A scroll is discovered, buried among the ancient papyri of the Dead Sea. Although fragile and crumbling, the scroll is mostly intact, the faded lines of Koine script still legible. When Father Leo Newman, a priest from Rome, is called to Jerusalem to help decipher the scroll's meaning, he soon discovers that the text appears to be a fifth gospel - one that tells the story of Jesus' life and crucifixion from the point of view of Judas Iscariot. If the scroll is authentic - and if the radical, incendiary story it tells is true - all of Christianity itself will be open to a complete reinterpretation. Leo is poised on the brink of an abyss, for, while he unravels the mysteries of the scroll, he is also fighting an impossible attraction to a married woman, Madeleine Brewer. Leo's whole life has been held together by the strength of his faith and his intellect, but now the testimony of the Judas scroll and the desires that make him human threaten to throw his entire vocation into question. At the same time, images of his mother's passionate and tragic affair in wartime Rome are coming back to haunt him, stories of love and betrayal that may undermine his beliefs just as deeply as the Gospel of Judas.
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