Judas Iscariot is one of the most reviled names in history, but
an ancient papyrus manuscript has been discovered which throws new
light on his role in the life and death of Jesus.
Judas Iscariot is the apostle who
betrayed Jesus Christ to the Romans, resulting in the crucifixion.
The name Judas, which means 'Jew', has become so closely associated
with treachery that it has fanned the flames of anti-Semitism for
almost 2,000 years.
In AD 180, an early church father denounced as heretical a book
that he referred to as 'The Gospel of Judas'.
This claimed that
Judas, far from betraying Jesus, was his closest collaborator. The
document disappeared, apparently without trace, in the second century.
But an ancient papyrus manuscript has been discovered in the Nile
Valley. Traded on the antiquities black market for 25 years, it
could be the lost Gospel of Judas.
Now a team of experts has set out to restore the disintegrating
manuscript and determine whether it is real or fake.
Proving the past
This could be
the most important discovery in Biblical archaeology in 60 years.
Using Carbon14 dating techniques, the book is found to have been
written at precisely the right time in around AD 300.
can decipher 85% of the text, which gives an unorthodox, mystical
and joyful perspective on Jesus' relationship with Judas, who is his
This Gospel belonged to a group of mystical early Christians
called Gnostics, who believed that every human being contained the
divine spark. In this version, Jesus says that the divine spark
needs to be set free from the 'body which surrounds me'.
which identifies Jesus to the Romans, which the orthodox version of
the Bible interprets as betrayal, is portrayed in this version as an
act of sacrifice. There is no crucifixion scene.
The Gnostic Christians were marginalised and eventually
disappeared, but the text contained in the Gospel of Judas shows
that there is another interpretation of the role of Judas Iscariot.
And if the Gnostic version had survived, perhaps the world could
have avoided the thread of anti-Semitism that has run through most
incarnations of the Christian church since then.