The Betrayal of Judas

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article detailing the origins and translation of the Lost Gospel of Judas organized by National Geographic. Some of the details of the story are hilarious. The article opens:

Marvin Meyer was eating breakfast when his cellphone buzzed. Meyer, a professor of religious studies at Chapman University, has a mostly gray beard and an athletic build left over from his basketball days. His friends call him “the Velvet Hammer” for his mild demeanor. He’s a nice guy.

The voice on the other end belonged to a representative of the National Geographic Society. They were working on a project and wanted his help.

“That’s very interesting,” he remembers saying. “What do you have in mind?”

“We can’t tell you,” was the reply.

That was not the answer he expected.

“Let me see if I understand this,” Meyer said. “You’d like me to agree to do a project with you, but you won’t tell me what that project is. Is that right?”

“Exactly.”

More good stuff of on the so-called “dream team” of scholars involved:

[Bart] Ehrman was among the first to be contacted by National Geographic. It was, as he recalls, an odd conversation. He had to explain that, in order to translate the Coptic, the organization would need to hire a Coptologist, which he is not. That Coptologist would turn out to be Marvin Meyer, who was hired after someone from National Geographic heard him speak at a conference. Also brought on board was Elaine H. Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University and the kind of academic celebrity who gets asked what’s in her fridge by The New York Times Magazine.

A Coptic scholar from Rice University cross-examines the findings and finds that the “translation” is an interpretation spun 180 degrees on its head:

These discoveries filled her with dread. “I was like, this is bad, and these are my friends,” she says. It’s worth noting that it didn’t take DeConick months of painstaking research to reach her conclusions. Within minutes, she thought something was wrong. Within a day, she was convinced that significant mistakes had been made. Why, if it was so obvious to her, had these other scholars missed it? Why had they seen a good Judas where, according to DeConick, none exists?

Read the whole thing.

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