In 2006, National Geographic released the first English translation of the Gospel of Judas, a second-century text discovered in Egypt in the 1970s. The translation caused a sensation because it seemed to overturn the popular image of Judas the betrayer and instead presented a benevolent Judas who was a friend of Jesus.
Writers and academics have been quick to seize the opportunity to ‘rehabilitate’ Judas and to re-examine our assumptions about this archetypal figure. In The Thirteenth Apostle April DeConick offers a new translation of the Gospel of Judas which seriously challenges the National Geographic interpretation of a good Judas.
DeConick contends that the Gospel of Judas is not about a “good” Judas, or even a “poor old” Judas. It is a gospel parody about a “demon” Judas written by a particular group of Gnostic Christians – the Sethians. Whilst many other leading scholars have toed the National Geographic line, Professor DeConick is the first leading scholar to challenge this ‘official’ version. In doing so, she is sure to inspire a fresh debate around this most infamous of biblical figures.
April D. DeConick is the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University, Texas.