Revealed: The Gospel of Judas

From Melbourne Age

Revealed: The Gospel of Judas
By Linda Morris
April 7, 2006 - 8:08AM

A 1700-year-old papyrus manuscript suggests history has misjudged the
greatest villian of Christianity: Judas was under orders when he
betrayed Jesus.

The only known surviving copy of the lost gospel of Judas portrays the
treacherous disciple as a loyal deputy acting at the behest of his

In fact, Judas sold Jesus out as an act of obedience not treachery,
thereby fulfilling his theological destiny. Key passages from the
third or fourth century Coptic manuscript were released by its
publisher, the National Geographic Society, last night, a week before
Easter, the holiest time of the Christian calendar.

The society, which is rumoured to have purchased publishing rights for
more than $1 million, plans magazine articles, television specials and
book deals amid concerns about the ethics of ancient acquisitions.

The society’s panel of scholars has submitted the document to
radiocarbon dating, ink analysis and spectral imaging and has declared
it authentic.

The gospel of Judas is believed to be the work of gnostic Christians,
a stream of Christian thinking declared heretical by early church
fathers. It is a companion text to ancient scriptures unearthed in
1945, which have formed the basis of some assertions in Dan Brown’s
controversial bestseller The Da Vinci Code.

Australian biblical scholars said the document would be likely to
provide a window on early Christianity, but did not threaten Christian
teachings because while it was old, it did not date to the time of the
Bible’s Gospels.

“The text bears witness that to some people Judas was a misunderstood
character,” said Dr Malcolm Choat, a specialist in early Christianity
at Macquarie University. “It fills in the picture but it doesn’t make
the picture.”

But the Coptic Orthodox Church dismissed the document as
“non-Christian babbling resulting from a group of people trying to
create a false ‘amalgam’ between the Greek mythology and Far East
religions with Christianity They were written by a group of people who
were aliens to the main Christian stream of the early Christianity,”
the church’s theological leader, Metropolitan Bishoy, said.

“These texts are neither reliable nor accurate Christian texts, as
they are historically and logically alien to the main Christian
thinking and philosophy of the early and present Christians.”

The Judas gospel is a third or fourth century Coptic manuscript
discovered in the desert near El Minya, Egypt, in the 1970s. It was
sold to a dealer in illicit antiquities and languished in a safe
deposit box in the US before falling into the hands of a Swiss

The Bible says Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans for a purse of 30
pieces of silver in the Garden of Gethsemane. He later hung himself.

According to limited extracts of the gospel of Judas offered to the
Herald, Jesus explains Judas his role in the crucifixion: “You will
exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”

In other key passages released to the public, Jesus confides: “Step
away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the
kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a
great deal.”

For his role Judas would be despised by the other disciples: “You will
be cursed by the other generations and you will come to rule them.”
The gospel ends: "They [the arresting party] approached Judas and said
to him. ‘What are you doing? You are Jesus’s disciple’. Judas answered
them as they wished. And he received some money and handed over to

As well as the gospel of Judas, the newly discovered 66-page document
also contained a text titled James, a letter of Peter to Philip, and a
fragment of a fourth text scholars are provisionally calling Book of