Monday, February 18, 2008

Answering Tony's questions about the translation of the Gospel of Judas

Tony discusses a great exercise in his Gnosticism class, comparing translations of the Gospel of Judas - mine and Marvin Meyers. He ended with a few questions. Here are my responses.

Tony: 1. At 39, 24 DeConick has “And the animals that were brought for sacrifice” while Meyer has “And the cattle brought in are the offerings you have seen.” Is the Coptic “animals” or “cattle”?

My response: Crum 400b: TBNE: beast, domestic animal; used in translated texts for ox, ass, camel, sheep, goat, mule, oxen.

Tony: 2. At 52, 4-6 DeConick has “The first [is Ath]eth, the one who is called the ‘Good One,’” while Meyer has “The first is [Se]th, who is called Christ.” Again, what is the Coptic?

My response: The Coptic is an abbreviation: ChS. This abbreviation is used in Coptic literature for chrestos and for christos. Both are common. By the way, Layton even mentions this confusion over this abbreviation in the Coptic literature in his new lessons book (see section 17). So we must distinguish them from context. Since Christ is never an Archon, it is probably chrestos, "the good one". This is a well known title for Athoth, an Archon in the Sethian literature. He is to be associated with the moon, as I am finding out in my recent research on this Archon. As I have said in my book, I think that Athoth is the Archon in the partial lacunae, not Seth.

Tony: 3. At 33, 19-21 DeConick has “Often he did not appear to his disciples, but when necessary, you would find him in their midst,” while Meyer has “Many a time he does not appear as himself to his disciples, but you find him as a child among them.” Both editors note the difficulties in translating this passage. One student thought the key to the solution might be in the words translated “as himself”—if this is present in the manuscript, he asked, then “as a child” might be the superior reading. So, what is in the manuscript?

My response: The word in question is hrot. Meyer has translated this "as a child" from a Boharic Coptic word that is not quite the form that we have in the Coptic Judas (Crum, 631a-b). In fact, the spelling is not the Boharic spelling. So this Boharic translation is highly unlikely, and I wouldn't make any arguments based on it. Instead, our expression probably comes from htor, which means "necessity". So the literal translation would be "in necessity". The scribe has inverted the t and the r. As for "as himself", this personal pronoun is suffixed directly to the verb "reveal" as it should be. Coptic requires this sort of suffixing. Jesus is revealing himself. That is all it means.

4. In 40, 5-6 DeConick has “and generations of the impious will remain faithful to him,” while Meyer has “and generations of pious people will cling to him.” So, what is it: pious or impious?

Response: This is an editorial mistake that has to be corrected in my revised edition. My hand notes (which is how I work out my translations) have "pious" (which is correct according to the Coptic transcription). I have not been able to trace how the error came into the proof. I apologize for not catching this in proof, but it will be corrected in reprint.

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