Everything which has come down to us
from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog;
it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.
We know that it is older than Christendom, but
whether by a couple of years
or a couple of centuries,
or even by more than a millenium,
we can do no more than guess."

[Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 CE
(in Trigger, 1989:71) - from]





This article examines the results of two comparitively recent radiocarbon dating tests performed on fragments sourced from two ancient books or codices containing "Gnostic Gospels". The source manuscripts are discussed, along with the general theory of C14 dating. Two distinct process steps are presented in the C14 analysis, described respectively as the "radiocarbon age estimate", and the "radiocarbon calibration estimates". The presentation of the former results is explored by means of standard distribution graphs, while the presentation of the latter is explored by means of the radiocarbon calibration curves generated by the OxCal C14 calibration software. Finally it is noted that the generally released publication of the results in the media (eg: National Geographic) are not the final "radiocarbon calibration estimates", but the penultimate "radiocarbon age estimates".



What do the C14 results say about Gnostic Codex manufacture in antiquity?


The surprising result of this review article is that, contrary to the published opinions expressed by National Geographic and the UA Press Releases, the Gnostic Gospel of Judas was not manufactured before the Council of Nicaea of 325 CE, but it is just as likley to have been published after this event.


By considering the two available C14 results (uncalibrated) as the first two tips of an as yet unrevealed iceburg of C14 results (for manuscripts containing "Gnostic Gospels"), a composite graph is presented with a median value of 314 CE and an error bound of plus or minus 42 years, clearly very close to the Council of Nicaea. Furthermore, the effect of radiocarbon calibration moves this date forward substantially into the later 4th century.


It is postulated that a "Gnostic Attractor" will slowly become defined by future C14 results on these types of manuscripts, and will be centered over an epoch that commences very shortly after, and not before, the Council of Nicaea.

The manufacture of codices containing "Gnostic Gospels" in antiquity may thus be, perhaps unexpectedly, a post Nicaean phenomenom. An appropriate time period in years still needs to be established between the time the papyrus was harvested, and when it was finally used by the scribe.

It is therefore suggested that the "Gnostic Gospels and Acts, etc" were a post Nicaean literary reaction to the NT Canon published by Constantine c.324/325 CE.


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Interesting.  What is "papryus" made of?   Is it from trees as paper is from today?  Or some other plant material?  If it was trees, wouldn't that even push the date back further due to the time necessary for the tree to reach maturity? 

AFAIK the C14 tests measure how many years ago the papyrus plant was last living - when it was harvested and removed from the land of the living papyri plants.  The process of making paper from papyri does take some time, and since papyrus in the climate of Egypt was very stable, it could have sat on a shelf for some time.  So this extra period would not have the effect of pushing the date back further but in fact make the date of the scribal work and codex manufacture a "later date" in the 4th century than the C14 result itself.


At the moment, the mainstream paradigm is that the texts of the Gnostics were authored in the 2nd and 3rd and 4th centuries before Nicaea, as well as some that were authored after Nicaea in the 4th century.


What the C14 results are suggesting to me is that this mainstream idea is erroneous, and that the Gnostics were in fact from the generation that personally witnessed the fascist implementation of the "Roman Christian State Religion" in Alexandria under Constantine c.324/325 CE. Impelled by the new religious revolution, the remnant Alexandrian Greek literate academics, authored their own stories by mimicking and parodying and satirizing the divine characters recently published in Greek lavishly by "Pontifex Maximus Constantine" as the Bible.



“… the sacred matters of inspired teaching

were exposed to the most shameful ridicule

in the very theaters of the unbelievers.


[Eusebius, “Life of Constantine, Ch. LXI,

How Controversies originated at Alexandria

through Matters relating to Arius.]





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