Another Take on Gospel Truth About Judas

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By Stacy Meichtry
Religion News Service
Saturday, February 25, 2006

The first translation of an ancient, self-proclaimed "Gospel of Judas" will be published in late April, bringing to light what some scholars believe are the writings of an early Christian sect suppressed for supporting Jesus's infamous betrayer.

If authentic, the manuscript could add to the understanding of Gnosticism, an unorthodox Christian theology denounced by the early church. The Roman Catholic Church is aware of the manuscript, which a Vatican historian called "religious fantasy."

According to scholars who have seen photographs of the brittle manuscript, it argues that Judas Iscariot was carrying out God's will when he handed Jesus over to his executioners. The manuscript could bring momentum to a broader academic movement that argues Judas has gotten a bum rap among historians and theologians as well as in popular culture.

The manuscript's owner said he has cut a deal with the National Geographic Society to release the English translation with a multimedia splash after Easter.

Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Vatican's Committee for Historical Science, called it "a product of religious fantasy."

In an interview, he said the manuscript would not have any impact on church teaching.

"We welcome the [manuscript] like we welcome the critical study of any text of ancient literature," Brandmuller said.

He said that despite some reports to the contrary, the drive to improve Judas's reputation does not have the support of the Vatican.

"There is no campaign, no movement for the rehabilitation of the traitor of Jesus," Brandmuller said.

Brushed onto 31 pages of papyrus in Coptic, an Egyptian script, the manuscript has become tattered after spending centuries buried beneath the sands of Egypt and decades on the gray market.

According to Mario Roberty, a Swiss lawyer who owns the manuscript, the document, known as a codex, has undergone restoration and translation by researchers led by the Swiss Coptic scholar Rodolphe Kasser.

"They've put each page under glass. It's incredibly brittle and in bad shape," Roberty said in a phone interview from Geneva.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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