When Egyptian farmer Muhammad al-Samman came across a sealed jar containing 13 papyruses in 1945, he didn’t know how significant this discovery would become.
Ethologist Richard Dawkins says that the texts, found near the town of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, are one of the most surprising document finds of the 20th century. In his latest book “Outgrowing God”, Dawkins revealed that the discovery has stunned scientists.
There were 52 gospel texts written in Coptic and each of them, Dawkins says, could have been included in the canon.
“They were mostly written down in the first couple of centuries AD, but as with the four official gospels, those final written versions were based on word-of-mouth traditions. They included the gospels of Peter, Philip, Mary Magdalene, Thomas and the gospels according to the Egyptians and the gospel of Judas Iscariot", Dawkins wrote in his book.
The gospel of Judas is not a first-hand account written by the disciple himself, unlike the gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which were allegedly written by the respective apostles. They were based on word-of-mouth traditions. But it is the gospel of Judas Iscariot that has prompted heated arguments among scientists.
In the text, Judas appears not as a villain who betrayed the Christ, but rather as an obedient disciple who followed the instructions given to him by Jesus. It also suggests that Judas was the only one who understood Christ’s mission. April DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University, argues that the translation of the texts is inaccurate. DeConick claims that Judas was actually a demon who wanted to betray Christ rather than follow his orders.
Scientists are still divided over the translation, with some saying that Judas is portrayed in a good light, while others contend that he is depicted as a villain.