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The latest brouhaha over Judas Iscariot is not about some controversial unearthing of a hitherto unknown papyrus, the discovery of his remains--DNA easily accessible and certifiable--or the existence in Oklahoma of some cult of Judas with direct blood ties, but rather the publication of a work on Judas that is the result of the strangest of collaborations: potboiler extraordinaire, fallen cabinet minister, and contrite sinner Jeffrey Archer teaming up with the rightly esteemed biblical scholar, former professor at Catholic University of America, and Salesian bigwig Francis J. Moloney. Scholars, reviewers, Judas apologists and Judas detractors don't know quite what to make of it The Gospel According to Judas. It's not often that an exegete and a besteller decide to go digging together. Amidst all of this current fuss--after all, Judas has been getting his fair share for a few decades now (remember the less than covert sympathy he mustered in Jesus Christ Superstar?)--it is easy to forget that insightful explorations both fictional and scholarly of the betrayer/lover have been in circulation for some time, including the work of Catholic novelist Morley Callaghan with his A Time for Judas and Mennonite biblicist William Klassen with his Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus. Well, it all gives Mary Magdalene a bit of a reprieve.

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This was the subject of a piece in the Tablet several issues back. As best I can recall, Archer does not need the money and he has agreed to contribute a substantial sum out of the profits to a Salesian project somewhere in Oceania. Hence, no doubt, Fr. Moloney's willingness to lend a hand. One element in the "rethinking" seems to be that Judas joins an Essene "monastery" and so never learns the good news that Jesus was raised from the dead.

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