Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My reactions to the Judas book Panel

The Judas book panel on Sunday evening was a highlight of this SBL conference for me. Michael Williams did an outstanding job as moderator, keeping all of us on track with five minutes each to bring out the highlights of our books and our thoughts on the Gospel of Judas' importance.

There were several surprises of the evening. The biggest surprise is that a new German critical edition of the Tchacos Codex was released at the meeting. It is written by Joanna Brankaer and Hans Gebhard-Bethge. Here is the link if you want more information about it. So the book was added to the panel ad hoc and we learned that they have taken the same interpretative slant that I have in The Thirteenth Apostle. Apparently, there are a number of European scholars who are moving to this interpretation based on their own analyses of the document.

The other surprise was James Robinson's comments in which he chastised scholars for writing popular books because profit is involved. He read the rules he made scholars agree to when they signed on to work on the Nag Hammadi documents in the sixties and seventies. One stipulation was that they could not profit financially from their work and they could not talk to the media at all about their work. Although I understand that he is upset about how much National Geographic has exploited this ancient gospel, at the same time I had to wonder how many popular books he has written over the years? I bring this up because it is a no-win situation. If scholars keep on publishing only within the guild, the knowledge that the public wants to know will not be distributed to them. If scholars work to rewrite their scholarship for the general audience, the only way that it is going to get to the public is through publishers and distributors that work for profit.

Michael Williams provided a summary at the end that I thought was terrific. He said that he sees real movement in the scholarship on Judas, and that out of the discussions at this SBL, both public and private, we are really moving forward with scholarship on Judas. The chance we had in San Diego to gather together as a community of international scholars and talk face to face about this text was just what we needed to move beyond individual positions. I hope that the upcoming Codex Judas Congress will provide a similar venue to continue these discussions (and others).


Jim Deardorff said...

Regarding the hope that "out of the discussions at this SBL, both public and private, we are really moving forward with scholarship on Judas", I'd like to remind open-minded (but courageous) scholars that there is a translation of a document called the Talmud Jmmanuel (TJ), ostensibly written by Judas Iscariot, waiting for more formal analysis than what the present independent scholar can give it. One of several reasons why its original Aramaic did not survive more than 11 years after its discovery in 1963 in Jerusalem is that Jesus' name had originally been Immanuel, altered into Joshua by Paul. Perhaps this explains the dearth of writings outside of Paul's in the first century.

Since a co-discoverer of the TJ is still alive in Switzerland to vouch for the reality of it all, it would be good if an NT scholar looked impartially into the matter before he passes away.

For those just interested in the Judas side of the matter, the TJ explains alot.

April, I'm of course disappointed if you feel you must remove this comment.

Judy Redman said...

Robinson's comment is interesting. I remember thinking not all that long ago that he must be looking at what has been happening with Codex Tchacos and thinking that it was Nag Hammadi all over again, so it probably isn't surprising that he reacted strongly.

I think, however, that there is a big difference between writing a scholarly book for the non-specialist that brings in a small amount in royalties and writing a sensationalist book for the general public that drags in huge amounts and fosters misinformation. The book that he, Stephen Patterson and Hans-Gehard Bethge wrote on Thomas - The Fifth Gospel - the Gospel of Thomas comes of age would be in the former category, while the Da Vinci Code would be strongly in the latter, I think.

I suspect that his "don't talk to the media" stricture was intended to be about the stage of study where the critical edition was still being determined etc rather than "never, ever talk to the media"?

Eric Sowell said...

I tried that link to the German edition and I'm getting a blogger login. Is that really the correct link?

Judy Redman said...

Try here for the publisher's website