from NationalGeographic Website

 

 

 

An ancient Coptic manuscript dating from the third or fourth century, containing the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas, has been restored and authenticated after being lost for nearly 1,700 years.

In order to be certain of its age and authenticity, the National Geographic Society put the codex through the closest scrutiny possible without doing it harm.

 

This included submitting minute samples of the papyrus to a rigorous radiocarbon-dating process, analyzing the ink, submitting the manuscript to multispectral imaging, and consulting with leading scholars well-versed in the fields of paleography and codicology.

The National Geographic Society collaborated with the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery.

 

Rodolphe Kasser, of Switzerland, one of the world's preeminent Coptic scholars, was recruited to restore the text, transcribe it, and translate the manuscript, which contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but also a text called James, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes.


 

 

 


 

 

 

 

During the first centuries A.D., in a constantly shifting political environment church leaders shaped the New Testament around four chosen Gospels.

 

But divergent beliefs jostled for prominence in Christian thought. In recent decades long-lost chronicles have been found, originally hidden during those turbulent times.

 

Such manuscripts describe a world of ideas that has been lost to us for nearly 1,700 years.

 

 

Roman Empire

 

 

 

 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a codex, and why is this document called the Codex Tchacos?


A codex is an ancient book consisting of folded pages, bound at one side. Codices were the preferred form for scriptural or classical texts, as they could contain a lot more information than scrolls and were easier to manage. Codex Tchacos is named after Dimaratos Tchacos, father of Zürich-based antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos, who bought the document in September 2000.
 


What does the Codex Tchacos contain?


The codex contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but also a text titled James (otherwise known as the First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes.
 


Where was the Codex Tchacos discovered?


The codex, containing the Gospel of Judas, was discovered in the 1970s near El Minya, Egypt, and moved from Egypt to Europe to the United States. Once in the United States, it was kept in a safe-deposit box for 16 years on Long Island, New York, until antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos bought it in April 2000.

 

After two unsuccessful resale attempts, Nussberger-Tchacos - alarmed by the codex's rapidly deteriorating state - transferred it to the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Basel, Switzerland, in February 2001, for restoration and translation. The manuscript will be delivered to Egypt and housed in Cairo's Coptic Museum.
 


How did the codex containing the Gospel of Judas survive for so many centuries?


Because the Gospel of Judas was hidden in the Egyptian desert for more than 1,600 years, the papyrus remained intact. However, the document severely deteriorated when it was kept in a safe-deposit box on Long Island, New York, for 16 years.

 

As a result, the conservation process to rescue and preserve the manuscript has been an enormous undertaking, as Rodolphe Kasser and his team worked to piece the document back together by reassembling nearly a thousand broken fragments of papyrus.
 


What is the history of the codex containing the Gospel of Judas?


The National Geographic Society has worked with a team of international experts to analyze a collection of ancient papyrus documents, which include the Gospel of Judas, first discovered more than 30 years ago in Egypt. The rare religious texts in the codex are written in the ancient Egyptian Coptic language and are about 1,700 years old.

 

National Geographic collaborated with the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art, and scientific experts, historians, and theologians from around the world to authenticate, reconstruct, conserve, and translate these extraordinary documents, and explore their significance.
 


Was the Gospel of Judas known to scholars?


Scholars knew of the existence of the Gospel of Judas because of references in other ancient texts. The oldest known reference to a Gospel of Judas is by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, in A.D. 180. However, this codex containing the Gospel of Judas was not discovered until the 1970s in Egypt, and it wasn't until 2001 that a team led by Professor Rodolphe Kasser of Switzerland, a world-renowned Coptic scholar, began to translate and conserve the ancient text.
 


Who wrote the Gospel of Judas?


The author of the Gospel of Judas remains anonymous. The original Greek text of the gospel, of which this is a Coptic translation, is thought to have been written by a group of early gnostic Christians sometime between when the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were penned and A.D. 180.
 


Why were these early texts developed? What was their purpose?


Different groups of Christians in the second century appealed to different writings to authenticate their distinctive beliefs and practices. Numerous gospels appeared, often written in the names of the Apostles; these pseudonymous writings were revered as scripture by one group or another, although eventually most of them came to be labeled as "heretical" and proscribed by orthodox Christianity in later times.
 


What does the publication of this text mean for Christian teachings?


This is a dramatic archaeological discovery of cultural interest, which offers an alternate portrayal from the first or second century of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, and enhances our knowledge of history and preservation of theological viewpoints from that period. National Geographic realizes that the information provided by this document is complex and deserves a great deal of further study and assessment, a process that will take time.

 


How did National Geographic get involved in the project?


The document changed hands a number of times following its discovery. The Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Switzerland approached National Geographic to play a key role in the authentication and conservation of the codex. National Geographic gathered numerous experts to bring the project to completion. After conservation is complete and the codex has been exhibited to the public, the codex will be given to Egypt, where it will be housed in Cairo's Coptic Museum.
 


Why has National Geographic decided to get involved in a project of this type?


The codex that contains the Gospel of Judas is the most significant discovery of ancient, non-biblical Christian or Jewish texts of the last 60 years. Because of National Geographic's commitment to discovery and conservation of artifacts that support the study of ancient culture and enhance historical knowledge, the Society felt compelled to take part in the rescue of this ancient document.
 


Why did it take so long to publish?


Because the manuscript had deteriorated so badly during the past 30 years, restoring, conserving, and translating its text has been an enormous undertaking. Compared with the length of time it took to conserve, translate and publish the Nag Hammadi manuscripts (about 25 years) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (about 50 years), the publication process of the Gospel of Judas, which has taken just five years, has been quite an expedited one.
 


What was the translation process and who was involved?


The Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art recruited Professor Rodolphe Kasser of Switzerland, one of the world's leading Coptic scholars, to lead an international team of scholars, translators, scientists, archaeologists, and historians to translate the document.
 


How was the artifact, known as the Gospel of Judas, restored?


This was a daunting process, because the document's condition had deteriorated significantly over the last two decades. Kasser enlisted the help of papyrus conservator Florence Darbre of Switzerland and Coptic scholar Gregor Wurst of the University of Augsburg, Germany, to piece together the 26-page Gospel of Judas.

 

With the help of computer programs that record text, register gaps and try to match gaps to text, and with careful, visual inspection of suggested matches to confirm papyrus fiber continuity, Darbre, Wurst, and Kasser have been able to reassemble more than 80 percent of the text in five painstaking years.
 


How was authenticate the document?


The codex has been authenticated as a genuine work of ancient Christian apocryphal literature on five fronts: radiocarbon dating, ink analysis, multispectral imaging, contextual evidence, and paleographic evidence.

 

 

 

 


 

 


The Gospel of Judas
Translated by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst

in collaboration with François Gaudard
extracted from The Gospel of Judas
Edited by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst
2006

 

 

The National Geographic Society has been part of an international effort, in collaboration with the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, to authenticate, conserve, and translate a 66-page codex, which contains a text called James (also known as First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes, and the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas.

The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus' request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities.

 

 

 


INTRODUCTION: INCIPIT


The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated Passover.
 

 

 

 

THE EARTHLY MINISTRY OF JESUS


When Jesus appeared on earth, he performed miracles and great wonders for the salvation of humanity. And since some [walked] in the way of righteousness while others walked in their transgressions, the twelve disciples were called.


He began to speak with them about the mysteries beyond the world and what would take place at the end. Often he did not appear to his disciples as himself, but he was found among them as a child.
 

 

 

SCENE 1:

Jesus dialogues with his disciples: The prayer of thanksgiving or the eucharist.

 

One day he was with his disciples in Judea, and he found them gathered together and seated in pious observance. When he [approached] his disciples, [34] 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 is 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.”

 

They said, “Master, you are […] the son of our god.”

 

Jesus said to them, “How do you know me? Truly [I] say to you, no generation of the people that are among you will know me.”

 

 

 

THE DISCIPLES BECOME ANGRY


When his disciples heard this, they started getting angry and infuriated and began blaspheming against him in their hearts.


When Jesus observed their lack of [understanding, he said] to them,

“Why has this agitation led you to anger? Your god who is within you and […] [35] have provoked you to anger [within] your souls. [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. He was able to stand before him, but he could not look him in the eyes, and he turned his face away.


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.”

 

 

 

JESUS SPEAKS TO JUDAS PRIVATELY


Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him,

“Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal. [36] For someone else will replace you, in order that the twelve [disciples] may again come to completion with their god.”


Judas said to him, “When will you tell me these things, and [when] will the great day of light dawn for the generation?”

But when he said this, Jesus left him.
 

 

 

SCENE 2:

Jesus appears to the disciples again. The next morning, after this happened, Jesus [appeared] to his disciples again.
 

They said to him,

“Master, where did you go and what did you do when you left us?”


Jesus said to them, “I went to another great and holy generation.”

 

His disciples said to him, “Lord, what is the great generation that is superior to us and holier than us, that is not now in these realms?”

When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to them,

“Why are you thinking in your hearts about the strong and holy generation? [37] Truly [I] say to you, no one born [of] this aeon will see that [generation], and no host of angels of the stars will rule over that generation, and no person of mortal birth can associate with it, because that generation does not come from […] which has become […]. The generation of people among [you] is from the generation of humanity […] power, which [… the] other powers […] by [which] you rule.”

When [his] disciples heard this, they each were troubled in spirit. They could not say a word.


Another day Jesus came up to [them]. They said to [him],

“Master, we have seen you in a [vision], for we have had great [dreams …] night […].”

 

[He said], “Why have [you … when] <you> have gone into hiding?” [38]

 

 

 

THE DISCIPLES SEE THE TEMPLE AND DISCUSS IT


They [said, “We have seen] a great [house with a large] altar [in it, and] twelve men - they are the priests, we would say - and a name; and a crowd of people is waiting at that altar, [until] the priests [… and receive] the offerings. [But] we kept waiting.”

 

[Jesus said], “What are [the priests] like?”


They [said, “Some …] two weeks; [some] sacrifice their own children, others their wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name], [39] and in all the deeds of their deficiency, the sacrifices are brought to completion […].”

After they said this, they were quiet, for they were troubled.
 

 

 

 

JESUS OFFERS AN ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION OF THE TEMPLE


Jesus said to them,

“Why are you troubled? Truly I say to you, all the priests who stand before that altar invoke my name. Again I say to you, my name has been written on this […] of the generations of the stars through the human generations. [And they] have planted trees without fruit, in my name, in a shameful manner.”

Jesus said to them,

“Those you have seen receiving the offerings at the altar - that is who you are. That is the god you serve, and you are those twelve men you have seen. The cattle you have seen brought for sacrifice are the many people you lead astray [40] before that altar. […] 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, and another from those who sleep with men, and those who abstain, and the rest of the people of pollution and lawlessness and error, and those who say, ‘We are like angels’; they are the stars that bring everything to its conclusion. 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.’” [41]

Jesus said [to them],

“Stop sac[rificing …] which you have […] over the altar, since they are over your stars and your angels and have already come to their conclusion there. So let them be [ensnared] before you, and let them go [ - about 15 lines missing - ] generations […]. A baker cannot feed all creation [42] under [heaven]. And […] to them […] and […] to us and […].

Jesus said to them,

“Stop struggling with me. Each of you has his own star, and every[body - about 17 lines missing - ] [43] in […] who has come [… spring] for the tree […] of this aeon […] for a time […] but he has come to water God’s paradise, and the [generation] that will last, because [he] will not defile the [walk of life of] that generation, but […] for all eternity.”

 

 

 

JUDAS ASKS JESUS ABOUT THAT GENERATION AND HUMAN GENERATIONS


Judas said to [him, “Rabb]i, what kind of fruit does this generation produce?”

 

Jesus said,

“The souls of every human generation will die. When these people, however, have completed the time of the kingdom and the spirit leaves them, their bodies will die but their souls will be alive, and they will be taken up.”

 

Judas said, “And what will the rest of the human generations do?”

Jesus said,

“It is impossible [44] to sow seed on [rock] and harvest its fruit. [This] is also the way […] the [defiled] generation […] and corruptible Sophia […] the hand that has created mortal people, so that their souls go up to the eternal realms above. [Truly] I say to you, […] angel […] power will be able to see that […] these to whom […] holy generations […].”

After Jesus said this, he departed.

 

 


SCENE 3:

Judas recounts a vision and Jesus responds.


Judas said,

“Master, as you have listened to all of them, now also listen to me. For I have seen a great vision.”

When Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him,

“You thirteenth spirit, why do you try so hard? But speak up, and I shall bear with you.”
 

Judas said to him, “In the vision I saw myself as the twelve disciples were stoning me and [45] persecuting [me severely]. And I also came to the place where […] after you. I saw [a house …], and my eyes could not [comprehend] its size. Great people were surrounding it, and that house <had> a roof of greenery, and in the middle of the house was [a crowd - two lines missing - ], saying, ‘Master, take me in along with these people.’”

[Jesus] answered and said,

“Judas, your star has led you astray.”

 

He continued, “No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen, for that place is reserved for the holy. Neither the sun nor the moon will rule there, nor the day, but the holy will abide there always, in the eternal realm with the holy angels. Look, I have explained to you the mysteries of the kingdom [46] and I have taught you about the error of the stars; and […] send it […] on the twelve aeons.”

 


 

JUDAS ASKS ABOUT HIS OWN FATE


Judas said,

“Master, could it be that my seed is under the control of the rulers?"

 

Jesus answered and said to him, “Come, that I [ - two lines missing - ], but that you will grieve much when you see the kingdom and all its generation.”

When he heard this, Judas said to him,

“What good is it that I have received it? For you have set me apart for that generation.”

 

Jesus answered and said, “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 [47] to the holy [generation].”


 

 

JESUS TEACHES JUDAS ABOUT COSMOLOGY: THE SPIRIT AND THE SELF-GENERATED


Jesus said,

“[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit], which no eye of an angel has ever seen, no thought of the heart has ever comprehended, and it was never called by any name.


“And a luminous cloud appeared there. He said, ‘Let an angel come into being as my attendant.’


“A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud. Because of him, four other angels came into being from another cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated. The Self-Generated said, [48] ‘Let […] come into being […],’ and it came into being […]. And he [created] the first luminary to reign over him. He said, ‘Let angels come into being to serve [him],’ and myriads without number came into being.

 

He said, ‘[Let] an enlightened aeon come into being,’ and he came into being. He created the second luminary [to] reign over him, together with myriads of angels without number, to offer service. That is how he created the rest of the enlightened aeons. He made them reign over them, and he created for them myriads of angels without number, to assist them.


 

 

ADAMAS AND THE LUMINARIES

Adamas was in the first luminous cloud that no angel has ever seen among all those called ‘God.’ He [49] […] that […] the image […] and after the likeness of [this] angel. He made the incorruptible [generation] of Seth appear […] the twelve […] the twenty-four […]. He made seventy-two luminaries appear in the incorruptible generation, in accordance with the will of the Spirit. The seventy-two luminaries themselves made three hundred sixty luminaries appear in the incorruptible generation, in accordance with the will of the Spirit, that their number should be five for each.

 

“The twelve aeons of the twelve luminaries constitute their father, with six heavens for each aeon, so that there are seventy-two heavens for the seventy-two luminaries, and for each [50] [of them five] firmaments, [for a total of] three hundred sixty [firmaments …]. They were given authority and a [great] host of angels [without number], for glory and adoration, [and after that also] virgin spirits, for glory and [adoration] of all the aeons and the heavens and their firmaments.

 


 

THE COSMOS, CHAOS, AND THE UNDERWORLD

“The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos -  that is, perdition - by the Father and the seventy-two luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his seventy-two aeons. In him the first human appeared with his incorruptible powers. And the aeon that appeared with his generation, the aeon in whom are the cloud of knowledge and the angel, is called [51] El. […] aeon […] after that […] said, ‘Let twelve angels come into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld].’

 

And look, from the cloud there appeared an [angel] whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood. His name was Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; others call him Yaldabaoth. Another angel, Saklas, also came from the cloud. So Nebro created six angels - as well as Saklas - to be assistants, and these produced twelve angels in the heavens, with each one receiving a portion in the heavens.

 


 

THE RULERS AND ANGELS

“The twelve rulers spoke with the twelve angels:

 

‘Let each of you [52] […] and let them […] generation [ - one line lost - ] angels’:
The first is [S]eth, who is called Christ.
The [second] is Harmathoth, who is […].
The [third] is Galila.
The fourth is Yobel.
The fifth [is] Adonaios.
These are the five who ruled over the underworld, and first of all over chaos.


 

 

THE CREATION OF HUMANITY

“Then Saklas said to his angels, ‘Let us create a human being after the likeness and after the image.’ They fashioned Adam and his wife Eve, who is called, in the cloud, Zoe. For by this name all the generations seek the man, and each of them calls the woman by these names. Now, Sakla did not [53] com[mand …] except […] the gene[rations …] this […]. And the [ruler] said to Adam, ‘You shall live long, with your children.’”

 


 

JUDAS ASKS ABOUT THE DESTINY OF ADAM AND HUMANITY


Judas said to Jesus,

“[What] is the long duration of time that the human being will live?”

 

Jesus said, “Why are you wondering about this, that Adam, with his generation, has lived his span of life in the place where he has received his kingdom, with longevity with his ruler?”


Judas said to Jesus, “Does the human spirit die?”

 

Jesus said, “This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it - that is, the spirit and the soul. Therefore, the [rest] of the souls [54] [ - one line missing - ].

 

 

 

JESUS DISCUSSES THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WICKED WITH JUDAS AND OTHERS

“[…] light [ - nearly two lines missing - ] around […] let […] spirit [that is] within you dwell in this [flesh] among the generations of angels. But God caused knowledge to be [given] to Adam and those with him, so that the kings of chaos and the underworld might not lord it over them.”

Judas said to Jesus,

“So what will those generations do?”


Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, for all of them the stars bring matters to completion. When Saklas completes the span of time assigned for him, their first star will appear with the generations, and they will finish what they said they would do. Then they will fornicate in my name and slay their children [55] and they will […] and [ - about six and a half lines missing - ] my name, and he will […] your star over the [thir]teenth aeon.”

After that Jesus [laughed].

[Judas said], “Master, [why are you laughing at us]?”


[Jesus] answered [and said], “I am not laughing [at you] but at the error of the stars, because these six stars wander about with these five combatants, and they all will be destroyed along with their creatures.”

 


 

JESUS SPEAKS OF THOSE WHO ARE BAPTIZED, AND JUDAS’S BETRAYAL


Judas said to Jesus,

“Look, what will those who have been baptized in your name do?” Jesus said, “Truly I say [to you], this baptism [56] […] my name [ - about nine lines missing - ] to me. Truly [I] say to you, Judas, [those who] offer sacrifices to Saklas […] God [ - three lines missing - ] everything that is evil.
 

“But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me. Already your horn has been raised, your wrath has been kindled, your star has shown brightly, and your heart has […]. [57]


“Truly […] your last […] become [ - about two and a half lines missing - ], grieve [ - about two lines missing - ] the ruler, since he will be destroyed. And then the image of the great generation of Adam will be exalted, for prior to heaven, earth, and the angels, that generation, which is from the eternal realms, exists. Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.”


Judas lifted up his eyes and saw the luminous cloud, and he entered it. Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud, saying, [58] […] great generation […] … image […] [ - about five lines missing - ].


 

 

CONCLUSION: JUDAS BETRAYS JESUS

[…] Their high priests murmured because [he] had gone into the guest room for his prayer. But some 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.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

CODEX IMAGES - THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS