Traitor No More?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 13, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O’REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact Segment” tonight, you may have heard that a 1,700-year-old document discovered in Egypt and published by National Geographic says the apostle Judas was not a traitor, that Jesus wanted him to cooperate with the Sanhedrin, which eventually put Jesus on trial.

Now that goes against the standard Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and has engendered some controversy here in Holy Week.

And with us now, Father James Martin, author of the book, "My Life with the Saints." So now Judas is a saint? Is that what we’re going to have to do, induct him, canonize Judas?


O’REILLY: OK. But if this is true, you know, and Jesus did ask Judas, because Jesus wanted to fulfill the scripture and could have said this, to go over and arrange for him to be handed over to the Sanhedrin to avoid violence perhaps, then Judas would be a good guy. And he’s gotten a bad deal all these years.

MARTIN: Well, if that were true. The idea is that this — this gospel of Judas was written about 200 years after Jesus, and it’s written by a group of people called the Gnostics. And they thought the body was bad. So, anything that Judas would do to help Christ get rid of his body was good. So that’s their agenda. Their agenda is to say Judas sort of freed Jesus from his body.

O’REILLY:All right. So, this group of Christians, early Christians, they believe that the human body was bad?

MARTIN: Right. Body, bad; spirit, good.

O’REILLY: OK. And they lived in Egypt.

MARTIN: Right.

O’REILLY: And that’s where this was found.

MARTIN: Right.

O’REILLY: So that if Judas — Judas helped Jesus die, that would be good.

MARTIN: Right. So, they’re sort of reinterpreting this. And remember, it’s much later than the gospels that we know, so it’s presumably a lot less accurate.

O’REILLY: All right. Now, I have one more question. I wrote a column on this, by the way. I’m going to give you my theory. Princeton theology professor says, "This wipes out the monolithic approach to Christianity," which I thought was incredibly dopey. What did you say?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, you have to understand these gospels in a context. You have the original four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They’re more accurate because they’re closer to the event.

And I think what it shows you is that in later periods, in the second and third century, there were competing ideas of what Christianity was, but I don’t think it wipes out anything, really.

O’REILLY: And today, I believe, there are competing ideas with Christianity. Right?

MARTIN: Absolutely.

O’REILLY: I think from day one after Jesus was killed they were competing.

MARTIN: That’s true. Right.

O’REILLY: Now, the gospel isn’t history, is it?

MARTIN: This gospel is probably not history.

O’REILLY:No gospel is history.

MARTIN: Right. The gospels are written — they’re trying to tell us...

O’REILLY: They’re lessons, yes.

MARTIN: Well, I mean, but they’re based on — I mean, parts of the gospels are telling, you know, factual stories of what these people saw and are reported. But, you know, remember, it’s oral tradition, and then they’re written down. And so we...

O’REILLY: No historian — I don’t know any theologians who take this as literal history.

MARTIN: Right. You can’t look at them as literal history.

O’REILLY: You can’t. Because if you look, if you compare Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they all have different interpretations of what happened.

MARTIN: Right. But you do get the general outlines of what Jesus did...

O’REILLY: The flavor of it.

MARTIN: And more than that. You get stories that seem to be — you know, in all the Gospels that seem to have some sort of historical basis in fact.

O’REILLY: Well, Tacitus and Josephus, the Roman historian and the Hebrew historian both chronicle the death of Jesus and the trial in front of Pilate, and the Sanhedrin. So he we know it happened.

MARTIN: Right. And that’s in the Gospel.

O’REILLY: That’s in the Gospels, too.

MARTIN: As well as with other things.

O’REILLY: But then when you go out with the loaves and fishes, and some people 8,000 and there were 16 lepers and there were eight. And Nicodemus is in a tree. No, he’s on a roof.

Look, the Judas story for me is don’t betray people for money. That’s the Judas story, is it not?

MARTIN: Well, the other part of it is — I agree. And also, you know, Judas is trying to make Jesus do something that he doesn’t want to do, or Judas is frustrated that Jesus isn’t doing something. So in a sense, I see Judas as trying to make God in his own image rather than the other way around. So it’s sort of a sin of pride, as well.

O’REILLY: But no matter how you see Judas, the lesson is do not violate your beliefs — do not violate your beliefs or another human being for money.

MARTIN: Well, that’s one lesson, definitely.

O’REILLY: But that’s a huge lesson.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

O’REILLY: I mean, if you put it together with the money changers in the temple, Moses and the golden idol, it all makes sense. This is central theme of Christianity. Don’t let money corrupt you: 30 pieces of silver.

MARTIN: Right. Assuming he did it for money. I mean...

O’REILLY: Thirty pieces of silver.

MARTIN: Well, that — but once again, you say, because you’re taking that from the Gospel so we can’t say that that’s actually historical.

O’REILLY: You tricked me. You tricked me. I think that’s the lesson, though, and that’s why it was included in the Gospel.

MARTIN: One lesson.

O’REILLY: OK. All right. So, I’m not worried about this Judas thing. I think the lesson stands. Don’t betray people for money. Father, happy Easter.

MARTIN: Same to you. Thank you, my pleasure.

O’REILLY: And by the way, my brand-new column, as I mentioned, is on this subject. It will be in Friday’s New York Post and other fine newspapers across the country and this weekend, as well as on

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