Was it virtue or betrayal?The article is mostly about the regrettable personal conflict between Robinson and Meyer, but it also touches on the question of the interpretation of the Gospel of Judas:
By Louis Sahagun, [Los Angeles] Times Staff Writer
January 6, 2007
THE National Geographic Society hailed it as one of the most significant archeological discoveries of our time, a 1,700-year-old text that portrayed Judas Iscariot as a hero, not a villain, for betraying Jesus.
The portrayal of Judas as a favored apostle who handed Jesus over to the Romans at his master's request made National Geographic's publication of "The Gospel of Judas" — and the companion TV documentary — a worldwide media event.
When the gospel was released last spring, another book appeared, "The Secrets of Judas," which sneered at the notion that the new gospel was revolutionary or that it revealed anything new about Jesus. Author James M. Robinson, a giant in the world of early Christian studies, also accused National Geographic of sensationalizing the gospel "in order to make as large a profit as possible."
Robinson, who had long railed against scholars who tried to restrict access to biblical texts, was especially dismayed that the Judas project was conducted largely in secret with the help of Marvin Meyer, Robinson's friend and former student at Claremont Graduate University.
Without directly invoking the payment Judas received from the Romans, Robinson made his point: National Geographic and its team of translators had received their 30 pieces of silver.
In the months to come, the specialized field of Coptic translation dissolved into public bickering and dark whispers by scholars who spoke of the jealous graybeard with a tender ego or the younger, irresponsible grandstander seduced by the prospect of celebrity.
But some others, including Gnostic scholar John D. Turner, have come to believe that "the prospects of increasing his fame and notoriety got the best of Marvin."Oddly, Louis Painchaud's challenge to this interpretation (now apparently supported by Craig Evans) is not mentioned.
Turner also says he has discovered numerous errors in National Geographic's English translation of the Judas Gospel. He argues the mistakes could have been avoided if the translation team had included a wider variety of experts.
Meyer, an elder at a Santa Ana Presbyterian church who conducts courses on peacemaking, acknowledged that scholars "bring personal issues and presuppositions to the table."
"A question I often ask myself," he said, "is this: Do we gravitate to self-fulfilling prophecies? In this case, is a man of peace such as myself painting Judas as a nice guy? Have we found a Judas in our own image?"