Saturday, October 07, 2006

Judas may be evil after all? Who knew?

I ran into this news on Phil Harland's blog, Religions of the Ancient World and couldn't stop laughing. After all the hype and media splash around the Gospel of Judas in the spring, it turns out the National Geographic version of this gospel may have been badly mistranslated. Louis Painchaud, a professor at Laval University, has argued in a recent paper (abstract posted by Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica). Painchaud's main point is "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." Painchaud attributes the mistranslation to importing the testimony of Irenaeus and Epiphanius into the document, not reading it in its own right.

Of course, we need to be cautious here. This is merely a counter claim and needs to be verified by other Coptic scholars. Also, it really only addresses whether Judas is meant to be a postiive or negative figure in the Gospel. It says little about any of the theology enunciated by the 'Jesus' in it. Still, it is an interesting development.

I think I'm with Phil Harland on this. I wish I knew Coptic too!

Peace,
Phil

5 comments:

Jim said...

Oh my! I could not stop laughing for several minutes.

Like you I do not read Coptic. But the sense of the counter translation makes a lot more sense than the Easter surprise version we heard about earlier. I wonder if the counter claim will make the news? Nah, I don't really wonder.

FWIW
jimB

Dave Williams said...

Guys,

I too wish I knew Coptic but Greek and Hebrew are going to be my priority for a little while yet :o) I think there is a serious need for orthodox Christians to get to know Coptic so we can give these texts some serious attention. I must admit having waded through the Nag Hammandi literature (and wade is the right word) -that it may be that these were very weird esoteric writings or it may be that they are actually a lot more straight forward and readable it's the translations! :o)

Jim said...

I dunno Dave. Before this article came out, I would have doubted a translation could be this bad. But then, this one got caught too. So I shall continue to work on Aramaic for a while. ;-)

FWIW
jimB

Phil S. said...

Jim and Dave;

There are, of course, orthodox Christians who know Coptic and, for much the same reasons that Dave sets out, I doubt if I'll have time to be one. Personally, I'd love to, but the speed of my life makes it hard to do much more than retain what I have (good Greek and Latin).

The problem with the Nag Hammadi literature is that the manuscripts themselves are a bit of a mess. That, I think, is creating some of the unintelligibliity of the texts. Yet, I think these works are esoteric and weird in general, so I wonder to what extent we'll ever really get them. Mind you, I'm not sure the degree to which I want to get them. They are that weird.

Peace,
Phil

Dave Williams said...

Phil,

Although if you are going to become our patristics expert....