A lawyer charged with raising money to pay off the bankruptcy debts of an art and antiquities dealer offered a glimpse Wednesday of several small, brown bits of papyrus that may be part of the ancient Gospel of Judas.
Potential historical and religious significance aside, R. Scott Haley's court-appointed task is to pay Ohio collector Bruce Ferrini's creditors. Whether the fragments that ended up in a bank vault in downtown Akron are genuine remains in question.
Haley said he has no immediate plans to go through a time-consuming, expensive authentication process. He also said he wants to draw attention to Ferrini's assets but hopes the fragments will not have to be sold and can be returned to him.
"I think there is obviously enormous historical interest in these items," Haley said, displaying a few of the fragments, some with text visible, in a law office conference room.
A roughly 1,700-year-old text about Judas, one of several such documents found in the Egyptian desert in 1970, was preserved and translated by a team of scholars, then made public by the National Geographic Society about two weeks ago. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
The announcement drew worldwide attention, telling a far different version than that in the four Gospels in the New Testament. It portrays Judas not as a sinister betrayer but as Jesus' confidant, chosen to be told spiritual secrets that the other apostles were not.
Haley said a National Geographic photographer who saw the Gospel of Judas pieces also saw the ones in Akron and made the link. National Geographic spokeswoman M.J. Jacobsen, however, was not willing to draw any such conclusion.
"The fragments [in Akron] would have to be authenticated, and I don't know if that's happened, so I don't really have a comment," she said Wednesday.
Haley took control of Ferrini's properties in order to pay creditors, including FirstMerit Bank, where the fragments are stored. He said he can't try to sell them until a tug-of-war over ownership is resolved. The Geneva, Switzerland-based Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art also claims ownership.