I've been watching National Geographic's special on the Gospel of Judas (see here for my first post with links to all sorts of information on this work). I'm trying to catalogue all the unscholarly things they've been saying. I think I missed at least one, but there's plenty here to criticize.
First of all, they selected mostly scholars known for Gnostic sympathies or more radical reconstructions of the history of the development of Christianity. Many of these were not mainstream scholars but fringe elements like Bart Ehrman (see the links here for evaluation of his latest popular work) or Elaine Pagels (best known for minority views about Gnosticism that most scholars reject). Craig Evans was the one voice of reason in the whole production, and it felt to me as if they were excerpting him most of the time to fit with what they wanted to get across, putting his rejection of any historical value in this work regarding the actual Judas immediately before a fallacious argument of Elaine Pagels that ignores much historical information about the differences between what we know about the gospels and what we know about this work (see 6 below). My conclusion is that the people who put this together absolutely failed in terms of their journalistic integrity. But what else is new? That usually happens in these specials. There was much that I found enjoyable and interesting in this special, but I'm disgusted enough with the negatives that I'll have to refer you to Mark Goodacre for the positive elements.
On to the specific criticisms:
1. Most scholars think Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were long dead before those gospels were written? This is completely wrong. Most scholars do think John died before his gospel was written. I think they're wrong, but that is an accurate summary of the orthodoxy among NT scholars. The same may be true of Matthew and Luke, although the standard datings of those are much more varied, and common datings of them allow easily that someone born in the first decade could be alive to have written Matthew. Luke may have been born as early as the early 20s (he was much younger than Paul, who might have been younger than Jesus), and if his gospel was completed in the 60s or 70s it's not at all out of the question that he'd still be alive.
Some think Mark was produced about 50. Some place it later, even as late as the 70s. I think a large number of scholars place it in the 60s. If Mark was born in the early 20s, as is likely for a younger companion of Paul. That would mean Mark would have been in his 50s in the 70s. What kind of scholar would assume that Mark couldn't have lived that long? I know of no serious scholar who dates Mark later than that. So why claim that all four traditional authors of the gospels must have been long dead when their gospels were completed? Even leaving aside the issue of gospel traditions that circulated for decades during the lifetimes of almost all the apostles, it's just deceptive to claim that most scholars believe all four traditional authors were long dead by the time their assigned gospels were written. I don't think that could possibly be true.
2. Almost all scholars today believe that the four gospels were written between 60 and 100 AD? Not true, unless "almost" can be true of a mere majority. A very large minority thinks Mark was written earlier than 60, because otherwise Matthew and Luke wouldn't have had enough time to come into existence based on Mark with enough time for Acts to be completed before Paul's final trial in Rome (the best explanation for why it ends suddenly with no account of what happens to Paul).
3. Mark's gospel doesn't present Judas as a traitor? You had to wait until Matthew for that, according to the narrative of this documentary. See the following passages for confirmation of that thesis:
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. [Mark 3:16-19, ESV]
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. [Mark 14:10-11, ESV]
And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.��? And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.��? And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!��? And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. [Mark 14:41-46, ESV]
So I guess there's no indication in the Gospel of Mark that Judas betrayed Jesus.
4. Elaine Pagels pretends the gospels are anti-semitic, and they get more anti-semitic as they get more Gentile. She says this even though Luke is usually thought of as the most obviously Gentile-written gospel, and it's the one scholars who take this line generally accept as less anti-semitic. Matthew, of course, is the most obviously Jewish-written gospel (he's the only one who regularly translates from the Hebrew scriptures rather than just quoting the Greek translation as all the others did). It's words from Matthew that the Jewish Anti-Defamation League got Mel Gibson to remove from his subtitles. So the claim that the Gentile-influenced gospels lead to this kind of language is just wrong.
But it's a strange sort of mindset to begin with that calls these statements anti-semitic. See my comments on John and anti-semitism. The reality is that the Jewish gospel writers were more concerned about pointing out the errors of their own people, which isn't anti-semitism but internal self-criticism in the mold of the prophets, indeed in the mold of Jesus. This sort of claim is as bad as those who claim that it's unpatriotic to point out where you disagree with the leaders of your country. The prophets are rife with the kind of criticism that the gospels contain, and if Pagels wants to argue that the gospels are anti-semitic then she better say the same thing about Moses, Micaiah, Elijah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Malachi.
5. This isn't technically an inaccuracy, but it's highly misleading. They kept asking if they could establish that this document was authentic. They concluded yes. Will viewers understand what this means? In a few places they say that they established it to be from the ancient world, but what does that mean? The date they assign it is 280 or so. We know nothing of whether it has any source before that. For all we know, it came into existence in the third century. Is it authentic? Yes, if all you mean is that it's from the third century. Perhaps not, if what you mean is that it came from the Greek document Irenaus called the Gospel of Judas. Almost certainly not, if you mean what the narrator and several interviewed scholars keep insinuating, i.e. that this was a rival gospel to the four in the NT from the same time period that should be considered valuable for learning about the life of the real Judas Iscariot. This distinction was never clearly made, and I think the implication is inaccuarate even if they didn't say anything literally false on this issue. The questions they asked invited an assumed answer that is indeed false, or at least extremely speculative beyond any evidence we've got.
6. Here's what they didn't say, and its absence has the same deceptive effect as my previous point. There's no evidence of any Gnosticism like this any time before the second century and no evidence of a Gospel of Judas before 180 (and it's not even clear if this Gospel of Judas is the same one that Irenaus wrote about, because there are strong dissimilarities between his description and this work). There's strong evidence for at least portions of the four gospels in the NT much earlier than that. There's a fragment of John from the early second century, for instance, and that's the one with the weakest claim to closeness to Jesus as most scholars see it.