The New York Times, December 1, 2007
AMID much publicity last year, the National Geographic Society announced
that a lost 3rd-century religious text had been found, the Gospel of
Judas Iscariot. The shocker: Judas didn't betray Jesus. Instead, Jesus
asked Judas, his most trusted and beloved disciple, to hand him over to
be killed. Judas's reward? Ascent to heaven and exaltation above the
other disciples. It was a great story.
Unfortunately, after re-translating the society's transcription of the
Coptic text, I have found that the actual meaning is vastly different.
While National Geographic's translation supported the provocative
interpretation of Judas as a hero, a more careful reading makes clear
that Judas is not only no hero, he is a demon. Several of the
translation choices made by the society's scholars fall well outside the
commonly accepted practices in the field. For example, in one instance
the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a "daimon,"
which the society's experts have translated as "spirit." Actually, the
universally accepted word for "spirit" is "pneuma " — in Gnostic
literature "daimon" is always taken to mean "demon."
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