Judas: Friend or Foe

Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia is quoted in a recent article on the Gospel of Judas on the CBC web site. Evans here claims that the text was misinterprted by National Geographic’s editing and translation team. John Turner is quoted in support of Evans’ position: 

Judas did an evil deed by betraying Jesus to his enemies, Turner said.

"The decision was made that this is a truly shocking, revolutionary document that throws into question all of the traditional Christian claims about the figure of Judas, and the document simply doesn't support that," he said.

Terry Garcia, leader of the society's Judas project, dismisses the criticism, saying those who say the translation is incorrect are a minority


Evans may have been influenced by a paper presented at September’s Christian Apocrypha Workshop by Louis Painchaud. Painchaud’s team is working on a new translation of the text which, in their opinion, corrects erroneous views advanced by recent scholars that the text portrays Judas as Jesus’ most loyal follower. Here is the abstract of the paper: 


Since its publication by the National Geographic Society last April, the Gospel of Judas has been interpreted and presented by the scholars in charge of its edition and translation as rehabilitating the figure of the apostle, who would be the true disciple of Jesus, the only one who understood his mission, to whom the spiritual Saviour would have asked to deliver him from his carnal body. This Judas would be a model of the perfect (gnostic) Christian.

A close reading of the Gospel of Judas reveals a totally different picture. Judas is guilty of sacrificing the man who wore Jesus, he is a demon, misled by his star, and he will never make it to the place reserved for the Holy Generation.

He is both demonized, in the same way as he is demonized in the Gospel of John, and assimilated to Juda the patriarch eponym of Judaism through the question “What advantage…? (GosJud 46:16; Gen 37:26). Like his homonym, he will inherit the government over the lower world, over the other apostles and the generations who will curse him (GosJud 46:23; Gen 49:10). The Judas of the Gospel of Judas is the very symbol of the betrayal of the name of Jesus through the interpretation of his death as a sacrifice in a proto-orthodox Christianity perpetuating the sacrificial cult of Temple the of Jerusalem.Partly misled by the expectations raised by the reader of a Gnostic revelation dialogue concerning the main interlocutor of the Saviour, the scholars who presented the GosJud in such an erroneous way read into the text what we already knew from Ireneaus and Epiphanius instead of the text itself and saw in Judas the perfect disciple according to their opponents. This led to a reception of this new text perfectly in harmony with the expectations of the Western World in the second half of the 20th century, in need of a rehabilitated Judas in the context of the reappraisal of Jewish Christian relationships.


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