Yeah, yeah...Gospel of Judas, National Geographic special. Got it.
But what's the deal? Well, it's basically another gnostic text, one of many, emerging from the Egyptian sands, making its way through the backalleys of the antiquities market, and seen, translated and intepreted, up to this point, only by people who are "on the team," so to speak. In other words, this rollout of the text, sponsored by National Geographic (which got the rights to it when the Swiss owners realized they could not sell the manuscript itself because it had been obtained illegally) , is not happening according to normal scholarly procedures, to say the least.
In short, this work is not a big deal in relationship to events of the 1st century. In fact, it is not a deal at all. It tells us about gnostic Christianity, but nothing more.
This gospel was rejected so vehemently, it quickly disappeared—copies of it were not made. That explains why people got all excited a couple of decades ago when an ancient copy of the book resurfaced in Egypt. Actually, it resurfaced and then was stolen from its rightful owners. In fact, that’s the dirty little secret behind this whole story. Before any scholars could look at it, the ancient manuscript was sold unlawfully. As far as I know, National Geographic—who is publishing this book—has made no protest to this charge. They apparently are fully aware that it was stolen from Egypt.
In addition, the document has only been viewed by a handful of people. It seems that only scholars who agree with the motives of those publishing it have had a chance to look at it.
Clearly, there are a lot of problems here.
Once upon a time, the National Geographic Society would have been content with that, but a sober account of a 2nd Century pseudepigraphion wouldn’t make much money (just as Professor Robinson’s forthcoming study is unlikely to be a best seller). Hence, “Judas” has been tarted up and made to look like a harlot who, in the word’s of the Mail headline writer, “could threaten the very basis of Christian teaching”.
Well, no. We already knew that some early semi-Christians taught that Judas was the hero of the Gospel story, carrying out his betrayal at Christ’s behest. Related sects went further, making the serpent in the Garden of Eden the servant of the True God, conceived as the enemy of the lesser deity who created the material world and was worshiped by the Jews. These concepts weren’t credible in the 2nd Century, which is why they died out, and gain nothing merely because one of their proponents’ compositions has survived to the present day.