I’ve been reading a new book titled Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem “On the Life and the Passion of Christ”: A Coptic Apocryphon by the Dutch scholar Roelof van den Broek.1 In case it has escaped your attention, it provides a new translation of an eighth-century Gnostic gospel in Coptic from Egypt that has been in the Morgan Library in New York since 1908, a gift of J.P. Morgan.
This text explains why Judas Iscariot identified Jesus with a kiss so that the Roman soldiers could arrest him, as related in three canonical gospels (Matthew 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47). According to this late Gnostic gospel, that was the only way the Roman soldiers could be sure they had the right man. The reason was that Jesus could change his features:
“How shall we arrest him,” the Jews ask, “for he does not have a single shape, but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat-colored, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man, sometimes his hair is straight and black, sometimes it is curled, sometimes he is tall, sometimes he is short.” They “have never seen him in one and the same appearance.”