The question of authenticity for the ‘Gospel of Judas’ can be addressed in a number of different ways.
1. If we ask, is the manuscript that was found a genuine copy of the ‘Gospel’? The answer is Yes.
The scientific evidence seems to prove that the manuscript is a 4th century copy of the ‘Gospel’ written in Coptic. The original ‘Gospel of Judas’ was written in Greek during the last half of the 2nd century.
2. Is the manuscript a good & faithful copy of the original text?
That we can’t answer for sure, the original is not extant. We only have opposing comments by Irenaeus (180 AD), in his diatribe against the Greek text.
3. Is the text really what it claims to be? Does it record genuine conversation between the ‘real’ Judas and the ‘historical’ Jesus? The answer is no-Definitely not!
How do we know for sure? It flunks the ‘historical test’– Just do the numbers. The ‘Gospel of Judas’ arrived on the scene after 150 AD and contains ideas & concepts which reflect the ‘Gnostic’ movement in the later part of the 2nd century. Again-just do the numbers! This supposed ‘Gospel’ was written 120 years after the actual events of the ministry of Jesus. All participants and actual observers were long gone & buried, and several generations had passed.
James M. Robinson, Emeritus Professor at Claremont Graduate School, and a leading authority in the study of Gnostic & Coptic documents, is quoted by the AP as saying that the texts are old, but not old enough–
”Does it go back to Judas? No,”. While he acknowledges that the text will be valuable in the study of 2nd century thought, he does not think that it will reveal anything about the 1st century:
”There are a lot of second-, third-, and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles,…”We don’t really assume they give us any first-century information.”
*The most telling historical problem for the ‘Gospel of Judas’ is the content itself, particularly the theology presented in the document. I’ll deal with this in my next post.