Ben Witherington III, a very popular conservative Christian scholar, has a couple of posts on the Gospel of Judas in his blog,Gospel of Judas Part OneGospel of Judas Part Two
They're what you might expect. Witherington plays the usual trick of applying very stringent conditions of "authenticity" to texts that he doesn't like, and judges the texts that he does like (e.g., those in the Bible) by very loose standards. He comments,
"First let us deal with the facts: 1) we do not have a Greek text of this Gospel, we have a Coptic one from which the English translation has been made. To simply state this text was based on Greek text is to argue without hard evidence. The fact that Irenaeus mentions this document may suggest there was a Greek original, but we do not have it, and the translation done is not based on any Greek text. We need to be clear on this: 2) You will find a link above to the article in today's NY Times about this find. You will see me suggesting we all need to take a deep breath before consuming too much baloney; 3) this papyrus carbon dates to about 300 A.D. We only know some document called the Gospel of Judas existed around 180 because Irenaeus mentions it. One could also raise the question of whether Irenaeus is referring to the same document, but probably he is. 4) This document reflects the same sort of dualism that we find in many other Gnostic documents-- matter or flesh is evil or tainted, spirit is good. Thus at one juncture in the Gospel of Judas Jesus says to Judas that he will become the top disciple for "you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." In other words Judas is the good guy who helps Jesus get rid of his tainted flesh and become a true spiritual and free being."
Comment 4) is fair enough, though I might comment that christians who who place a lot of importance on the influence of Satan are rather dualistic themselves.
"1) we do not have a Greek text of this Gospel, we have a Coptic one from which the English translation has been made. To simply state this text was based on Greek text is to argue without hard evidence. The fact that Irenaeus mentions this document may suggest there was a Greek original, but we do not have it, and the translation done is not based on any Greek text. We need to be clear on this:"
I agree that scholars do make the assumption that many Coptic Gnostic texts are based on Greek originals, but he's not very clear on what the importance of this is. I presume that this is all part of the effort to place GJudas as far away from the first century as possible, on the mistaken principle that first century texts (i.e., the NT) are historically accurate, the others aren't. But he doesn't seem to take exception to us not having any Aramaic originals of Jesus' sayings. In the second part he comments, "It is entirely possible that the Gospel of Judas we now have is not the original document created by the Cainite Gnostics that Irenaeus knows and speaks of." Well, of course, it's entirely possible that it is too. More than that, the contents of the Gospel of Judas does seem a fair match to Irenaeus' description. He makes much of the Gospel of Judas being pseudonymous (which it surely is), but denies that 2 Peter is pseudonymous, "As for Traditionalist's question about 2 Peter, you are repeating the majority view about 2 Peter. I have argued that while this document is from the end of the first century knows of a collection of Paul's letters, it contains an eyewitness testimony from Peter himself about the Transfiguration in chapters 1-2. This material matches up nicely with the Greek of 1 Peter. Often in antiquity a compiled document like 2 Peter (which also includes stuff from Jude) was named after its most famous contributor--- in this case Peter. So this is not a pseudonymous document."
The scholars involved with the Gospel of Judas project do seem to be using deliberately vague language that might suggest to the uninformed reader that they accept that Judas might be an historical account. In his foreword to Krosney's book, Bart Ehrman, who in his interesting book Lost Christianities, used the term 'forgery' for non-canonical gospels such as Thomas or Peter, never once uses that term for the Gospel of Judas, or clearly suggests that it is not historically accurate.
There are many responses to the National Geographic's sensationalising of the possible historicity of the account of the Gospel of Judas. Most of them make much of GJudas's lateness as a second or third century text, but this seems to be way off the mark to me. There is no reason why a second or third century text could not contain historically valid information about the first century. I'm sure that someone like Witherington thinks that Eusebius, the third-century church historian, is full of accurate details on first-century Christianity. Mark Goodacre's blog http://ntgateway.com/weblog/2006_04_01_archive.html
collects comments like "One of the panelists [of the BBC's Any Questions], John Selwyn Gummer, [An English politician with prominent religious views] said that to treat it seriously as a source for the historical Judas would be like his writing now and claiming to be an eye-witness of the death of William of Orange." or Simon Gathercole' "Simon explained that the Gospel was written long after the living memory of the apostles, and that it featured anachronisms equivalent to our writing a document about Queen Victoria in which she comments on The Lord of the Rings
and on her CD collection." These comments just strike me as silly. The canonical gospels also contain anachronisms, probably equivalent to Winston Churchill discussing The Da Vinci Code, and also his CD collection. If the NT contained only Mark, Matthew and John, and the Gospel of Luke had just resurfaced, I wonder how many conservative scholars would be willing to allow it a source of the historical Jesus. It would definitely be second century, the Theophilus introduction would be forged, the Prodigal Son has a bit of a Gnostic scent to it, somewhat similar to the hymn of the Pearl, etc.
So, it is entirely possible
that the Gospel of Judas contains a genuine account of the relationship between Judas and Jesus. For instance, GJudas could
have incorporated elements of an earlier text, since we know that Gnostic writings often adapted earlier material. Do I think that the Gospel of Judas is historical? No, I don't. There are plenty of reasons not to think so. But I've run out of time, so this will have to wait until my next post.