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- Betrayal of Jesus
- There are several explanations as to why Judas betrayed Jesus. A prevalent explanation is that Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). One of Judas's main weaknesses seemed to be money (John 12:4-6). A possibility is that Judas expected Jesus to overthrow Roman rule of Israel. In this view, Judas is a disillusioned disciple betraying Jesus not so much because he loved money, but because he loved his country and thought Jesus had failed it. According to Luke 22:3-6 and John 13:27, Satan entered into him and called him to do it.
- The Gospels suggest that Jesus foresaw (John 6:64, Matthew 26:25) and allowed Judas's betrayal (John 13:27-28). An explanation is that Jesus allowed the betrayal because it would allow God's plan to be fulfilled. In April 2006, a Coptic papyrus manuscript titled the Gospel of Judas from 200 AD was translated, suggesting that Jesus told Judas to betray him, although some scholars question the translation.
- Origen knew of a tradition according to which the greater circle of disciples betrayed Jesus, but does not attribute this to Judas in particular, and Origen did not deem Judas to be thoroughly corrupt (Matt., tract. xxxv).
- Judas is the subject of philosophical writings, including The Problem of Natural Evil by Bertrand Russell and "Three Versions of Judas", a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. They allege various problematic ideological contradictions with the discrepancy between Judas's actions and his eternal punishment. John S. Feinberg argues that if Jesus foresees Judas's betrayal, then the betrayal is not an act of free will, and therefore should not be punishable. Conversely, it is argued that just because the betrayal was foretold, it does not prevent Judas from exercising his own free will in this matter. Other scholars argue that Judas acted in obedience to God's will. The gospels suggest that Judas is apparently bound up with the fulfillment of God's purposes (John 13:18, John 17:12, Matthew 26:23-25, Luke 22:21-22, Matt 27:9-10, Acts 1:16, Acts 1:20), yet woe is upon him, and he would have been better unborn (Matthew 26:23-25). The difficulty inherent in the saying is its paradoxicality - if Judas had not been born, the Son of Man will apparently no longer go "as it is written of him". The consequence of this apologetic approach is that Judas's actions come to be seen as necessary and unavoidable, yet leading to condemnation.
- Erasmus believed that Judas was free to change his intention, but Martin Luther argued in rebuttal that Judas's will was immutable. John Calvin states that Judas was predestined to damnation, but writes on the question of Judas's guilt: "surely in Judas' betrayal, it will be no more right, because God himself willed that his son be delivered up and delivered him up to death, to ascribe the guilt of the crime to God than to transfer the credit for redemption to Judas."
- It is speculated that Judas's damnation, which seems possible from the Gospels' text, may not stem from his betrayal of Christ, but from the despair which caused him to subsequently commit suicide. This position is not without its problems since Judas was already damned by Jesus even before he committed suicide (see John 17:12), but it does avoid the paradox of Judas's predestined act setting in motion both the salvation of all mankind and his own damnation. The damnation of Judas is not a universal conclusion, and some have argued that there is no indication that Judas was condemned with eternal punishment. Adam Clarke writes: "he [Judas] committed a heinous act of sin...but he repented (Matthew 27:3-5) and did what he could to undo his wicked act: he had committed the sin unto death, i.e. a sin that involves the death of the body; but who can say, (if mercy was offered to Christ's murderers? (Luke 23:34)...) that the same mercy could not be extended to wretched Judas?..."
- The Kiss of Judas, by Giotto di Bondone
- Modern interpretations
- Most Christians still consider Judas a traitor. Indeed the term Judas has entered many languages as a synonym for betrayer.
- Some scholars have embraced the alternative notion that Judas was merely the negotiator in a prearranged prisoner exchange (following the money-changer riot in the Temple) that gave Jesus to the Roman authorities by mutual agreement, and that Judas's later portrayal as "traitor" was a historical distortion.
- In his book The Passover Plot the British theologian Hugh J. Schonfield argues that the crucifixion of Christ was a conscious re-enactment of Biblical prophecy and Judas acted with Jesus' full knowledge and consent in "betraying" his master to the authorities.
- Theologian Aaron Saari contends in his work The Many Deaths of Judas Iscariot that Judas Iscariot was the literary invention of the Markan community. As Judas does not appear in the Epistles of Paul, nor in the Q Gospel, Saari argues that the language indicates a split between Pauline Christians, who saw no reason for the establishment of an organized Church, and the followers of Peter. Saari contends that the denigration of Judas in Matthew and Luke-Acts has a direct correlation to the elevation of Peter.
- Further evidence of the absence of the Judas story in the earliest Christian documents on the basis of Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:28-30. Here Jesus tells his disciples that they will “sit on the twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” No exception is made for Judas even though Jesus was aware of his impending act of betrayal. The answer may lie in the fact that the source of these verses could be the hypothetical Q document (QS 62). Q is thought to predate the gospels and would be one of the earliest Christian documents. Given that possibility, the betrayal story could have been invented by the writer of Mark. The book The Sins of the Scripture, by John Shelby Spong, investigates the possibility that early Christians compiled the Judas story from three Old Testament Jewish betrayal stories. He writes, "...the act of betrayal by a member of the twelve disciples is not found in the earliest Christian writings. Judas is first placed into the Christian story by the Gospel of Mark (3:19), who wrote in the early years of the eighth decade of the Common Era." He points out that some of the Gospels, after the Crucifixion, refer to the number of Disciples as "Twelve", as if Judas were still among them. He compares the three conflicting descriptions of Judas's death - hanging, leaping into a pit, and disemboweling, with three Old Testament betrayals followed by similar suicides.
- Spong's conclusion is that early Bible authors, after the First Jewish-Roman War, sought to distance themselves from Rome's enemies. They augmented the Gospels with a story of a disciple, personified in Judas as the Jewish state, who either betrayed or handed-over Jesus to his Roman crucifiers. Spong identifies this augmentation with the origin of modern Anti-Semitism.
- Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby, espousing a purely mythological view of Jesus, suggests that in the New Testament, the name "Judas" was constructed as an attack on the Judaeans or on the Judaean religious establishment held responsible for executing Christ. The English word "Jew" is derived from the Latin Iudaeus, which, like the Greek Ιουδαίος (Ioudaios), could also mean "Judaean".
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