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).