The recently revealed book of Judas does not contradict beliefs held by followers of Jesus, according to local religious leaders.
"There is nothing earth-shattering in these writings," said Rev. Paul Deterding of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Carson City, in reference to the Gospel of Judas publicized by National Geographic.
However, some fear it will detract from today's celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"In many ways this takes away from the power of Easter," said Rev. Bruce Kochsmeier at First Presbyterian Church in Carson City. "It puts the wrong focus on the day."
The recent interpretation of the "Gospel" of Judas Iscariot leads many to believe he may have actually been a good guy and not the bad guy who turned Jesus over to the Romans for persecution, Kochsmeier said.
Discovered by an Egyptian in 1978, the papyrus book, or codex, containing the writings of Judas was placed in a vault in 1983 in Hicksville, N.Y., after attempts to sell it on the black market were unsuccessful.
Christians see Judas as the one who betrayed Jesus - the man who identified Jesus to the Romans with a kiss.
In a recent National Geographic article, based on a Gnostic interpretation of Judas' writings, the conversation Jesus had with Judas describes a different Judas - a hero. The article depicts Judas as the only disciple who understood Christ's message and, in handing Him over to authorities, did so knowing his own fate.
Deterding said the writings of Judas are a new source (of history in relation to Jesus Christ), but have no relevance to the Christian faith or the trusting of Jesus as a man or His teachings.
"The writings were interpreted by the Gnostics, which is a Greek word for knowledge. The Gnostics have a different world view," Deterding said.
"Deliverance for them is escaping the material world to the spiritual world. They believe there is no death or forgiveness or resurrection of the body. The Gospel of Judas fits right in with this."
The word gospel in Greek means "good news." Kochsmeier said that although the writings of Judas may be good news to Gnostics, the writings do not fit the Christian definition.
"There's only one good news and it's as old as the earliest Hebrew scriptures, that humanity has fallen and is separate from God, and that God has chosen to atone for that falleness with the gift of Himself by coming in person in Jesus Christ, in Jesus of Nazareth," he said.
According to scholars who have read them, the writings offer new insights into the relationship of Jesus and the disciple who betrayed him. In the scholars' interpretation, Jesus asked Judas, as his close friend, to sell him out to the authorities, telling Judas he will "exceed" the other disciples by doing so.
"What does this mean?" Kochsmeier said. "That Judas gets a break after all these years? He finally gets exonerated?
"The bad part, Judas didn't stick around long enough to see the resurrection. He hung himself two days later, and for what, 30 pieces of silver.
"The issue is why Jesus came in the first place. The Jesus we know is the one Matthew, Mark, Luke and John spoke of."
Kochsmeier said the real good news is Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came to give up His life.
"I think it's interesting after so many discoveries, Jesus continues to be on trial today," Kochsmeier said.
"The writings of Judas are inconsistent. Just because he was part of the plan doesn't make him less guilty. If so, why did he hang himself?
"The Gospel, the good news is yes, we all betrayed and abandoned Jesus - but God chose to conquer death and come back."
• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at email@example.com or 881-1223.
The Twelve Apostles
James (aka James the Younger)
Simon the Zealot
Matthias (who replaced Judas)
Rev. Bruce Kochsmeier -
First Presbyterian Church
Bachelor's degree in history from San Diego State University and Westmont College, degree from SDSU 1975; Master of Divinity from Princeton
Theological Seminary 1985