The Fictitious Gospel of Judas and Its Sensational Promotion

Jun 11, 2009

Article ID: JAG044 | By: Daniel Hoffman


This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume29, number5 (2008). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:


The Gospel of Judas was first used by a second-century Gnostic sect that existed apart from the mainstream Christian community. It was created significantly later than the four canonical Gospels and was fabricated to support divergent Gnostic worldviews. It therefore has little or nothing of historical importance to say about the actual Judas Iscariot who lived in the first century. More important, it provides no genuine, new information about the life or teachings of Jesus Christ. It instead represents a secondary, fictionalized version of original historical events that is consistent with the views of Sethian and related Cainite sects. These second-century Gnostic sects used biblical characters, often minor or negative ones, and then deliberately redefined them in keeping with their worldviews and with the premise that salvation was dependent on secret, higher knowledge (or gnosis) that only they possessed. In this regard, the Gospel of Judas is similar to the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas, and other Gnostic texts that were rediscovered in the mid-1940s or earlier. The recent media promotion of the Gospel of Judas largely ignores these similar Gnostic texts in an attempt to elevate the new find, and in the process distorts both the contents of the book and its true importance. The newly published papyrus undoubtedly comes from the third or fourth century AD and contains previously unknown text, but scholars have known of the existence and general worldview of the book since the late second century. Furthermore, it certainly was not originally written by the historical Judas Iscariot, as even its promoters note that it is only about Judas not by Judas. Finally, sensational claims that the book proves that Jesus really asked or encouraged Judas to betray Him reflect neither the currently available text of the book, nor the clear historical evidence to the contrary.

Jesus said to Judas: “You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” (Gos. Jud. 56)1

Most readers of this widely quoted excerpt from the recently published Gospel of Judas probably would assume—no matter what it meant—that it involved the biblical Jesus and Judas who lived in the first century. Many would also think, based on the title, that the book claimed that Judas recorded these words of Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. The phrase actually is part of a story created in the mid-second century or later by an unknown author who certainly was not the historical Judas Iscariot.2 The author of this fictional version of Jesus’ life and teachings—set in the days just before Jesus was arrested—probably was familiar with some of the real events and figures from the first century. In the story, however, the author freely mixes selected events that were known to be from the earlier era with interactions and teachings that were invented later. The nature of the events the author chose to include suggests that the purpose of the story was to promote a Gnostic worldview.

In fact, Gnostic ideas, including the belief that salvation comes through the acquisition and application of elite, higher “knowledge” (gnosis in Greek), color every part of the Gospel of Judas. For example, the “Jesus” described in it is not the fully human and fully divine Christ of the first-century gospels and early church teaching; instead, he is a lower deity who is “clothed” with a corrupt human body that he can transcend at times in order to go back and forth from the “heavenly realm” (pleroma in Greek, meaning “fullness” or “all”) that is populated with many other greater and lesser gods (Gos. Jud. 36, 47–52).3 In a similar fictional twist on first-century teachings, near the end of the story the “Judas” character seems to be able to escape what the text assumes to be an evil, material world by entering a “luminous cloud,” that is, by being transfigured into the pleroma as well. The Gospel of Judas says, moreover, that this Judas had been “told everything,” and presents him as understanding more completely than any of the other disciples (Gos. Jud. 47, 57).4


These Gnostic views may seem strange today, but the Gnostic stories have been known for centuries, and similar stories were created throughout the Greco-Roman world in the second-century AD and following. The Gnostic views were thoroughly described and refuted by various early church leaders, including Irenaeus, a bishop of Lyons in southern France in the late-second century. Irenaeus, in fact, produced an extensive work, Against Heresies, that mentioned the Gospel of Judas in about AD 180.5 In the work of Irenaeus, and in a cache of ancient texts found near Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, people actually can see the teachings from the Gospel of Judas that strike many today as fairly typical of second-century Gnosticism.

Scholars still debate the origins and exact definitions of this pervasive religious and quasi-philosophical movement, but it is clear that both Jewish and Greek views, especially Platonic ones (i.e., views derived from the philosophy of Plato), were important in its creation.6 The text of the Gospel of Judas reflects ideas from both of these sources. For example, it frequently alludes to Old Testament ideas and themes, and uses several Hebrew names and terms with some variations. It praises Seth and his generation (see Gen.4:25–26; 5:3–8), frequently mentions a “corrupt” or “deficient” goddess called Sophia (from the Greek sophia, used in the Septuagint [the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament] to translate the Hebrew chakmah, meaning “wisdom”), discusses Adam and aspects of the Genesis creation account, cites Zoe (from the Greek zoe, which means “life,” but used in the Septuagint as the name for Eve), paraphrases Ezekiel16:15–22 in denouncing unrighteous generations, and includes many other ideas from Hebrew traditions.7 It also has many Platonic themes, such as the belief that the body and the physical world are evil, and, perhaps most interestingly, that each person has a star to guide him: “Jesus said to them, ‘Stop struggling with me. Each of you has his own star…Judas, your star has led you astray…for all of them the stars bring matters to completion’…, [and to Judas] ‘the star that leads the way is your star’” (Gos. Jud. 42, 45, 54, 57).8

Sethian and Cainite Gnostics

These themes in the Gospel of Judas may prove to be important in helping to solve some of the debates about the origin of Gnosticism or, at least, by providing much more information to scholars about the “Sethian” form of it, which is evident in the text. This school of thought not only accepted the typical Gnostic views about the creation of an evil or deficient material world by the last and lowest of a host of deities—a deity equated with the creator God of the Old Testament—but it also viewed the highest deity, sometimes called Barbelo, as an indescribable being who originally produced a harmonious heavenly world. Sethians believed, further, that some elements of this spiritual world passed through to Seth and his sister Norea, and then, in turn, on to their spiritual offspring.9 Irenaeus says that a group of “Cainite” Gnostics produced or used the Gospel of Judas, but his description of this group comes immediately after his more extensive discussion of the Sethians, and he evidently associates them with the Sethians:10 “Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above…. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind which they style the Gospel of Judas” (Against Heresies 1.31.1).11

The Gospel of Judas in Good Company

As amazing as it might appear on the surface for these Gnostics to use Judas as the main character, it is not that unusual when compared with other Gnostic treatments of evil or marginal biblical characters. For example, Ophite Gnostic circles present the serpent in the Garden of Eden as the hero since the serpent was thought to provide the vital knowledge necessary for salvation for those who could receive and respond to it. The Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic gospels that have been discovered since the late 1800s also often present less prominent disciples or figures from the New Testament as the mouthpieces for their teaching. This was perhaps as a way to ridicule those Christians in the larger church community whom the Gnostics considered to be simple minded because they accepted only the canonical gospels and the writings of such orthodox men as John, Peter, and Paul. Some of these well-known Gnostic gospels include the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Thomas. Numerous other false Gospels, however, from the second century and following, not necessarily all Gnostic, were known to have been written in the names of such lesser New Testament figures as Nicodemus, Bartholomew, and Gamaliel, and even under the names of such notorious heretics as Cerinthus, Marcion, and Mani.12 In this company, a Gospel of Judas is not particularly unusual.

That much of the text of a relatively marginal work previously known only from ancient allusions by Irenaeus and other later Christians has survived, however, is truly surprising. James Robinson, the general editor of the Nag Hammadi texts, commented candidly in the preface to his recent Judas book: “The Gospel of Judas, a long-lost second-century fictional account that elevated Judas to hero status in the story, has been rediscovered!”13 (emphasis added).

Mocking Orthodoxy

The bulk of the text of this Gnostic gospel is filled with speculation about the cosmological composition of the pleroma and about its divine beings. This material formed a vital component of the knowledge that Gnostics viewed as necessary for their salvation, but it is not particularly remarkable today since the Secret Book of John and other Nag Hammadi texts contain similar teachings. Gnostic specialists will be interested in the exact details of every similarity and difference.

Other, more unique aspects of the Gospel of Judas account will interest general readers. In this regard, the Gospel of Judas has several scenes in which Jesus, interacting with Judas and the other disciples, frequently corrects false views held by the other disciples while revealing more truth to Judas alone. There is something of a chronological progression to the story, which also is unusual in Gnostic texts. It begins three days before Passover, apparently the Passover before Jesus was apprehended by Jewish authorities (Gos.Jud. 33). The Gnostic mythological teaching forms much of the middle of the text and is framed as a revelation from Christ to Judas, but otherwise contains little or no Christian material (Gos.Jud. 47–54).14 The story ends with a matter-of-fact account of Judas handing Jesus over to a group that included high priests and scribes (Gos. Jud. 58). The last words identify the text as the “Gospel of Judas,” but this certainly means a gospel about Judas, not by him.15 There is no account of the crucifixion or resurrection of Christ, probably because Gnostics did not believe that the physical body could or should be resurrected. These vital omissions from the orthodox viewpoint are one piece of evidence that shows that the Gospel of Judas was fabricated long after the actual historical events in an attempt to twist canonical and early church teachings and bend them in a Gnostic direction.

The Foolish Disciples and Their Followers. The account, elsewhere, more explicitly attacks early orthodox views. The Gnostic Jesus frequently laughs at the ignorant beliefs and practices of the disciples (apart from the enlightened Judas), for example, who are representatives of the views held by the majority of early Christians: “When he [approached] his disciples, gathered together and seated and offering a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread, [he] laughed. The disciples said to [him], ‘Master why are you laughing at [our] prayer of thanksgiving? We have done what was right.’ He answered and said to them, ‘I am not laughing at you. <You> are not doing this because of your own will but because it is through this that your god [will be] praised’” (Gos.Jud. 33–34).16

“Your god” in this Gnostic context is a reference to the “deficient” creator God of the Old Testament, not to the highest and indescribable deity of the Sethians. This Gnostic Jesus was really saying, therefore, that through their seemingly proper prayer, which also may have had in mind early orthodox Eucharistic ceremonies, the disciples were unwittingly praising the evil, villainous god elsewhere in the Gospel of Judas called Nebro (which means “rebel”) or Yaldabaoth (probably meaning “child of chaos”), who created material things like bread.17 In other words, because of their simple beliefs and practices, Jesus was calling them dupes of a Satan-like being—an accusation that actually went far beyond merely laughing at them.

Further, the story elsewhere has the disciples approaching Jesus for the interpretation of a vision that they had of the Temple in Jerusalem, and of the priests offering sacrifices there, which may call to mind the canonical accounts of Jesus cleansing the Temple, or the Temple visit and discourse of Matthew24. In a clear polemic against existing orthodox Christians, Jesus gives a Gnostic meaning to their vision:

Those you have seen receiving the offerings at the altar—that is who you are.…That cattle you have seen brought for sacrifice are the people you lead astray.…[The ruler of this world] will stand and make use of my name in this way and generations of the pious will remain loyal to him. After him another man will stand there from [the fornicators], and another [will] stand there from the slayers of children.…For to the human generations it has been said, “Look, God has received your sacrifice from the hands of a priest”—that is, a minister of error. But it is the Lord, the Lord of the universe, who commands, “On the last day they will be put to shame.” (Gos. Jud. 39–40)18

The gaps caused by the poor current condition of the manuscript make some conclusions tentative. The text translators and editors, however, have suggested quite reasonably that this section is teaching that the leaders of the orthodox church are assistants of the evil ruler of this world. Such leaders are immoral and are leading people astray, and the author of the Gospel of Judas seemingly hopes that their time soon will come to an end.19

The Enlightened Thirteenth Disciple. The exalted treatment of Judas in this Gnostic text is another evidence of its secondary, derived character—and of its attempt to criticize orthodox Christian beliefs. The text presents Judas not only as the main disciple and the one who receives special, secret teaching from Jesus, but as the only one who has the strength to stand before Jesus, and who (instead of Peter; cf. Matt. 16:16) makes a decisive confession about Jesus’ true nature:

When Jesus observed their lack of [understanding, he said] to them…“[Let] any one of you who is [strong enough] among human beings bring out the perfect human and stand before my face.” They all said, “We have the strength.” But their spirits did not dare to stand before [him], except for Judas Iscariot.…Judas [said] to him, “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.” (Gos.Jud.35)20

Perhaps even more important, Judas is identified by Jesus in this text as the “thirteenth” spirit and the one who will be exalted as the preeminent disciple: “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy [generations]” (Gos.Jud. 46–47).21 This passage obviously recognizes the widespread negative view of Judas as evidenced by early Christian writings. More significantly, it attempts to redefine the events of Acts1:15–26, where Judas is replaced by Matthias, positively for Judas. Only after this event could Judas be called the thirteenth disciple, and, as a representative of enlightened Gnostics, this usage would separate him clearly from the orthodox twelve. There is no mention of the physical death or suicide of the historical Judas Iscariot in this Gnostic text.


On the other hand, the Gnostic text places Judas in a key role that in some ways parallels accounts in the canonical Gospels. He turns Jesus over to the Jewish authorities, for example, and receives some money for it (Gos.Jud. 58). Did the text intend that readers view this negatively, as a betrayal? Jesus does laugh at a comment from Judas and says that he has been led astray at one point (Gos.Jud. 44–45), so it is possible that the betrayal incident could have been another case where Judas acted out of ignorance or error. In light of the relatively high position of Judas in most of the story, however, it is probably correct to interpret his role in the arrest of Jesus more positively than the New Testament accounts describe.

Promoters of the Gnostic document have concluded far more in this regard than the available text strictly justifies. Some commentators recently have said, for example, that the Gospel of Judas teaches that Jesus encouraged a reluctant Judas to do what he otherwise never would have done on his own.22 This is mere sensationalism. Jesus never even asks Judas to betray him in the Gospel of Judas! Here is the complete last section of the story:

Their high priests murmured because [he] had gone into the guest room for his prayer. But some of the scribes were there watching carefully in order to arrest him during the prayer, for they were afraid of the people since he was regarded by all as a prophet. They approached Judas and said to him, “What are you doing here? You are Jesus’ disciple.” Judas answered them as they wished. And he received some money and handed him over to them. The Gospel of Judas.” (Gos. Jud. 58, emphasis added)23

“You Will Sacrifice the Man That Clothes Me”

The primary textual basis for the positive interpretation of these actions by Judas is the prediction from Jesus somewhat earlier in the account: “You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me” (Gos.Jud. 56).24 The “man that clothes” or “bears” Jesus certainly refers to his supposed evil or corrupt human body (according to Gnostic theory), but the text does not spell out the nature of the “sacrifice” that it predicts Judas will make. Some commentators assume that the sacrifice refers to Judas’s role in Jesus’ crucifixion, and they infer that Jesus was encouraging Judas to do what the author of this subsequent text already knew that he had done historically—turn Jesus over to the Jewish authorities for money—so that Jesus’ body might be put to death on the cross.25

There are some problems, however, with this interpretation. First, after Judas turns Jesus over, this account mentions neither the cross nor the supposed liberation of the spiritual person of Jesus from within the physical body of Jesus. There are other occasions in the text, moreover, in which Jesus, prior to his physical death, already was able to go and come from the spiritual realm without physically dying first. In a similar fashion, Judas apparently was able to be caught up into the heavens without the death of his physical body (Gos.Jud. 33, 36, 57).26

Next, Gnostic teaching elsewhere never encouraged individuals to seek premature death in order to liberate the spirit: salvation came from knowledge acquired during life, not by physical death per se. Several other Gnostic texts, moreover, argue that a spiritual Christ was able to come and go from the physical body of Jesus at will, without his physical death as a prerequisite. Some texts even describe the divine Christ leaving Jesus before the crucifixion and viewing the human body of Jesus on the cross, laughing at the ignorance of those people who thought they were actually crucifying the Christ.27 Finally, if this celebrated Gospel of Judas passage actually did represent a new, positive, Gnostic view toward Jesus’ physical death as a necessity for his spiritual liberation, why doesn’t Judas just kill Jesus directly? There is no explanation of why Jesus’ physical death (if that is what is meant by the “sacrifice” Judas would make) had to be left to outsiders, or why it could not even have been by suicide, if the goal were merely to get rid of the hindrance of the physical body of Jesus.

The current gaps in this Gnostic text and its highly symbolic or metaphorical language may render futile any search for coherence or logical consistency in the account, or explanatory details about the “sacrifice.” These problems also should inspire some caution on the part of those who confidently say that the text says that Jesus asked Judas to betray Him when this request is not present. In fact, had the author of the text intended to convey this idea, there was a perfect place to do so in the preserved description of the arrest of Jesus merely by having Judas answer the Jewish authorities as Jesus wished rather than as the priests and scribes wished. In short, the text’s presentation of Judas’s betrayal is not unambiguously positive.


The modern events that led up to the sensational publication of the Gospel of Judas during Easter week of 2006 are in many ways more exciting than the content of the document. The true story of the discovery, identification, sales, and eventual announcement to the world that this lost gospel had been found has all the elements of a fictional Hollywood blockbuster. There were lootings, thefts, smugglings, sales to secretive antiquities dealers, clandestine meetings in hotel rooms, attempts by world-famous scholars to acquire manuscripts for prestigious American universities, and even several female heroes and villians.28 This article unfortunately cannot cover this story in more detail except to say that the codex, probably found by poor farmers and part-time treasure hunters in Egypt in the 1970s, eventually wound up in Switzerland—made much the worse for wear from the trip—in the possession of Frieda Nussberger Tchacos, a Swiss antiquities dealer who had known the previous Egyptian owner for many years.29

National Geographic and the Gospel of Judas

Tchacos, as had everyone before her, tried to resell the codex to Yale University in 2000, but the school declined to purchase it, perhaps because of legal questions related to its provenance (i.e., ownership).30 It was at Yale, however, that the phrase “Gospel of Judas,” and the page with the betrayal section were first noted. After another failed attempt at a sale to a dealer in Ohio, who at one point put the codex in a freezer, Tchacos transferred title of the book to the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art (founded by Tchacos’s lawyer, Mario Roberty), which has promised to return it to Egypt after it is properly restored and a facsimile edition of it is published.31 The National Geographic Society (NGS) became involved sometime in 2004, and helped fund the costs of the preservation and conservation of the now badly deteriorated manuscript.32 Revenue from book sales, the TV documentary, and related items, however, probably are intended to cover these expenses. The Maecenas Foundation and Tchacos will share in the money generated from the intellectual property rights.

Profit for the principal players was a key motive from the outset, as might be expected. This is evident from a memo of understanding from Roberty about the forerunner of the Maecenas Foundation for the conservation and publication of the Gospel of Judas: “The promoters of the Project have incurred and will incur substantial expenses of money and time in order to realize the Project. It is a clear understanding that they shall be fully compensated and shall make a decent profit.”33

Is It “Authentic”?

Radio carbon dating places the Gospel of Judas papyrus at AD 280 (plus or minus 60 years), and the dialect, spelling, and style of lettering correspond with known Coptic documents from the late third and early fourth century AD.34 It is probably, but not certainly, a translation of a Greek text originally written c.AD 140–160.35 It is, thus, really an ancient document and not a modern forgery; however, since the original author is unknown and certainly was not a contemporary of Jesus or Judas, it is misleading to call it an “authentic” gospel without explanation. It is primarily, if not exclusively, a document that tells about the views of Sethian or Cainite Gnostics, not about what happened around AD 30.36

Sensational Claims vs. Serious Analysis

The unfortunate fact is that far more has been claimed about the document than is justified by its relatively late date. The dust cover of the NGS-sponsored translation of the Gospel of Judas, for example, exclaims,

Here is a gospel that had not been seen since the early days of Christianity, and which few experts had even thought existed—a gospel told from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, history’s ultimate traitor. And far from being a villain, the Judas that emerges in its pages is a hero. In this radical reinterpretation, Jesus asks Judas to betray him. In contrast to the New Testament Gospels, Judas Iscariot is presented as a role model for all those who wish to be disciples of Jesus. He is the one apostle who truly understands Jesus.37

There are numerous misleading elements in this promotion: (1)The translation dates to the third or early fourth century, not exactly “the early days of Christianity” when compared with the almost universally accepted range of AD 50–80 for the composition of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (2)The strong implication is that the Gospel of Judas presents reliable historical information about the first-century Jesus and/or Judas when it would be more accurate to describe it as “historical fiction” or even “religious fantasy.”38 (3)Judas was a role model only for a tiny, elite group of Gnostics who did not intend their teachings to be available to, or even to apply to, everyone. (4)The Gnostic circle that produced it did not agree with other similar sects about who was the most enlightened disciple; for example, in the Coptic Gospel of Mary, she, not Judas, is the confidant of Jesus. (5)Finally, as noted above, the text never records Jesus asking Judas to betray him.

Other misleading statements could be cited from the NGS television documentary and popular book by Herbert Krosney, but in a postmodern, Da Vinci Code world, in which it is increasingly difficult for many to separate fact from fiction, those who want to believe that the Gospel of Judas is “certainly one of the greatest discoveries of this century”39 will probably continue to do so no matter what the evidence shows. Thoughtful Christians, however, should go beyond the sensational claims, where there seems to be some general agreement among scholars—not all of whom are evangelical Christians—that the Gospel of Judas provides little valid evidence about the life or teachings of the historical Jesus, or the actions of the real Judas.

Robinson, for example, says, “It does not shed light on what happened during Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem (which is what the sensationalists imply) but rather…on a second-century Gnostic sect.”40 Steven Emmel (a Coptic specialist and a member of the NGS/Maecenas team) candidly notes, “Certainly it was not written by Judas Iscariot himself.” He goes on to say that “the authors of these texts…found the simple faith a bit laughable” and instead put “orthodox concepts intentionally on their head” in “the spirit of the second century, in which the doctrine of Gnosticism reached its peak.”41 Finally, Craig Evans, the one evangelical who served as a consultant for the NGS/Maecenas team, bluntly says, “There is nothing in the Gospel of Judas that tells us anything we could consider historically reliable.”42 I believe these are far more reasonable assessments of the Gospel of Judas, based on its late date and secondary character, than those of the sensationalists.


1. The Gospel of Judas: From Codex Tchacos, ed. Rudolphe Kasser, Marvin Mayer, and Gregor Wurst (Washington, DC: The National Geographic Society, 2006), 43, hereafter cited as Judas followed by the page number. The Gospel of Judas itself is cited as Gos. Jud. followed by the leaf number in Codex Tchacos.

2. James M. Robinson, The Secrets: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006), 76, 180–83.

3. Judas, 23–24, 33–39. See Edwin M. Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism: A Survey of the Proposed Evidences (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), for an excellent summary of Gnosticism, its various forms, and scholarly views about its origins.

4. Judas, 33, 43. A similar high level of understanding is ascribed to Mary in the Gospel of Mary. See The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 3rd ed., ed. James M. Robinson (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 523–27.

5. See Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies 1.31.1 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325, vol. 1, Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 358, hereafter cited as ANF.

6. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. Everett Ferguson (New York: Garland, 1990), s.v. “Gnosticism” (by Pheme Perkins), 371­74.

7. Gos. Jud. 44, 48, 52–53, 54. See Judas, 30, 35, 38–39, 41–42. Numerous other links with Old Testament material or Hebrew traditions are evident; for example, the use of “El” (Gos. Jud. 51) and several other Hebrew and Aramaic words, and the mention of “paradise.”

8. Judas, 29, 31, 41, 44. For a discussion of the references to stars in the Gospel of Judas see Marvin Mayer in Judas, 10, 162–66.

9. Mayer in Judas, 137–59; Birger Pearson, “Revisiting Norea,” in Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, ed. Karen King (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 265–75.

10. See Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.30.9–15 (ANF, 356–58) and Judas, 39. Cain is not mentioned in the Gospel of Judas, but other Sethian texts with cosmologies similar to that of the Gospel of Judas do mention Cain.

11. ANF, 358.

12. For these and several other noncanonical gospels, see Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963).

13. Robinson, Secrets, vii.

14. Meyer in Judas, 167.

15. The Coptic phrase is peuaggelion nioudas, which means “Gospel by/about Judas” rather than the “Gospel ‘according to’ (pkata or kata) Judas.” See Kasser in Judas, 45 n. 151.

16. Judas, 20–21.

17. See Gos. Jud. 51 and Judas, 21 n. 10, 37 nn. 113–14.

18. Judas, 27–28. “God” in the section cited would be, according to the Gnostics, the “false” creator God, and “Lord, the Lord of the universe” is the translator’s attempt to render the idea of the Gnostic all, meaning “fullness of the divine realm” (see n. 53).

19. Kasser, in Judas, 28. Bart Ehrman, cited in Judas, 115, also notes that the Gospel of Judas is harsh toward the “proto-orthodox” church, but he fails to observe that this shows, among other things, that the orthodoxy being attacked must have existed before and likely have been stronger or more widespread than the views represented in the Gospel of Judas. This is a vital point since Ehrman and others subscribe to the theory that heretical views such as those in the Gospel of Judas were as equally ancient and as equally widespread as those that only later came to be considered orthodox. The Gospel of Judas is actually evidence against this theory in my opinion. See also Daniel Hoffman, “Gnostic ‘Christianity’ Revisited—Seek Your Inner Light,” review of Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, by Elaine Pagels, Christian Research Journal 26, 3 (2003): 54–56 ( free/DG045.htm).

20. Judas, 22–23.

21. Ibid., 32–33. Gregor Wurst notes that this section of the Gospel of Judas proves that it was not written until after the book of Acts and concludes, “the Gospel of Judas must be placed in the second century. As a consequence, we can not find here any more accurate information about Judas Iscariot than we find in the canonical gospels.” Judas, 132–33.

22. Herbert Krosney, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot (Washington, DC: The National Geographic Society, 2006), 48, and Bart Ehrman, foreword to The Lost Gospel, 3–4.

23. Judas, 44–45.

24. Ibid, 43.

25. Bart Ehrman, in Judas, 97–102.

26. Judas, 20, 24, 44. Ehrman is aware of these passages but assumes, without textual evidence in the Gospel of Judas, that the physical death of Jesus is necessary for him to return to the heavenly realm “permanently,” and that Judas makes that possible by “turning him over to the authorities for execution.” Judas, 109.

27. According to Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.24.4, 1.26.1 (ANF, 1:349; 1:352), and elsewhere, some Gnostics believed that Jesus “transfigured himself as he pleased,” just as he seems able to do in the Gospel of Judas. The groups that taught this theory were followers of Cerinthus and Basilides. These were heretics who preceded the time of the composition of the Gospel of Judas (and its Cainite users), according to Irenaeus.

28. These and other details of the discovery and eventual publication are covered by Kasser in Judas, 47–76 and extensively in Krosney.

29. Krosney, 165–76; Judas, 55–60.

30. Krosney, 177–79; Judas, 60–62; Robinson, Secrets, 140–43. See also Makda Asrat, “Gospel Deal Stirs Ethical Controversy,” Yale Daily News, article.asp?AID=32723.

31. Kasser, in Judas, 61–62, and Robinson, Secrets, 139–45.

32. Robinson, Secrets, 161–67.

33. Ibid., 133–35, 162–65, and 183–84. The text of the memo is available at Michel Vanrijn’s Web site, (accessed June 17, 2006). For more on the financial issues and controversies, see Jon Christian Ryter, “Gospel of Judas: Authentic Fraud,” April 9, 2006,, http://; Barry Meier and John Noble Wilford, “Emergence of the Gospel of Judas Offers a Tangled Tale of Its Own,” April 13, 2006, Museum Security Network Mailinglist, 004960.html.

34. Judas, 183–84; Krosney, Lost Gospel, 270–74.

35. Ben Witherington, “The Gospel of Judas et al.—Part One,” April 7, 2006, Ben Witherington blog,

36. Robinson, Secrets, 177.

37. Judas, inside front cover.

38. Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, quoted in Robinson, Secrets, 180–81.

39. Rudolphe Kasser, quoted in Krosney, Lost Gospel, 8.

40. Robinson, Secrets, 183.

41. Steven Emmel, quoted in Robinson, Secrets, 174–75.

42. Craig A. Evans, “What Should We Think about the Gospel of Judas?” http:// of Judas.pdf, 6 n. 9.

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