Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cautionary Note about the Gospel of Judas

One of my readers asked me a while back if I knew when the critical edition of the Gospel of Judas was going to be published. Marvin Meyer has told me that the critical edition is in press and he believes that it will be released in June 2007.

I am assuming that the edition will contain facsimile photographs of the leaves, at least that is what I understood from the conversations that took place at Madeleine Scopello's conference on the Gospel of Judas at the Sorbonne last October.

The manner in which this critical edition has come into publication is a bit odd in my opinion, since the Coptic transcription has not yet been openly discussed by scholars worldwide. It is much better if photographs and access to the manuscript itself are made available to scholars so that suggestions for reconstructions can be made before the critical edition is generated. At least this is how the Nag Hammadi materials were published thanks to the efforts and foresight of James Robinson.

This process has been reversed for the Tchacos Codex, so I imagine that the National Geographic critical edition will probably only be the "first" edition to be released, since once it is published, scholars can examine the photographs and transcription more closely to offer other solutions for problematic areas of the text. So I continue to caution scholars now working on the Gospel of Judas to be aware that the reconstructions offered by the National Geographic team may or may not need correction once scholars world wide have the opportunity to study the manuscript and/or photographs.
I myself have been particularly concerned about several areas in the text, not the least of which is the reconstruction of 52.5-6. From day one when I began working on this gospel, I have not been happy with the reconstruction "Seth" and "Christ." Why? Because these figures never appear as archons over the hells. But before we can suggest other options (which there are) with any certainty, we have to be able to see the lacunae and the traces of ink around them. So when June comes around, I will be very anxious to finally have a look for myself.

Anyway, this is only one of about nine problems with the text/translation that I have identified so far (and cover in my forthcoming book: The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says), and I don't yet have access to the photographs or the manuscript yet. So I'm writing this post as a cautionary note. There will be much discussion of the critical edition once it is released. This can be counted on.


g. wesley said...

Prof. DeConick, much thanks for the update. In addition to photos of Gospel of Judas I'm interested in what Book of Allogenes may (or may not) add to the discussion of 'Sethianism.' I'm especially interested to read your handling of the Seth/Christ as archon problem in your new book. Do you discuss it at length and in dialogue with the other reconstructions/solutions to which you refer here? Thanks again for the post. Grant W. Adamson

April DeConick said...

Dear Grant,

Yes, I discuss an alternative that Professor John Turner shared with me. So I am entirely dependent upon his reconstruction, which I consider very very likely. But we must see the manuscript itself to be sure.

What the Book of Allogenes might have to tell us is a good question. It is very very fragmentary so I can't even get a good read on who Allogenes is. I am wondering if he is a mythological figure, not the name of a generic person. If this is the case, and he is an Aeon, the Foreigner to this world, this might mean we should reconsider the NH Allogenes text. Anyway, I'm just gabbering here, because I have yet to make a real study of the fragment and postulate real hypotheses about it. But this thought has crossed my mind more than once.

Eric Rowe said...

Thanks for your work on this Dr. DeConick.
May I ask, why did you not wait until you had access to the photographs before publishing your book?
Also, of the several scholars who have already completed books on the Gospel of Judas, do you know which ones did have access to the photos?

April DeConick said...


The only ones who had access to the photos and manuscripts were Kasser, Meyer, Wurst - the original translators.

Because National Geographic has chosen not to release the photos (I suspect so that they have exclusive rights to the publication on Judas) it has left all other scholars in the lurch. So we have had to work from their transcription, and do what we can from it. The academic process is backwards now like it was with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I decided to go ahead with the publication of my book, because at least I can provide an improved English translation. It worries me immensely that so many scholars already are publishing books based on NG's translation which is very problematic. There has quite literally been created a text that never existed. As soon as I can work through the manuscript photos and the manuscript itself, I will offer a revised version. But this will take a couple of years to do well, and I want scholars worldwide to begin working on the Coptic so we can all together establish a critical text.