Prof April DeConick's intriguing OpEd piece on the Gospel of Judas in yesterday's NY Times makes several points about the translation and alteration of that text by the National Geographic Society in 2006. These points and others are discussed at greater length in her 2007 book, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says.
* Judas isn't a hero, he's a demon
* Judas isn't set apart "for" the holy generation; he's separated from it
* Judas will _not_ ascend to the holy generation
She references a SBL resolution passed in 1991 to which she wishes scholars working for the National Geographic Society on the translation and interpretation of Gospel of Judas had adhered that if the condition of the written manuscript requires that access be restricted, a facsimile reproduction should be the first order of business.
These are good points. We've had the critical edition of the Gospel of Judas edited by Rodolphe Kasser and Gregor Wurst since June 19, 2007. And when National Geographic released the initial provisional translation in 2006, criticisms were made in print by scholars such as Bruce Chilton (NY Sun, April 7, 2006) and others about the secrecy of the project, NG's "ownership" of the presentation of the text including injunctions to secrecy, and the interpretation of the text itself.
I'm going to explore just one issue here to indicate that we don't yet have a definitive translation. On the matter of Judas' identity, he's called "thirteenth daimon" by Jesus in the Gospel of Judas. While this was initially translated in NG's April 2006 web publication as "You thirteenth spirit," the subsequent critical edition leaves it as "thirteenth daimon."
The question left open is how to render "daimon." In general, I agree with Prof De Conick that "daimon" is best rendered by "demon" as it is throughout Codex 7 (The Paraphrase of Shem, the Apocalypse of Peter) in the Nag Hammadi Library, for example. In many Nag Hammadi treatises, "demon" denotes beings who control lower worlds in which humans find themselves imprisoned. Thus it is is possible to refer to the inferior creator of the lower worlds and other "demons" as (lower case) "god," referencing a critique of the creator God of the Hebrew Bible found in many of the Nag Hammadi treatises. But the Gospel of Judas is not describing a being who controls the lower world here. It's describing Judas.
So there's another rendering of "thirteenth daimon" as "thirteenth god" by Karen King and Elaine Pagels in their book, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (Penguin Viking 2007). Karen King has a note on her translation "daimon" (p.140-141). She says that in Greek thought, the term "daimon" was used to indicate gods of a lower rank. Plato wrote that everyone possesses a "daimon" or part of the soul through the cultivation of which one can achieve likeness to God and immortality, which is happiness or "eudaimonia," the state of a good "daimon." Subsequent Christian thought will, she notes, understand "daimon" as a negative entity or demon.
The challenge is to render the term "daimon" satisfactorily in light of the entire text.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
April DeConick on the Gospel of Judas, "Gospel Truth" in the NY Times, Dec 1, 2007
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