Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says is available at Amazon US

Finally the US Amazon has caught up with the Canadian and European. So for the price of four lattes or cappucinos, you can pre-order the book at Amazon (US) and get it just in time for Christmas presents! The link to Amazon (Canada) is here, and Amazon (UK) is here.

At this time, the web page at Amazon doesn't contain a summary, but I am told that the book will become searchable in the not so distant future. Until then, I provide here and on my own web page an annotated version of the table of contents. The book is not 160 pp. The last set of proofs I saw ended around 200 pp.

Part 1 An Unfamiliar Story

Chapter 1 The Silenced Voice
Provides overview of the diversity of second century Christianity. Includes discussions of the Apostolic Church, the Marcionite Church, the Ebionite Church, the Church of New Prophecy, and the Gnostics.
Chapter 2 A Gnostic Catechism
Everything you ever wanted to know about the origins and ideologies of Sethian Gnosis. Discusses the question, "What is Gnosticism?" as well as fundamental aspects of Gnostic thought: the world created by Plato, bible stories about Yahweh's Angel, oppositional gods in Gnostic theology, God's original sin and fall, the Gnostic created order, and Gnostic liberation.
Part 2 Translation Matters

Chapter 3 A Mistaken Gospel
Covers the problems I have identified in the National Geographic English translation, problems which have resulted in an interpretation of the Gospel of Judas which just cannot be maintained. Judas is not the perfect enlightened Gnostic; he never ascends to the holy generation; Jesus does not want Judas to betray him; Judas does not perform a righteous act by betraying or sacrificing Jesus; Judas' dream does not mean that he will enter the divine realm one day; the number 13 is not his lucky number.
Chapter 4 The Gospel of Judas in English Translation
Provides my own English translation of the Gospel of Judas, set out page-by-page and line-by-line according to the manuscript.
Part 3 Good Old Judas?

Chapter 5 Judas the Confessor
Argues for a subversive interpretation of Judas' confession. This chapter covers the critical attitude of this text toward the twelve apostles and how Judas fits into this scheme.
Chapter 6 Judas the Demon
Examines Judas' relationship to demons within the Sethian traditions, and discusses his tragic fate and the reason for the revelation of the Sethian mysteries.
Chapter 7 Judas the Sacrificer
This chapter contextualizes the sacrifice of Jesus within Gnostic traditions about Jesus' passion and Gnostic criticisms of atonement theology.
Chapter 8 An Ancient Gnostic Parody
Summarizes the narrative in the Gospel of Judas and considers what this Gospel might mean for us today.
Discussion of the contemporary need for a "good" Judas in light of our reappraisal of Jewish and Christian relationships in the wake of WWII. Looks at portrayals of Judas in popular film pre- and post-WWII.

Further Reading
Recommends books on the Gospel of Judas, second-century Christianity, the New Testament Apocrypha, Gnosis and the Gnostics.
A Synopsis of Sethian Gnostic Literature
Describes every piece of Sethian Gnostic literature extant, laid out chronologically by approximate date of composition. Includes references to where each text is located in manuscript, including multiple versions.
Testimony from the Church Fathers on the Gospel of Judas
Includes quotes from each Church Father who mentions the Gospel of Judas, plus my own commentary on these quotations.
An Interview with April DeConick
A brief interview covering the main points of the book and its implications.


gdelassu said...

Excellent. I am eagerly awaiting this book and will head over to the Amazon site to order my own forthwith.

Leon said...

I read the interview on your Web site. I think you are right that one of the reasons that many people want to rehabilitate Judas is that he was misused for centuries as an archetype of the evil Jew. Of course, I will have to await your book, but it has to be said that there are also very good reasons for revisiting the case of Judas.

The fact is that some of us — okay, a very few of us — such as William Klassen, Hans Josef-Klauck, and myself came to the conclusion years ago, based on the canonical Gospels alone, that Judas has been unjustly labeled a traitor for 2,000 years. What tradition and most scholars have done for centuries is read Judas as traitor into the texts. But making Judas a traitor is not the same thing as proving Judas was a traitor. It only proves scholars have the power to brand someone.

Just look at the charge that the devil made Judas do it, in Luke and John. It is not accompanied by any evidence. Demonizing Judas is actually a confession that his act was a mystery to them and it was a mystery because they lacked concrete evidence (a point in Judas' favor, one would think). One might suspect that demonizing someone without any evidence is a clue he was probably innocent. Anyway, there are more powerful reasons for demonstrating that the Gospels, especially Mark, present an ambiguous Judas, not a definite negative character. And that leads to a logical question which can be answered: Why did they present an ambiguous Judas rather than one who was unequivocally bad?

Leon Zitzer

Geoff Hudson said...

It is pretty obvious that for the 'authors' of the NT and Josephus, Judas spelt danger. Whether subliminally or deliberately, the Gospel of Judas refers to him as a prophet. A prophet Judas spelt danger for the priests. And what did the priests do to the prophets?

April DeConick said...


My interest in not in the historical Judas - what his act actually was or wasn't. The texts that we have tell us how the early Christians interpreted his actions. I am skeptical how much historical information we can glean about Judas from any of our texts. In the case of Luke and John, this interpretation involved demon possession or Satan.

This interpretation of Judas' story then is reused in the second century for further theological justifications. The fact that the early Christians understood him to be possessed by a demon or be a demon himself meant that the atonement theories that had developed were a liability for the Apostolic Christians. How could atonement be effective if it was brought about by the actions of a demon? This is the question that the Gospel of Judas proposes and addresses. Later Christians respond to these criticisms and begin developing Devil-ransom theories.

gdelassu said...

[T]he charge that the devil made Judas do it... is not accompanied by any evidence.

To expand a bit on Dr DeConick's point about the difficulty of treating on the historical Judas, I am not sure what the above claim is supposed to prove. For one thing, what would constitute "evidence" of this demon-possession claim, anyway? More to the point, however, it seems to me that the authors of Luke and John are no more obliged to present "evidence" for the claim that Judas was demon-possessed than Dickens is obliged to present "evidence" that Marley was dead. The bald assertion of the author really serves as all the evidence needed that a character in a work of fiction is as the author says.

Geoff Hudson said...


How does Judas as a demon fit in with him being 'regarded by all as a prophet'? Interestingly this is similar to the sort of description applied to John the Baptist, in my view the other half of the bifurcated Judas in the NT. Also 'John' was described as having a demon, almost certainly not by the 'people', but by the priests.


Leon said...

April and gdelassu,

I understand, April, that your main interest is in how the early Christians interpreted and developed the story of Judas. I respect that. But I have to say that it is possible to recover the original historical act and to do so through scientific reasoning — by which I mean, you lay out what the evidence is, being very precise and not reading anything into the evidence, and you ask whether there is one simple theory which can explain this pattern of evidence. Nobody has ever attempted to do this with respect to all the matters surrounding the death of Jesus. The fear of recovering the real history of his death is just extraordinary.

My point is that I believe, as you do, that voices from the past must not be silenced. They must all be given a chance to speak. That very much includes historical voices speaking in the texts. It can be demonstrated that these voices are definitely there and speaking loud and clear. There is a will to remember and be remembered in a number of places in the Gospels. The scholarly will to erase this has been stronger and that is a great shame. Sometimes I want to beg people to listen. Sometimes I just want to expose and attack a corrupt scholarly system that has suppressed such an inquiry. This very successful suppression is not proof it cannot be done.

gdelassu — When I spoke of evidence connected to the demonization of Judas in Luke and John, I did not mean evidence that he was possessed by the devil. The demonizing is a way of saying that Judas did something very bad and he himself was bad. So I meant evidence as to what bad thing he did and what was bad about him. There is none — no motive for Judas, no conflict with Jesus, no recriminations from other disciples at the time of the "dirty deed", and not even the use of the Greek word for betray (with one slight exception at Luke 6:16; but in the last supper scene, all the Gospels use a neutral word for Judas' act). All these things are missing from the story (this is most especially true in Mark). Why? Why would anybody tell a story like this? What is the simplest explanation for this?

In short, whenever anybody in history is demonized, we ought to be a little suspicious that he or she was really guilty of whatever they are accused of. And when the charge of "the devil made him or her do it" is unaccompanied by any evidence as to what was bad about this person, we ought to be doubly suspicious. That scholars keep repeating that the Gospels tell a story of betrayal when every single piece of evidence for it is missing is simply an atrocity. And I can back that up with an abundance of evidence.

Leon Zitzer

Geoff Hudson said...

The atrocity, Leon, was that the priests executed one of the prophets. The apparent crucifixion in Mark was a legal stoning which involved the first witness pushing the condemned person from a high place, followed, if necessary, by the second witness dropping the 'first stone' on the chest of the victim to stop the heart. If you recall, at his execution, the prophet called out to God in a loud voice (Mk.15:34). The editors made out (in interpolated text) that those standing near thought he was calling for Elijah. (15:35). In 15:36, the man who 'ran' (I suggest) was one of the first witness who threw the prophet down from the high place for a stoning. Then he said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if GOD (not Elijah) comes to take him UP (not down)" (meaning let's see if he dies). It is obvious how the text was changed by the editors. 'Take him up' reflected the Jewish idea of God taking the spirit of a person away from the body at death - a body without its spirit was no longer animated. Hence there is no resurrection story in Mark.