Judas Iscariot was on a divine mission, according to ancient text

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A DOCUMENT which portrays Judas Iscariot as a hero and Christ's favourite disciple is set to cause a storm when it is published next month. The ancient text says that Judas -- one of history's greatest villains -- was fulfilling a divine mission when he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

The distinguished National Geographic magazine is about to publish what it believes is an extract of the previously unknown Gospel of Judas.

But Christian scholars, particularly in the Vatican, dismissed the document.

Vatican theologian Giovanni D'Ercole told The Mail on Sunday that it was ''dangerous to re-evaluate Judas and muddy the gospel accounts by reference to apocryphal writings''.

National Geographic said it had done its due diligence and was working with a team of experts to preserve the manuscript.

The papyrus document is written in the ancient Coptic language of the Egyptian Christians and dates from the 4th century, but experts hired by National Geographic say it is a translation of a Greek text dating from about AD187.

According to London's Mail on Sunday, the gospel says that Jesus actually told Judas to betray him.

''You will become the apostle cursed by all others, Judas, you will sacrifice this body of man which clothes me,'' the document says.

The paper says the gospel goes on to quote Jesus telling Judas: ''You will become the 13th, and you will be cursed by the other generations -- and you will come to rule over them.''

According to leaked versions of the script, Jesus also says to Judas: ''Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom.

''It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal.''

For more than 2000 years, Christians have been taught that Judas betrayed Jesus to Roman soldiers and was paid 30 pieces of silver for his treachery.

The contents of the manuscript will be unveiled in the US on April 6 and it contains another surprise.

The papyrus text was found in an Egyptian tomb in the late 1970s and then spent 16 years in a New York bank vault after numerous dealers failed to recognise its significance.

It was acquired by a Swiss art foundation in 2002 and a deal was struck with National Geographic.

The publication comes just before Christianity's holiest period and a month before the release of The Da Vinci Code movie and has led critics to label the exercise as sensationalism.

In January a Vatican historian, Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, denounced the document as a ''product of religious fantasy''.

An Anglican Church spokesman welcomed the publication, but warned that if National Geographic ''hype it as a new gospel'' then there could be a lot of cancelled subscriptions.

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Brian Kim - 3/15/2006

Remind of the book I read called Messianic Legacy. The book is written by same group of author who wrote Holy Blood and Holy Grail.
In the book, it propose same scenario. Only difference is that Messianic Legacy was published in the eighties and authors may have not known about the Gospel of Judas.