Gospel of Judas New Take Part 2 Oct 28

I have now read all of The Thirteenth Gospel by April DeConick. She questions six points of translation in the National Geographic rendering of Judas. The most important is that Judas is described as a thirteenth demon (read a negative Judas portrait), not a thirteenth spirit (read a positive Judas portrait).

I have now read all of The Thirteenth Gospel by April DeConick. She questions six points of translation in the National Geographic rendering of Judas. The most important is that Judas is described as a thirteenth demon (read a negative Judas portrait), not a thirteenth spirit (read a positive Judas portrait). So she argues this gospel sees Judas negatively and argues it critiques the apostolic Christianity and the doctrine of atonement as reflective of ignorance on that wing of Christianity. The critique comes from Sethian Gnosticism. This is reflective of tensions in the second century.

This alternative rendering depends on the actual Coptic text. Until photos of the manuscripts are published (so we can see the actual text) this kind of debate cannot be completely sorted out. In some cases the debates about the renderings are dependent on how the context is read and/or readings depending on the exact lettering of the Coptic which have to be checked against the actual manuscripts. DeConick argues the National Geographic rendering is not an internally logical reading of the gospel. She also questions the description of Irenaeus of Gnostics who elevate past villains into heroes, a sect Irenaeus calls Cainite Gnostics as he describes a Gospel of Judas that reads Judas positively. She questions the Fathers as being hostile to such texts in general and not able to be trusted. Only having the texts will help us resolve the alternatives.

One other take DeConick has is extremely questionable. She argues that Mark’s criticism of the Twelve is like the Sethian reading and is part of a split between Mark’s alignment with Paul and their criticism (rejection) of Jewish Christianity, such as that of James, Peter and Matthew. This is yet another reappearance of the F. C. Baur thesis of Christian origins and a clear spilt in the earliest Christianity. This ignores how such an originally (supposedly) hostile document would have been folded into the canon and connected traditionally to Peter, if it really connected to Paul. It is this kind of historical rearranging of categories that makes certain aspects of new school claims so suspect. DeConick may be right about Judas, but on this point about Mark, she is most certainly off the mark.


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    Professor Bock,

    Thank you for taking the time to read my book. Just a couple of comments to clear some things up.

    There is no discrepancy in the photos, and there is no disagreement between me and the NG team about what the manuscript says in Coptic. The word used in the Coptic manuscript itself is “daimon”. The disagreement is in the translation of the word, which the NG team renders “spirit” while I more traditionally use “demon.”

    As for Mark. You may disagree with my own interpretation of Mark because you tend to see early Christianity as a much more harmonious group than I. But the Gnostics were interpreting Mark as I have indicated. There is a distinction between my own suggestion that it represents an anti-Pauline text, and the use of it by the Gnostics against the concept of the Twelve, and I think that this needs to be kept clear.

    April DeConick

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      Daimon and other matters dlb

      Prof DeConick:


      Thank you for the feedback. My post was not clear on the need to see the mss. I did not have this daimon difference in mind (which is not disputed), but some of the other textual issues I believe you raise. If those are not (or no longer) disputed, please let me know. I have not seen any photos yet. I actually think your take on this may well be on target.

      You are right that I likely see more harmony in the early church. My own take is that Mark is both pro-Pauline and pro-Petrine (given this assocaition in the tradition, which I suspect you are likely to have questions about). My take is also is rooted in my understanding of Paul’s own words in Galatians that on the gospel, James, Peter and Paul agreed. (I also see in early Jewish Christianity two strands- one Ebionite, the other, Nazarean. I’d connect James with the latter).

      Now do we have an indication that Judas knew Mark? If Judas was tied to the Syrian area and Mark to Rome, this is not a given in my mind. I think I understand that you hold that the demon recognizing who Jesus is said said to come from Mark, but that context involves a healing and exorcism, so the association is at a broad level as opposed ot being a strict parallel. Of course, all of this is why we in NT discuss such matters. Again, thanks for the response. I enjoyed the book.

      Darrell Bock

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    April DeConick

    Mark in Syria
    Professor Bock,

    But Matthew which was written in Syria in 80s (if we go by traditional standards) had a copy of Mark. So did Luke written in Greece (?) in 80s. So Mark was a known text in different geographical locations very early. And by the early second century Papias knows it.

    As for where the Gospel of Judas was written. I would put my money on Alexandria where I place the origin of most of the Sethian documents.

    As for photos of Tchacos and access. I have been the loudest public voice to get NGS to release the facsimiles. We only have reduced color photos in The Critical Edition, but they are not very useful. For those parts of the manuscript where NGS has changed its transcription of the Coptic, one of the team members sent me life size photos of those areas so that I could evaluate them while I worked on my book. But we all need the facsimiles as soon as possible (like yesterday!).

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    Mark In Syria dlb

    Professor DeConick:

    Nice response on the circulation of the gospels in Syria. Helpful and thanks. The idea that Judas could be from Alexandria as are other Sethian documents is also interesting. Strikes me as plausible. My thinking is impacted by how rarely Mark is cited in the second century so that one wonders how wide its initial impact was in the second century on second century texts.