ERASING the 'Judas stamp'

HOW WOULD IT FEEL to have your name passed down through centuries of history as synonymous with betrayal, greed, and treachery? That's what happened to Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples of Christ Jesus, whose denunciation led directly to Jesus' arrest and crucifixion. Two thousand years later, calling someone a Judas means that individual is to be considered a contemptible traitor, the lowest of the low.

Could there be more to the story, and more to Judas' character, than treachery? A Coptic manuscript that scholars are calling the Gospel of Judas—a copy of a text known as early as 180 A. D.—has brought that issue to public attention in recent months. The text is formally known as Codex Tchacos, named for the family of antiquities dealers who bought the 66-page manuscript, after it had languished in a safe deposit box for over 15 years following its discovery near EI Minya, Egypt, in the 1970s. The codex includes the Judas gospel and three other texts; photographs of it can be viewed online (see, for example,

The Gospel of Judas is one of several accounts of Jesus produced by a diverse group classified as Gnostic Christians, and reflects views about Jesus that contrast with the convictions of mainline Christianity. Specifically, the Gospel of Judas says that at the time of the crucifixion, Judas acted in obedience to Jesus' own request, sacrificing his good name and playing the villain in order to inaugurate a great drama of cosmic salvation. Indeed, according to some scholars studying the gospel, it depicts Judas as the paramount example of Christian discipleship!

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December 11, 2006

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