04/07/2006 06:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Disciples

Two big stories in my local newspaper. In one, scholars announce that they have turned up a 1,700-year-old "Gospel of Judas,'' in which Judas betrays Jesus only because that was what Jesus wanted. (I wonder if Judas told himself, "hey, come on, think of all my years in public service. Nobody's going to remember this one mistake."') In this version, he wasn't an arch-traitor; he was doing his duty to fulfill God's plan.

In the other story, I. Lewis Libby says he leaked classified information in 2003 only after President Bush authorized him to do it. In other words, we wasn't a renegade; he was doing his duty to fulfill Bush's plan.

These are, of course, pretty much the same story: Virtuous disciple says he hesitated to do wrong. But his chief, who takes direct guidance from God the Father, cleared it in advance.

Of course, there are important differences. If you believe the Gospel of Judas, Jesus directed that a crime be committed against His own person, for the good of the world, and for this command He suffered. If you believe the Gospel of Scooter, Bush directed that a crime be committed against others, and for this command, he will endure . . . what?

Judas, in the other Gospels, endured much, but Jesus certainly endured more. Libby, in the newspapers, has left public life and could go to jail. But Bush will likely serve out his term unimpeached and get his hagiographic library. In other words, unlike his favorite philosopher, Christ, Bush will sail on in vast carelessness (F. Scott Fitzgerald's wonderful phrase for the manner of the President's forebears), while the sheep in his flock are fed to the sacrificial fire. Progress?