People have been forging documents for as long as documents have existed, and the best artists were sometimes also the best forgers. The search for original Christian documents has unearthed some spectacular finds, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the closest we have to anything in the time of Jesus, but there’s also been an endless parade of forgeries. These old documents are valuable and always have been.
Christianity didn’t become a big deal until 300 years after-the-fact, so there was considerable wiggle room over three centuries for any powers-that-be to make adjustments. Being named a bishop in a major city for the first 300 years was often a dangerous occupation, since you never knew if Roman troops might not rush into your home and decapitate you for violating some obscure law. There were no rules on celibacy in those days, by the way, and most priests and bishops were married and had families.
In the 1970s, a major work titled Gospel of Judas was discovered written in Coptic on an ancient papyrus, and it told a different story from the one in the New Testament. In this version Judas follows instructions and does not betray Jesus. A microscopist spent months analyzing the papyrus and two inks were found, which was unusual: lamp black of the Egyptian scribes had been mixed with brown iron gall of the Greeks.
The microscopist eventually dated the papyrus at the year 280 after comparing it with Egyptian documents from that period in the Louve in Paris. This is twenty years before Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, but long after the time of Jesus.
In fact, much of the Old and New Testaments may have been formulated after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem, and the banishment of Jews from Judea. Up until then, Judaism and Christianity were oral traditions and nothing was written about Jesus during his alleged lifetime.
Below is my translation of the opening:
Gospel of Judas Iscariot
Here is the secret account of what Jesus told Judas Iscariot during Passover week in Jerusalem.
Jesus came to Judea and performed miracles and brought salvation from suffering for the poor. He collected twelve disciples so that his works would never end. He taught his disciples the mysteries, often in the form of a child.
Scene 1: The Eucharist
The disciples were in Judea sharing bread when Jesus approached. One offered a prayer of thanksgiving and Jesus laughed.
“Something wrong with my prayer?”
“Nothing is ever wrong,” said Jesus. “Everything that happens, happens through the will of the One.”
“Aren’t you the son of the One?”
“Did I ever said that? None in my lifetime will truly know me.”
When the disciples heard this, they cursed Jesus and got angry.
Jesus challenged anyone to stand eyeball to eyeball, and tell him they truly knew him.
“I can do that,” said Judas. But when he stood next to him, he looked away.
“I know who you are and where you came from,” said Judas. “You are from the immortal realm of Sophia. I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who sent you.”
Jesus drew Judas aside for a private conversation. “Sometimes the truth is painful,” said Jesus. “And it’s ok to be a bit slow to reveal it.”
“But when will you reveal the mysteries?” asked Judas.
But Jesus had already disappeared and did not answer, and it was a long time before he appeared again.