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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA profs helped date newfound Judas book

    Considered one of the most important discoveries of religious documents since the Nag Hammadi library in 1945, the Gospel of Judas was slowly decomposing for 16 years in a safe-deposit box in Long Island, N.Y. – and the UA played a small part in its return to the public eye.

    The ancient Coptic manuscript, dating from the third or fourth century, was saved from its crumbling death when a Zurich-based antiquities dealer bought the text in 2000 and eventually turned the manuscript over to the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Basel, Switzerland, for preservation.

    The National Geographic Society joined the international effort to authenticate, conserve and translate the code in collaboration with the Maecenas Foundation.

    The UA played a role in this international effort last year when scientists at the UA’s National Science Foundation Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory received tiny fragments of the text in order to verify its authenticity of the document. The AMS lab was asked by National Geographic in January 2005 to carbon-date the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas.

    Timothy Jull, a carbon-dating expert and director of the National Science Foundation-Arizona AMS Laboratory, took five samples of papyrus and leather book binding from the ancient text to carbon-date the text.

    Jull determined the manuscript was from between A.D. 220 and A.D. 340.

    National Geographic had the text further tested to confirm its authenticity with a detailed ink analysis and a study of the theological concepts and linguistic traits contained the text. They were compared to the Nag Hammadi library, which was purportedly written during the same time period.

    While parts of the book’s 26 pages are incomplete, the Gospel of Judas begins by describing: “”The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover.””

    The manuscript, written in Coptic, portrays Judas Iscariot in a very different light than canonical texts, portraying him as a hero rather than as traitor to Jesus. It said Judas was selected by Jesus, who told Judas he had a special destiny. He would betray Jesus and hand him over to authorities so Jesus could fulfill his redemption.

    “”For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me,”” Jesus told Judas in the text. Jesus acknowledged that Judas “”will be cursed by the other generations,”” but told him not to worry. “”You will come to rule over them,”” Jesus promised him, according the Gospel of Judas.

    Jerry Pierce, an assistant professor of history at Indiana University who taught a UA history class on Gnostic texts similar to the Gospel of Judas in 2004, said the historians knew about the existence of the text because it was mentioned in a book.

    He said Irenaeus makes references to the Gospel of Judas in his anti-Gnostic work “”Adversus Haereses,”” written in about AD 180.

    The Gnostics were considered heretics by the Orthodox Church because they embraced a form of early Christianity that claims salvation not by faith or works, but through a form of spiritual liberation.

    Other Gnostic texts include the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip.

    Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation professor of religion at Princeton University and expert on Gnostic gospels, said it would be unlikely the Gospel of Judas would be included in future versions of the Bible.

    Elaine Pagels, the author of “”The Gnostic Gospels”” and “”Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, said the Gospel of Judas was “”an advanced text”” not intended to be read by laypersons.

    She said church leaders selected the four canonical gospels included in the New Testament – the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John – because they were written with the intention of being read by laypersons.

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