Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Gospel of Judas and the Humiliation of National Geographic

In the spring of 2006, a news conference was held to announce the discovery of an ancient document that presents a "new and improved" Judas. The National Geographic Society and National Geographic channel spent millions to research, translate, print, and televise a lot of information on the Gospel of Judas. The most recent edition of The Journal of Higher Education presents the following:
In 2004, National Geographic bought the rights to translate and publish the gospel for a reported $1-million. Under the terms of the deal, the society wouldn't own the manuscript, which — once it was restored — would be displayed in Cairo's Coptic Museum.

What National Geographic had bought access to was more like a puzzle than a book. As one scholar explains it, imagine that you have 10 pieces of paper with writing on both sides. Now take those 10 pages and tear them up into tiny pieces. Then get rid of, say, a third of those pieces. Take what's left, place it in a shoebox, and shake it. Now try to reconstruct the original 10 pages, keeping in mind that the fragile pieces must match on both sides.
However, recent information has come forth that puts all of the work done by the Society into serious academic question. The same article says:
"Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal," read the headline in The New York Times. The British paper The Guardian called it "a radical makeover for one of the worst reputations in history." A documentary that aired a few days later on National Geographic's cable channel also pushed the Judas-as-hero theme. The premiere attracted four million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated program in the channel's history, behind only a documentary on September 11.

But almost immediately, other scholars began to take issue with the interpretation of Meyer and the rest of the National Geographic team. They didn't see a good Judas at all. In fact, this Judas seemed more evil than ever. Those early voices of dissent have since grown into a chorus, some of whom argue that National Geographic's handling of the project amounts to scholarly malpractice. It's a perfect example, critics argue, of what can happen when commercial considerations are allowed to ride roughshod over careful research. What's more, the controversy has strained friendships in this small community of religion scholars — causing some on both sides of the argument to feel, in a word, betrayed.
Al Mohler writes:
There were disturbing elements to the story, however. The National Geographic Society clearly aimed at making a financial gain through the much-publicized book and television documentary. More importantly, the Society did not make the actual manuscript available for other scholars to check and consult.

A devastating analysis of the actual translation put forth by the Society and its chosen scholars came from Professor April D. DeConick of Rice University. In her book, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says, DeConick proved that the most famous "finding" offered by the National Geographic Society translation (claiming that Judas was good and not evil) was a complete misrepresentation of the text and a profound mistranslation. . . .

It is clear that the media were misled -- and that the media then mislead their audiences. Now, when the integrity of the entire project is called into doubt, the media are far less interested.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is to be commended, the National Geographic Society should be humiliated, and Christians should be reminded once again not to be shaken by media sensationalism. The discovery of the "Gospel of Judas" changes nothing except to add yet another manuscript to the pile of false gospels and Gnostic documents.

When those scholars misrepresented the "Gospel of Judas," they betrayed not only the public trust, but the truth.

1 comment:

Robert Wahler said...


Both the consensus crowd (Meyer, et al) and 'the revisionists' (DeConick, et al) are wrong. The document is a MYSTIC text. It shows the gnostic side of the debate over the canon, and Judas is transformed from bad to good, even successor. The gnostic author of gJudas was saying that the sacrifice was of SELF ('Judas' in the canon), not Jesus! It was a successor installation (James the Just) warped into a 'betrayal' in the canon -- because the church didn't want interference with their dead one -- Jesus. Masters come all the time ( is website info for the current one). We know it was James, because 'Judas' had a vision of being stoned BY FELLOW DISCIPLES. Only James was stoned by fellow Christians in the first century, which is when this tradition must be, as it is the model for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. judaswasjames at AOL dot com