Friday, May 27, 2005

The Gospel of Judas

I'm moving house at the moment, so this will be little more than a collection of links. The Gospel of Judas is part of the latest Coptic manuscript to be made available. It looks like it will be published by next year, but in the meantime details are leaking out onto the Internet. A few years ago the Gospel of the Savior was published. This was a fragmentary Coptic gospel found in P. Berolinensis 22220, an unexamined manuscript in a Berlin .

The Gospel of Judas is part of a manuscript that has apparently been floating around the world of ancient artefact sales for over a decade. the Ms apparently contains the Gospel of Judas, two Gnostic texts also known from the NHL (the First Apocalypse of James and the Epistle of Peter to Philip), along with a Greek translation of Exodus, a Coptic collection of Paul's letters and a Greek mathematical treatise.

I have to pack more boxes, so here are the links:- (includes translation)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Copy Editing

I've just finished approving and correcting the copy edits for The Gospel of Philip: Annotated and explained. A copy editor goes through a text and points out spelling mistakes, incosistencies, problems with grammar or clarity and ensures that the text conforms with house style. I had been somewhat sloppy with my citations , thinking that these should be kept to a minimum, but the copy editor went and requested citations for every single quotation. Becuae of the nature of the book, in which each little section of Philip has a separate annotation I found myself using "this" a lot to refer to the passage under question. the copy editor rightly pointed out that the referant was often unclear.

I didn't approve every change. When the copy editor suggested a revision, the suggested text was usually very clumsily written. She or he also had a tendency to knock off adjectives. One of these was in the introduction where I wrote that the Gospel of thomas has a strong claim to be dated at the same time as the canonical gospels. The copy editor struck out the "strong". I put it back in, and it may me wonder whether the copy editor disliked the idea of Thomas being as old as the canonicals.

Skylight Paths use the Chicago Manual of Style as their style guide. Being British I can't regard this or Webster's with the awe that American writers and editors seem to have for them. I see no reason to follow what are occasionally quirky or unconventional standards. The parable of the Good Samaritan should, according to their style guide, being set in lower case. Looking through my library I found only one instance of this. We eventually came to a compromise where I could have Samaritan with an initial capital (like Welshman or American.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Wikipedia Oxyrhynchus

A wee bit more about Oxyrhynchus. There's a good article at Wikipedia:-

Philip 95

I think I must have had post-Philip depression or something. Once I had submitted the final manuscript I lost interest in the Gospel of Philip for a while. This often happens to me when I complete a project: it's finished, and I can only think of what I will be doing next.

In any case, my interest is returning. At some point I will put up a web page on Philip. In the meantime I wanted to pass on a link to a fascinating essay that touches on the themes displayed in a section of Philip. (Note, I use Bentley Layton's numbering throughout the Philip book.
The following is my translation.)

95. The children born of a woman will resemble the man whom she loves. If it is her husband whom she loves, then her husband will love her; if it is an adulterer then they will resemble the adulterer. Often, if a woman sleeps with her husband out of necessity, yet her heart is with the adulterer, and she unites with him, and bears children, then the one to whom she gives birth will resemble the adulterer. Then you who live with the son of god, do not love the world; rather, love the Lord, so that those whom you beget will not be made to resemble the world but will be made to resemble the Lord.

As I note in the annotations, "
The folk belief that the children born of a woman who while making love sees or imagines another man or some other image will resemble the man or image rather than the biological father, turns out to be extraordinarily widespread. Evidence for this belief extends from Aristotle and Empedocles, who discuss children who do not resemble their parents, to the Bible and rabbinical writings, to the Mahabharata, and even to modern European writers such as Goethe."

Although April de Conick also mentions some of these, my main source was a fascinating article from Daedalus magazine.

Funnily enough, the gospel of Philip isn't listed in their survey of this persistent belief.

Monday, May 09, 2005


The news about the imaging technolofy being successfully employed on the Oxyrhynchus papyri has been posted in a number of places, but I wanted to include it here too. As I wrote in my book on the gospel of Thomas, "Fragments of the Gospel of Thomas were first found during archeological digs in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt and were published in 1897 and 1904. Two British archaeologists arranged the digs, the delightfully named Grenfell and Hunt. (“What do we have here, Hunt?” “It appears to be a saying of Jesus, Grenfell.” “Well, put it to one side, Hunt.”) At nearby Tebtunis they discovered, of all things, a collection of crocodile mummies; the bandages had been made by re-using papyrus manuscripts and cutting them into strips, thus unintentionally preserving ancient writing. At Oxyrhynchus it was rubbish heaps that attracted their attention. Egypt has ideal conditions for preserving manuscripts, since it is dry and sandy. It was one of the great centres of Greek-speaking culture. The Hellenistic coastal city of Alexandria, with its famous library, was the literary capital of the ancient world. Egypt also had an extensive bureaucracy, which required large numbers of scribes, and was a major centre of early Christianity and Gnosticism. So there were lots of manuscripts to be preserved and good conditions in which to preserve them.

Over a number of years the rubbish heaps at Oxyrhynchus yielded thousands of manuscripts, scraps and tiny fragments that were slowly published and now fill seventy-seven large volumes. The majority of these are bureaucratic documents such as title deeds, records of lawsuits, or tax details, but they also found literature — a satyr play of Sophocles, fragments of Homer, lost poems of Sappho (some preserved as mummy bandages so that we only have inch wide vertical strips giving us tantalizing fragments of lyrics.) And among the most exciting of the finds were some fragments of unknown gospels. Three of these fragments contained sayings of Jesus and were later identified as sections of three different copies, made by different scribes, of the Gospel of Thomas."

Incidentally, the Thomas fragments were pOxy 1, 654 and 655.
Modern imaging techniques are helping archivists to read fragments that were previously so badly damaged or faded that they were completely illegible.

An article in the UK Independent newspaper has provoked a lot of interest in the new potential of the Oxyrhynchus scraps.

"For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye - decayed, worm-eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".

Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford, described the new works as "central texts which scholars have been speculating about for centuries".

Professor Richard Janko, a leading British scholar, formerly of University College London, now head of classics at the University of Michigan, said: "Normally we are lucky to get one such find per decade." One discovery in particular, a 30-line passage from the poet Archilocos, of whom only 500 lines survive in total, is described as "invaluable" by Dr Peter Jones, author and co-founder of the Friends of Classics campaign.

The papyrus fragments were discovered in historic dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus ("city of the sharp-nosed fish") in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. Running to 400,000 fragments, stored in 800 boxes at Oxford's Sackler Library, it is the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world.

The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy - the Epigonoi ("Progeny") by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War. Additional material from Hesiod, Euripides and Sophocles almost certainly await discovery.

Oxford academics have been working alongside infra-red specialists from Brigham Young University, Utah. Their operation is likely to increase the number of great literary works fully or partially surviving from the ancient Greek world by up to a fifth. It could easily double the surviving body of lesser work - the pulp fiction and sitcoms of the day.

"The Oxyrhynchus collection is of unparalleled importance - especially now that it can be read fully and relatively quickly," said the Oxford academic directing the research, Dr Dirk Obbink. "The material will shed light on virtually every aspect of life in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and, by extension, in the classical world as a whole."

The breakthrough has also caught the imagination of cultural commentators. Melvyn Bragg, author and presenter, said: "It's the most fantastic news. There are two things here. The first is how enormously influential the Greeks were in science and the arts. The second is how little of their writing we have. The prospect of having more to look at is wonderful."

Bettany Hughes, historian and broadcaster, who has presented TV series including Mysteries of the Ancients and The Spartans, said: "Egyptian rubbish dumps were gold mines. The classical corpus is like a jigsaw puzzle picked up at a jumble sale - many more pieces missing than are there. Scholars have always mourned the loss of works of genius - plays by Sophocles, Sappho's other poems, epics. These discoveries promise to change the textual map of the golden ages of Greece and Rome."

When it has all been read - mainly in Greek, but sometimes in Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian and early Persian - the new material will probably add up to around five million words. Texts deciphered over the past few days will be published next month by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which financed the discovery and owns the collection.

A 21st-century technique reveals antiquity's secrets

Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Now scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University's Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum - ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

The fragments form part of a giant "jigsaw puzzle" to be reassembled. Missing "pieces" can be supplied from quotations by later authors, and grammatical analysis.

Key words from the master of Greek tragedy

Speaker A: . . . gobbling the whole, sharpening the flashing iron.

Speaker B: And the helmets are shaking their purple-dyed crests, and for the wearers of breast-plates the weavers are striking up the wise shuttle's songs, that wakes up those who are asleep.

Speaker A: And he is gluing together the chariot's rail.

These words were written by the Greek dramatist Sophocles, and are the only known fragment we have of his lost play Epigonoi (literally "The Progeny"), the story of the siege of Thebes. Until last week's hi-tech analysis of ancient scripts at Oxford University, no one knew of their existence, and this is the first time they have been published.

Sophocles (495-405 BC), was a giant of the golden age of Greek civilisation, a dramatist who work alongside and competed with Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes.

His best-known work is Oedipus Rex, the play that later gave its name to the Freudian theory, in which the hero kills his father and marries his mother - in a doomed attempt to escape the curse he brings upon himself. His other masterpieces include Antigone and Electra.

Sophocles was the cultured son of a wealthy Greek merchant, living at the height of the Greek empire. An accomplished actor, he performed in many of his own plays. He also served as a priest and sat on the committee that administered Athens. A great dramatic innovator, he wrote more than 120 plays, but only seven survive in full.

Last week's remarkable finds also include work by Euripides, Hesiod and Lucian, plus a large and particularly significant paragraph of text from the Elegies, by Archilochos, a Greek poet of the 7th century BC."

pOxy 840 contained a fragment of an otherwise unknown second century gospel. See

pOxy 1224 also contyained a gospel fragment:-

So there is some for potetntial for reading an otherwise unknown gospel fragment in the remaining Oxyrhynchus scraps.

The URL for the offical Oxyrhynchus Papyri sites is:-

There's an online exhibition here:-

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I haven't been thinking all that much about Philip since I finished the book. But I will be building up a website that should be the most comprehensive Gospel of Philip site on the web. It looks like Stevan Davies, who introduced me to Skylight Paths, will write the foreword.