In a couple of posts last week I talked about how I came to learn about the discovery of the Gospel of Judas through a phone call from a representative of National Geographic who wanted me to be on the team that established its authenticity, back in the fall of 2004. I let her know that I wouldn’t be of any use in authenticating the thing, but I could talk about its historical significance. I had agreed to find a Coptologist to come along to Switzerland and she was to find a scientist to perform a Carbon-14 dating.
When we hung up, I called Stephen Emmel, and American who teaches in Muenster Germany, one of the world’s leading Coptologists. I asked him if he had heard that National Geographic thought they had their hands on the Gospel of Judas? He had indeed heard a rumor and was dying to see it. I said I was too. Hey, wanna fly to Geneva?
Before going, I learned a great deal more about the text and its discovery. I give a fuller account in my book, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot. It is all a very interesting story indeed, and reads (not because of my writing but because of the facts of the case) more like a Dan Brown novel than a factual narrative of what actually happened in real time and space. I won’t give all the ins and outs here, but will make just three points.
The first is that the manuscript had not just been discovered. It turns out that it was discovered in 1978 in Egypt, by peasants who found it in a limestone box in a burial cave in the Al Minya province of Egypt (about 120 miles south of Cairo), along with several other manuscripts on other things (a Greek mathematical treatise, a Greek copy of Exodus, and a fragmentary Coptic copy of some of Paul’s letters). The manuscript with the Gospel of Judas in it was 62 pages long and contained three other Gnostic texts as well – so it was a small anthology. The manuscript had been sold to a middleman and then to an antiquities dealer and then to another and…. it’s a really interesting story. The manuscript ended up in the United States where the then owner tried to sell it for $3 million. That didn’t work, and so he put it in a safe deposit box on Long Island (really!) where it sat for sixteen years before ever again seeing the light of day.
Eventually it was sold (for….
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