Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Revising Opinions of Judas (Again)

In an op-ed column in The New York Times, April D. DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University, seeks to debunk some key points in the National Geographic Society's translation of the gnostic text, the Gospel of Judas. The full text of her column is here Gospel Truth. She writes in part:
Judas betrays Jesus with a kissAMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn’t betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to be killed. Judas’s reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the other disciples.

It was a great story. Unfortunately, after re-translating the society’s transcription of the Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different. While National Geographic’s translation supported the provocative interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon.
Then she goes on to delve into some specific errors in translation including one key error, acknowledged and corrected belated by the National Geographic Society, in which a negative was deleted, reversing the meaning of the verse.

All of this is probably beside the point. As I stated in a blog post The Gospel of Judas: That there was such a text is not news. We knew of its existence from the Christian writers Irenaeus, Theodoret and Epiphanius. And through their writing against The Gospel of Judas we already knew something of its contents and why it was never considered as part of the Bible (it was written much later by Gnostics, not by Judas in the week before the crucifixion as the text purports).

The early church knew of the Gospel of Judas and considered it to be neither authentically from Judas nor scripture. We know of no Christian church in which the text of this "Gospel" functioned as authentic teaching. Instead, the work fits more neatly as Irenaeus puts it, into gnostic writings.

Gnostics were a sect that believed in "gnosis" (which is Greek for "knowledge") handed down secretly from disciple to student. Only those "in the know" so to speak would get the real details on the faith, not unlike Scientology today. We know a lot about Gnostics and their beliefs from both their writings and Christians, most prominently Irenaeus, writing against them. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon, wrote of the Gnostics (around 180 A.D.) saying in part of his defense against them, "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."

So the details of going back and forth on translation issue for the Gospel of Judas would be of interest to those studying gnostic thought, but does not tell us of the thoughts or experiences of Jesus' disciple who betrayed him.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

Online Advent Calendar
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is offering an online Advent Calendar whose daily reflections include some by the Rev. Lonnie Lacey from Trinity Episcopal Church in Statesboro, Georgia. That calendar is online at:



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