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Traditional Judas lesson still applies

So now in this Easter season we find out that Judas Iscariot, one of history's great villains, was really a good guy. A recently published text written about 1,700 years ago and discovered in Egypt says that Jesus ordered the Apostle Judas to betray him to fulfill God's will. In other words, Jesus wanted Judas to deliver him to his enemies and Judas did that as a friend.

Well, I believe my third-grade teacher at St. Brigid's School, Sister Mary Lurana, would not be having any of this. The good sister understood that the Gospels were teaching tools, not history, and that the story of Judas was consistent with one of Jesus' central messages: Don't sell out what you believe in for money.

Remember Moses smashing the Golden Idol? Remember Jesus driving the moneychangers from the temple? Remember the parable of the rich man, the eye of the needle, and heaven? If not, grab a copy of the Bible. It's a best seller, you know.

Anyway, Judas has been dead for more than 2,000 years, so it really doesn't matter much to him how he's perceived on Earth, especially if he's in heaven, right? But the lesson of betrayal is relevant to us all.

These days in America, money is a driving force, and many of us have been personally betrayed by people seeking our money. It is also quite common for people to use other people in pursuit of currency. In fact, I believe the love of money is the root of much evil. Where did I hear that before?

The revelation of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" has some theologians in a tizzy. The original Gospels are now being re-examined and debated, and one Princeton professor even wrote that discoveries of this kind are "exploding the myth of a monolithic Christianity."

Sister Lurana would have definitely scolded that professor in no uncertain terms.

The good sister would likely say that the Judas tract explodes nothing. It is simply another early Christian writing explaining an author's viewpoint on this particular Apostle and his relationship with Jesus.

Again, the Scriptures are not history; they were written to instruct people as to how Jesus lived and what his message was. Whether Judas was a traitor is really not important. What is imperative to those who want to follow in the footsteps of Christ is to understand that hurting another person for money is not acceptable. Got it? I'm glad.

Anything to do with religion in America is touchy these days, so I fully expect one of Judas's descendants to get a lawyer and demand restitution for all Judas has suffered over the years. I mean there are myriad damages in play here. By some accounts, Judas hung himself after he realized what a scoundrel he was. Wrongful death suit?

And what exactly happened to those 30 pieces of silver he was paid to betray Jesus? Compounded over the centuries, that would be a major stake today. Surely, Judas would want the money in the hands of his people, would he not?

Also, don't even bring up the subject of libel. How many kids are named "Judas"? Do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have any traceable assets the libel lawyers can go after?

Not that money has anything to do with all this, no, there's a principle in play here. And, as any good lawyer will tell you, that principle can only be illustrated by the payment of money to the aggrieved estate of Judas Iscariot. God bless him.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His column appears on Friday. His "Radio Factor" can be heard weekdays from 1 to 3 p.m. on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.