Gospel rehabilitating Judas is published in Rome
British novelist Jeffrey Archer and Vatican theologist Francis Maloney on Tuesday launched a book defending Judas' betrayal of Jesus at a papal institution in Rome.
"The Gospel According to Judas" claims the disciple acted over concern that Jesus' failure to chase the Romans out of Jerusalem would lead to the destruction of the Jewish people.
Its publication follows last year's discovery of an ancient Coptic manuscript known as the Gospel of Judas, which maintains that Jesus actually asked his disciple to betray him.
It was launched at the Vatican-funded Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome two days before its worldwide distribution on Thursday.
The institute's rector, Father Stephen Pisano, was quoted by the Ansa agency as saying he hoped the book would encourage more people to read the Bible.
The book has been written from the point of view of Judas' son, Benjamin Iscariot. As well as describing the betrayal, it rejects claims the disciple later killed himself.
Archer, a successful novelist who was a conservative party lawmaker before being jailed for four years for perjury in 2001, said in January that the book was "a gospel, not a short story and not a novel".
Australian scholar Maloney is an expert on Christian texts and a member of the Vatican's International Theological Commission, where he rubbed shoulders with Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.