Sunday 5 June 2011

Judas Gospel a hoax?

Among all the discussion that emerged following the publication of the Gospel of Judas in 2006, including translation controversies spearheaded by April DeConick, lies the contention that the document itself is a modern fake. Richard Arthur is chief advocate for this position, though his argument probably isn't helped by his choosing to publish in the Journal of Unification Studies (Arthur teaches at the Unification seminary, but is apparently a mainline scholar, doing graduate studies at Gordon-Conwell, Harvard, Claremont and Berkeley, where he wrote his doctoral thesis, "The Gospel of Thomas and the Coptic New Testament.")  His 2008 article is online, and he summarises his objection to Judas' authenticity by stating:
"My main reason for branding it a hoax it that it contains an outstanding grammatical error at 48.18, TOU-, instead of correct TREU-, and that this exact error is found in an almost identical passage in the Codex II version of the Apocryphon of John, at 24.34, where AJ reads TOU- instead of correct TREU-. This fact to me indicates that a writer was familiar with one defective version of AJ (the Codex II version) - there are two other copies without this error - and this Codex II version, first published in 1963 is quite familiar to all modern students of Coptic and is the root of the error now found in the Judas Gospel."
Post '63?  I'm not in any position to comment on the strengths or otherwise of Arthur's objections, but it'd probably be true to say that he's flying in the face of the sacred consensus as Judas has been widely accepted as authentic (in the sense of at least being an ancient document), appearing in English versions by a veritable "who's who" including Marvin Meyer (Nag Hammadi Scriptures), Willis Barnstone (Restored New Testament), Karen King, DeConick and the original National Geographic translation team (which included Meyer, and is freely available online.)

So, if Arthur is correct, does this mean Judas should sit alongside the Secret Gospel of Mark on the shelf labelled 'suspected hoax'?


  1. I'm not sure about "Secret Mark" but the translated version you've linked to, does seem to follow along the same line of thought as the Gospel of Mark.

    Chiefly, that no one understands Christ's Gospel when He preaches it; Nicodemus, for instance, and many other instances throughout the Gospel of Mark, where either the disciples or the authorities, misinterpret Christ's Gospel.

    "They [said, “We have seen] a great [house with a large] altar [in it, and] twelve men—they are the priests, we would say—and a name; and a crowd of people is waiting at that altar, [until] the priests [... and receive] the offerings. [But] we kept waiting.” [Jesus said], “What are [the priests] like?”

    They [said, “Some ...] two weeks; [some] sacrifice their own children, others their wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name], [39] and in all the deeds of their deficiency, the sacrifices are brought to completion [...].”

    After they said this, they were quiet, for they were troubled."

    Yeah, I can definitely see why professing Christians want to discredit this document as inauthentic....

  2. The Book of Judas is just as legitimate as Dianetics.

  3. The name of the game is what it has always been, it's called "changing the story".

    Mark invents a story from scripture and Matthew sees some more stuff from scripture that can be added to the story, then Luke sees even more stuff that can be added to the story.

    But look for the original story in John and you will be hard pressed to recognize it.

    Someone thought Judas was unjustly treated because, after all, it was all in God's plan to have Jesus betrayed - somebody had to do it, right? Else how would the plan work?

    Predestined as he was, poor ol' Judas was merely the victim of God's vicious plan to sacrifice his son.

    "Catch 22" comes to mind but at any rate, the Jews were to blame - for everything, to hear the gospel writers tell it. Why they were even the seed of the serpent, of their father, the devil, contrary to all men etc. BAD dudes, those Jews.

    Of course, the worst of the Jews were the sicarii (first century Jewish terrorists) of which was Judas "Iscariot" (a corruption of the word "sicarii"). What did Jesus expect from an assassin, goodness and love?

    They should make Judas a saint, he was the main part of God's plan to sacrifice his son. He was, after all, only following orders (John 13) and his predestination (Zech. 11:12,13). The story simply wouldn't work without Judas.

  4. This is interesting.

    Generally, various groups and individuals have been held responsible for killing Jesus: The Jews, the Romans, Judas, or all of humanity due to our sins.

    However, in John 10:15, Jesus is quoted as stating that He laid down His life for the sheep.


  5. "Sheep", yeah, that's the word. A bit archaic though. I think the modern word for it is "lemmings".