Friday, October 13, 2006 at 3:30pm in the Albertson Room
Discoveries in Early Christianity: Gnostic Manuscripts and the Gospel of Judas
Birger Pearson, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, UCSB
One of the most fascinating aspects of early Christianity is the rise of a particular variety often referred to as Gnosticism. The author of 1 Timothy in the New Testament warns his readers against "knowledge falsely so-called," and from the mid-second century, church fathers were denouncing "heretics" espousing a Gnostic variety of Christianity. Thanks to twentieth-century discoveries in Egypt of Coptic manuscripts containing the writings of many of those heretics, we have a much better picture of early Christian Gnosticism. The most important of these manuscripts are the Nag Hammadi Codices, discovered in 1945. But more recently another Coptic Gnostic codex has come to light containing a "Gospel of Judas," i.e. Judas Iscariot, Jesus' "betrayer." In his lecture Professor Pearson will discuss the Coptic manuscripts and their importance, summarize early Christian traditions about Judas Iscariot, and describe the contents of Judas' new gospel and the role that Judas plays in it. He will also show a few slides illustrating work that he did on some of the Nag Hammadi Codices in the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo.
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