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The Gospel of Judas: Discovery, Restoration, and (Non-)Disclosure

I’ve decided not to give a detailed summary of this thread each time I resume it.  To make sense of what I’m saying, you’ll need to go to the beginning a few days ago.  Short story, though:  it’s 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.

Before I flew to Geneva, 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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My UNC Seminar Tomorrow
How I First Learned that the Gospel of Judas Had Been Discovered



  1. Avatar
    daviskent  February 5, 2015

    Have your book about the lost gospel in my TBR pile next to my bed; look forward to reading it even more now.

  2. Avatar
    rbrtbaumgardner  February 6, 2015

    Was the fact that the Gospel of Judas was found with a copy of Exodus and the letters of Paul meaningful in regard to Gnosticism–that it was *those* documents and not others?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 6, 2015

      It would probably mean that whoever collected those books had wide-ranging interests! But it wouldn’t tell us anything about what the author of any of the books was trying to convey.

  3. Avatar
    nichael  February 6, 2015

    (Speaking of the Gospel of Judas…)

    I would imagine that Dr Ehrman is already aware of this, but:

    Several times Dr Ehrman has recommended the book “The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity” by David Brakke as a good survey of modern thought about the Gnostics.

    I see that the Great Courses has just released a new course by Dr Brakke entitled “Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas”.

    (Note that, as is standard practice for tGC, as a newly published title this course will be offered at a reduced price for a while.)

    • Bart
      Bart  February 6, 2015

      Yes indeed, I am. It should be a *terrific* course; David Brakke is as good as they get.

  4. Avatar
    Wilusa  February 6, 2015

    Hmm…I don’t think I even knew National Geographic had published a book prior to yours!

    I’ve been sort of surprised that there hasn’t been more talk about the Gospel of Judas in recent years. Even you don’t mention it often.

    I hope this site is working properly now. A couple minutes ago, I couldn’t see Comments or a place to leave them with any of your posts. I shot off an e-mail to Support – maybe I should have been more patient!

  5. Avatar
    han23614  February 6, 2015

    After reading The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, finding the first century manuscript of the Mark’s Gospel does not seem to carry such significance as finding the Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

    If Craig Evans and Dan Wallace signed the non-disclosure agreement, wouldn’t that mean they were allowed to see the findings? Or they had to say they didn’t see as part of the agreement? It would be awkward if they signed yet were not allowed to see.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 9, 2015

      It would mean they weren’t allowed to talk about what they learn about it. I don’t know if they’ve ever actually seen it.

  6. Avatar
    dragonfly  February 7, 2015

    This is the coolest thread ever! What a privilege for you!

  7. Avatar
    PeymanSalar  February 22, 2017

    Hi Bart ,
    I’m reading your book ” the lost gospel of Judas Iscariot”
    In chapter six you talked about Gospel of Peter which it begins in the middle of a sentence discussing the trail of Jesus before Pilate. And finished by something that is not complete sentence. My question is,do we have just one manuscript from this account in all, or just in one particular manuscript we have such a story, but others gospels ( peter account ) are different from this, that you mentioned in your book.
    Many thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  February 24, 2017

      We have just one manuscript, and it is not itself a fragment. It was made probably in the sixth c CE and is a complete text: that is, we have the opening page, and the Gospel of Peter (part of it) on ten pages, then three other texts in order (total: 66 pages). The 66 page manuscript is complete, but GPeter is only partially there. How explain that? The copyist in the 6th c. had only this much of the text available to him. *He* had just a fragment.

  8. Avatar
    PeymanSalar  March 5, 2017

    Hi Bart,
    My question is, why the Gospel of Thomas did not make it in New testament Canon?

    Do we have any record in early Christianity that Christians in any regions consider it as a Word of God?


    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2017

      It was not widely used or known, and it’s theology was considered too aberrant to be scriptural.

  9. Avatar
    Lms728  July 25, 2020

    I’ve been doing some reading about the Gospel of Judas. From what I can tell, there’s quite a lot of disagreement among (respected) scholars over translation issues and, in turn, the portrayal of Judas, whether the gospel portrays him favorably or not. Is my understanding correct? If so, might you say more and offer your perspective? Thanks so much for making yourself so available in this blog!

    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2020

      I may do so! There is indeed a lot of disagreement, on a fundamental level.

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