Forbidden gospel 'will show Judas was acting for God'



By Hilary Clarke, in Rome
(Filed: 13/01/2006)

The planned publication of a "forbidden" Gospel of Judas is set to reawaken a centuries-old controversy over the man who betrayed Jesus.

A Swiss foundation and National Geographic magazine are to publish translations of the ancient Coptic text discovered in Egypt in the 1970s.

Although the full details have not yet been made public, snippets discussed in academic circles say it will prove Judas was acting at the behest of God when he sold Jesus to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver.

Its publication will raise fears among traditionalists that efforts may be made to rehabilitate a man whose name is synonymous with betrayal.

Sympathisers with Judas contend that had Jesus not been crucified, he would not have been subsequently resurrected to save humanity.

The translator of the Gospel of Judas is Rodolphe Kasser of the University of Geneva, the world's leading Coptic scholar. The torn and tattered papyrus text had been offered to potential buyers in North America and Europe for decades after it was found at al-Minya in Egypt.

It resurfaced recently as the property of the Maecenas Foundation based in Basle, Switzerland.

Controversy also surrounds the origins of the text, which dates from the fourth century, with some scholars arguing that it was not written by Judas, but by a group of his supporters.