In Christian tradition Wednesday of Holy Week is the day on which we remember Judas' conspiracy with the religious authorities to lead them to Jesus, so that he could be arrested before the Passover. There has been much about Judas in the press over the last year, beginning with the publication of the Gospel of Judas, and again more recently with Elaine Pagels and Karen King's book exploring the theology of that work. I listened to a podcast of Pagels and King last month while shoveling snow. Their basic reading of the gospel of Judas is this: Judas was especially close to Jesus-- the beloved disciple, if you will-- and Jesus revealed his inner thoughts and beliefs to him. These included the idea that disciples need not and should not "sacrifice" themselves (I now feel the need to use quotation marks around what feels like an alternative meaning for that word); that in the face of persecution they should protect themselves, because the death of Jesus was enough.
There was more, of course, but this intrigues me as an alternate reading to parts of the New Testament (for example, the gospel of Mark, which is pretty clear about needing to participate with Jesus in the way of the cross). But it is not at all an alternative to anything (perhaps Hebrews?) that smacks of a substitutionary reading of atonement.
I have not read the gospel of Judas (though it is in a tall, precariously balanced pile of books in my bedroom). But I have also wondered about this: I have an abiding interest in those pieces of the NT in which it is possible to read anti-semitic statements (the gospel of John's passion account is particularly troubling). I have often wondered whether "Judas" wasn't a later invention of the early church, personifying Jews for the betrayal of Jesus. In that scenario the gospel of Judas is an apologetic and a defense of what was becoming a persecuted community (by another persecuted community, yes). What is the earliest mention of Judas in the NT? Is it Mark? If so, why is he not mentioned by Paul?
On another note, I read a poem years ago called "Spy Wednesday's Kind." As a closeted lesbian I have also wondered how safe my secret is with various people. I rode to a meeting yesterday with a fellow pastor whom I know to be liberal-leaning on the GLBT issue in the church. But the trust was not there for me to tell him. This is one of the losses of living in the closet: knowing that a deeper level of friendship might be possible with someone, but being on guard and rejecting that possibility. The constant fear that trust might be betrayed.