- Instead of portraying Judas Iscariot as a traitor, as the canonical gospels of the New Testament do, this document — the Gospel of Judas — indicates that he acted at the request of Jesus to help him shed his earthly body...
"The Gospel of Judas turns Judas' act of betrayal into an act of obedience," Craig Evans, a New Testament scholar at Acadia Divinity College, said in a National Geographic statement on the find. "The sacrifice of Jesus' body of flesh in fact becomes saving. And so for that reason, Judas emerges as the champion and he ends up being envied and even cursed and resented by the other disciples."
Although this is the first time the actual text of the Gospel of Judas has surfaced in modern times, its existence has been well-known to scholars for centuries. The manuscript was first mentioned in a treatise around A.D. 180 by a bishop, Irenaeus of Lyon, in what is now France. The bishop denounced it as differing from mainstream Christianity and said it produced a fictitious and heretical story.
- Echoing other scholars, the Catholic Theological Union's Senior said the Gospel of Judas "reveals the diversity and vitality of early Christianity."
"This diversity among various Christian groups was something taken for granted in the early centuries of the church, but may be a surprise to many people today," he told reporters.
Senior said the Gospel of Judas will likely spark another wave of popular interest in the debates of the early church. "God only knows what will be said on Sunday after this," he remarked, half-jokingly. But in the long run, the text would have little impact on the main tenets of present-day Christianity, he said.
"At first there will be a lot of sensation, until people start reading the Gospel of Judas," Senior said, "and then I think the impact of this on ordinary lives of Christian believers is going to be somewhat minimal."
- Staunch believers who will consider it to be blasphemy and/or lies. This is made up of people who drink the Jesus juice and church politicians. In short, people who are either supremely ignorant or supremely elitist. Fundamentalists.
- Atheists, scholars, questioners of religion who already knew about it. They will embrace the story and use it to validate their own 'beliefs'. I fall into this category.
- Casual religious people (those who go on Easter and Christmas) who just don't care.
- Casual religious people who may read about it and perhaps begin to question the things they've accepted at 'truth' since grade-school. Not many, but a few will do this.
- Biblical scholars said the Gospel of Judas differs from the four New Testament Gospels in at least two important ways. First, it portrays Judas not as the betrayer of Jesus but as the most favored of his disciples, the only one who truly understood Jesus.
Some scholars suggested that view -- if it had been accepted -- might have lessened anti-Semitism over the centuries. "The story of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas gave a moral and religious rationale to anti-Jewish sentiment, and that's what made it persistent and vicious," said Princeton University professor Elaine Pagels.
Second, the Gospel of Judas offers a new creation story, depicting the evil world as the product of a bloodthirsty, foolish lower deity, rather than the higher, true God. This duality "is why this gospel could never be accepted by orthodox Christianity," said Bart D. Ehrman, chairman of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.