recounting, National Geographic says the gospel was found by farmers in
an Egyptian cave in the late 1970s, sold to a dealer and passed through
various hands in Europe and the United States.
In 2000, art
dealer Frieda Tchacos Nussberger bought it for about $300,000 from
another dealer who had placed it in a Long Island safe-deposit box. She
tried to sell it to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at
Yale University, but Yale declined, reported the New York Times.
did not specify to the New York Times why it did not buy the document,
but the newspaper reports that Robert Babcock, curator of early books
at the library, said through a spokesperson that "there were unresolved
questions about the provenance."
year, Tchacos Nussberger sold the document to an antiquities dealer in
Ohio for $2.5 million, but that fell through when the dealer did not
make the payments, reported the Times.
Aided by her
lawyer, Mario Roberty, she regained ownership of the document and, at
his suggestion, turned it over to the Maecenas Foundation, which
Roberty established years earlier, the Times reported.
run exclusively by Roberty, is involved returning antiquities to their
countries of origin, the lawyer told the newspaper. He also told the
Times that when Tchacos Nussberger gave the document to the foundation
in 2001, he quickly contacted officials in Egypt and assured them that
the manuscript would be returned.
reported that under the deal with the foundation, Tchacos Nussberger,
65, is entitled to receive about $2 million from gospel-related
projects. The sum is equivalent to what she would have received from
the Ohio dealer, minus the value of several pages of the manuscript the
dealer bought. In addition, she is entitled to recoup about $800,000
she lent to the foundation for legal costs and early restoration
Roberty told the
Times the foundation had already started paying money to Tchacos
Nussberger; he declined to say how much she has received so far.
report also reveals that Tchacos Nussberger was detained several years
ago in an unrelated Italian antiquities smuggling investigation. She
and Roberty claim the issue was not very serious and that her dealings
in antiquities in Italy and elsewhere had been lawful.
As for the
National Geographic Society, it claims it has taken on the project to
help save a unique historical document, reported the Times. It claims
that a critical aspect of its contract with the Maecenas Foundation was
the group's pledge to return the document to Egypt.
Geographic did not buy the document. Instead, it paid $1 million to the
Maecenas Foundation for the rights to use the manuscript's contents and
to tell its story. The Times also discovered that part of the revenues
generated by the National Geographic’s gospel-related projects will go
to the foundation.
Geographic is running a large campaign for the Gospel of Judas,
featuring it in two new books, a television documentary, an exhibition
and the May issue of its magazine.
In one book,
authored by Herbert Krosney, Tchacos Nussberger says she is motivated
by religious conviction to save the document. "I think I was chosen by
Judas to rehabilitate him," she is quoted as saying. Krosney is an
independent television producer who brought the gospel project to
Gospel of Judas, a third-century manuscript unearthed in Egypt three
decades ago, is surrounded by questionable circumstances. A report
published in the New York Times Thursday reveals the particulars that
the National Geographic Society omitted two weeks ago in its
announcement that it had gained access to the 1,700-year-old document.