Judas-Iscariot

Judas is his name. He came from Iscariot

He is called the betrayer because he lead Jesus enemies to the Garden of Gethsemane



His is known to us as Judas-Iscariot. Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah. Iscariot refers to the place of his birth, Kerioth.

That is about all we know about his history before he is introduced to us in the gospels. There we learn that Jesus' little band of disciples had some money. And Judas was the keeper of the account.

It probably wasn't much. Since we have repeated incidents of Jesus and fishing, it can be thought that the disciples continued their work. They had families to feed, bills to pay and elderly parents for whom to care. It would have been a breaking of the commandments for them to simply forsake all responsibility in order to run off after Jesus. So a part of the money could be from the twelve, some could have been given by other local supporters. Anyway, there was enough for there to be a treasurer for this little group. Although not much is known about Judas, the three events we know about seem to cast him in a bad light. Yet, this writer wonders if Judas should be seen differently. Let's look at some factors that could soften our view of the betrayer.

It may seem unimportant, but let's start with his parents. I think we can say that his mother loved him. Most mothers do love their children. So, maybe his father loved him also. And Judas loved them. We have no reason to think otherwise.

His name was Judah. A strong nationalist name among the Jews. Judah was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His name was designated for the clan/tribe of Judah. It was a honorable name. One of their most recent heros was Judas Maccabee who had led a successful revolt against Syrian domination. So, Judah was a name given by proud Jewish parents with a proud sense of history. It wasn't that his parents named him Mad Dog Betrayer. Rather they chose a name akin to George Washington.

Judas part two

Today lets look at Judah-Iscariot concerning his possible belief system.

He was a Jew. Saying that is saying a lot. Every ethnic and every religious group is defined as having a certain set of beliefs. These beliefs have a core and then variations on that core.

For instance, a Christian may believe that on the night of his betrayal Jesus gave to his disciples something new. For the majority of Christians this new thing is called a sacrament. It is understood as a fulfillment of the ancient Jewish ceremony of the passover meal. That ceremony recalled the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish slaves from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Now Jesus is to be seen as the new Moses and the deliverance is not from slavery to an Egyptian king but deliverance from the power of human sin.

That is the core. But Christians have different understandings as to the nature of this gift of Jesus which is called a sacrament.

Some believe it to be a simple new interpretation of an old ceremony.

Others think of it as a symbolic meal that unites Christians and their ancestors in the faith, namely the Jews, into one monotheistic faith.

Others think of the sacrament as a holy communion or to separate the English words, as a holy common union or nexus between the spiritual Jesus and the earth bound person.

Yet others think of it as a foundational act for the Jews and the soon to be Christians. As a foundational act, it constitutes a central action that all Christians will use as the identifying sign of their uniqueness.

Yet, others see it as being all of the above plus they further define this sacrament as an eschatological event whereby Jesus prolepically includes all people of all time into himself.

All these big words are hard to explain, but basically, they mean that Jesus conscientiously included all people of all time; past, present and future, into a supernatural mystical matrix. This matrix consists of the God of the universe and Jesus, who at that time was confined in time and space, and all people who were yet to be.

Wow, did I go off or what? Yes, but this is germain to the issue of Judas, because it is important to think about what Judas believed. It is his belief, his creed, which was the father, the instigator, of what he eventually did. His Jewish belief foretold that he would in some form turn against Jesus, either by abandonment, active opposition or betrayal. He chose betrayal. The question is why?

It is pertinent to remember the core of Judaism, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." This is monetheism pure and simple. There is one God, and this God is a unity of god-self-ness without any division at all. To suggest that any other thing or person was God was the most terrible thing anyone could say or think.

As this writer stated elsewhere, it is questionable if before the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, any of the apostles believed that Jesus was himself God.

It was easy for them to hear the words of Jesus as a new interpretation of the divine Torah because that Torah had been communicated to them by the agency of Moses. And that Torah, in its essential nature, was written by the finger of God and was a core of ten commandments, but included the commentaries of over 600 additional explanations and countless sermons, scrolls and lectures by scholars, Rabbi's and the like.(of course you would include the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the "Torah" but for purposes of this article the writer believes we can boil the Torah down to the Shema, and the Nine applications of the Shema.)

It was easy for the disciples to see Jesus as the great Prophet promised in the Torah. After all, Moses did miracles, so too Elijah and others. Always behind the miracles was the only true unity God, uncreated and undivided. So, since Jesus referred often to the Father, the disciples could easily see his miracles as the affirmation not of his God-ness but of his Prophet-ness.

Jesus also fit into the expectations of the people of that time. They were a nation whose greatness was in the past. Great King David and Solomon were long dead. The once powerful State of Israel was divided into two kingdoms and after the Babylonian captivity it never fully recovered nation status. And at the time of Jesus the Jewish people were ruled by a puppet King Herod installed by the true power which was Rome.

In that situation, the promise of the great Messiah had various interpretations, one of which asserted that the Messiah would be a new prophet who would bring about a spiritual revival plus a nationalistic revival and a revival of the unity of the Jewish people. These three revivals would result in a revolution movement that would throw off the occupation, remove the hated king and restore Isreal and its religion to greatness.

Given the above explained circumstances, it would have been easy for Judah from Kerioth (Judas Iscariot) to see Jesus as a superstar. (Hence the name of the hit musical which this writer thinks has an excellent insight into Judas.) But this superstar status carried with it definite expectations on the part of Judas. The people who shouted Jesus' praise could just as easily shout for his crucifixion.

So, if we posit the idea that the apostles all regarded Jesus as the holy prophet promised of old, we can ask the questions:

  • Why did Judas turn against Jesus?
  • Why didn't Judas just stop listening to Jesus and stop following?
  • Why didn't Judas just denounce Jesus and start his own anti Jesus movement?
  • Why did Judas team up with the temple authorities who sought to destroy Jesus credibility?
  • Why didn't Judas realize that the payment of money indicated that the temple authorities intended a lot more than just a religious debate with Jesus?
  • Was Judas a follower of John the Baptist who knew that John had been beheaded and that Jesus would be beheaded?
  • If he was a follower of John the Baptist, did Judas feel that Jesus did not do enough to help John? Did he feel that Jesus had betrayed John and so now Judas would betray Jesus?
  • Or was Judas a spy planted by the Romans in order to infiltate the Jesus movement and were all of the protestations of the Sanhedrin, King Herod and of the Procurator Pilate, merely political drama played out for the mob?
  • Why did Judas hang himself. Did some else hang him and make it look like a suicide?
  • We know so little about Judas. Let us share in this story. Click on the tab that says "opinion about this blog." Tell us your opinion. On the page that pops up, place your cursor over the "?" sign for detailed information of what is the intention for your response.

    Judas part 3

    In this installment we will consider some possible answers to the questions asked in the last blog entry.

    •Why did Judas turn against Jesus? Let's start again with the declaration that we do not know much about Judas. However, the question can be generalized to ask, "Why does any person turn against another person?" There are the simple and obvious answers: Jealousy because another person is more gifted, more athletic, more good looking, has more money, etc.

    •Why didn't Judas just stop listening to Jesus and stop following? Very often when a person becomes attracted to a speaker, it is because they believe the speaker has somethng significant to say. They are attracted mostly to speakers who agree with their own thinking and who they believe will be able to further their own cause. Often, the attraction becomes deeper and the listener becomes more devoted and then the devoted listener becomes a disciple of and believer in the person to whom they are attracted

    •Why didn't Judas just denounce Jesus and start his own anti Jesus movement? We know little of Judas' own attractiveness as a speaker, leader or group organizer. He seems to be a man in the shadows. Maybe, Judas didn't have the abilitites to measure up against Jesus. After all, Jesus was a great teacher, healer, interpretor of the Torah. Jesus attracted crowds of thousands. Jesus also manifested supernatural powers to heal the blind, give hearing to the deaf and even have control of the weather. When Jesus three times raised someone from the death, Jairus daughter, the widow of Nains son, and Lazarus, Judas, knew he was no match against Jesus.

    •Why did Judas team up with the temple authorities who sought to destroy Jesus credibility? Although, there is no evidence that Judas was a friend of the temple authorities. We ask in a later question if Judas was a spy for them or for Herod, or for the Roman's? We just don't know. However, in supposition, once Judas turned against Jesus, Judas may have sought strong allies. As noted, Jesus displayed supernatural powers.

    While from our modern viewpoint one wonders what any earthly authority could do to stop Jesus, it seems they had plans to catch Jesus unawares and to kill him. Although attempted murder of Jesus is not recorded in the Bible, there are several references to plots against Jesus.

    In dealing with Judas, the authorities sought to catch Jesus when he was considered most vulnerable. The whole alliance between Judas and the temple authorities seems to indicate that plans and plots against Jesus were well known, even to Jesus himself.

    •Why didn't Judas realize that the payment of money indicated that the temple authorities intended a lot more than just a religious debate with Jesus? Preachers and movie makers have tried to interpret Judas as a very strong and zealous revolutionary Jew who saw in Jesus a leader like Judas Maccabeus.

    Judas of the Maccabees, after whom Judas himself may have been named, was a strong political and religious figure of Israel's past who successfully threw off the Syrian occupation. By this interpretation, some believe that Judas had friends in the temple authorities and in the collaborationists rulers of Israel.

    They think that Judas was growing tired of Jesus' procratination to declare the day of armed and violent revolution. Therefore, it is supposed that Judas merely intended for Jesus to be forced to take up the mantle of revolutionary leader or(?) well, if he didn't, then he was a false Messiah!

    •Was Judas a follower of John the Baptist who knew that John had been beheaded and that Jesus would be beheaded? •If he was a follower of John the Baptist, did Judas feel that Jesus did not do enough to help John? Did he feel that Jesus had betrayed John and so now Judas would betray Jesus? John the Baptist preached before Jesus and we have from the Bible the main thrust of John's Apocalyptic preaching. Again, there is no evidence that Judas was a disciple of John, but we also know that John recommended Jesus to his followers. We know that several of John's closest disciples followed Jesus.

    So, it can be wondered, if Judas may have been of a follower of John the Baptist? Did he come over to Jesus when John was beheaded? Judas may have thought that Jesus was the natural successor in the anti goverment, anti Roman zealot movement. But, he may also have carried with him resentments over the execution of his former leader.

    Judas may have reasoned that Jesus, with his displays of spernatural powers, should have allied himself with John. He may have thought that Jesus believed that there was no room in the revolution for two leaders and that Jesus had let John die by not helping him against Herod. There may have been a residual resentment against Jesus for John's sake.

    By the way, when people hate you for the sake of other people, their hatred is often a mask for their own hatreds. It is a hatred based on what one person believes about the way other person was treated. The writer has been the victim of persons who attacked the ministry because they believed that the way of doing things was not the way a previous pastor would have done it, or the way another favorite leader would have done it, or even the way the central national church administration wanted it done.

    I have always been amazed at those who hate in the name of other people. It seems they believe they are merely angry. However, their anger is based on their perceptions about another persons feelings. Such anger is a mask for hatred. People who think they have some secret particular and peculiar special insight into the thinking and feelings of others that allows the haters to hate for other's sake, are not honest!

    Obviously, they hate for their own sake and the sooner they can look at themselves in the mirror, and then examine their own hatred and its ugly behavior, then the sooner they may be able to reflect upon it, realize that they are lying to themselves and others. If they do that, perhaps, by the grace of God, they will become contrite (detest their own behavior) and repent,(turn themselves around and go a different way.)

    •Was Judas a spy planted by the Romans in order to infiltate the Jesus movement and were all of the protestations of the Sanhedrin, King Herod and of the Procurator Pilate, merely political drama played out for the mob?

    It seems that ruling authorities, and revolutionary movements need a lot of drama to convince and control the general population. In order to achieve or retain control of the people, dictators set up an easily defeated adversary who they will destroy. The adversary is proclaimed as an enemy of peace, or security; the are paraded about as dangerous to good order. The message to the crowd is that if we can simply remove the person then everything will be roses and honey. A lot of the drama around the arrest, pre trial, public trial, and public torture of Jesus, indicates that the enemies of Jesus were powerful people who knew how to use political drama to manipulate and control their desired outcome.

    •Why did Judas hang himself. Did some else hang him and make it look like a suicide? Just don't know! But if we could find Judas' body we might take a DNA sample and call in the forensic specialists and produce a great TV show!

    We know so little about Judas. Let us share in this story. Click on the tab that says "opinion about this blog." Tell us your opinion. On the page that pops up, place your cursor over the "?" sign for detailed information of what is the intention for your response.

    Judas Part Three

    The key issue for Judas may have been the same issue that troubles many people today. Did Jesus claim to be God?

    The issue is theologically very complicated. But this is not a course in theology, so we will skip the doctine of the Holy Trinity. However, for those of you who have the curiosity and the stamina, I recommend a slow reading of the verses of the Third Ecumenical Creed, also known as (aka) the Athanasian Creed. It does a very good job of elaborating on the Christian teaching about the nature and being of God.

    Back to Judas - It could be that Judas repudiated his friendship with Jesus because he came to realize that Jesus was claiming not only to be a great preacher, teacher, theologian, philosopher, miracle worker or even The Messiah. Jesus was claiming more.

    For a pious Jew, Jesus was claiming the unimaginable. Jesus was claiming to be, himself, God in the flesh. He told his disciples that he was the Son and God was his father. He told them that before Abraham was I Am. He told them that he and the father were one. In answer to Philip's request that Jesus would reveal to them the father, Jesus replied that all who have seen Jesus have seen the father for he and the father are the same.

    Some today may say that if a person were to appear today and be able to actually do the things that Jesus is reported to have done, then that person would be regarded as, at least, supernatural or "a" god. But for a pious Jew like Judas such an acknowledgment was a dagger in the heart of Judaism.

    Therefore, Judas may have felt that the only thing to do with such a dangerous man was to deliver him by treachery into the hands of the true religious authorities, namely the priests of the temple. They would know how to handle Jesus. Once under their control they would be able to talk sense into Jesus. Once he was confronted with the full authority of the Holy Jewish Council and the Pope of the Jews, namely, the High Priest, then Jesus would see the error of his ways, renounce his claims to being God and return to being a good man, a renowned rabbi and healer.

    I can imagine that Judas' decision to deliver Jesus by stealth to the armed temple guards was vindicated when Jesus did not resist, did not use supernatural power to escape, but allowed himself to be tied and taken away.

    As Judas witnessed Jesus' hands being tied, what did he think? Did he remember Jesus healing the blind man with those hands? Or feeding the five thousand? Did Judas remember that a few hours before those hands broke the bread of the passover and blessed the wine?

    As the Jesus of tied hands was led away surrounded by armed guards in the middle of the night, did Judas remember that only a few hours before Judas and Jesus had shared the same dish?

    What goes through the mind of a man when he sees his friend tied and led away by betrayal? What did Judas feel when Jesus said to him, "Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?" Was Judas still in the upper room when Jesus girded himself with a towel and took a basin and washed the feet of the disciples? Only a few hours before, had Jesus washed Judas' feet, and now with a kiss, Judas betrayed Jesus?

    Maybe it was all innocent. Maybe Judas thought that he was helping Jesus overcome Jesus' self delusions? But what of the silver? Why come at night with armed guards and clubs?

    Judas' decision against Jesus was his refusal to accept that Jesus was the Son of God. It was a refusal to accept the miracles and the teachings and the healings and all of the rest. At the heart of Judas' betrayal was his inability to move beyond being an admirer of Jesus to being a disciple. It was this same inability to believe that led Judas to the gallows tree.

    Judas part four

    Not only can Judas be forgiven, it is this writer's opinion that Judas is forgiven.

    Jesus forgives Judas even before the kiss of betrayal. He loves Judas and does not want him to stay in the hell that Judas is about to create for himself.

    Jesus pleads with Judas. He says, "Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"

    The question is not a condemnation of Judas only. It is a condemnation and a plea. Jesus condemns all betrayal. He reveals the ghastly image of a friend delivering his friend into the hands of the enemy with the sign of fraternity, namely, a kiss! With the question Jesus wants to wake up the drugged conscience of the betrayer.

    In asking the question, Jesus uncovers the problem with betrayal. The betrayer thinks that he is doing the right thing. Somehow, the issue of personal relationship is erased or at least submerged because the betrayer believes that there is something greater, something higher, something more noble than friendship.

    Therefore, the betrayer boldly kisses his friend. With the kiss he does not see a friend who is a victim. Rather, the betayer thinks of himself as having been duped, fooled, lied to and deceived by his friend.

    With the kiss the betrayer thinks of himself as the hero and the friend as the villian.

    How can this happen? It happens because at some point the ego of the betrayer is convinced that he alone knows the good and the right. He becomes convinced that even as he was once a believer in the friend and is now a enemy, so too, those who are still believers must be delivered from their misguided love for the friend.

    To put it in dialogue form, the betrayer thinks, "I am a smart man, smarter than these others. I was deceived by this Jesus. Now, I see Jesus differently but they still love him, while I do not. Therefore, since I am smart and they are not then they must be wrong and they need me to save them from their love for Jesus. After the deed is done and Jesus is revealed as a phony, then they will thank me."

    Jesus knew that Judas was going to do it. But he hoped to break through the wall of Judas' self rightness and flash before him the image of a dastardly act of arrogance. Why? Because of his love for Judas, He would even then have saved him.

    I believe Judas is forgiven. This is based upon the words of Jesus from the cross, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do." This prayer to the Father is also a declaration of the meaning of the whole crucifixion. By allowing his own Son to be born, betrayed, and killed, God the holy Father displays his compassion.

    Some people object that Judas showed no remorse, no contrition and no repentence. They hold up Peter and his weeping admission of wrong doing as true sorrow and Judas as a man who goes to his death defiantly.

    Suicide is not an act of defiance. It is a act of desperation. It is not a flaunted act to hurt others. It is an act of someone who feels that all is lost, all is gone, and that there is absolutely no hope in the future. It is an act of unbelievable pain caused by the burden of unbelievable sorrow.

    As Judas realized what he had done, he did so by reflection. As he reflected about what he intended, what he did and the ourcome, he experienced remorse, sorrow and contrition. That is why he went back to the payers in order to return the money.

    When the full impact of his decision and the subsequent betrayal smashed into Judas' conscience, he was overwhelmed. He could do nothing to undo it. It was too late. The grief was so crushing that he took the rope, found the tree and killed himself.

    Sadly, Judas did not wait longer. Maybe by Sunday he would have heard the news of Jesus' resurrection. Then hope would have been possible and Judas may have believed that since he could see and talk to Jesus again, he could ask for forgiveness and experience restoration.

    Was it lack of faith that Jesus was true God in the flesh? Yes. But the same lack of faith was in the eleven others. They however, just went on living, sad and sorry that Jesus was dead. They had thought he was the one, but now, oh well!

    Judas couldn't do that. His system of believe was a passionate system. He had believed passionately tht Jesus was the Messiah. His disillusion was also passionate. Likewise his remorse. For him, death by his own hand was the only solution.

    I believe that along with all of us, Jesus had Judas in mind when he prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Matthew Andrew James the less Judas-Iscariot Judas-Iscariot Simon Zealot