Today I decided that I am not going to be the patient nice scholar anymore. I am tired of working in the dark, first on the Gospel of Judas, and now on the rest of the Tchacos Codex.
This Codex has been so mishandled by the National Geographic Society in terms of the academic process and the release of information to the community of scholars who are experts on these texts, that I have decided that I cannot keep silent any longer. This is turning out to be a repeat of the fiasco that held back our knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls for at least thirty years.
What's the problem? First, National Geographic created a secret society of a few scholars to work on the codex which contains the Gospel of Judas. These scholars had to sign non-disclosure statements in order to work on the secret team. This means that they were legally silenced. They had to work in isolation from the rest of the scholarly community. When they were finished with their analysis, they published it as "the" interpretation of the gospel. But the truth is that they were rushed to finish because National Geographic wanted a particular release date which the scholars weren't ready to make. Because of this, the scholars had to publish only a provisional Coptic transcription and translation. But it was framed as finished to the public.
Now it turns out, after further reflection, that the original transcription and translation were riddled with problems which the team tried to correct in The Critical Edition. But too late. Other scholars who had been denied access to the manuscripts jumped at the chance to publish their own translations and interpretations based on the original faulty transcription. And so the errors are perpetuated, along with an interpretation that now cannot be supported by the corrected transcription and translation! So National Geographic's ploy to keep everything secret to exploit the release of the text for profit has put good scholars' reputations on the line, and has completely misled the public about what the Gospel of Judas actually says.
Second, National Geographic still has not released the facsimile photographs that it promised to do. Scholars have to have full-size real-life photographs of manuscripts in order to access what they actually read, particularly in damaged areas of the manuscript. What did National Geographic do this summer? It released photos in The Critical Edition that were reduced by 56%. This makes them absolutely useless for any of us who are working on these texts. I know that the Society has been made aware of this because I posted earlier about this and it was forwarded to National Geographic. But as far as I know, they have made no moves to do anything about it. The pages of the Tchacos Codex are not only photographed by National Geographic, but they are digital. It would cost them nothing to put those photos onto a CD and distribute them to scholars, who are even willing to pay for this information. But no, almost two years later we are still working blindly because we continue to be denied access to the facsimiles. Not every scholar can get a year-long sabbatical to fly to Switzerland to work on these manuscripts!
One has to ask "why"? Why won't National Geographic release the facsimiles? There are only two possibilities that I can think of. Either National Geographic is hiding something that they don't want us to see in the manuscript. Or the Society could care less about the academic community and the search for knowledge - all they want to do is milk these old gospels for all the revenue they can get. In other words, exploitation. And so they are going to release things in bits and pieces, and never enough for the scholarly community to actually work on the texts.
Third, it turns out that The Critical Edition of the Tchacos Codex that they released does not contain all the leaves the Society knows about. From what I understand there are 50 more pages of this book that National Geographic Society has photos of, and I assume therefore knows the contents of, and this information is under lock and key. The additional manuscript leaves are somewhere in Ohio. Who knows if we will ever see them. But at least we could have access to the photographs of the additional pages so that we could all start working on them. I want to know what the heck is in the rest of the Tchacos Codex.
The way that National Geographic has handled and continues to handle this Codex is appalling. It has crippled the academic community and the search for knowledge. I will not stop until something is done to rectify this situation.