Scholars rethink Judas hero hypothesis

HALIFAX — Scholars might have been too quick to portray Judas as a hero earlier this year, says a Nova Scotia professor who was part of the controversial project.

Craig Evans, who teaches New Testament studies at Acadia University, said mistakes were made in the interpretation of a 1,700-year-old copy of the Gospel of Judas unveiled by the National Geographic Society last April.

“We had it wrong,” Evans said from Wolfville, N.S. “Judas may not be a hero at all in the world view of the author of this writing, but just simply a fool.”

A clip from the National Geographic special regarding the Gospel of Judas. Includes comments by Craig Evans.

According to the fourth-century Christian text, Judas did as Jesus asked, betraying him so he could shed his earthly body and pave the way for salvation.

The scholars interpreted that as Judas being a hero rather than one of the most villainous characters in Christianity, as he is portrayed in the New Testament.

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“We all just assumed that Judas was a hero in the story,” said Evans, the only Canadian on the Gospel of Judas project. “He was lionized. He was the greatest of the 12 disciples and so forth.”

But Evans said he started having doubts about the interpretation of the document after an October conference in Ottawa.

“The question was raised, ‘Is Judas being interpreted correctly?’ It got me thinking maybe it wasn’t. So I just reread it and rethought it.”

Evans is now convinced the text reveals Jesus chose Judas not because he was the strongest disciple, but because he was the easiest to manipulate.

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Dec. 6, 2006

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This post was last updated: Dec. 7, 2006