What was your best experience in the field covering this story?
I was never really into biblical history, but this story gave me an incredible opportunity to look at the tumultuous origins of Christianity during the first 400 years after Christ’s death. I found it fascinating that the stories about Jesus were passed down through oral history, and nobody started writing anything down until about 30 years after he died. And then it took hundreds of years for theologians of the time to sort the stories out during the Bible’s editing process.
It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of debates our findings on Judas ignite, because seeing him portrayed as Christ’s most trusted disciple certainly changes history. I know some people will reject it outright because the early scholars declared it heretical. But those with intellectual curiosity are going to say, “This is really cool.”
What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?
Work first started on this story in December 2004, and everyone involved had to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep it from leaking. Outside of that very small group, I haven’t really been able to talk about it with anyone—including my family. I just told people I was working on a story about early Christianity. For people who wanted to know more, I stuck to the phrase, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?
When we got the first translation of the Judas gospel back, we were on the edge of our seats reading about a revelation Judas had where he went into a cloud. It read, “Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud, saying. . . ” Then, just as we thought we were going to find out what the voice said, we saw “ . . .Void.” The words were missing because a fragment was missing from the papyrus.