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I have just finished reading April DeConick's new book, The Thirteenth Apostle:

What the Gospel of Judas Really Says. So many comments need to be made directed
at so many interests:
The following is from my blog where I have more posts discussing the contents and
argument of this book. See [...]
1. Firstly, the book is easily accessible to the lay reader even though it discusses
technical translation issues of the Coptic, as well as some of the history of the
scholarship relating to the Gospel of Judas and its broader context.
2. Secondly, for most of us who have read the National Geographic translation of the
Gospel of Judas, be prepared for a radical re-think of what we have read there. The
National Geographic translation depicts Judas as the only true saint; DeConick's, as
the arch demon himself -- or at least destined to join with him in the end.
3. Which immediately raises the question: Why would a gospel make the central
character a demon? DeConick shows how the apparent structure and thematic
development of the gospel aligns it with an agenda opposing that Christianity that
traced its genealogy back to the Twelve Apostles. Like the Gospel of Mark, the
Gospel of Judas was a parody and attack on apostolic Christianity and its doctrine of
the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
4. Fourthly, April DeConick proposes several reasons to explain such oppositional
i. She explains in easy to read terms the condition of the text and possible variations
in how the original Coptic could be read;
ii. She suggests with Professor Louis Painchaud that since World War 2 and the
Holocaust, and the widespread anti-Semitism preceding those years, there has been a
powerful cultural need to absolve our collective guilt over the treatment of the Jews.
And this compulsion has led us to reappraise our portrayals of the bad
Jew/Judah/Judas embedded in our foundational Christian myth. So much for Maloney
and Archer's collaboration on their fictional cum theological treatise of their Judas
iii. DeConick even has an interesting section that surveys the different films of Jesus
before and since World War 2 and compares particularly the portrayal of Judas in
those pre- and those post-Holocaust movies -- in the pre-war movies he was always
an evil villain through and through; in the post-war movies he has been depicted with
more understanding and compassion -- a well-meaning idealist who just happened not
to think the same way as Jesus;

iv. DeConick gives enough information about the transmission of the text and the role
of National Geographic in its initial public translation to alert the reader to possible
motives and controls at work other than those normally associated with scholarly
5. The book gives a clear overview of the nature of the Christian world in the second
century, showing that Apostolic Christianity (claiming descent from the Twelve
Apostles) was only one branch; others explained are Marcionites, Ebionites, the
Church of the New Prophecy (Montanism) and those diverse others traditionally
labeled Gnostics.
6. Sixthly, the book gives one of the most readable introductions to the intricacies of
(Sethian) gnosticism I have ever read. Anyone who has started out cold and attempted
to grasp the cosmology of the Sethian gnostics from the Nag Hammadi texts alone as
they are presented in the most accessible translations will appreciate this the most.
7. For Gospel of Mark lovers such as myself I was especially interested in
DeConick's comparisons with the theology and attitudes towards the Twelve
Disciples in the Gospel of Mark. My mind cartwheeled as I read. What needs to be
worked through, I was thinking, was not just the similarities between the Judas and
Mark Gospels' dismissiveness of the Twelve, but the fact that both gospels are
addressing in many ways the same theological (and church genealogical) issues.
Could they really be separated by as much as 100 years as orthodox datings propose?
-- i. Also closely related to the Gospel of Mark is the way both that gospel and the
Judas gospel demonstrate that it is the demons who have the superior understanding
of who Jesus really was. (Even Peter's confession appears tainted with some form of
demon-possession given that Jesus calls him Satan at the same moment as his
confession.) Even the demons understand more than the apostles!
8. DeConick provides a clear and easy to read account of the "orthodox" reaction to
the theology expressed in the Gospel of Judas. This culminated with Origen's
formulation of the doctrine of Jesus' sacrifice as a ransom and atonement to trick the
Devil and rescue humanity from his power.
9. The Thirteenth Gospel was one of the very few books where I was drawn to read
all the appendices:
i. DeConick's annotated bibliography of the Gospel of Judas, second-century
Christianity, the New Testament Apocrypha and Gnosis and the Gnostics;
ii. her annotated synopsis of Sethian Gospel literature;
iii. her annotated citations of the testimony from the Church Fathers on the Gospel of

iv. and finally a Q&A section with April DeConick. This summed up some of the
common questions asked about the Gospel of Judas (why is it appearing only now,
why such opposing translations, what is the position of other scholars given such
opposing translations, early Christianity and the role of Judas. . . .)
I can see myself returning regularly to this book in future references on this blog.
(Especially in relation to my special interest in studies relating to the Gospel of Mark
and Christian origins.)
Almost forgot -- Yes, the book contains a complete and new translation -- with
commentary -- of the Gospel of Judas.
And I have more posts with detailed accounts of this book's contents and argument on
my Vridar blog [[...] Check the DeConick link in the Book Reviews section there.
25 di 29 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
Questioning a Positive Judas 23 ottobre 2007
Di James D. Tabor - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida
Does the much publicized "Gospel of Judas," released in April, 2006 by the National
Geographic, truly portray a positive view of Judas, the betrayer of Jesus? Dr. April
DeConick of Rice University has questioned this interpretation of the newly released
text. Speaking at the Biblical Archeology Society Seminar held this past weekend in
San Antonio, Texas, Dr. DeConick, who holds a chair in Biblical Studies at Rice
University, summarized her conclusions based on her translation and analysis of the
original Coptic text. According to Dr. DeConick the idea of a positive Judas, friend
and confident of Jesus, who receives a high heavenly reward for his betrayal of Jesus,
is based on a series of faulty misreadings and mistranslations of the original text. Dr.
DeConick argues that the "Gospel of Judas," turns out to portray a Judas that is far
more demonic than in any other piece of early Christian literature, including the
traditional accounts in the New Testament Gospels.
The book surveys the story of the Judas Gospel's discovery and release and includes
Dr. DeConick's translation of the Coptic as well as her analysis of the translation
issues upon which a positive or negative interpretation of Judas turn. It further relates
the text to its historical setting, namely the thought world of an early Christian group
of Gnostics known as the Sethians. Chapter 2, titled "A Gnostic Catechism," is one of
the clearest expositions on Gnosticism written for the non-specialist that I have ever
seen. The book also contains three invaluable appendices: A marvelously clear and
complete annotated survey of "Further Reading," a synopsis of Sethian literature, and
a Q&A with Dr. DeConick in which she relates her excitement at the initial
publication of the text and how she reluctantly came to question its interpretation as
represented in the books and documentary produced by the National Geographic

I highly recommend this new book and I look forward to the continued discussion of
this fascinating ancient text.
James D. Tabor, author, The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal
Family, and the Birth of Christianity
9 di 10 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
An important part of the puzzle 22 febbraio 2008
Di Paul Stevenson - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida
April DeConick's book is addressed to the general public, though it includes much
information useful to scholars, such as her discussion of blatant misinterpretations of
the Coptic by the original National Geographic team. (Some of these errors have been
corrected in the more recently published The Gospel of Judas, Critical Edition; the
French translation in that book is superior to the English one.)
Another reviewer has offered many details of the content of the book, so I need not
repeat any of them. What I would like to offer is a caveat. My care in approaching
this book is the result of having just finished studying the Gospel of Judas in a
graduate Coptic class, in which we not only read the book in Coptic but also read
some of the scholarly literature that has come out since the rather rushed initial
translation published by National Geographic. April DeConick's views are an
important part of the mix. Scholars have expressed a range of views on this gospel. A
majority seem to reject the National Geographic view. Other views are coming out,
and Dr. DeConick's view is an important alternative view, but not the only one. Read
her book but also read other literature. Articles published in scholarly journals are
particularly helpful, if you have access to them.
But regardless of what you read now, be aware that the study of this gospel is only
two years old, and it is still in a state of rapid ferment and development. Perhaps in
five years a more considered consensus may emerge, so keep your eye on it. Come
back in ten or twenty years, if you can. You will see a considerable body of literature
and more fully developed views. Many detailed studies of many aspects of this
gospel will be needed in order to interpret it thoroughly. This just takes time, as
scholars work on them in the time they have between teaching classes, which is how
most of them make their living. But they are working on this gospel and will continue
to do so, as the issues it raises are compelling.
21 di 27 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
They Forgot Gnostic Mythology 21 ottobre 2007
Di The Spinozanator - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida
Judas, the good guy? No, indeed! He is even worse than previously thought. A closer
translation and a thorough knowledge of gnostic mythology, derived partially from

Plato, shows him to be a secret agent of the devil.

The Gospel of Judas is a parody, written by someone from the Sethian subgroup of
Gnostic Christians - to make mainstream Christians of the second century look
asinine for relying on a demon ruler (Judas) and his minions (the twelve) for their
teachings and practices. A more specific goal of the Gospel of Judas, according to
DeConick, is to blast the doctrine of atonement and the effectiveness of the eucharist,
on account of Judas's involvement.
Other authors rushed in to write books last year, relying on the (erroneous?) coptic
translations of the National Geographic team. It will be interesting to see how this
controversy falls, but I'm betting on DeConick.
5 di 6 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
The Gospel of Judas, Take Two 25 aprile 2008
Di Steve - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida Acquisto verificato
Following the initial work on the Gospel of Judas from the National Geographic team
and the publishing of the Coptic transcription, other scholars have had a crack at
translation and interpretation and some differing and contrary opinions are emerging.
A very different take has been offered by April DeConick in her recent book..
DeConick, a biblical studies scholar who also has an active and interesting blog,
believes that the National Geographic team made several translation errors which led
to an overall erroneous interpretation of the message of the gospel (please note that
no scholar believes this text has any historical value regarding the actual events of
Jesus' life; rather the interest is in what the text tells us about the beliefs of one of the
many early Christian communities opposed to the "apostolic" or proto-orthodox
church in the centuries before the time of Constantine). According to DeConick,
while Judas does have greater understanding than the other apostles (who are
completely misguided), he is nonetheless a doomed and (literally) demonic figure. So
while the text is still very much in opposition to apostolic Christianity (indeed she
views it as a parody of sorts), the figure of Judas is still to be seen as a bad guy, not
the good guy put forth by the National Geographic team.
It is very interesting to see how a handful of translation choices could lead to such
greatly contrasting interpretations of the text (although the fact that the text is missing
significant passages contributes to the difficulty of all of these efforts). The most
important of these choices relates to the translation of the Greek-imported word
"daimon" (referring to Judas) as "spirit" by the National Geographic team, and
"demon" by DeConick. According to DeConick, the word had evolved from classical
times from the general idea of a spiritual entity to the specifically evil connotation by
the time of "Judas". I found DeConick's arguments persuasive, but as a non-expert I
look forward to reading further discussion of this by other commentators.

The book itself has additional merit for those lay readers who are interested in the
subject. DeConick includes a very clear discussion of the various "gnostic"
communities in play in early Christianity. She is very good specifically on the Sethian
movement, to which the author of the Gospel of Judas belongs. Her exposition of the
complex Sethian cosmology was very good - I had previously found this to be pretty
confusing. The book also includes her complete translation, which provides the
reader the context for the interpretative debate.