Gospel of Judas, a manuscript which experts believe may date back to
the 2nd century, and suggests that Judas Iscariot was merely taking
orders from Jesus himself when he turned the Messiah over to
authorities, was officially presented in Washington yesterday by the
National Geographic Society.
The ancient papyrus manuscript first came to light 30 years ago when it was discovered on the Egyptian antiquities market. Aside from new dating, evidence of its existence stretch back to the time of St. Irenaeus, a bishop, who condemned it as early as 180 A.D.
The document is one of many ancient manuscripts which were rejected by Church fathers when formulating the canon of scripture.
According to the ANSA news service, the Vatican has denied suggestions that this week’s hugely publicized publication is part of a rehabilitation of Judas by the Catholic Church.
According to the National Geographic Society, the newly translated document begins: "The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot."
In one passage, Jesus tells Judas, "You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me," supposedly indicating that Judas was essentially following orders when he turned the Lord over to his death.
Another passage reads: "Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom," Jesus says to Judas, singling him out for special status. "Look, you have been told everything. Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star."
The text ends with Judas turning Jesus over to the high priests and does not include any mention of the crucifixion or resurrection.
A number of Catholic teachings come into conflict with the new document. For one, the suggestion that Jesus needed to be released from “the man that clothes him”, or his physical body, hearkens back to an early Church heresy that which suggested that the flesh was evil and mankind needed to shed material things for the sake of the spiritual.
In addition, Catholic ethics teach that one can never use an evil means to reach a good end. Under Catholic thinking, it would never be morally acceptable for Judas to betray his master, even for the sake of a greater good.