When the first translation of the long-lost Gospel of Judas was published last year amid considerable publicity, a few scholars trumpeted its apparent depiction of Judas Iscariot as a positive figure who was rewarded in the heavens for betraying Jesus.
This alternative view of Judas, based on a tattered sectarian manuscript probably written in the second century, was not touted as the historical Judas. But one essayist described this Judas as “the ultimate follower of Jesus, one whose actions should be emulated rather than spurned.”
Within months after the National Geographic Society–sponsored announcement, however, other scholars familiar with Gnostic texts began saying that some early assessments were dead wrong. In their reading, the gospel ridicules Judas as a “demon,” the tool of the evil Sethian Gnostic god, for turning over Jesus to the authorities for execution.