Monday, June 29, 2015

The Gospel Of Judas: A Description Of The Codex (Part 2)

Part 1 of this series is available here.

AP: There is more to Codex Tchacos than just the Gospel of Judas. That Gospel is not the only literary text found in the codex. There's actually a strong level of coherence among the texts found within it. In what way is it coherent? Well, all of the texts found within are Gnostic works. We can compare them to the texts found at Nag Hammadi.

Nag Hammadi lies further to the south from the site where Codex Tchacos was found. It is located some 120 kilometres from Luxor, and the find was also the result of some covert excavations, like Codex Tchacos. Found in 1945, its thirteen codices were in very good condition, kept inside a sealed ceramic container. They contained a large number of Coptic texts, which are also translations of lost Greek texts; some of the original wording in Greek is actually preserved though (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas in sheets of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri). These texts have since been an important study of early Christianity and Gnosticism. What happened to those manuscripts from Nag Hammadi? Similar to what probably happened to Codex Tchacos (and others that may be found in the future), were hidden in order to save them from those who were persecuting against heresies. That also explains why its "textual" history was interrupted. By interrupted, we mean the silence in transmission in these Gnostic texts, where we find succession in transmission with those that are canonical. These were considered heretical and were, therefore, deemed "illegal" and removed from circulation. The few that did survive have only emerged many centuries later, as witnesses of the existence of these trends of the first Christianity.

The thirteen codices in Nag Hammadi share a number of similarities with Codex Tchacos. These similarities suggest that there was workshop or scriptorium that produced them. The date of composition, as I've already pointed out, is the same. The codices are in written on papyrus, with similar dimensions and proportions. The artistic detail of the manuscript, typical of manuscripts like this in this time period, even though they are not the same, have the same style. And the binding of Codex Tchacos, which is now severely damaged, must have been very similar to the one preserved in Nag Hammadi.

The Nag Hammadi texts include several apocryphal Gospels, such as that of Thomas, of Philip, the Gospel of Truth, and other extremely important texts representative of Gnostic thought. The contents of the Codex Tchacos can be reconstructed in the following manner:
1. The Epistle of Peter to Philip, which corresponds to the text with the same title of Codex VIII of the Nag Hammadi texts. (Pages 1-9)
2. James, which corresponds to the third text of the Codex V of the Nag Hammadi texts, entitled "First Apocalypse of James." (Pages 10-32)
3. The Gospel of Judas, of which there was no previously known copy, but was known to have existed given the reference of Irenaeus of Lyons in his work Against Heresies. (Pages 33-58)
4. A work that is found in the outer part of the Codex, which is severely damaged, but that has been referred to as The Book of Allogenes. This, however, does not have any connection to the work with the same title in Codex XI of the Nag Hammadi texts. (Pages 59-66)
Codex Tchacos has been lovingly restored by the philologist R. Kasser and restorer Florence Dabre, the director of a restoration workshop in Nyon, Switzerland. They were tasked with rebuilding folios that were severely damaged, especially in its center. The top of the pages, which were numbered, was easier to rebuild, since the text was followed consecutively according to the page number. The problem was the bottom of the folios, which not only was badly damaged, but had also been separated and altered during its journey from "found" to "stolen" to "returned" and "purchased."

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