Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jesus, Judas, And The Gospel Of Judas (Part 2)

You can read Part 1 by clicking here.

AP: Today we will delve into the history of the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. Codex Tchacos is so named for the surname of the dealer that sold it to the Maecenas Foundation in Geneva. His full name is Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos. That codex contains is as famous as it is because it has, among its other texts, the Gospel of Judas. It was excavated in 1978 (in a clandestine way) in the region known as Middle Egypt, specifically Gebel, Qarara. This part of Egypt is known for its dry cliffs, full of caves and hollows in the province of Al-Minya.

The Egyptian fellahim, who found the manuscript, were probably seeking antiques to sell. They came upon a cave among the rocks. This cave resembled an ancient tomb. Inside they saw the remains of a person wrapped in a shroud and two sarcophagi. They also found a white box beside the coffins.

They did not find any antique jewelry inside the box. Instead, they found books. The fellahim realized that old books also had great value, so they got in contact with a Am Samiah. This individual was said to be an explorer and an excavator, but in actuality he was a special type of broker. He was the guy you would go to if you wanted to find dealers in Cairo, turning finds into money, and always avoiding the police and other government authorities.

Guess what they found inside the box. There was a very ancient codex whose content was written in language the fellahim did not understand. The material was papyrus, and it still had part of its original binding. The codex needed to be handled with serious care, but, sadly, that's not exactly what it received.

The discovery of this codex is closely related to the spectacular discovery in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, which is further to the South in Egypt (in the ancient region of the Thebaid), of thirteen codices written around the same time. Not only are their compositions dated to around the same time, but they both have Gnostic content.

An antiquities dealer in Cairo, named Hanna Asabil (which is actually a pseudonym, used to keep "her" identity a secret), brought the codex to light and started shopping it around. Before Hanna could start to negotiate the sale of the codex, it was stolen. It was later recovered thanks to the intervention of one of Hanna's colleagues in Geneva, who was also an antiquities dealer. Once it was returned, Hanna tried to sell it for years to universities (especially American ones), but to no avail. At that time, the study of the Nag Hammadi codices was at its peak. Large editions of texts and extensive studies were seeing the light of day and demand for Gnostic Coptic material was then very high. That's probably what made Hanna think she could sell this codex for such the astronomical price she was demanding.

We'll finish telling the story in the next post. You can definitely see that this was quite an interesting series of events. It's no wonder people have such a great interest in this apocryphal text.

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