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The Opening Section of the Gospel of Judas

Here is the first bit of the Gospel of Judas from the translation of my colleague Zlatko Pleše in our book The Other Gospels.  After this bit here, the Gospel gets very strange, at least to most modern readers.   But as you can see, it is really interesting.

The first paragraph is the explanation of where we got the text from; then the translation of the opening scends, and after that I give the bibliography for further reading that we cite in our book.

 

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Our translation is based on the Coptic text of Rodolphe Kasser, and Gregor Wurst, eds. The Gospel of Judas: Critical Edition.  Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.   New portions of the Gospel appeared in 2006, when the one-time owner of the manuscript declared bankruptcy and his remaining antiquities collection was turned over to a bank in Ohio; included in this collection were numerous small fragments of the Gopsel of Judas.   These have been photographed and they have begun to be studied; for our translation of the account here we have been able to take them into consideration (see the “Preliminary Report” by Krosney, Meyer, and Wurst in the bibliography).

 

 

The Gospel of Judas

33 The secret discourse of revelation that Jesus spoke with Judas Iscariot in the course of eight days, three days before he celebrated Passover.

 

Gospel Frame: Jesus’ Ministry

When he appeared on earth, he performed signs and great miracles for the salvation of humankind. And since some walked on the path of righteousness and others walked in their transgression, the twelve disciples were called.  He began to speak with them about the mysteries that are beyond the world and what will happen at the end. Oftentimes he would not disclose himself to his disciples, but when necessary,[1] you would find him in their midst.

 

First Day: Jesus Separates Judas from Other Disciples

One day he came in Judaea to his disciples, and he found them seated and gathered together, practicing godliness.[2] When he approached his disciples 34 as they were assembled together, seated and giving thanks over the bread, he laughed. But the disciples said to him, “Teacher, why are you laughing at our thanksgiving? What have we done?  This is what is appropriate.” He replied and said to them, “I am not laughing at you. You are not doing this out of your own will: rather, your god will receive praise through this.” They said, “Teacher, you . . . are the son of God.” Jesus said to them, “How do you know me? Truly I say to you that no generation will know me from the people that are among you.”

Now when his disciples heard this, they began to feel irritated and angry, and to blaspheme against him in their hearts. And Jesus, when he saw their senselessness, said to them, “Why has this agitation produced wrath? Your god who is within you and his powers[3] 35 have become irritated with your souls.  Let the one who is strong among you people bring forth the perfect human being and stand before my face!”

And they all said, “We are strong.” Yet their spirit could not dare to stand before him, except Judas Iscariot. He was able to stand before him, yet he could not look him in his eyes, but rather turned his face away. Judas said to him, “I know who you are and where you have come from. You have come from the immortal aeon of Barbelo and from the one that has sent you, whose name I am not worthy to utter.”

But Jesus, knowing that he was thinking of something lofty, said to him, “Separate from them, and I will tell you the mysteries of the kingdom, not so that you may go there, but that you may grieve greatly. 36 For someone else will take your place, so that the twelve disciples may again be complete with their god.”[4] And Judas said to him, “When will you tell me these things, and when will the great day of light dawn for that generation?” But when he said these things, Jesus left him.

 

Second Day: Jesus Appears to His Disciples Again

The next morning he appeared to his disciples, and they said to him, “Teacher, where did you go and what were you doing after you left us?” Jesus said to them, “I went to another generation, one that is great and holy.” His disciples said to him, “Lord, what is the great generation that is superior to us and holy, but is not in these aeons?”

When Jesus heard this, he laughed. He said to them, “Why are you pondering in your heart about the strong and holy generation? 37 Truly I say to you, no one born of this aeon will see that generation, nor will any angelic host of the stars rule over that generation; and no person of mortal birth will be able to join it. For that generation is not from . . . that has come to be . . . the generation of humans . . . but it is  from  the generation of the great people . . . the powerful authorities . . . nor any power . . . those in which you rule.”

When his disciples heard this, they each became disturbed in their spirit, and they did not find anything to say.

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 Bibliography

Brankaer, Johanna and Bethge, Hans-Gebhard. Codex Tchacos: Texte und Analysen. TU 161. Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007, pp. 255-372.

Ehrman, Bart D.  The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A new Look at Betrayer and Betrayed.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Kasser, Rodolphe, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, The Gospel of Judas.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006.  (Contains an English translation and interpretive essays by Kasser, Meyer, Wurst, and Bart Ehrman); the second edition, 2008, contains additional essays by Craig Evans and Gesine Schenke Robinson.

Kasser, Rodolphe and Wurst, Gregor.  The Gospel of Judas, Together with the Letter of Peter to Philip, James, and a Book of Allogenes from Codex Tchacos: Critical Edition.  Introductions, Translations, and Notes by R. Kasser, G. Wurst, Marvin Meyer, and François Gaudard.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2007.

Krosney, Herb.  The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006.

Krosney, Herb, Marvin Meyer and Gregor Wurst, “Preliminary Report on New Fragments of Codex Tchacos,” in Early Christianity 1 (2010) 282-94.

Plese, Zlatko.  “Gnostic Literature,” in Religiöse Philosophie und philosophische Religion der frühen Kaiserzeit Literaturgeschichtliche Perspektiven. Ratio Religionis Studien I, ed. Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Herwig Görgemanns, Michael von Albrecht, and Mitarb. v. Tobias Thum. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008; pp. 163-98, esp. 173-74.

Schenke Robinson, Gesine, “Judas, a Hero or a Villain?” in Kasser, Meyer, and Wurst, The Gospel of Judas, pp. 155-68.

Scopello, Madeleine, ed. The Gospel of Judas in Context. Proceedings of the First International Conference on the Gospel of Judas. Paris, Sorbonne, October 27th-28th, 2006. NHMS 62. Leiden: Brill, 2008.

Wurst, Gregor. “Gospel of Judas, New Fragment III.”  Paper presented at the Ninth International Congress of Coptic studies, IACS, Cairo, September 2008.

 

 

[1]  Or, perhaps, “you would find him as an apparition,” or “as a child.”

[2]  See 1 Tim 4:7; or: “disputing issues concerning God.”

[3]  Or: “stars.”

[4]  See Acts 1:15-26; John 17:13, 23; some scholars propose “elements” or “stars” instead of “disciples.”


My Early Christian Apocrypha Seminar
What is the Gospel of Judas About?

20

Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ken Riel  August 7, 2020

    Outstanding!

  2. Avatar
    toejam  August 7, 2020

    Hi Dr. Ehrman. A question related to Ancient Gnosticism: This morning I have been watching a Birger Pearson lecture from 2011 on Sethian Gnosticism, with a focus on The Secret Book of John (https://youtu.be/X_8BK-dQ1Fo). Pearson suggests that the very small number of explicitly Christian references in the text, against the many Jewish / Old Testament references, suggests that the infamous Sethian Gnostic myth (with Sophia and Yaldabaoth, etc.) likely originated in Hellenistic-Jewish circles BEFORE receiving a Christian overlay. I’m not sure Pearson would say the Sethian myth necessarily pre-dates Christianity, only that it originated independently from it, before later Christians infused the myth with Christian elements. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with Pearson, or do you think Sethian Gnosticism was always initially an off-shoot from Christianity?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      I used to agree with that view, but no longer do. I think that view isn’t widely held any more. Much of what we find in Sethianism is derived from middle platonic thought that is best documented after the rise of Xty. You may want to read David Brakke’s book Gnosticism, which really is about Sethian Gnosticism.

  3. Avatar
    forthfading  August 7, 2020

    Dr Ehrman

    Are there scholars that are Gospel of Judas experts specifically? I guess what I’m asking is since the publication of this gospel have people devoted their scholarship to its historical context and theology? Lastly, among those scholars (ones who are the most knowledgeable) are there considerable disagreements on its historical context and theology?

    Thanks, Jay

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      Yes, there are real experts and yes there are real agreements. I would include my colleage Zlatko Plese among the experts, and his views are very different from those of April DeConick, for example.

  4. Avatar
    Syahreza Ali  August 8, 2020

    Dr ehrman how long it takes to you to explain all the contradiction and error you know and you learn in Princeton it’s even just what you know not a complete bible problem, and is there a try about to check all the contradiction and error in the whole bible for modern bible in university, by expert? And if there is How many of them?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      It would take a very long time to explain them all, and there is not set number of them. If you want to read a fuller discussion of them, see my book Jesus Interrupted — that’s where I most delve into a lot of them.

  5. Avatar
    JeepEnthusiast  August 8, 2020

    Professor Ehrman,

    Do they use the term “generation” at all similar to how we use the word generation in modern English? What do you think they mean here?

    TY

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      Usually “this generation” simply means “people living at this time.”

  6. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  August 8, 2020

    From an esoteric perspective, it is not strange at all. For me, the hole Gnostic cosmology (on an inner spiritual level/consiousness) and its often strange imaginary, is the journey of the soul from its Spiritual Adam, later the physic (soul) Adam and then matter, all three in one, from its original state and ascend back to unity with God, is somehow beautiful. The journey of the soul, like said in the Apocryphon of John, ” “Everything has come into being from you. Everything will return to you.” (back to unity) is underlying, even though described with sometime difficult imaginary.

    Thank you for this interesting post.

  7. fefferdan
    fefferdan  August 8, 2020

    Bart… Have you or anyone else attempted to systematically determine/guess how influential or widely read the various gnostic gospels were. What would be the basis for this: how many references to a text in the church fathers, how many copies survived [not a very good guide IMO] — what else?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      Yes, it’s a constant theme of interest. We have no way of knowing for certain, only the fact that we have some writings that have survived and opponents who talk about Gnostics. These wold show that they were around and were known about, and we can say with some degree of certainty where some of their communities were (Egypt; Syria; Rome); but we have no way to gauge the numbers, unfortunately.

      • Avatar
        Seeker1952  August 16, 2020

        You persuaded me that almost all references to hell (or Gehenna) that can be traced to the historical Jesus talk about “eternal” annihilation of some kind (eg, total destruction by burning) rather than eternal punishment. However, I’m doubtful that the sheep and goats, particularly Mt 25:46, does not talk about eternal punishment. And it seems to me that’s probably Jesus’s clearest, most detailed discussion about rewards and punishment. As I understand it, you argue in part that, since eternal punishment is contrasted with eternal life, perhaps eternal punishment should be understood as eternal death. But isn’t it just as logical to leave eternal punishment as it is and say that eternal life should be understood as eternal reward? Nevertheless, you also successfully argue that the sheep and goats is a parable rather than a specific prediction or doctrine.So we need not take it literally. Combined with the many other references to complete destruction of unrepentant sinners, it seems more reasonable to conclude that Jesus believed in that rather than eternal punishment. However, if one is a believer and accepts the logic of Pascal’s wager, the safer bet would be to understand Mt 25:46 as eternal punishment.

  8. Avatar
    brenmcg  August 8, 2020

    Off topic Q –

    Deut 6:5 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
    Matthew 22:37 quoting Deuteronomy says however “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”

    Aren’t Mark and Luke’s versions best understood as amalgamations of Deuteronomy and Matthew?

    Mark 12:30 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
    Luke 10:27 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’”

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      Yes, probably these were just loose ways of remembering what the text said. I find myself that I happen to quote that verse in different ways at different times…..

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  August 10, 2020

        But i think mark and luke’s strange use of 4 ways to love the lord should be understood as combining deut and matthew’s 3 ways. Heart/soul/stength and heart/soul/mind

  9. Avatar
    Seeker1952  August 8, 2020

    Thanks much for Heaven and Hell. Two questions: (1) My Kindle copy does not have a Table of Contents. Do you know if this happened to other Kindle purchasers? I’m just wondering if there has been a standard fix for this. (2) Is there a consensus among critical NT scholars that the historical Jesus did not believe in hell or any other kind of eternal punishment-except total annihilation? Often in your books you will say whether your views about a particular topic are in line with scholarly consensus.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2020

      1) Weird. No, no idea. 2) No, not a consensus at all. But a lot of scholars agree with this. It’s one reason I mount arguments for my views, even in my general books — so people can see the logic of it rather than simply taking it on authority since it’s what “scholars all say”

  10. Avatar
    janmaru  August 8, 2020

    Since Bankruptcy is the only way you can repay debts to creditors through some meaning, the discourse of revelation that Jesus spoke to Judas Iscariot, is also polluted by the exchange.
    When His disciples heard His discourse, they were disturbed in their spirit, and they did have anything to say.
    So nothingness it the currency coined for angels and true disciples alike.

  11. Avatar
    tom.hennell  August 10, 2020

    Thanks Bart.

    I am intrigued by the repeated descriptions of Jesus as laughing at the disciples misunderstandings. Is mocking laughter a notably characteristic theme in Sethian Gnosticism; or otherwise is mocking laughter promoted as a positive value in middle platonic thought?

    On the face of it, laughter at others’ ignorance or suffering is very difficult to accommodate within a consistent Christian theology at any date; anger or compassion certainly, but not mockery.

    I am reminded of Ireneus’s account of the teachings of Basilides:

    “a certain Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry his cross for him. It was he who was ignorantly and erroneously crucified, being transfigured by him, so that he might be thought to be Jesus. Moreover, Jesus assumed the form of Simon, and stood by laughing at them”

    But then. versions of a Jesus who laughs at the crucifixion are also found in the Nag Hammadi texts; the ‘Second Treatise of the Great Seth’ and the ‘Apocalypse of Peter’.

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