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"The Gospel According to Judas," published simulataneously in eight languages this month, is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus purportedly written by Judas’ son, Benjamin. Authored by novelist Jeffrey Archer and biblical scholar Francis J. Moloney, the book follows the style of the gospels to offer what some reviewers say is a more sympathetic portrayal of Judas. Archer and Maloney were invited to talk about their book on TODAY. Here is an excerpt:
‘Behold the Lamb of God’
1 This gospel is written so that all may know the truth about Judas Iscariot and the role he played in the life and tragic death of Jesus of Nazareth.
2 Many others have told the story of Jesus, recounting all that he said and did during his short time on earth.
3 Some were witnesses to what actually took place and they passed on, in the Jewish tradition of word of mouth what they had seen and heard.
4 Others have written further accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, the son of God. These have come to be known as The Gospels. [i]
5 One of those who was an eyewitness to these events was my father, Judas Iscariot.
6 I, Benjamin, son of Judas Iscariot, his first born, listened to my father’s account of what took place at that time, and have recorded accurately all that he saw and heard, initially in Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke – and then Greek, which my father taught me from a young age. [ii]
7 My father brought me up in the strict traditions of the Torah, and like him I have come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet and a true son of Israel, but not the long-awaited Messiah. 8 Several other Gospels have recently been written, giving their version of what took place during Jesus’ lifetime. But only a few of them, not accepted by the new sect known as Christians, come close to giving a fair account of my father’s actions during this period in our history. [iii]
9 The others do not begin to understand, or fairly report, Judas’ passionate belief and commitment to Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, they have blackened my father’s name to the point where he is now thought of as the most infamous of all Jesus’ followers.
10 He has been branded a traitor, a thief, and a man willing to accept bribes, and one Gospel even falsely reports that he took his own life (Matt 27:3-10).
11 None of these judgments, mostly reported since the tragic death of Jesus, was made during his lifetime.
12 Some, determined to prove their case, have suggested that the name Iscariot originates from the Roman word Sicarii, which translated means ‘dagger-bearing Zealot.’
13 Others have stated that it comes from the Hebrew saqar, denoting ‘the false one’.
14 The truth is that the name Iscariot derives from the Hebrew ish-kerioth, meaning ‘one from Kerioth’, the town in which Judas was born.
15 My father’s origins spring from the tribe of Judah. He was raised in Kerioth, a town mentioned in the early history of Israel, loyal to the ancient traditions of the Jews (see Jos 15:25). [iv]
16 The Christians continue to spread the word throughout Galilee that Judas was a man of violence, a hanger-on and someone who could not be trusted. Despite contrary evidence, these libels are still abroad and often repeated by the followers of Jesus, even to the present day.
17 Judas Iscariot was in fact a disciple of John the Baptist, and willingly obeyed his command: ‘There goes a man of God, follow him’ (see John 1:36).
18 From that day, my father became a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, and was so trusted by the Master that he was later chosen to be one of his twelve disciples.
19 As a child, I listened to my father’s account of Jesus’ ministry, and later recorded his words when I visited him at Khirbet Qumran, shortly before he was put to death by the Romans.
20 My father has now returned to the God he loved and served so faithfully.
‘Prepare the way of the Lord’
1 Judas was a disciple of John the Baptist, and when the prophet first appeared in the wilderness, many considered that the prediction of the prophet Malachi was fulfilled: ‘Know that I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes, that great and terrible day’ (Mal 4:5).
2 John the Baptist lived just as Elijah had lived: a man dressed in a cloak of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist and eating wild locusts and honey. (2 Kings 1:8).
3 Judas believed that with the return of Elijah, the day of the Lord was surely at hand. John the Baptist was the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God’ (Isa 40:3).
4 Many considered that John himself was fulfilling Israel’s prophetic hopes, and must therefore be the Messiah. But he told Judas that he was not that man: ‘After me will come a man who is far greater than I am’ (John 1:30).
5 John regarded himself as so inferior to the one who was still to come that he often said that he was not worthy to stoop down and untie his sandal; a task fit only for a slave (see Mark 1:7; Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16).
6 Jesus was the son of Joseph and his wife Mary. He came from Nazareth to be baptized by John, who was his cousin (see Luke 1:36).
7 Many stories of Jesus’ birth and upbringing have been recounted, but Judas always believed that Jesus was the first born of the lawful wedlock between his father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary. Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and of Judah and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 6:3. see also Matt 1:25; Mark 3:31-35; John 7:3-8). [v]
8 Some of the stories about Jesus’ birth that were being voiced at the time were nothing more than Greek myths that tell of gods in heaven who produce offspring following a union with women of this earth (see Gen 6:1-4). [vi]
9 Whenever stories of Jesus’ birth are reported, all faithfully record that Joseph, his father, was originally from Bethlehem, the city of David, and that a child was born to his mother Mary.
10 These were difficult times for any Jewish family. King Herod ruled by fear, and allowed the Roman soldiers to wander the length and breadth of the land doing much as they pleased. It was not unusual for young women to be defiled by these pagans.
11 Joseph must have decided that in order to avoid any confrontation with the Romans, he and his wife Mary would make the dangerous journey to the remote village of Nazareth in Galilee.
12 In Nazareth, Joseph, a carpenter, found work among those building the great city of Sepphoris, while Mary and the rest of the family lived in the village.
13 It was while Jesus was growing up in Nazareth that he was taught the traditions of Israel by his righteous father Joseph, a son of David, and his mother Mary, a true daughter of Sion.
14 Even though Jesus is always thought of as a Nazarene, he was born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
Excerpted from "The Gospel According to Judas," published by . Copyright © 2007. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.
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