The Gospel of Judas

Is the Judas Codex or The Gospel of Judas heretical?

I was one among many who watched National Geographic’s Judas Gospel. The program details the journey of the Judas Codex from its discovery by an Egyptian Farmer to its present owner. Check the story at National Geographic News. The codex had a long journey, and its physical integrity was severely compromised along the way, before it found itself in the hands of the Basel, Switzerland - based Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art. Later, along with the La Jolla, California - based Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery and the Washington, DC - based National Geographic Society, the codex was authenticated, restored, translated and published.

Gospel of Judas Pages Endured Long, Strange Journey
Brian Handwerk
For National Geographic News
April 6, 2006


  1. Radiocarbon dating of five tiny samples of papyrus and leather binding of the codex by the University of Arizona’s radiocarbon dating laboratory, which is the same lab that tested the Dead Sea Scrolls, revealed that the codex to between A.D. 220 and 340.
  2. Additional physical evidence, done by extensive forensic ink analysis and multispectral imaging tests, support the radiocarbon dating finding.
  3. Scholars examined the handwriting, linguistic style and content of the codex and compared with those written by ancient scribes. The scholars note that Codex was similar in linguistic structure and in theological concept with the manuscripts found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and the Nag Hammadi Text - which contain Gnostic writings. Gnostic, pre-Christian and Early Christian, believed that the physical world is corrupt and that humans can only transcend by getting esoteric spiritual knowledge.
  4. The Codex was deteriorating. And it took and is taking a team of preservationists and other scholars to restore and pieces together.


A few things are certain about the Judas Codex it seems to be an authentic Coptic document written between AD 220 and 340. It comes from Early Christians known called Gnostics. There is no concrete proof that it was written by Judas. It is just titled the Gospel of Judas. In what was translated the Gospel seems to be detailing or illuminating certain areas most Christians are familiar with. Judas Iscariot is given a more favourable treatment and it stops at the act of the betrayal. There were more than thirty gospels during this time aside from the Gospel of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. The included the Gospels of Thomas, Mary of Magdala and Judas.

The Gospels were trimmed down to four - Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. According to St Irenaeus, the four gospels were divinely inspired and the rest were nonsanctioned texts and probably heretical. As a result of this Scribes were forbidden to copy them and existing copies were burned. Still others were hidden for safekeeping and one found its way to an Egyptian farmer to an Antique Dealer and to Maecenas Foundation.

Is the book heretical? What has been translated so far does not seem to indicate anything. At least to me it does not debunk the role of Jesus Christ nor does not do anything to say the things did not happen. It might have painted Judas in a better light. Is that heretical? It does not change the fact that Judas did betray Jesus. Heretical perhaps because it enforced what Saint Irenaeus believed to be heresies perpetuated by those called Gnostics? Maybe…

One thing is certain this codex/gospel like the rest of thirty or so something gospels represented a particular view of an event a belief. Perhaps, no different from the different point of view espoused by people over an issue, an event or a belief. Expurged because of necessity? Expurged because of heresy? Expurged due to the demands of a religion organising itself? Expurged for personal motives? Expurged because it came from what was termed a heretic branch of Early Christianity?

An interesting document probably more interesting than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Will it shatter the Faith of whoever will read it or learn about it? I do not think so. For me it provides a glimpse into the mindset of at least one community in the Early Christian Church.

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