Judas was much misunderstood. Says who? Why, Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer, the disgraced former peer, is to publish a controversial new book entitled The Gospel According to Judas, which will attempt to rehabilitate the most reviled man in Christendom.

The book, to be released in March, will attempt to reposition Judas not as the traitor who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, but as a seasoned politician who hands over his master as part of a plan to throw the Romans out of the Jewish homeland.

Archer has taken the unusual step of writing the book in conjunction with Professor Frank Moloney, an Australian biblical scholar. The novelist, who was released from prison in 2003 after serving half of a four-year term for perjury, said: "Of course, the right wing of the church and the evangelicals will say you must never tinker with the gospels. But I think you have got to reassess."

Archer's version of the story speculates that Judas did not hang himself after betraying the son of God with a kiss. Indeed, the book is written under the pseudonym "Benjamin Iscariot", a son Judas supposedly survived to tell the story to. Archer's book is likely to rile Christians. George Curry, an Anglican priest and chairman of the Church Society, said the thesis seemed "balderdash".

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said that while he did not accept Archer's version of the Judas story, it was "a valid exercise and one which will hopefully help people to reconnect with the Bible".

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