The Lost Gospel
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The Gospel Nearly Lost

Years of storage in a bank vault left the codex badly deteriorated.
Photograph by Florence Darbre/Maecenas Foundation

When Coptic scholar Rodolphe Kasser saw the ancient papyrus codex including the lost Gospel of Judas he was at once enraptured by its existence and horrified at its deplorable condition. The eminent scholar has handled many ancient texts during a long career but had never laid eyes on one so damaged.

A codex is an ancient book. It consists of pages that, unlike ancient scrolls, are fastened or bound within covers. Yet this codex had disintegrated alarmingly—to the point where it was not readily apparent just what writings it contained.

The binding was undone, and the ancient papyruses were scattered into many fragments that crumbled at even the very slightest human touch. In places the pages were so blackened that the hand-written Coptic script was unreadable.

Closer examination revealed a further injury. The sheets had been reorganized in a random pattern—most likely to increase the codex's appeal to buyers by shifting pages in better physical condition to the forefront. The original pagination was lost, complicating any effort at reassembly.