beinecke Library, a move which was declined due to the obscure circumstances of its discovery and acquisition. Nussberger-Tchacos’ then made the decision to sell the codex to a manuscript dealer from Ohio named Bruce Ferrini, but he was unable to provide the agreed upon payments, so in turn returned the manuscript, although there is some doubt as to whether he turned over all of its contents. During this process, Nussberger-Tchacos retained a Swiss lawyer, one Mario Roberty, to help in the manuscript’s sale who also sat on a foundation for ancient art named the Maecenas Foundation. It was this foundation which offered to buy the manuscript from Nussberger-Tchacos, a proposition she accepted. Now under the ownership of the Swiss Foundation, National Geographic has paid the Maecenas Foundation a reported $1 million for the commercial rights and has further agreed to pay half of the profits back to the Foundation,20 which will in turn donate the restored Codex Tchacos to the Coptic Museum of Cairo in Egypt.

So, the important thing to realize is that this manuscript has been known about for decades and was even written and spoken about in journal articles and biblical conferences long before its release by National Geographic.


Before any direct discussion of the GJud can take place, it is first necessary to say a word or two about “Gnosticism,” the early religious sect out of which GJud comes. This is because it is important to first understand the religious complexities that produced GJud in order to understand the contents of the manuscript itself. Much of the attention given to material which challenges the historical foundations of the Christian faith, especially as it they are found in the canonical Gospels, are typically an outgrowth of the material found in Gnostic literature such as the Gospels of Philip, Mary, and Thomas. As a result, it is important to become familiar with this ancient religion which often borrows Christian themes, subjects, and characters for use in its own contexts.

A subject such as Gnosticism – what it is and which texts are its genuine exports – is hotly debated and the subject of a number of highly detailed scholarly works. What hopes to be accomplished here is the relation of a number of generalized statements for the general orientation of the reader. For more detailed studies, one should consult the ‘Bibliography’ for works which tackle the subject of Gnosticism in a more comprehensive manner.

For most of its existence the land of Israel has been perpetually caught in the middle of a political tug of war between powerful empires while at the same time being the only point of passage between Asia, Africa, and Europe for merchants and traders. Those entities which ushered in the vast political and economic influences of 1st century Israel also brought with them a tidal wave of new religious and philosophical thought that made the Israel of Jesus a truly unique place indeed. So when Christianity came onto the scene in later half of the 1st century, it did so against a backdrop of a myriad conflicting and interpenetrating philosophies and religious ideologies which had taken root from centuries of political and economic flux. Even Judaism, which is commonly thought of as rigorously monolithic and therefore not tolerant of outside influences, was multi-faceted, and found expression in different ways through different communities – the Pharisees and Sadducees of the New Testament are two well known expressions of 1st Century Judaism (another is the type of Judaism practiced by the Essences of Qumran who are responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls). Although it is almost impossible to isolate every ingredient of the varied potpourri of religious thought and expression in 1st Century Israel, religious scholars have identified three primary influences which have left their mark more than any other. They are Judaism, Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy, and the ancient Persian (Iranian) religion, Zoroastrian. From Judaism came a strong sense of monotheism (the belief in one God) and a belief in a grand all-knowing God. From Hellenistic philosophy and especially from the philosophy of Plato came the idea of dualism, whereby the world is expressed via a series of opposites, type and anti-type, where things spiritual were lauded as good and the corporeal as evil (this was a big influence in the Corinthian church which Paul rails against in his letters his Corinthian epistle, and he takes special efforts to address Gnosticism in the book of Colossians). In Platonic philosophy there were rigid distinctions made between spirit and matter, soul and body, and ultimately, God and the world. Zoroastrianism held a huge fascination with the idea of eschatological (end time) judgment, the resurrection of the dead, a complex hierarchy of angels and demons, and again, a rigid dualism.

Since the conquest of King Darius of Persia in 333 BC by Alexander the Great and the unified hegemony of the Near East that followed, the inhabitants of the “Holy Land” struggled to make sense and combine all of these Eastern and Western influences. Although its roots certainly began to coalesce before the turn of the millennia, at the very end of the 1st Century but strongly in the 2nd Century there arose a unifying system of belief out of the stew of religious beliefs called “Gnosticism,” from the Greek word for “knowledge,” gnōsis, pronounced “nō-sis.” From the word gnōsis we get English terms like “agnostic,” which means, “cannot know,” a term we use for people who say that it is impossible to know whether there is or is not a God. The Gnostics take elements of the creation account in Genesis and hold to a belief in an all-powerful, omniscient, and omnipotent God. However, according to the Gnostics, this god was not responsible for creation, but rather the physical world was made by the hands of a foolish god (they called it/him a demiurge or the appellation saklas (Gr. “fool”) without the permission of the “highest” and unknowable god. In order to counteract the work of the demiurge god, the highest god embarked on a number of clandestine correct moves. In an effort to help humanity realize the evil inherent in creation, the highest god instilled in mankind a divine, “soul,” “spark,” or “spirit” that is able to help them move out of the physical world which they tabbed the “Kingdom of Darkness,” and move up to the realm of the highest god, which they called the “Kingdom of Light.” The goal of Gnosticism is the dissolution of the physical world so that the divine “sparks” within humanity might return to their origin, the “Kingdom of Light.” Those who are “saved” within Gnostic thought are those who become cognizant of and subsequently cultivate the divine “spark” within them in such a way that they have gnosis (“to know”), that is to say, they have the special “knowledge.” Those who are the “chosen ones” in Gnosticism then are those who are able free themselves from worldly thinking and living, not through a disavowal of sin and guilt, but by a loosing of the divine “spirit” within them from the bonds of the physical world which hold it captive. The need to free one’s inner “spark” is only necessary in the first of two epochs of history which the Gnostics call “aeons.” This is because during the first “aeon” the demiurge and his devils reign, but during the second “aeon” all “spirits” will be free and inhabit the “Kingdom of Light,” their age of salvation. During this first “aeon” where the knowledge of one’s inner divine “spark” is oppressed, it has been up to various divine messengers to reveal the secret knowledge of one’s divine inner essence to humanity. These secret messengers are thought to be the biblical “godly seed” promised in Ge 3.15 (Adam, Seth, Cain, Shem, Enosh, Noah, Obed, Jesse, David, etc.), and culminating with Jesus, the quintessential “son of Light,” i.e., that person who possesses the most profound knowledge of his inner divinity. As a result, much of Gnostic literature focuses on various early messengers like Adam, Seth, and Abel.

As we now turn to the actual text of the Gospel of Judas we will look at certain aspects of the manuscript which reveal that it is full of Gnostic ideas and key themes.

Selected Texts from the Gospel of Judas21

Line 34. The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated Passover.

This is from the introduction to GJud and it is noteworthy that the content of the manuscript is referred to as a “secret revelation.” This is completely consistent with Gnosticism in as much as the knowledge of the divine “spark” is often referred to as a “secret” in Gnostic literature that needs to be made known and spread to those who remain unenlightened.

Line 35. But their spirits did not dare to stand before [him], except for Judas Iscariot. He was able to stand before him, but he could not look him in the eyes, and he turned his face away.
Judas [said] to him, “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are
from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one
who has sent you.”

There are two tell-tale elements in this quote that easily identify GJud as a Gnostic rather than Christian text. Firstly, as the disciples are gathered around Jesus, it is their “spirits” who could not stand before him. In Gnosticism, this is a very important and oft encountered feature, whereby individuals are referred to by their “spirit.” Secondly, this quote references the “realm of Barbelo.” Barbelo is the Greek word meaning “fore-thought” and is a Gnostic technical term for the female dimension that influenced creation and is thought to have been the first emendation from god. Interestingly enough, in Kabbalah “Barbelo” is the personification of wisdom, which is often portrayed as a female. Gnostic literature is chock full of references to “Barbelo” and that GJud includes a reference to it squarely locates the manuscript as a text of Gnosticism.

Lines 44 – 46. Judas said, “Master, as you have listened to all of them, now also listen to me. For I have seen a great vision.”
When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him, “You thirteenth spirit, why do you
try so hard? But speak up, and I shall bear with you.”
Judas said to him, “In the vision I saw myself as the twelve disciples were stoning me
and [45] persecuting [me severely]. And I also came to the place where […] after you. I
saw [a house …], and my eyes could not [comprehend] its size. Great people were
surrounding it, and that house <had> a roof of greenery, and in the middle of the house
was [a crowd—two lines missing—], saying, ‘Master, take me in along with these

Line 46. [Jesus] answered and said, “Judas, your star has led you astray.” He continued, “No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen, for that place is
reserved for the holy. Neither the sun nor the moon will rule there, nor the day, but the
holy will abide there always, in the eternal realm with the holy angels. Look, I have
explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom [46] and I have taught you about the error
of the stars; and […] send it […] on the twelve aeons.”

Again this quote, with it allusions to the dichotomy between the mortal and spiritual as well as Judas’ “star” speak squarely to Gnostic conceptions. In this quote “aeons” are even quoted, a term central to Gnostic theology.

Line 56. Judas said to Jesus, “Look, what will those who have been baptized in your name do?” Jesus said, “Truly I say [to you], this baptism [56] […] my name [—about nine lines missing—] to me. Truly [I] say to you, Judas, [those who] offer sacrifices to Saklas […] God [—three lines missing—] everything that is evil. “But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.

There is perhaps no better key that reveals the Gospel of Judas as a Gnostic text than this reference here to “Saklas.” “Saklas” is the Greek word for “fool” and is what the Gnostics call the demiurge God who created the evil physical world.

Line 57. “Truly […] your last […] become [—about two and a half lines missing—], grieve [—about two lines missing—] the ruler, since he will be destroyed. And then the image of the great generation of Adam will be exalted, for prior to heaven, earth, and the angels, that generation, which is from the eternal realms, exists. Look, you have been told
everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars
surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.” Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud, and he entered it. Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud, saying,

This quote shows how the Gnostics lauded the chosen seed from Adam as those who are possessors of the secret knowledge (“gnosis”) of the inner divine spark deposited by the one true God into humanity. Again, this quote drips with Gnostic thought and concepts.


While the Gospel of Judas tells us a lot about what was happening religiously in the 2nd Century AD, especially in regard to Gnosticism, it does not tell us anything about what happened approximately 100 years previously during Jesus’ earthly ministry. That so many Gnostic motifs and technical terms extant in GJud do not appear and were not developed until well into the 2nd Century AD, it cannot be said to represent anything authentic about the very beginnings of Christianity. Even prior to its publication by National Geographic, James M. Robinson who, although not allowed to comment on the contents of GJud said, “But I can perhaps report on what it does not include: Anything sensational about Jesus and Judas that goes back to 30 CE.”22

Perhaps it was Dr. Simon Gathercole, Senior Lecturer of New Testament at University of Aberdeen, who said it best as we were discussing GJud via e-mail correspondence:

"Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, the Gospel of Judas is not nearly old enough to tell us anything new about the real Jesus and the real Judas. It comes from - at the earliest - the second century, and so dates to a period when all Jesus' and Judas' contemporaries would have long died out."

In the end, the Gospel of Judas and the Codex Tchacos in which it is contained is a truly remarkable find, made more so after one considers the tribulations it endured in reaching the public. However, one must be cautious so as to not let one’s enthusiasm or public interest generated over a discovery to cloud the true significance and historical legacy of that find. In the case of the Gospel of Judas, the student and layperson alike must be judicious in discriminating between facts and the hyperbolic language of the media and some scholars.

Select Bibliography

General Introduction

The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 Vols. David Noel Freedman, ed. Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins, assoc. eds., Astrid B. Beck, manag. ed. New York, London: Doubleday, 1992.

Early Christian Writings

St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis. 2 Vols. Frank Williams, trans. Nag Hammadi, Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 35, 36. Leiden: Brill, 1987, 1994.

Roberts A. & J. Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers―Justin―Irenaeus. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989.

Works on the Gospel of Judas

Archer, J. and F. Maloney. The Gospel According to Judas. London: Macmillian, forthcoming March 2007.

Cockburn, Andrew. “The Judas Gospel.” National Geographic 209.9 (April 2006): 78-95.

> Also available on-line at: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/gospel/feature.html.

Ehrman, Bart D. The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Kasser, R., M. Meyer and G. Wurst, eds. The Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos. Washington D. C.: National Geographic, 2006.

> Contains an English translation of GJud which is also available, along with the Coptic transcription, at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/document.html?fs=www9.nationalgeographic.com.

Krosney, H. The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2006.

Meier, Barry and John Noble Wilford with Elisabetta Povoledo. “Emergence of the Gospel of Judas Offers a Tangled Tale of Its Own.” The New York Times. April 13, 2006.

Pagels, E. and K. King. Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. New York: Viking, forthcoming March 2007.

Painchaud, Louis. “À Propos de la (Re)Découverte de L’Évangile de Judas.” Paper delivered at Christian Apocryphal Texts for the New Millennium: Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges. Université d’Ottawa. Sept. 30, 2006.

> Abstract available on-line at: http://paleojudaica.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_paleojudaica_archive.html#115972417984290035.

Porter, S. and G. L. Heath. The Lost Gospel of Judas: Separating Fact from Fiction. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

Robinson, James M. “From The Nag Hammadi Codices to The Gospels of Mary and Judas.” Watani International. Michael Saad, ed. July 10, 2005.

> Available on-line at: http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/manuscripts/gospel_of_judas/robinson_from_NH_GMaryJudas_SBL.htm#_ftn1

____________. The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Judas and his Lost Gospel. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006.

____________. The Secrets of Judas Unabridged. New York: HaperCollins, 2006.

Wright, N. T. Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth About Christianity? Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006.

Gnosticism and Gnostic Texts

Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Logan, A. H. B. Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy: A Study in the History of Gnosticism. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

_____________. The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult. London, New York: T&T Clark, 2006.

Logan, A. H. B. and A. J. M. Wedderburn, eds. The New Testament and Gnosis: Essays in honour of Robert McL. Wilson. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983.

Pagels, E. The Gnostic Gospels. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980.

Robinson, James M., et. al., eds. The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Intro. Vols. 1-12. Leiden: Brill, 1972-84.

The Nag Hammadi Library in English: Translated and Introduced by Members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity with An Afterword by Richard Smith. 3rd ed. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

Yamauchi, Edwin M. Pre-Christian Gnosticism: A Survey of the Proposed Evidences. London: Tyndale Press, 1973.

Links to On-Line Resources

Dr. Rodney J. Decker’s (Assoc. Prof. of New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary) Gospel of Judas page.


The National Geographic Gospel of Judas web site.


Roger Pearse’s The Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot)



DeSilva, David and Marcus Adams, "Seven Papyrus Fragments of a Greek Manuscript of Exodus." Vetus Testamentum 56.2 (2006): 143-70.

1 See David DeSilva and Marcus Adams, "Seven Papyrus Fragments of a Greek Manuscript of Exodus," Vetus Testamentum 56.2 (2006): 143-70.

2 These two texts are found in codex V and VIII, respectively in James M. Robinson, et. al. eds., The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices, Intro., v1-12 (Leiden: Brill, 1972-84). For the Nag Hammadi texts with English translation see: The Nag Hammadi Library in English: Translated and Introduced by Members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity...with An Afterword by Richard Smith, 3rd edition (Leiden: Brill, 1998).

3 “Allogenes” means literally, “the stranger,” or “the foreigner,” and in Gnostic texts is often designated as Seth, who the Gnostics held in high esteem as an archetypal human able to free himself from worldly deception through the realization of an “inner spark.” Hence, Allogenes is a “stranger” to the deception and enticements of the physical world. In the Nag Hammadi corpora, there also exists an epistolary work entitled Allogenes (Nag Hammadi Codex XI, 3) which details the revelations and heavenly visions Allogenes imparted to his son Messos. For more information on the Allogenes-Seth concept in Gnosticism see K. L. King, “Allogenes,” in D. N. Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1992); F. Wisse, “The Second Treatise of the Great Seth,” Ibid., vol. 5; J. E. Goehring, “Three Steles of Seth,” Ibid., vol. 5; K. Rudolph, “Gnosticism,” Ibid., vol. 2; E. Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979), 138-41; A. H. B. Logan, The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult (New York: T & T Clark, 2006).

4 Although the title Gospel of Judas has become the standard appellation for this text, it is somewhat of a misnomer to call any Gnostic corpus a “gospel” for it lacks the requisite elements typically thought to comprise the canonical Gospels. A. H. B. Logan, a noted Gnostic expert says, “As regards the Gnostic title of ‘Gospel’, if one can unite the very disparate Gnostic works entitled ‘Gospel’ under a single genre, as I indicated, it bears no relation to the New Testament Gospels” (A. H. B. Logan, The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult [New York: T & T Clark, 2006], 69).

5 For the New Testament references to Judas either as the brother of Jesus or Judas Iscariot see Matt. 10.4; 13.55; 26.14, 25, 47, 49; 27.3; Mk. 3.19; 6.3; 14.10, 43, 45; Lk. 6.16; 22.3, 47f; Jn. 6.71; 12.4; 13.2, 26, 29; 14.22; 18.2f, 5; Acts 1.13, 16, 25; 5.37; 9.11; 15.22, 27, 32.

6 It should be mentioned at this point that the view that GJud portrays Judas as an unsung hero is coming under heavy scrutiny as is the accuracy of translation published by National Geographic (viz., that of R. Kasser, M. Meyer and G. Wurst, eds., The Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos [Washington DC: National Geographic, 2006]) on which it is based. Most notably on this front is the paper by Louis Painchaud, “À Propos de la (Re)Découverte de L’Évangile de Judas,” delivered at the Université d’Ottawa, on Sept. 30, 2006 as part of the conference “Christian Apocryphal Texts for the New Millennium: Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges.” At the time of writing only the abstract has been made available via the PaleoJudaica blog ( http://www.paleojudaica.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_paleojudaica_archive.html#115972417984290035) of Dr. James Davila, which asserts that the Judas of GJud is in fact cast as evil as in the canonical Gospels, and that the previous scholarship which shows him as a spiritual hero has been guilty of reading what has been previously known about GJud via Ireneaus and Epiphanius into the text. See also the comments of some scholars in a more recent CBS News Canada piece entitle, “Judas No Hero, Scholars Say” (Dec. 4,, 2006) available at: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/04/judas-scholars.html.

7 To view the outstanding web-site which chronicles and discusses virtually every aspect of GJud see: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/gospelofjudas/index.html.

8 Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, eds., The Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006); Hebert Krosney, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006).

9 James M. Robinson, The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Judas and his Lost Gospel (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006).

10 At the time of writing these new works were all just published or about to be published, and so while they are listed as a help to the reader, they have not all been consulted. They are here to serve as a reference and are split into two sections, those, from their publishers’ descriptions appear from scholarly in nature, and those intended for a popular audience. For an academic standpoint see B. Ehrman, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); S. Gathercole has a book currently in press with Oxford University Press set to be released this Spring, although the title and publication specifics are not yet available; E. Pagels and K. King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (New York: Viking, forthcoming March 2007); S. Porter and G. L. Heath, The Lost Gospel of Judas: Separating Fact from Fiction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); J. M. Robinson, The Secrets of Judas Unabridged (New York: HaperCollins, 2006); N. T. Wright, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth About Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006); and on the popular side we have a fictional account written by Judas’ son “Benjamin Iscariot” from J. Archer and F. Maloney, The Gospel According to Judas (London: Macmillian, forthcoming March 2007).

11 A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1: The Apostolic Fathers―Justin―Irenaeus (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), 1.31.1. Another early allusion is from Epiphanius in his The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, §§37.3,4-5; 6.1-2; 38.1.5 (Epiphanius of Salamis, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, 2 vols., Frank Williams, trans., Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 36 [Leiden: Brill, 1993]), who Cainite brand of Gnosticism which deifies Judas.

12 For one of the earliest mentions of GJud prior to the release by National Geographic see James M. Robinson & Stephen Emmel, The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices: Introduction (Leiden: Brill, 1984), 21.

13 For a thorough account of the details surrounding the acquisition of GJud see, H. Krosney, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot (Washington DC: National Geographic, 2006) which is the most complete recounting of GJud’s history (the story told in Krosney’s book is condensed and basically retold by Rodophle Kasser in R. Kasser, M. Meyer and G. Wurst, eds., The Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos (Washington DC: National Geographic, 2006). For an interesting first hand account of GJud’s complicated coming out, see James M. Robinson, “From The Nag Hammadi Codices to The Gospels of Mary and Judas,” originally printed for the Egyptian newspaper Watani International July 10, 2005, p. 2 (ed. Michael Saad) and is available on-line at: http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/manuscripts/gospel_of_judas/robinson_from_NH_GMaryJudas_SBL.htm#_ftn1. A subsequent revision of the paper was presented at the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism Section of the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Philadelphia on November 20, 2005 under the heading “How Nag Hammadi Changed the World of Early Christianity.”

14 James M. Robinson’s article purports his full name to be “Hannah Airian” (“From The Nag Hammadi Codices to The Gospels of Mary and Judas,” originally printed for the Egyptian newspaper Watani International July 10, 2005; and on-line, see n.13 for URL).

15 A somewhat different version of the story is also available from James M. Robinson, “From The Nag Hammadi Codices to The Gospels of Mary and Judas” in Watani International and on-line (see n.13).

16 To read Stephen Emmel’s report on his initial encounter with Hanna and the Codex containing GJud see James M. Robinson, The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Judas and his Lost Gospel (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), 117-20.

17 For a another version of the Emmel’s meeting with Hanna and quotations of the former see, Andrew Cockburn, The Gospel of Judas: Lost for nearly 1,700 years, a crumbling papyrus manuscript presents the most hated man in history in a new light, (April 2006): 78-95. This source is also available at the National Geographic website: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/gospel/feature.html.

18 Rodolphe Kasser (The Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos, 59) indicates that Hanna retained a safe deposit box at a Citibank in Hicksville, New York and it was in here that GJud was stored until its purchase by Frieda Nussberger on April 3, 2000.

19 Andrew Cockburn, The Gospel of Judas: Lost for nearly 1,700 years, a crumbling papyrus manuscript presents the most hated man in history in a new light, April 14, 2006. For the on-line resource, see n.17.

20 Barry Meier and John Noble Wilford with Elisabetta Povoledo, “Emergence of the Gospel of Judas Offers a Tangled Tale of Its Own,” The New York Times, April 13, 2006.

21 These quotations are taken directly from English translation of R. Kasser, M. Meyer, and G. Wurst in collaboration with F. Gaudard as found in The Gospel of Judas from Codex Tchacos (Washington, D. C.: National Geographic, 2006), and in PDF format at the National Geographic web site: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/document.html?fs=www9.nationalgeographic.com. At times, the examples highlighted are the same as those selected by R. Decker in his GJud introductory handout GJud that can be found at: http://faculty.bbc.edu/RDecker/documents/GJudas.pdfhttp://faculty.bbc.edu/RDecker/documents/GJudas.pdfhttp://faculty.bbc.edu/RDecker/documents/GJudas.pdf, pg. 3.

22 James M. Robinson, “From The Nag Hammadi Codices to The Gospels of Mary and Judas,” in Watani International, Michael Saad, ed., July 10, 2005. On-line at: http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/manuscripts/gospel_of_judas/robinson_from_NH_GMaryJudas_SBL.htm#The%20Gospel%20of%20Judas%20as%20Heresy.

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), History