Rehabilitating Our Judas: Ms. Tchacos Nussberger

Today’s NYT has a story about how GJudas finally came to light. The eye-catcher is this:

I think I was chosen by Judas to rehabilitate him,” Ms. Tchacos Nussberger, 65, is quoted as saying in one of the society’s books, “The Lost Gospel,” by Herbert Krosney. Mr. Krosney is also an independent television producer who brought the gospel project to National Geographic.

But the heart of the articles is really about the legal and ethical issues involved in acquiring, handling, and publishing these rare lost works. When I first heard about this story a little more than a year ago, I immediately googled it, only to find that most of the hits also included INTERPOL.

Bad sign.

In accordance with my new status as a skolur, I am interested in seeing things like this studied and published. We want very high quality images and some radiocarbon testing. We also probably want some access to the original, just in case we have to decide whether this or that mark is ink left by an ancient scribe or something less savory left by an equally ancient fly. And of course, we don’t want it destroyed, lost, or any further deterioration.

And the last two cost $$$.

Then there’s the folks who ‘handle’ this kind of stuff. Sometimes their interest is money, sometimes fame, sometimes they’re real skolurs, and sometimes they’re just weird, too. That last three don’t always preclude the first, either.

Then there’s the dirt-poor dudes who hauled it out of some cave, probably located about ten feet from the east entrance to Hell. They NEED money. And they did find it, after all.

And the legal profession. Notice how fast that lawyer put himself in a paying position. Most of us would agree that the “real owners” are in no condition to appreciate the significance of their possessions, at least until the resurrection. But noooooo, we gotta find some new “real owners,” whose current body temperature will support legal intervention.

So…what to do, what to do? How do you get stuff like this out for study? Do you let the market drive the price? How do you attach a “reasonable value” to something like the GJudas? How do you get that “reasonable value” to the right folks without most of the money ending up with the lawyers, who are themselves about as important as the “real owners.”

You’d think that after more or less looting the Levant and the wider classical world for the last 300 years, we’d have this figured out!

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6 Comments

Filed under Marginalia, Speculation

6 responses to “Rehabilitating Our Judas: Ms. Tchacos Nussberger

  1. I have appreciated your thoughts on this topic all along. Of course I have no answers. It is a little funny how much stock some of the local members are putting in the contents of this thing. Your thoughts have given me some balance I might not have had.

  2. Mogget

    Hm, yes. There’s a very nice older gentleman in my ward who seems to be hearing apocalyptic hoofbeats when he thinks on the matter. I put off discussing GJudas in GD so it wouldn’t seem like I was deliberately contradicting his thoughts as delivered in testimony meeting. But I’ll take it up this week.

    Anyway, very kind of you to mention it. I blog for my own purposes, but the opportunity to be helpful to folks is definitely an added bonus.

  3. Mogget, man this is the kind of thing that drives me nuts. It happened in the 40s and 50s with the DSSs, and also when Mormons began to take greater notice of the Pseudepigraphic writings (about the same time). Then the Nag Hammadi came along, and the sign of the apocalypse was felt yet again. GJudas doesn’t show anything. Sorry if your ward member friend reads this. I don’t buy it.

    If we’re going to talk sure signs of the apocalypse, let’s talk about the Red Sox and the White Sox both winning the World Series these last few years. Talk about signs of the times, man…

  4. Mogget

    I hear ya bro, I hear ya.

    We don’t, as a church, do very much to help folks understand this sort of thing. In fact, I bet if we looked hard enough, we’d find a few CES types who’re a little over-excited, as well. I can’t decide for sure whether I think the church ought to do more to prepare folks. I guess I oughta go look at that BYU link and see if there’s something helpful there.

    I suppose that the best we (as in you and I and the rest of the scholarly / sane world) can do is continue to talk about it in rational terms. Most newspapers and at least one of the translators have decided to make a scene over it. Folks will just have to make up their own minds.

    Anyway, this particular gentlemen is the type to give you the shirt off his back, so it would be churlish not to cut him all the slack he needs.

  5. I read an English translation, and I don’t find anything sensational. But for the untrained eye that hasn’t studied later forms of Gnosticism in an academic setting, it could create quite a stir, so I understand Brother Shirt-off-my-back’s excitement (but I do question whether a testimony meeting is the proper forum for such a discussion). I think the starting point for helping others to calm down regarding GJudas is to show them that yes, it’s cool, but no, it’s not THAT cool and to point them to a brief overview of Gnosticism before anything. Once one understands the “aeons,” the “sparks,” etc. then one can begin to recognize not only its late date, or its high christology, but also that it’s somewhat passé when compared with other Gnostic texts.

    Heck, at least we know a few dissertations will come out of this thing over the next few years.

  6. Mogget

    a few dissertations will come out of this thing

    Yeah, no doubt, and I bet the first ones deal with the question of whether or not this is really what Irenaeus and Epiphanius were talking about. I’ve heard two “little whispers” that this might be an ancient forgery, designed to fit the description, but not the real thing. Very interesting. We shall see. I hoping I’ll find some links later today when I get back this afternoon.

    it’s somewhat passé when compared with other Gnostic texts

    You know, that’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of pulling out one of the really weird ones…

    Anyway, I doubt my fellow ward-member had even read the English. He probably just heard about it on TV.