The Lost Gospel
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The Gospel Saved

Carefully, piece by piece, conservators reassembled the fragile document.
Image courtesy National Geographic Television & Film

From this terribly distressed manuscript a nearly complete translation has emerged, thanks to the tireless efforts of an international team including Kasser, conservation expert Florence Darbre, and Coptic scholar Gregor Wurst.

Darbre safeguards the papyrus collection at the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. The texts in this collection include the oldest known copy of the Gospel of John, ancient Greek comedies, and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary.

To restore the Gospel of Judas, Darbre used skills gained through long hours working with these ancient texts and valuable drawings by masters such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

She first subjected the fragile, crumbling pages to a "humidification" process. This step made them temporarily more flexible so that they could be arranged in their original alignment. Darbre then picked up the individual fragments with tweezers and framed them between plates of glass.

The glass plates were held apart by spacers, allowing the papyrus fragments to float freely. Their condition is so fragile that even the pressure of the panes could have caused further damage.

A photographer captured the entire codex on film, creating sharp images that allowed Wurst and other Coptic experts to reorder, transcribe, and translate the heavily damaged original without causing it further harm.

With the help of a computer program and immeasurable patience, Darbre and Wurst were able to reassemble about 80 percent of the text over a five-year period.