Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why the release of the photographs of Judas is essential

In the comments to an earlier post, I was asked by Mr. Eric Rowe two important questions.
  • Of the several scholars who have already completed books on the Gospel of Judas, do you know which ones did have access to the photos?
  • Why did you not wait until you had access to the photographs before publishing your book?

As far as I know, the only people who had access to the photos and the manuscripts are those on the National Geographic Team: Kasser, Meyer, and Wurst who were the original translators and who put out the book The Gospel of Judas. Karen King (the only one who has provided a different English translation in Reading Judas) writes that it is based on the transcription released by NG on its website.

We have been forced into this situation because National Geographic has chosen not to release the photos (I suspect so that they have exclusive rights to the publication on Judas). This has left all other scholars in the lurch. So we have had to work from their transcription, and trust it, and do what we can from it. The academic process is backwards now like it was with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We were first promised that the photos would be published in December 2006, then January 2007, then April 2007, now June. Obviously this could go on for quite a while. So I decided to go ahead with the publication of my book, because at least I can provide an improved English translation of the Coptic transcription. It worries me immensely that so many scholars already are publishing books based on NG's translation (which is very problematic in my judgment). These books continue to foster the textual and interpretative problems.

As soon as I can work through the manuscript photos (and the manuscript itself), I will offer a revised version. But this will take a couple of years to do well, and I want scholars worldwide to begin working on the Coptic so we can all together establish a critical text we agree on. Then I will revise the translation and republish. But we have to have the photos to begin this process of critical reflection.

2 comments: said...


My question is not to do with photos, but have you ever considered that the Gospel of Judas may have been derived from an earlier document that was not gnostic?


April DeConick said...

Dear Geoff,

A source critical analysis of this Gospel will be necessary, but until we can establish a critical text, it makes this more difficult.

My own preliminary analysis suggests that there is an older gnostic source embedded in the center of the gospel - a Sethian recounting of the creation. The gospel appears built around this. The elements in the gospel around this older source, however, look to me to be from the hand of the Sethians too. The entire text moves along with Sethian humor and criticism with no relief. But this will have to be examined more thoroughly than I have been able to do at this point.