The Lost Gospel
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a codex, and why is this document called the Codex Tchacos?
A codex is an ancient book consisting of folded pages, bound at one side. Codices were the preferred form for scriptural or classical texts, as they could contain a lot more information than scrolls and were easier to manage. Codex Tchacos is named after Dimaratos Tchacos, father of Zürich-based antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos, who bought the document in September 2000.

What does the Codex Tchacos contain?
The codex contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but also a text titled James (otherwise known as the First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes.

Where was the Codex Tchacos discovered?
The codex, containing the Gospel of Judas, was discovered in the 1970s near El Minya, Egypt, and moved from Egypt to Europe to the United States. Once in the United States, it was kept in a safe-deposit box for 16 years on Long Island, New York, until antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos bought it in April 2000. After two unsuccessful resale attempts, Nussberger-Tchacos—alarmed by the codex's rapidly deteriorating state—transferred it to the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Basel, Switzerland, in February 2001, for restoration and translation. The manuscript will be delivered to Egypt and housed in Cairo's Coptic Museum.

How did the codex containing the Gospel of Judas survive for so many centuries?
Because the Gospel of Judas was hidden in the Egyptian desert for more than 1,600 years, the papyrus remained intact. However, the document severely deteriorated when it was kept in a safe-deposit box on Long Island, New York, for 16 years. As a result, the conservation process to rescue and preserve the manuscript has been an enormous undertaking, as Rodolphe Kasser and his team worked to piece the document back together by reassembling nearly a thousand broken fragments of papyrus.

What is the history of the codex containing the Gospel of Judas?
The National Geographic Society has worked with a team of international experts to analyze a collection of ancient papyrus documents, which include the Gospel of Judas, first discovered more than 30 years ago in Egypt. The rare religious texts in the codex are written in the ancient Egyptian Coptic language and are about 1,700 years old. National Geographic collaborated with the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art, and scientific experts, historians, and theologians from around the world to authenticate, reconstruct, conserve, and translate these extraordinary documents, and explore their significance.

Was the Gospel of Judas known to scholars?
Scholars knew of the existence of the Gospel of Judas because of references in other ancient texts. The oldest known reference to a Gospel of Judas is by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, in A.D. 180. However, this codex containing the Gospel of Judas was not discovered until the 1970s in Egypt, and it wasn't until 2001 that a team led by Professor Rodolphe Kasser of Switzerland, a world-renowned Coptic scholar, began to translate and conserve the ancient text.

Who wrote the Gospel of Judas?
The author of the Gospel of Judas remains anonymous. The original Greek text of the gospel, of which this is a Coptic translation, is thought to have been written by a group of early gnostic Christians sometime between when the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were penned and A.D. 180.

Why were these early texts developed? What was their purpose?
Different groups of Christians in the second century appealed to different writings to authenticate their distinctive beliefs and practices. Numerous gospels appeared, often written in the names of the Apostles; these pseudonymous writings were revered as scripture by one group or another, although eventually most of them came to be labeled as "heretical" and proscribed by orthodox Christianity in later times.

What does the publication of this text mean for Christian teachings?
This is a dramatic archaeological discovery of cultural interest, which offers an alternate portrayal from the first or second century of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, and enhances our knowledge of history and preservation of theological viewpoints from that period. National Geographic realizes that the information provided by this document is complex and deserves a great deal of further study and assessment, a process that will take time. To find out what leading scholars believe the significance of the document to be, visit National Geographic's official Gospel of Judas Web site at www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel.

How did National Geographic get involved in the project?
The document changed hands a number of times following its discovery. The Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Switzerland approached National Geographic to play a key role in the authentication and conservation of the codex. National Geographic gathered numerous experts to bring the project to completion. After conservation is complete and the codex has been exhibited to the public, the codex will be given to Egypt, where it will be housed in Cairo's Coptic Museum.

Why has National Geographic decided to get involved in a project of this type?
The codex that contains the Gospel of Judas is the most significant discovery of ancient, non-biblical Christian or Jewish texts of the last 60 years. Because of National Geographic's commitment to discovery and conservation of artifacts that support the study of ancient culture and enhance historical knowledge, the Society felt compelled to take part in the rescue of this ancient document.

Why did it take so long to publish?
Because the manuscript had deteriorated so badly during the past 30 years, restoring, conserving, and translating its text has been an enormous undertaking. Compared with the length of time it took to conserve, translate and publish the Nag 'Hammadi manuscripts (about 25 years) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (about 50 years), the publication process of the Gospel of Judas, which has taken just five years, has been quite an expedited one.

What was the translation process and who was involved?
The Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art recruited Professor Rodolphe Kasser of Switzerland, one of the world's leading Coptic scholars, to lead an international team of scholars, translators, scientists, archaeologists, and historians to translate the document.

How was the artifact, known as the Gospel of Judas, restored?
This was a daunting process, because the document's condition had deteriorated significantly over the last two decades. Kasser enlisted the help of papyrus conservator Florence Darbre of Switzerland and Coptic scholar Gregor Wurst of the University of Augsburg, Germany, to piece together the 26-page Gospel of Judas. With the help of computer programs that record text, register gaps and try to match gaps to text, and with careful, visual inspection of suggested matches to confirm papyrus fiber continuity, Darbre, Wurst, and Kasser have been able to reassemble more than 80 percent of the text in five painstaking years.

How did National Geographic authenticate the document?
The codex has been authenticated as a genuine work of ancient Christian apocryphal literature on five fronts: radiocarbon dating, ink analysis, multispectral imaging, contextual evidence, and paleographic evidence. Full details of the authentication process are available here.

How much money was spent on the restoration of this document?
National Geographic engages in many different types of projects and makes it a practice not to disclose the amount of money spent on each. Furthermore, both the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery also played significant roles in the restoration and conservation of this extraordinary artifact.

Are the documents available for review online?
The Coptic text is available in its entirety online so that scholars around the world can have immediate access to it. The National Geographic Society has published the complete translation in a book with extensive footnotes. THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS (ISBN 1-4262-0042-0, April 2006, U.S.$22) is available in bookstores now.

Where can I see the original codex?
Several pages of the Gospel of Judas as well as pages from the other three texts in the codex will be on exhibit at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., beginning Friday, April 7, 2006, for a limited engagement. After Kasser and his team complete conserving and translating the manuscript, the codex will be given to Egypt, where it will be housed in Cairo's Coptic Museum.

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