for National Geographic News
He is one of the most reviled men in history.
But was Judas only obeying his master's wishes when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss?
That's what a newly revealed ancient Christian text says.
After being lost for nearly 1,700 years, the Gospel of Judas was recently restored, authenticated, and translated. (Get the full, twisting tale of the document's discovery and authentication.)
The Coptic, or Egyptian Christian, manuscripts were unveiled today at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
What Does It Mean?
Some biblical scholars are calling the Gospel of Judas the most significant archaeological discovery in 60 years.
The only known surviving copy of the gospel was found in a codex, or ancient book, that dates back to the third or fourth century A.D.
The newly revealed gospel document, written in Coptic script, is believed to be a translation of the original, a Greek text written by an early Christian sect sometime before A.D. 180.
The Bible's New Testament GospelsMatthew, Mark, Luke, and Johndepict Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, as a traitor. In biblical accounts Judas gives up Jesus Christ to his opponents, who later crucify the founder of Christianity.
The Gospel of Judas, however, portrays him as acting at Jesus' request.
"This lost gospel, providing information on Judas Iscariotconsidered for 20 centuries and by hundreds of millions of believers as an antichrist of the worst kindbears witness to something completely different from what was said [about Judas] in the Bible," said Rodolphe Kasser, a clergyman and former professor in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES