Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tom Bartlett responds to National Geographic's Press Release

Tom Bartlett e-mailed me with his response to National Geographic's "sloppy bewildering" press release. He asked me to distribute his response. So here it is:
Tom Bartlett:
The press release that National Geographic issued in response to my article
"The Betrayal of Judas" is filled with errors and nonsense. Below are a few
of the more egregious inaccuracies:

-- "Contrary to the article's assertion, the translation took years (not
months) to complete."

Here's what the article actually says:

"It all happened in record time. In the cases of other newly discovered
ancient texts, the process of translation and interpretation has dragged on
for years. But it was only about eight months from the time Marvin Meyer was
brought on that the gospel was announced to the public."

Meyer confirmed this timeline to me in an e-mail. Meyer was the primary
English translator and it was his translation that other scholars, like Bart
Ehrman, used as the basis for their own critical essays. This part of the
project did not take years; it took months.

-- "This was an enormously complex project, but hardly a 'secret' in
biblical circles."

My article does not say that the existence of the Gospel of Judas was a
secret in biblical circles. I make it clear that other scholars knew of its
existence for decades. The article does say that other scholars complained
about the "secrecy" of the project, i.e., that the material wasn't shared
with scholars outside of the National Geographic team. There is a

-- "Virtually all issues your article raises about translation choices are
addressed in extensive footnotes in both the popular and critical editions
of the gospel. Unfortunately, Thomas Bartlett chose to ignore that fact ..."

I did not ignore that fact. I mention both the second edition and the
critical edition of the Judas book and note that some errors have since been
corrected and that alternate readings are now included. I even quote from
those footnotes. (For the record, the best-selling first edition of the book
and the television documentary watched by millions do not include these

-- "What Bartlett doesn't tell the reader is that DeConick's criticisms,
which appeared in an op-ed piece in the New York Times in December 2007,
were timed to coincide with the release of her own book about the Gospel of

Wrong. Her book came out two months before the NY Times op-ed. Regardless,
I mention both her book and the op-ed in my article and I include the
publication dates for both.

I understand that National Geographic must be reeling from criticism of its
Judas project by biblical scholars. But your sloppy, bewildering response to
my article doesn't help your case.

1 comment:

g. wesley said...

To echo one of the points from this and Prof. DeConick's response-
The NGS press release fails to distinguish between transcription and translation.

Accordingly "the translation took years (not months) to complete."

And what's at stake are "issues...about translation choices."

The press release does mention "conservation." But this gives no hint of lacunae and faint letters being restored or the emendation.

Limiting the debate to translation makes it seem more simple than it really is:

"As is the case in any translation, there can be differences of interpretation, word selection and nuance, and the Gospel of Judas is no exception."

It would be understandable for a newspaper article to fail to make the distinction between transcription and translation, but not for NGS.

Grant Adamson