In 2006 National Geographic released the first English translation of the Gospel of Judas, a second-century text discovered in Egypt in the 1970s. The translation caused a sensation because it seemed to overturn the popular image of Judas the betrayer and instead presented a benevolent Judas who was a friend of Jesus. In The Thirteenth Apostle April DeConick offers a new translation of the Gospel of Judas which seriously challenges the National Geographic interpretation of a good Judas. Inspired by the efforts of the National Geographic team to piece together this ancient manuscript, DeConick sought out the original Coptic text and began her own translation.
I didnt find the sublime Judas, at least not in Coptic. What I found were a series of English translation choices made by the National Geographic team, choices that permitted a different Judas to emerge in the English translation than in the Coptic original. Judas was not only not sublime, he was far more demonic than any Judas I know in any other piece of early Christian literature, Gnostic or otherwise.
DeConick contends that the Gospel of Judas is not about a good Judas, or even a poor old Judas. It is a gospel parody about a demon Judas written by a particular group of Gnostic Christians known as the Sethians who lived in the second century CE. The purpose of the text was to criticize mainstream or apostolic Christianity from the point of view of these Gnostic Christians, especially their doctrine of atonement, their Eucharistic practices, and their creedal faith which they claimed to have inherited from the twelve disciples.
Professor DeConick provides her English translation and interpretation of this newly recovered gospel within the previously overlooked context of a Christianity in the second century that was sectarian and conflicted. The first book to challenge the National Geographic version of the Gospel of Judas, The Thirteenth Apostle is sure to inspire to fresh debate around this most infamous of biblical figures. This fully revised and updated edition includes a new chapter, 'Judas the Star', and a substantial new preface which reflects upon the controversial reception of The Thirteenth Apostle and the advances in scholarship that have been made since its publication.
List of Figures
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Part 1 An Unfamiliar Story
1. The Silenced Voice
2. A Gnostic Catechism
Part 2 Translation Matters
3. A Mistaken Gospel
4. The Gospel of Judas in English Translation
Part 3 Good Old Judas?
5. Judas the Confessor
6. Judas the Demon
7. Judas the Sacrificer
8. Judas the Star
9. The Magical Judas
10. An Ancient Gnostic Parody
Appendix 1: Further Reading
Appendix 2: A Synopsis of Sethian Gnostic Literature
Appendix 3: Testimony From the Church Fathers on the Gospel of Judas
Appendix 4: Q&A with April DeConick
Index of Authors
Index of References
April D. DeConick is the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University (Houston, Texas). She specializes in early Christian history and theology, noncanonical Gospels, and gnostic and mystical traditions.
The Thirteenth Apostle by April D. DeConick was published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC in April 2009. The ISBN for The Thirteenth Apostle is 9781847065681.