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April 06, 2006



Ann Rodgers of the Pgh Post-Gazette has this report:

Alan K. Henderson

So what does Dan Brown think of the Gospel of Judas?


They're really scraping around the bottom of the barrel.

Sr Lorraine

I suppose the next runaway best seller will be The Judas Code!


I'm beginning to understand why Amy complains of being so tired of the DVC. This morning in my office, I've been bombarded with questions about this Judas nonsense. People really eat it up. Fortunately today's short attention spans may work to our advantage.
Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Ray from MN

The UK's Telegraph reported this: Simon Gathercole, a New Testament expert from Aberdeen University, said: "It is certainly an ancient text, but not ancient enough to tell us anything new. It contains themes which are alien to the first-century world of Jesus and Judas, but which became popular later. An analogy would be finding a speech said to have been written by Queen Victoria, in which she talked about her CDs."


Am I correct in understanding that the Gnostic gospels, including this new find, were written about 100 years or more after those in the New Testament? If so, why would they be seen as more reliable than the accounts of those who were actually there?

I can see why archeologists and historians would be interested in the Gospel of Judas, but why anyone would consider them definitive in a theological sense just doesn't add up for me.

And the timing of the National Geographic thing seems calculated to piggyback on the DVC phenomenon, to say the least.

Sandra Miesel

The very wording of the article title in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine echoes TDVC.

According to the OXFORD DICTIONARY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, a Gnostic sect called the Cainites (denounced by Irenaeus) honored Judas along with Cain and other OT villains for opposing the evil OT god. They claimed to have a "Gospel of Judas".

Among the dealers who tried to buy this thing was Bruce Ferrini, for whom I identified medieval MSS many, many years ago.

Fr. John

Obviously, we know this text does not shed light on Jesus or Judas. It does shed light on the 2nd century gnostics, on the once honorable National Geographic Society, and on our modern culture's penchant to believe anything that is novel or muckraking.

At this morning's elementary school Mass, during the open question time I have after the homily, I took four questions. One was: "Is there really a Gospel of Judas?" The second was: "Why do some people say that Jesus was married?" This stuff infects our children, and we must do all in our power to present coherently the truth of the Gospel.

Tony A

I have never understood the appeal of Gnosticism. If people actually read these documents (instead of the distorted views of Elaine Pagels and Dan Brown), they would see clearly how nutty these tracts actually are. But a good Jesuit friend thinks that most Americans today are actually Gnostics, whether they know it or not. They believe dying entails an automatic reunion with God, that there is a fundamental divide between spirit and matter, and that good works don't really matter. Look in particular at the religions invented in the United States. It's in Mormonism. In fact, one can argue that Scientology is merely the latest in a long line of nutty Gnostic sects. Salivating over the "gospel" of Judas is akin salivating over the works of L. Ron Hubbard!


Do you ever notice that they always bring up stuff like this around Easter or Christmas? I always find that interesting.


Shhh, don't tell people that there was another apostle named Judas, and that Thomas was named the Twin because he looked like Jesus, and that there was a lot of confusion of identities because of this. This was just before the black helicopters.

Oh, oh, oh, and do not tell anyone about the diet secrets of the Gnostics.


And so, an archaelogical curiosity gets the Conspiracy Hype & Spin treatment as The Real Truth THEY Don't Want You To See (TM).

Nice buildup to the Da Vinci Code movie, isn't it?


Why all the hysteria? This is a legitimate manuscipt from the beginning of the fourth century. It will not change anything in the canonical New Testament. So there is no need to get all hyped up about it. None of the people involved in the project is tryingto dismantle anyone's faith. They are involved in scholarship.

The text is actually quite interesting representing a Gnostic Christian perspective on Judas' motive and role in the batrayal of Christ. Irenaeus knew of some version of it in 180 CE. If this Coptic text is a translation of the Greek text Irenaeus refers to, then it makes Irenaeus' account more credible. That's a plus!

Already in the canonical Gospels there is speculation about why Judas betrayed Jesus. Matthew thinks his motive was money. Luke believes he was under the power of Satan. John does not speak of a motive, but rather intimates that Jesus and Judas had already known about what Judas had to do. All this text does is provide aanother later non-canonical view: Jesus asked Judas, who traditionally was close to Jesus, to hand him over because he felt that only Judas would honor his wish. After all, the question about why Judas betrayed him has been debated for centuries in Christianity, as well as has the fate of Judas.

So there is no hoax here and this find should not be likened to the DaVinci Code or the Jesus Papers. National Geographic put up some of the money to buy the manuscript, and they have a wonderful exhibit on it in DC at their headquarters. There will also be a TV special on it. They published the book, as well, which was released yesterday and is very handsome indeed. All they are trying to do by releasing it now is to recoup some of the money they spent to finance the project. Give NG a break and be grateful that they have undertaken this project which gives us a new Gnostic text that fills in some of our understanding of what Gnostic Christians thought.

No one is being asked to adopt a Gnostic belief system in this whole matter. It is merely a scholarly project, which has had to take a non-traditional route to publication because of certain obstacles presented by the provenance of the manuscript itself. No need for dark conspiracy theories here.

I honestly don't know why bloggers as those who post here and at other sites jump to hysterical conclusions and go ballistic over things like these. Go and find out what it is all about before mouting a pre-emptive attack. What has happened to calm, reasoned discussion?


I love this blog.


Mr Anonymous. I think the problem with these things (DVC etc) are that they infect the way people think. They blend lies with partial truths so that the real truth is distorted and can't be known. They put this article on the front page of the paper and the common person thinks "it must be completely true" and starts spreading the lie. We have to fight for the truth, it's our duty as Christians.


I don't think so many bloggers here would be mounting a pre-emptive attack if the contents of this document was treated as that: just a document.I seriously doubt that the program to be aired will be a boring illumination of facts and archeological arcana; instead, it will feature NG "experts" who will call into question the validity of the Early Church.

As Amy said, NG probably knew full well this document was purloined. And instead of returning it to its rightfull owners, they are mounting a cheap publicity stunt in order to grab the headlines and make a few bucks.

Jack J.

Is scriptual expert on the National Geographic Gospel of Judas special going to be Fr. Richard McBrien?

Old Zhou

In Gustave Flaubert's "Temptation of St. Anthony," he has the following:

Anthony: Doctors, magicians, bishops, and deacons, men and phantoms, away from me! begone! Ye are all lies!

The Heresiarchs: We have martyrs more martyrs than thine, prayers that are more difficult, outbursts of love more sublime, ecstasies as prolonged as thine are.

Anthony: But ye have no revelation! no proofs!

The all at once brandish in the air their rolls of papyrus, tablets of wood, scrolls of leather, rolls of woven stuff bearing inscriptions; and elbowing and pushing each other, they all shout to Anthony:

The Cerinthians: Behold the Gospel of the Hebrews!

The Marcionites: Behold the Gospel of the Lord!

The Marcosians: The Gospel of Eve!

The Eucratites: The Gospel of Thomas!

The Cainites: The Gospel of Judas!


Flaubert published that in 1874, about 132 years ago. It was a joke back then.

So, what's new?



I do not follow your logic. Where is the blendign of lies and partial turths in this story? It is on the front page because it is one of the most important manuscript finds in the last 60 years. For years Bush and Cheney have been telling us we went to war in Iraq because Saddam had MWDs. Just because it was on the front page not everyone believed it was true. The fact that it is news does not make any more of a claim than that. Who is calling into questin the validity of the early Church? Why not take a break and do some research before pretending to be clairvoyant. Or, are you just trying to reassure yourself by demeaning the discovery?


I don't think Amy knows the story of the acquisiton of the manuscript. The woman who believed she was the rightful owner got it back. When NG is done with it it is going to be returned to its original owner, Egypt, to be put in a museum in Cairo. It is true the early history of the manuscript is obscure and there was intrigue involved in getting into the light. the same was true with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

All will be well.

Tony A


I think your own argument works against you. We live at a time when the whole notion of objective truth is widely mocked and derided. Bush and Cheney have merrily jumped on that bandwagon, and have brazenly abandoned the "reality-based community" (as recounted by an administration source to journalist Ron Suskind). Only in such an environment could they get away with their outrageous "facts". It's exactly the same for the DVC. It's incredibly obvious that Brown is talking crap. The defenders simply say its a work of fiction. But then they will also turn around with statements like "but it makes you think"! (Of course, it does not such thing, as "thinking" would immediately expose Brown for the fraud he is). This is again the result of our postmodern age, when "truth" merely depends on the viewpoint of the protagonist. George Bush, Dan Brown.... birds of a feather.

Kevin Jones

"But a good Jesuit friend thinks that most Americans today are actually Gnostics..."

Harold Bloom, who was a self-styled gnostic before it was popular to be one, made such a case in his book The American Religion. It's provoked some reactions and counter-reactions that might interest some folk here.


Regarding what anonymous wrote: I don't think the Gospel of Judas or the scholarship surrounding it is problematic for people who are scholars of the history of Gnosticism, which is a legitimate area of study within the history of Christianity, although I don't find it especially interesting. What is problematic is when media reports portray the G of J or other later heterodox texts as a challenge to orthodox faith, e.g. this quote from the NYT:

"As the findings have trickled down to churches and universities, they have produced a new generation of Christians who now regard the Bible not as the literal word of God, but as a product of historical and political forces that determined which texts should be included in the canon, and which edited out.

"For that reason, the discoveries have proved deeply troubling for many believers."

There is no reason that any believer who understands what the G of J actually is should be troubled by it. The problem isn't the text itself or the publication of it; it's the temptation to portray it as a challenge to Christian tradition in order to make the story more provocative.

Dave Wells

I for one am GLAD about all of the attention on The Da Vinci Code, the Jesus Papers, and now the Gospel of Judas. This only gives us the opportunity to share the life-giving Gospel about the REAL Jesus and the TRUE faith.

A Blessed Holy Week to all!


Oh, oh, oh, and do not tell anyone about the diet secrets of the Gnostics.

I actually read these in the original Coptic once upon a time. I recall that lentils were involved.


"ZENIT asked Legionary Father Thomas D. Williams, dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, to comment on the relevance of the discovery. "

Father Williams noted:
"The text could not have been written by eyewitnesses, the way at least two of the canonical Gospels were."

There appears to be some dispute about this. What two eyewitnesses is he referring to?

Father Williams also noted:

"Being omniscient, God knows full well what choices we will make and weaves even our bad decisions into his providential plan for the world. "

There also is some dispute about this (as previously noted on this blog). As per Father Edward Schillebeeckx, contemporary Catholic theologian and author noted:

"Christians must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history" . "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices. Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings. For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women." Church: The Human Story of God, Crossroad, p.91,1993 (softcover).

In my opinion, Schillebeeckx's statement/ conclusion is one of the most important of the last two millennia as it makes humankind responsible for the history of humankind and voids all Old Testament prophecies.


I can only assume Schillebeeckx never read Boethius... Realist, why don't you go chew on the "Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?" paradox for a few weeks and then get back to us.

Meanwhile, not to sound like an echo chamber, the Gospel of Judas is really useful for telling us about the beliefs that sect of Gnostics were attempting to project onto Jesus and other biblical figures. It is really useless for telling us about the actual person of Jesus Christ.

Donald R. McClarey

"In my opinion, Schillebeeckx's statement/ conclusion is one of the most important of the last two millennia as it makes humankind responsible for the history of humankind and voids all Old Testament prophecies."

Nah, I am sure that before time began God knew that Schillebeeckx would continually make idiotic statements like the one quoted above, just as I am sure that Schillebeeckx makes the idiotic statements through the exercise of his free will without any act by God causing the idiotic statements to emanate.


Capulet made an excellent point. The G of J will not be treated as one of hundreds of Early Christian documents that needs to be analyzed and studied. Instead, NG will probably use it to beat Christians over the head. Thier "experts" will of course call into question the validity of The Canon, Revealed Truth, and The Early Church itself. I imagine the viewers will have no more idea on the G of J than they had before, but seeds doubts about the New Testament will have been planted.

After the NG program airs, the G of J will be returned to an Egyptian museum and forgotten. The evil residue of it will remain.


Thank you Margaret. It is important to repeat in order to break through sometimes.

We need to keep a few things in mind. The Gnostic texts were a product of their day. In the second century the philosophical environment of Middle Platonism provided a rich field in which to try out new ideas. It is clear that not everyone bought those ideas then, since Gnosticism didn't really catch on in a big way. Still it is interesting to see people stuggling to get an understanding of the meaning of Jesus for them. I suspect Christians then were a bit more comfortable with that kind of speculation than are Christians today.

The good news, however, is that just as those ideas did not gain a large following then, they do not gain a large following today either. Every news report I have read has had a variety of opinions on the significance of this newly translated text. The usual suspects like Bart Ehrmann and Elaine Pagels give the Gospel of Judas more importance in the history of Christianity than it deserves. But hey there is nothing new in that. For the most part, commentators have been clear in saying that this text will not affect the way Christians read the canonical New Testament.

We live in a time of cable news with people needing to fill up 24 hours. All sorts of people can become celebrities in an instant. So also as quickly as they appear, they disappear. Baigent, Leigh, Brown...they get their 15 minutes and it is over. You can never control what people want to believe; so is the fickleness of popular culture.

Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism have been minunderstood, misrepresented, and maligned for centuries. didn't jesus say to expect that? The Church is still here and will out last all the fads. The Gamaliel principle of Act 5:38 is always the workable one for me. If something is merely of human origin it will fail, but if it is of God it cannot be overthrown. So when you figure out what is of God here and what of human origin it appears that there really isn't anything to worry about.

Thank you for allowing me my say. I have finished posting on this matter. I wish you all a blessed Holy Week in which to ponder what is of God and an even more joyous Easter, unaffected by the prospect of what misunderstandings may result from the merely human.

kathleen reilly

I imagine this kind of sensationalistic reporting can work on people's curiosity in a positive way by drawing them in for further investigation. Even very anti-religious people are extremely curious about Catholicism in particular, I find. Maybe stoking that curiosity is a net gain, or at least not always a negative thing.

Kevin Jones

I just read the AP story in my local paper. This is tabloid-quality history.

Along with a Baptist theologian, somebody from the Archdiocese of Denver was quoted for local opinions, but his words don't appear to be on-line.

Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

The Gospel of Judas!! The Gospel of Judas!!

Wake me up when everyone has made their millions from the oh-so-gullible noggins of the basically gnostic American public.




I am sure Schillebeeckx has chewed on "Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?" You might want to read his books to get his views.

Schillebeeckx's commentary by the way was made to Dutch Catholics after they started to blame God for the destruction of their North Sea Walls and the great loss of life after the destruction. Sound familiar?

His words, "Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings. For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women." Church: The Human Story of God, Crossroad, p.91,1993 (softcover) would be quite appropriate for those that blame God for Katrina don't you think?

Strange how people who are significantly stupid to live next to the sea and below sea level blame God when walls and levees fail.

Sr Lorraine

Anonymous is right in that in and of itself, this discovery is something that would interest scholars and shed some light on the Gnostics--and make the average person yawn.

The problem occurs when some media outlets try to sensationalize this and use it to disturb people's faith. The tone of the article from the NY Times was slanted that way, in my opinion. We can't be naive about that.

Sr Lorraine

The problem with Schillebeeckx's statement that God doesn't know the historical future is that it puts God within the limits of time. But God is outside of time; all is eternally present to him. His knowledge doesn't cause things, any more than our knowledge of an impending storm causes the storm.


Realist: The two eye-witnesses Fr. Williams proposes could very well be Ss. Matthew and John.

tony c

I'm w/ Sr. Lorraine re: Schillebeeckx's line. It puts God in the theologian's box.

But I can appreciate what he's attempting to say w/ the puppets metaphor.

What a glorious mystery. Christ's human nature needed indeed to be free. He couldn't be a puppet.


When I was in college I fancied myself "gnostic" because it sounded sophisticated and I was educated and worldly, you see. I look back on my 20-nothing pretenses and sigh. Just as I sigh at anyone who sees "truth" in new old manuscripts, simply because THEY find novelty in the discovery. I had several coworkers "test" my knowledge of the Gospel of Judas yesterday, as if they'd been given secret knowledge (from USAToday no less!) that believing Christians like me were too ignorant to comprehend.

I don't know how a National Geographic TV show on an ancient Coptic manuscript turned into a discussion of US Iraq policy on this thread, but that doesn't surprise me, either. Leftists are, after all, obsessed with our president, and like two marbles rolling around in a bowl one of them is ALWAYS "Bush Lied!!!"

Ancient gnostic "teaching" reminds me of the sort of new-agey fuzzy blah blah that is so popular among the blue state, suburbanite, Kerry-voters. I can even picture a few bored Roman housewives sitting in the triclinium reading the Gospel of Judas, oh so satisfied with their worldly sophistication compared to the Christian family down the street.

It wouldn't be too different from my Seattle-based sister and her housewife friends sitting around her kitchen table talking about Kabbalah because they saw Madonna on Oprah...



Raymond Brown, one of the Pope's favorite biblical scholars, notes: "Date of Matthew's Gospel, 80-90 AD, Author by tradition, St. Matthew the Apostle,

Probable Author, A Greek Speaker who know Aramaic or Hebrew and was not an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry." (An Introduction to the New Testament, hardback, Doubleday, NY, 1997, p. 172

For a discussion about the author of John's Gospel see the same book, p. 334 and p. 369. Conclusion, someone named John but not the Apostle but possibly an eyewitness but more likely a redactor of the eyewitness's writings.


"The supposition that the author was one and the same with the beloved disciple is often advanced as a means of insuring that the evangelist did witness Jesus' ministry. Two other passages are advanced as evidence of the same - 19:35 and 21:24. But both falter under close scrutiny. 19:35 does not claim that the author was the one who witnessed the scene but only that the scene is related on the sound basis of eyewitness. 21:24 is part of the appendix of the gospel and should not be assumed to have come from the same hand as that responsible for the body of the gospel. Neither of these passages, therefore, persuades many Johannine scholars that the author claims eyewitness status. "



Excellent post from the Volokh Conspiracy:

[David Kopel, April 8, 2006 at 1:29pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
The Judas Gospel: Suppose that sometime around the year 3,800 A.D., someone wrote a newspaper that began: "According to a recently-discovered document, which appears to have been written sometime before 1926, Benedict Arnold did not attempt to betray George Washington and the American cause, as is commonly believed. Rather, Benedict Arnold was acting at the request of George Washington, because Washington wanted Arnold to help him create a dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of private property."

A reader who knew her ancient history would recognize that the newly-discovered "Arnold document" was almost certainly not a historically accurate account of the relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. The reader would know that the terms "dictatorship of the proletariat" and "abolition of private property" come from a political philosophy, Marxism, which was created long after Washington and Arnold were dead. The reader would also know that the most reliable records from the 18th century provided no support for the theory that Washington or Arnold favored a dictatorship of the proletariat or the abolition of private property.

This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid. The Judas gospel is interesting in its own right, but the notion that it disproves, or casts into doubt, the traditional orthodox understanding of the betrayal of Jesus is preposterous.

In the March 2 issue of USA Today, ancient Egyptian documents expert James Robinson correctly predicted that the owners of the Judas Gospel manuscript would attempt to release it to coincide with the publicity build-up for "The DaVinci Code" movie, but explained that the "gospel" was part of a genre of pseudo-gospels from the second century onward, in which the authors simply made up the stories. In contrast, virtually all serious scholarship about the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) believes that they were written much closer to the events they describe--sometime in the first century a.d.

The influential Christian bishop Ireneus, in his treatise Against Heresies, written in 180 a.d., denounced the Gospel of Judas as the product of a gnostic sect called the Cainites. (Book 1, ch. 31, para. 1.)

The "Gospel of Judas" asserts that Jesus asked Judas to betray Jesus so that Jesus's spirit could be liberated from its earthly body. ("You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.") This statement is a classic expression of gnosticism, and for that reason is antithetical to Christianity.

Unfortunately, the amazingly mendacious DaVinci Code presents a picture of gnosticism that is wildly false — so it is helpful to set the record straight about what gnostics really believed.

The roots of the Gospel of Judas and of gnosticism go back to Marcion (approx. 100-160 a.d.). After he was excommunicated for heresy, he founded his own sect, the Marcionites. The Marcionites never grew as numerous as orthodox Christians, but for several centuries they were important rivals to the orthodox.

The Marcionites believed that the physical world was created by the angry god of the Old Testament, and that Jesus had been sent by a different god, who had nothing to do with the created world. Marcionites strove to avoid all contact with the created world. They were celibate, and ultra-ascetic. They did not even allow the use of wine at communion, insisting only on bread. Consistent with this highly ascetic view, they rejected war in any form. The Marcionites also denied the authority of the Old Testament, and most of the Gospels. Their only scriptures were portions of Luke, and ten epistles from Paul. (The idea of expunging the Old Testament from the Christian Bible was reintroduced by Adolf von Harnack, a very influential late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century liberal Protestant theologian. The Nazis enthusiastically adopted Harnack’s proposal.)

The great nineteenth-century Catholic theologian John Henry Cardinal Newman explained that gnostics such as the Marcionites believed in "the intrinsic malignity of matter." The rejection of the Old Testament was necessary because the Old Testament is replete with stories about the wonders of the created world. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God looked at his newly-created natural world, "and God saw that it was good." Then, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them....And so God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." The Song of Songs rejoices in a newly-married couple’s sensuous love. Ecclesiastes celebrates the natural cycle of life.

The New Testament agreed that the God who was the father of Jesus was the same God who had made the material world. In Acts, the Apostles prayed "Lord, thou are God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea..."

Newman also pointed out that "All the Gnostic sects seem to have condemned marriage for one or another reason." This is the opposite of the mainstream Christian view which, while recognizing that celibacy can be a special calling for some people, celebrates "holy matrimony." The Marcionites acknowledged that Jesus had been born of a woman, but claimed that the fetal Jesus never touched Mary’s body or received any nourishment from her womb.

The Marcionite and other forms of Gnostic pacifism have a reasonable internal logic. If the entire world and every human body is repulsively unclean (if one looks on the whole creation the same way that the Old Testament regarded a leprous corpse), then it makes sense never to lift a finger to defend a human being who is being attacked. Why try to preserve the evil human body from destruction? And how sinful it would seem, in the Gnostic view, to involve oneself in the material world so greatly that one would actually use a physical weapon.

The earliest Christians seem to have foreseen that something like gnosticism would attempt to substitute itself for Christianity. In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul specifically warned about the false teaching that would arise from "doctrines of devils." The evil doctrines that would arise in "latter times" would be "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."

Timothy’s instructions also drew an important parallel between the carnal eating of meat and the carnality of marriage. Both are gifts which God created for humanity.

Gnosticism’s hatred of the created world sets it in direct opposition to Jewish and Christian doctrine from the first chapter of Genesis all the way through the New Testament.

The Gospel of Judas adds no historical information to the biography of Jesus, but it does provide additional information about the gnostic heresy which thrived in the mid-second century, and which has attracted many adherents today as well.


I like this blog. Give me more info about what is going on regarding to the founding of the book of Judas.
In my opinion, we don't need to be irritated because it's kind of usual that Jesus being misunderstood by people in this world. Soon, by the time it would be proved whether the truth and the motive behind all these publicity.

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