The surviving Lost Gospel of Judas was mentioned in a publication by the bishop of Lyon, St. Irenaeus over 1700 years ago. In it, Judas betrays Jesus Christ on Jesus' own order. Accounts on the Gospels of John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew depicts Judas as a reviled traitor who betrayed Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.

The manuscript was believed to be discovered in El Minya, Egypt during the 1970s. It was not until 2000 that it would resurface and be identified as The Gospel of Judas. Because of its fragile state, it took five years to reconstruct the manuscript to a readable form.

This document is generating controversy around the world as it contradicts Catholic Church belief on who Judas Iscariot really was.

    "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."- David Kopel

Most already know that expressions like "dictatorship of the proletariat" and "abolition of private property" come from a political viewpoint, Marxism, which was produced long after Washington and Arnold were deceased. The Gospel of Judas controversy has been timed to generate publicity for the release of the movie The DaVinci Code. Now it's hard to understand what all the hype is over the The DaVinci Code and Hubby keeps asking about it and sayin’ things like, ‘You’re in tight with the Big Guy what’s this about? ‘ ‘I dunno,’ I tell him, 'I’ll let you know, if I decide to go see it. '

He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?- Judas

So let's take a look at the history from the points of view of The New York Times, the Family Research Council, a couple of theological scholars and a Gnostic publication to see what all the mystery is about. The current hulabaloo started when National Geographic Society acquired the Judas Gospel from Frieda Tchacos Nussberger. This was after she attempted to sell it to Coptic scholar James Robinson, sight unseen, for the hefty price tag of three million dollars. While she waited, the codex sat folded in a safety deposit box for an indeterminate amount of time causing a great deal of damage to the ancient papyrus simply because she wanted lots and lots of money. The National Geographic Society eventually purchased it then released it to the public in a spectacle of nearly Biblical proportions.

On April 13, 2006 The New York Times published a time line of the rather shady emergence of the manuscript:

    "I think I was chosen by Judas to rehabilitate him," Ms. Tchacos Nussberger, 65, is quoted as saying in one of the society’s books, "The Lost Gospel," by Herbert Krosney. Mr. Krosney is also an independent television producer who brought the gospel project to National Geographic.

    Missing from the book is any mention of an incident in 2001 when Ms. Tchacos Nussberger was detained in Cyprus at the request of Italian officials, who wanted to question her as part of a broader investigation into antiquities that had been illegally taken out of Italy and sold elsewhere. Paolo Ferri, the Rome-based prosecutor in the case, said she was charged with several violations involving antiquities but was given a reduced sentence that was suspended because she had, among other things, previously agreed to return an artifact claimed by Italy...Her record will be erased in 2007 if she is not charged by Italian authorities with another antiquities violation.

    Ms. Tchacos Nussberger said that she, like other dealers, had run into problems because laws governing the antiquities trade had sharply changed in recent years.

    According to National Geographic, she bought the Judas document for about $300,000 in 2000 from another dealer who had placed it in a safe-deposit box in Hicksville, N.Y., on Long Island. She tried to sell it to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

    Yale officials have not specified why they did not buy the document. But Robert Babcock, curator of early books at the library, said through a spokeswoman that “there were unresolved questions about the provenance.”

    Then in 2001, Ms. Tchacos Nussberger sold it to an antiquities dealer in Ohio for $2.5 million, but the deal fell apart when the dealer did not make good on the payments.

    Aided by her lawyer, Mr. Roberty, she regained ownership of the document and at his suggestion turned it over to the Maecenas Foundation. Under the deal, she is entitled to receive a sum from revenues generated by the Gospel of Judas essentially equivalent to what she would have received from the Ohio dealer, minus the value of several pages of the manuscript that dealer bought. In addition, she is entitled to get back about $800,000 she lent to the foundation for expenses like legal costs and early restoration efforts, Mr. Roberty said

The National Geographic Society acquired the 1,700-year-old deteriorating manuscript Gospel of Judas telling how it was “ unearthed in Egypt three decades ago, had made its way through the shady alleys of the antiquities market to a safe-deposit box on Long Island and eventually to a Swiss art dealer who "rescued" it from obscurity.” To its credit the National Geographic Society has paid for the restoration the text and bought the rights to the manuscript and the chronicle about the unearthing. As part of her bargain with the foundation, the dealer, Frieda Tchacos Nussberger, could gain between $1 million to $2 million from these National Geographic ventures.

I'll send you all my love
Every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss
-Bobby Vinton

According to the Gospels, Judas supposedly betrayed Jesus on orders from Jesus. And while the "Gospel of Judas" document may be news to today’s media, its existence has been known for around two millennia. Like many other inventions by the Gnostics it was condemned as a hoax by the early church. So were many other productions of the sect. “Gnosis is a Greek word meaning secret," notes the Family Research Council. “There has always been an appeal for such secret news. Grassy knoll conspiracy theorists have been around since the Monday morning after that first Easter Sunday. G. K. Chesterton, the great English writer, explains the reason for all these Jesus-light productions. "Christianity," he said, "has not been tried and found wanting. It has been tried and found difficult”."

In a USA Today article Coptic scholar James Robinson 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 believes that they were written much closer to the events they describe--sometime in the first century (C.E.).”

What the theologians are saying

Bishop Irenaeus(ca. 130–202 CE) wrote a denunciation of the Gospel of Judas in his dissertation Against Heresies,(180 C.E) crediting the authorship to the Gnostic sect Cainites. In their text they assert that Jesus solicited Judas to hand him over to the Pharisee’s so that his spirit could be freed from its earthly body--"You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me."

Judas Iscariot is mentioned only in the Gospels and Acts of the Holy Bible. "The name Iscariot," says Edwin D. Freed, Emeritus Professor of Religion, Gettysburg College, "probably means “man from Kerioth" ( a village in southern Judea) because "from" is used with the name in John and because similar names occur in Josephus. 1 Only John says that Judas was "a thief" and "kept the common purse" 2 Judas was remembered for his betrayal of Jesus, an incident in which the sources agree. 3 4 5 6 "The motives for Judas’s behaviors," continues Freed, "cannot be precisely determined. Mark and Luke report that Jewish authorities promised Judas money for his action, but Matthew says that they paid him thirty pieces of silver immediately, a particular derived from the Hebrew Bible. 7 8 9 Judas repented, returned the money, and hanged himself. According to John 13:8, Jesus chose Judas deliberately so that the scriptures might be fulfilled by his betrayal. John agrees with the Synoptics that at the Last Supper Jesus predicted his betrayal." Freed continues with, "Accounts of Judas are varied, inconsistent and influenced by theological opinions of the writers, the belief in the fulfillment of scripture and the idea that God brings death to ungodly persons." 10 Finally he concludes that, "it is difficult to access the historicity of Judas and his action. Why, for example, does Mark not mention the name of Judas in the story if the traitor? 11 Yet all sources list him among Jesus’ disciples and know him as Jesus’ betrayer. Perhaps as tradition grew the name of Judas became more infamous and the details of his demise more appalling."

Hermeneutics writes Canon Professor of the University of Chester Anthony C. Thiselton is defined as, "the theory of interpretation, Biblical hermeneutics inquires into the conditions under which the interpretation of the biblical texts may be judged possible, faithful accurate, responsible, or productive in relation to some specific goal." He goes on to add, "Up until the end of the eighteenth century, three sets of issues assumed particular importance in the history of biblical hermeneutics. First the Hebrew Bible could be seen as either a part of the Christian scriptures or as Jewish scriptures only. For Jesus and the earliest Christian communities the Hebrew Bible was their only scripture, providing among other things the frame of reference within which the gospel was to be understood.”2 3

The origins of gnosticism and the Gospel of Judas reaches back to Marcion (circa 100-160 C.E.). Marcion challenges the status of the Old Testament as part of Christian scripture. But Irenaeus and other church fathers reaffirmed the unity of the two testaments as the message of the one God, who had revealed himself preeminently in Christ. Marcion was expelled for heresy and founded his own sect, the Marcionites and while they did not have the numbers approaching that of the orthodox Christians, for several hundred years they were important rivals.

What would Indiana Jones do?

”The Marcionites believed that the physical world was created by the angry god of the Old Testament,” says David Kopel from The Volokh Conspiriacy, "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.” While the Gospel of Judas doesn’t append anymore historical information to the biography of Jesus, it does offer further information about the Gnostic beliefs which flourished in the mid-second century, and has many modern day adherents as well. jp at fantastic planet, a web site authored by modern day Gnostics, raises some trepidations about what will become of the text saying,"A question that concerns us more, as Gnostics, however, is the question of ownership of sacred texts by anyone. How far does this ownership extend? As Gnostics, we have no set "canon," so any discovered Gnostic texts are suitable for inclusion in our religious practices. If, however, those texts are "owned" by a corporation, will that corporation allow us to use them? ... for instance, would a Gnostic who wishes to incorporate some text into (their) own religious ceremony be required to ask National Geographic for written permission? What if said Gnostic translated the work from the Coptic (themself)? Would (they) need to wait until National Geographic had finished with the text and returned it to the Coptic Museum in Cairo and then travel to Cairo to translate it, or could (they) use the Coptic transcription released by the Society, on which they have a copyright?

Sources:

And Now, a Gospel of Judas?
Accessed April 20, 2006.

The Gospel of Judas: “The Secrets of Judas” and Intellectual Ownership
Accessed April 20, 2006.

The Judas Gospel
Accessed April 20, 2006.

Freed, Edwin D. Judas Iscariot, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, p.395

How the Gospel of Judas Emerged
Accessed April 20, 2006.

Thiselton , Anthony C. Hermeneutics, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, p.297-280.

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