BY TAMARA BELKOV
Being called the 1,700-year-old lost voice of an early form of Christianity known as Gnosticism, the Gospel of Judas found its voice at St. Andrew's United Church Wednesday evening through University of Sudbury professor of religious studies AndrÃ© GagnÃ©.
The biblical story of Judas's betrayal of Jesus has come to
symbolize disloyalty in the extreme. This recently translated
gospel is said to refute Judas's villainous role and depict him
as a hero.
The Gospel of Judas was originally found in Egypt in the
1970s. In the past 30 years, the document has lead a life of
intrigue rivalling the popular novel The DaVinci Code. (The
movie will be released May 19.)
The gospel disappeared from sight, including a 17-year-stay
in a Hicksville, New York, safety deposit until it resurfaced
and became a hot property in 2000. A Swiss antiquities dealer
bought it, tried to sell it, then turned it over to the
Maecenas Foundation of Ancient Art to restore and translate.
The foundation claims it plans to give the restored original to
an Egyptian museum.
GagnÃ©, both an expert on ancient Christian writings and the
Coptic language, offered his interpretation of the
controversial Gnostic text written in ancient Coptic.
Armed with a laser pointer, he highlighted the Coptic text
projected on the screen, "This line says 'â€¦for you (Judas) will
sacrifice the man that bears me.' It's saying Judas already had
in his mind to sacrifice Jesus, and Jesus is aware of this. He
(Jesus) is just prophesizing what Judas is going to do and had
already stated. This reflects the Gnostic view of
National Geographic, which has rights to publish the gospel,
has reported the Judas gospel says Jesus asked Judas to betray
GagnÃ© disputes this and maintains this is not a matter of
semantics but one of grammar.
"They've mistranslated the tense. It was done too quickly.
It lacks the accuracy necessary for interpretation in my
National Geographic partially funded the restoration and
translation of the Gospel of Judas and has received the
exclusive rights to it.
GagnÃ© accused National Geographic of marketing
sensationalism in its coverage of the important religious find.
GagnÃ© maintains the current translation is not as accurate as
it could be and he would like to see other Christian academics
and Coptic specialists given access to the text in its original
"This is the first time something like this has happened,"
according to GagnÃ©. "This is an important archeological find
and we have the moral responsibility to look after it."
GagnÃ© has studied biblical exegesis in Montreal and Louvain
in Belgium and is a member of the Society of Biblical
Literature, the International Organization for Qumran Studies,
the Association catholique des Ã©tudes bibliques au Canada and
the RÃ©seau de recherche en analyse narrative des textes
The May issue of National Geographic has more on the Gospel of Judas, or visit www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel .