Codex Tchacos: Gospel of Judas

Grant Recipient: National Geographic Society
Supported by the Waitt Foundation, National Geographic Society collaborated with the Waitt Institute for (Historical) Discovery and the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art to authenticate, conserve and translate an ancient Coptic manuscript known as Codex Tchacos, dating from the third or fourth century and containing the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas.

Ted Waitt examines portions of the papyrus codex.

Lost for nearly 1,700 years in an Egyptian cave, the Codex contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but also a text called James, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a fragment of a text that scholars are calling Book of Allogenes. Although the author of the Gospel of Judas is anonymous, the original text is believed to have been written in Greek around A.D. 150 by a group of early Gnostic Christians who believed Judas was not Jesus’ traitor, but instead one of his closest confidents. This Coptic version is believed to have been a copy of that version written around A.D. 300.
Results: Authentication & Preservation
The Codex Tchacos containing the Gospel of Judas was authenticated as a genuine work of ancient Christian apocryphal literature based on radiocarbon dating, ink analysis, multispectral imaging, contextual evidence and paleographic evidence. Representing a rare opportunity to shed new light on the historical, political, linguistic and cultural context of the time, the manuscript was restored, transcribed, translated and published in the 2006 National Geographic book, The Gospel of Judas, edited by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer and Gregor Wurst with commentary by Bart D. Ehrman.

Papyrus title page of the Gospel of Judas

Online editions of the complete text based on the 2006 transcription are available to everyone. National Geographic and its team of world-class scientists and historians continue to study the documents, making any new translations available to the public. The original codex has been returned to Egypt, where it is housed in Cairo’s Coptic Museum.
About National Geographic
National Geographic Society is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world with interests in geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation. Founded in 1888, the society has engaged in many projects over the years to protect our cultural heritage, determining and preserving various items of historical significance for the greater benefit of mankind through the ages.
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