Archival Paper

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GOJ_fragment.jpg
From the NPR article, the codex ends with the words, "Gospel of Judas." National Geographic Society © 2006

The story today that a 1700-year-old codex has been found and translated brings up an interesting point. The text contains, among other things, part of a Coptic translation of an older Greek Gnostic text dubbed the 'Gospel of Judas,' whose existence had long been inferred from other sources but never before found. Gnosticism, a concept derived from Platonic philosophy, flourished throughout the Hellenistic world in several sects associated with the early Christian movement. When the monolithic Church emerged, it declared Gnosticism a heresy and waged a long campaign to wipe it out.

So given that you believe yourself in possession of knowledge vital to the salvation of mankind, and given that sooner or later you will be found, forced to recant, and have all your books burned, what do you do? If you've had the forethought to copy the works into well-bound books (vellum would be best, but papyrus works if you're careful), the easiest thing is to seal them up in a jar and bury them in a desert cave somewhere, in the hopes that it'll stay hidden until enough centuries have passed that the ideas are safe again. Hence the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library, and the current find. Among others.

And that, kids, is why, if you have anything really important to say, write it out on archival, acid-free paper. Fired clay tablets work well, too. Just be sure to do it in a widespread language that's not likely to be forgotten. Those Linear A inscriptions are interesting and all, but not nearly as useful as if we could actually read them.

Believe me, the modern world's not doing very well in this respect. Even the mass media is starting to notice (at least read the list; it's depressing but exceedingly funny).

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You can't be 47744 serious?!?

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on April 6, 2006 6:27 PM.

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