From: Probing the Mystery of Judas Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2016
The Man and His Motives
[In Current Section:]
Chapter 10: Judas’ Background
Chapter 11: Possible Motives for Betrayal
Chapter 12: Possible Reasons for Judas’ Repudiation
of His Betrayal
A few have thought the name or the existence of Judas to be a fictitious invention. His name is etymologically connected with the word “Jew.” Indeed, in Augustine and later writings, Judas came to symbolize Jews. If one wishes symbolism, take the consonants of the Hebrew form of the name and you have “thirty,” which just happens to be the amount of silver Judas was bribed with. If that is not enough, Judas is little mentioned in either the gospels, Paul, or early post-apostolic writers. Hence the name was invented as one most appropriate for the betrayer.
Of course the argument can justly be flipped over: If the name were related to a different term than “Jew,” if the numerical value were different than “thirty,” if he had been mentioned repeatedly in the gospels, Paul, and early post-apostolic writings would such critics then embrace the picture that is painted? Or would they not have equally zealously poked around for “inconsistencies” and argued that the narratives exhibited “clear cut indications of embroidery”? For those of a certain mind frame the will to disbelieve and repudiate is just as strong as the will to believe—to believe in spite of evidence, a phenomena that is sometimes found in the other theological extreme as well.
There are other more directly relevant problems as well,
Much of the argument for total or almost total nonhistoricity flows from interpreting silence. Is the fabrication of Judas a plausible way to represent what could easily have been stated? The theme of Judas = the Jew is never suggested in the New Testament. The figure of Judas scarcely helped the Christian image; indeed an opponent like Celsus could point to him as an erroneous choice by the supposedly divine Jesus (Origen, Contra Celsum 2.11). The differing Synoptic lists of the Twelve all mention him, and that is surely pre[-written]Gospel tradition.
What is said about Judas is, admittedly, limited. From it what can we fairly deduce about the man, his background, and his attitudes? First the name itself.
A Reference to the City of
or Something Else?
The name “Judas” carried the connotations of “praised, celebrated, lauded.” In application to an individual it could carry the idea that he was expected to manifest these attributes in his relationship to God. Alternatively, it could convey the impression that the person would be such a great success, that he would be respected and honored in his community.
dominant identification of “Iscariot” is as a geographic location. Most make
“Iscariot” refer to the town of
Some hold to a geographic reference
but suspect it was an area of
Emil G. Kraeling
argues that though Kerioth may, indeed, refer to a
town, that there is no certainty that it must be a town in
For that matter, is there evidence
for such a Galilean Karioth? Emil G. Kraeling
refers to the Kiryothaim (Kirjathaim)
that was located in the tribal area of Naphthali and
which is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:76.
He argues that Aramaic would have been likely to modify the Hebrew into Karioth. Since 1 Chronicles 6:76 itself locates
explicitly one of the cities it lists as being in
Although a Galilean location represents an intriguing scenario, it
requires the substitution of a known community that already verbally matches
These identifications keep visibly
obvious both the name of the community and the form of the name found within
"Iscariot." If one permits oneself to enter into a wider range of
conjecture, such as that the version found in the name does not adequately
suggest the actual city name, then the door is
obviously open to other possibilities.
Hence some have come up with “man of
Are their direct arguments against the geographic interpretation that would suggest the entire effort is unsound? Over a century ago E. W. Hengstenberg argued that “[o]f the surnames of the New Testament, none refers to the place of nativity. . . . Usually these surnames have a theological character: cf. Acts ; . Especially is this the case with all the surnames of the Apostles. So of ‘Boanerges,’ which Jesus gives to the sons of Zebedee (Mark ); and so of the surname Peter.” In addition, linguistically, it has been argued that a geographic/city location is most unlikely.
In the absence of a clear-cut alternative (see below) the geographic interpretation remains the most viable, not because it is without difficulty but because the other possibilities seem significantly less likely.
Now let us flip our question over: are there arguments that would call into question all of the proposed alternative explanations we will examine? Although certainly not conclusive, Barnabas Lindars’ observation certainly hits at a fundamental difficulty of them, “It is normal style to designate a man by either his father’s name or his home town, or both.” Hence, the other approaches are, inherently, far less probable.
Non-geographic derivations of the term have, however, been suggested. None of them have gained much appeal. A cynical Emil G. Kraeling goes so far as to suggest that “modern speculations disbelieving the ancient [geographic] explanations have produced a variety of etymologies, none of which seems to persuade anyone but its author.” A modest exaggeration, they still deserve at least passing discussion in order to have a grasp of the variety of alternatives that have been suggested.
First, there are morally neutral derivations of the name that see in it a reference to some personal characteristic, just as certain other apostles possessed “nicknames" based upon some key element in their nature.
(a) Some believe that “Iscariot” refers to an article of clothing and contains an implicit reference to background or profession. John Lightfoot pioneered this approach. In his analysis, the term means one “with the apron.” Leather aprons were worn by those involved in the field of tanning. Hence it could refer to his work background. Such aprons also had pockets where money could be placed.
Referring to Judas’ role as treasurer, the term “apron” took on the connotation of “the purse-bearer.” For what it’s worth (if anything beyond coincidence) we find a man with the name of Judas’ father involved in the trade of tanning in Acts 9:43. If that were the same Simon as Judas’ father, it would have been normal course in that age for the son to have been trained in the same profession.
(b) Others believe that it refers to skin or hair color. In this approach it means to “be of a brown color, have a ruddy complexion.” Two Aramaic tesserae use the word in this sense and some argue that it would have been reasonably rendered into Greek as “Iscariot.”
Secondly, there is the approach that takes “Iscariot” to be a term of implicit or explicit condemnation. If so, it is a "name" that would have been attached after his death.
(a) It has been taken as a reference to Judas’ irresponsible and murderous behavior. In this approach “Iscariot” means “assassin, bandit.” It comes from the Latin sicarius and, it is argued, could easily have been transcribed by Semitic language speakers as “Iscariot.” Hence
If Judas Iscariot was in fact an adherent of the Zealot movement as this would imply, his betrayal would become much more intelligible, for he would have had a Messianic ideal quite different from that of Jesus, and his entry into the circle of the disciples would have rested on a misapprehension of Jesus’ mission.
The term Sicarii was certainly later used to describe the murderous and extremely dangerous foes of the Roman occupation. Although some have thought to make Judas a formal member of the group, there is no indication that it existed as a movement at this early a date.
William Klassen basically attempts to redefine the movement from one of violent religious extremism into one of zealous religious orthodoxy at least so far as Jesus' own era. That they originally sprang out of such a mind frame is inherently possible--perhaps likely, but there is a profound difference between that and its existence as a movement, especially with the same purposes and intents as that which can only be documented in the 60s of the first century. If there was any actual "organizational" linkage, the purpose, behavior, and actions of the movement had shifted dramatically in the interim from religious purity to religious terrorism.
The latter is especially important: they regarded terror as a quite laudable means of unconventional warfare. Although Josephus began as an anti-Roman military leader and ultimately became reconciled with his enemies after his capture, his description of the Sicarii implies that for even many revolutionaries such as he himself had been these people were regarded as beyond the pale. He writes that,
Their favorite trick was to mingle with
festival crowds [in
The violent and unscrupulous mentality and behavior of the zealot/sicarii, only existed in individuals rather than a formal movement at the time of Jesus. Yet the same term (depending upon the date of composition attached to the gospels) could have been applied decades later to Judas because his betrayal seemed to prefigure the Sicarii excesses or the term been independently applied to both Judas and them because it fitted the victory at all price mentality of both. Even so, there are significant linguistic difficulties of correlating the words "Iscariot" and "Sicarii." The connection is tenuous at the very best.
(b) "Iscraiot" has been taken to mean “who delivered him.” In this approach, the Greek has taken a Hebrew term that only discusses surrendering up something or someone--rather than the strict idea of betrayal--and then applied it to Judas. Isaiah 19:4 speaks of how God “will give over (sikkarti) the Egyptians.” In Mark we read of “Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.”
Some have rendered
the verse, “Judas Iscariot, that means, ‘The one who handed him over.’ ” However in we read of “Boanerges,
that is, ‘Sons of Thunder.’ “ There the Greek explicitly uses the
term “that means,” while in it must be read into the text by creative interpretation.
(c) It has been interpreted to mean “man of hostile encounter.” This view takes the name to be based on a combination of two Hebrew words found in Leviticus 26:28ff.
(d) Yet others have taken “Iscariot” to mean “the false one.” Again the term is believed to be, at root, the result of the combination of two Hebrew terms. E. W. Hengstenberg took this type of approach when he suggested “Iscariot” meant “the man of lies.” He admitted, however, that there was a significant but, in his judgment not decisive, linguistic difficulty with his suggestion.
Bertil Gartner adopts one form of the reasoning (from the earlier work of Charles C. Torrey) and sums it up this way, “If one works out the radicals in Iscariot (sh-q-r), he arrives at the Aramaic sheqar or shiqra’ with the meaning ‘deceit,’ ‘fraud, falsehood.' It would be used of one “characterized by fraud and falsehood.” The Aramaic was rendered into a Greek form rather than translated because it had become a standard term of condemnation for Judas.
(e) Finally, “Iscariot” has been interpreted as alluding to the manner of Judas’ death. Although Judas could easily have the name "tanner" or "purse bearer" during his life, if this approach is right, the name could only have been attached after his death. John Lightfoot also pioneered this possibility as well, connecting it with a Hebrew term that meant (among other things) “death by strangulation.”
Although the particular line of reasoning is modern, the basic idea is not. The ancient Origen referred to how a Hebrew scholar of that era interpreted “Iscariot” as referring to “suffocated.” Properly carried out, hanging breaks your neck; carried out as a form of suicide or by those not attentive to what they are doing “suffocated” describes very well the method by which hanging kills you.
Against this scenario is the fact that since there were two Judas in the apostolic company, that some additional identifier had to be attached to at least one of them to avoid confusion. There is none attached to the other Judas (unless we want to think in terms of the negative, not being the Judas who betrayed Jesus); therefore it is likely that Iscariot was a name borne by Judas in his own lifetime and does not refer to his manner of death.
Parentage and Upbringing
John 6:71 gives the apostle’s name as “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son.” John 13:2, 26 make a similar reference. Hence the father’s full name would have been “Simon Iscariot.” Those Greek manuscripts “critical” text scholars normally embrace as the most accurate read “son of Simon Iscariot” in both John 6:71 and 13:26 as well. If this evidence is as sound as it looks, then a non-condemnatory meaning of “Iscariot” would be required since his father bore it as well.
The very silence of the New Testament on his family background argues that there was nothing extremely good or bad to distinguish Judas and his family from others. They were typical Judeans with the mixture of good and bad one would expect.
The fact that he was selected treasurer argues that he had some obvious skills in money management that made him the preferred choice. This could argue for a background in trade or commerce, but could equally well simply indicate that he simply had more common sense in financial matters than the others.
A maximalist interpretation of this goes so far as to argue that “he must have been well versed in business affairs, with perhaps exceptional educational equipment, and of marked ability.” Perhaps. Or, then again, simply a man with what Americans used to call horse sense. Down to earth, practical intelligence rather than, necessarily, abstract book learning.
A passage we did not include in the
chapter summary of Biblical texts because it did not fit into any of them is a
passing reference to Judas while Jesus prayed in
In John Jesus speaks of how, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
“Son of perdition” can more also be rendered, “son of destruction.” This could refer to his either going to destruction or himself being the cause of the destruction.
In the first sense, he was ultimately “going to” destruction. There is hardly anything conceptually more self-destructive than suicide.
Judas as the “cause” of destruction also fits well with what happened. He was bringing destruction (temporarily) upon Jesus and upon himself as well (permanently). He was also bringing destruction upon the earthly ministry of Jesus (bringing it to an end). Hence the expression was broad enough to convey the multidimensional aspects of Judas’ actions.
The expression is used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to describe a severe enemy of the faith who wishes to devastate the cause of Christ. Here the element of destruction is also clearly present.
Just as the human and the divine interact to produce salvation, the human and the satanic interact to produce destruction. Human freedom of choice exists in both cases; whose influence the heart permits itself to come under, however, produces diametrically opposite results.
Robert Freeman argues, however, that we should take perdition in a broader sense of waste or loss and that Judas may have borne the name during his apostleship due to his “tightness” with money. The term “was, I think, a kind of nickname. He who often cried, ‘Why this waste or loss?’ who was always counting pennies and estimating costs, came to be known as ‘the son of waste’--perhaps that’s all the name means.”
Certainly this fits the public image he manifested in protesting the anointing of Jesus with expensive ointment. To some extent, any treasurer occupies this position of nay-sayer to the ideas and schemes of others. “Destruction” is a much stronger idea than mere waste, however, so, if Judas was jokingly mocked with the nickname “son of waste” Jesus might be making a pun on this, turning in into “son of destruction.”
Before Judas became an apostle, he (like the other future apostles) first became a disciple. Only after a period of time in that role were he and the others chosen to be leaders of the movement.
If his appointment to the
apostleship receives scant mention in the gospels, the initial discipleship
goes completely unmentioned--as it does for many of the other apostles, for
that matter. Hence Herbert Lockyer can only point to possibilities rather than
anything more when he writes, “Probably he had been present at the preaching of
John the Baptist at
Possible Motives for Betrayal
The Biblical texts do not go into great detail about Judas. Both religiously and historically they leave it unclear as to exactly what motivated the man’s conduct. The hints that they give, however, have been utilized to suggest a number of explanations--not all of them exclusionary of each other. Some of the evidence is introduced in behalf of competing scenarios and will need to be studied in multiple contexts.
The Greed Scenario to Explain Judas’ Betrayal
In favor of the covetousness reading of Judas’ motives is the fact that here we have an explicit scriptural assertion that he was guilty of stealing from the apostles’ common treasury (John 12:6). We also have the repeated direct assertions that Judas gave Jesus over to His enemies. By linking the two together, one creates a viable scenario to explain Judas’ behavior. Or does one? Beyond the existence of these two facts, one encounters great difficulty in clearly linking them.
In behalf of the linkage, it is argued that Jesus spent so much of His ministry attacking the abuse of money in its many forms--covetousness, greed, the excessive dominance of money in personal thinking--not only because it was (and is) a popular societal fault, but also out of the hope of salvaging Judas. Certainly it was a teaching Judas needed to learn, but once one concedes that it was a popular fault as well does not that remove it as clear evidence for Judas’ motive since it was of such universal relevance?
Furthermore, it was likely a weakness that (to varying degrees) was possessed by all the apostles. Clarence E. MacCartney points to Mark 10:28-30 and how that when Peter observed that the apostles had left everything behind—with the inherent implication of how great a sacrifice it had been--the reassuring response was that it was not in vain, that they would receive “an hundredfold, now in this time, houses, and brethren and sisters.” That the warnings against excessive obsession with wealth had a special relevance to Judas, one may concede but it was a potential danger to all the apostles (not to mention disciples in general). This was sufficient grounds, in its own right, to justify the repeated emphasis.
Against the greed scenario is the modest amount of money involved in betraying Christ. In light of how much Jesus’ enemies wanted to lay their hands on Him (and from our perspective as believers) it was but “a paltry sum” for the act.
But not quite that small when approached from the standpoint of Judas at the time and the ancient historical context. In the first place, it was the price of a slave, hence not a trivial amount. In Exodus 21:28-32 death caused by one’s oxen is under consideration. The owner of any slave of either gender who was killed by such an animal was to be reimbursed “thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned” (verse 32).
Since this was intended to be monetary punishment, the amount must have been regarded as sufficiently large to serve the function of significant and major punishment. The question of whether the silver coins mentioned in the New Testament were worth as much as the Old Testament shekels is not so easily resolved, though it is probably safe to assume they were.
Furthermore, if one dared to exploit it, it was a “buyer’s market.” Only the inner clique centering around Caiaphas had the religo-political power to carry out the arrest scheme and if a deal was to be struck it had to be with them. There was no one else. Hence, if they were stubborn and refused to go further, it was a matter of either accepting their offer or losing the opportunity.
In addition, the very willingness to so compromise himself as to make the offer in the first place provided the other side with a weighty bargaining chip. Implicitly (some theorize even explicitly) they reminded him that if they could not come to a satisfactory arrangement, Judas’ chicanery could be revealed to the disciples of Jesus. Then Judas would be out in the cold and alienated from both the pro- and anti-Jesus movements. In spite of their desperate need for his information, they potentially had the upper hand--so long as they had the nerve to use it.
Even conceding that it was a ridiculously small sum of money for the act, J. D. Jones reminds us that, given the right set of circumstances, people will sell out their principles and duties for a startling small amount of money or other reward. In the Bible itself, he notes that “Ezekiel speaks of ‘polluting God for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread.’ Amos speaks of ‘selling the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of shoes.’ ”
If one assumes that alienation lay behind the act, the actual sum was almost irrelevant to begin with. Indeed, if he was out after a kind of “revenge,” then the smallness fits extremely well. The passing mention that Judas was a thief argues, however, that the financial aspect--even if pushed into secondary place--could not have been totally absent. The sum had to at least come close to what he considered as reasonable.
Another possible obstacle to the greed factor playing anything more than a secondary role lies in the economics of Judas’ situation if he did not betray the Lord. With betrayal he would have a one time influx of funds and only a modest one at that--at least in the usual reading of the amount of money involved. Continuing as apostolic treasurer, he would have an ongoing source of funds and, the more successful the movement, the larger the amount. After all the “bag” contained all their available funds for both collective living expenses as well as assistance for the poor.
On the other hand, was the continued existence of a significant money bag all that certain, even assuming that the movement continued indefinitely? Would the movement lose its popular allure and support in the quarters it had previously found backing?
Taking it from a slightly different perspective, R. A. Cole makes the interesting argument that Judas’ greed was inflamed by the fact that Jesus’ behavior grievously undermined their collectively financial resources, “The mention of the promised sum of money in verse 11 [of Mark 14, rw] makes it clear that Judas was motivated by sheer avarice. He had decided that the poor play was played out--there would soon be no money to steal from the common purse, if the Lord continued to encourage ‘wastefulness’ like that of Mary.”
The Alienation Explanation for Judas’ Action
Although, for purposes of analysis, we separate one motive from another, in real life the interaction of several often come into play in major decisions. For example, we choose a place of employment based upon availability, pay, future prospects, benefits, and how it fits into the type of career we wish to develop. Similarly, Judas could well have been motivated by more than one factor in his fatal decision to act against Jesus. Alienation is certainly an obvious one, since all of us have seen friendships disrupted and outrageous behavior occur because two people have become at odds with each other.
Certainly, there was the potential for alienation between Judas and Jesus and, for that matter, the apostles in general.
First, he appears to have been the sole Judean in and apostolic company otherwise made up of Galileans. A sense of exclusion, of “them” against “me,” could easily have developed without even a conscious intent of exclusion by the others.
Judeans generally looked down upon the Galileans as an “inferior” kind of Jew and it would have been extremely easy for Judas to carry over this mind frame into his apostleship--attempting to rein in his prejudices but always tempted by them. From the standpoint of the others, Judas would always have been the “outsider,” the Judean, no matter how much they tried to treat him equitably and fairly.
Even under the best of
circumstances, the dramatically different regional upbringing “would have
[given him] a dialect and manner different from those of the other disciples.” In regard to religious practice, there were
also major regional divergences. Asbury
Smith suggests that, “Much of the controversy over washed hands, the tithe of
mint and cumin, observation of Sabbath regulations, and the like represents
true: The Pharisees had far greater
Against this it has been argued that
in the first century, Galileans were just as “Jewish” as Judeans and were so
regarded. This is not quite the same thing as proving
Secondly, there unquestionably was an exclusion of Judas from that inner cadre of Peter, John, and James. This did not need to be taken as aimed at Judas personally any more than it was a mark of derogation aimed at any of the other nine outside that number. In Judas’ case, though, he functioned as what we today would call the “treasurer.” It would not be unnatural for him to assume that meant he deserved (by the office or function he performed) to be a member of the inner group.
Thirdly, as treasurer much of Judas’ professional role was that of nay-sayer. No matter how desirable it might be, if the money wasn’t there or the expenditure was too large he was the one with the responsibility of pointing it out. This would invariably have created tensions on both sides.
Finally, Jesus had sternly rebuked Judas’ opposition to His being anointed. Although true, the scriptural texts indicate that some of the others shared in that sentiment as well. Of course, what could have added special annoyance in Judas’ case was his thievery from the common purse, in which the money would otherwise have gone. In other words, he would have felt the rebuke far more on a personal level that the others did not.
In short, if Judas "wanted" to feel alienated, there were plenty of excuses to do so. And would not such an alienation serve him as a convenient excuse to whitewash the sense of guilt over his thievery? In short, it is hard to see how this element could possibly have been lacking.
The “Grim Reality” Explanation
for Judas’ Behavior
Judas’ long range hopes for the Jesus movement were destroyed. Jesus had (John 6) rejected the opportunity to become a temporal king. Furthermore, the anti-Jesus clique in the national religious leadership was more determined than ever to be rid of Jesus and His opposition to their doctrines and practices.
Gene A. Getz sees an interaction between Judas’ inherent greediness and his reading of the religio-political realities of the day,
Evidently, he had concluded that his hopes and dreams for a financial bonanza were about to be dashed on the rocks of reality. Consequently, he decided to get what he could--thirty pieces of silver--and at the same time, he would guarantee his own safety. From his self-centered point of view, it was time to bail out and run for cover.
One could also link alienation and a “realistic” portrayal of future prospects as a deadly, interlocking argument for betrayal. Each would reinforce the strength of the other.
Jesus' teaching could be read as even turning against the temple itself, an attitude certain to be rejected by not only the national priestly leadership but also the masses as well. In other words, Jesus was about to cut Himself off not only from the official spiritual governing class but also from that popular piety that had found Him so appealing. There would be nothing left on which to base a movement.
In this general spectrum of thought, R. T. France sees Judas’ action growing out of “disillusionment” with Jesus’ rejection of temporal kingship and the obvious and quite dangerous animosity the national religious leadership now held toward Him. Caping it all off was Jesus’ frightening and ominous prediction of the future, “Now in Jerusalem Jesus has made matters worse by actually attacking the temple itself, the very symbol of national pride, and daring to predict its destruction. Judas’ desertion would then have been the result of disillusionment.”
Jesus’ words could have been read as a rejection of the temple cult. Nothing in the predictions (in Matthew 24 and their parallels), however, represent an actual attack on the cultus itself. Jesus had attacked, on other occasions, the turning of the temple into a place of profit making. Hence, the abuse of the temple and not its ritual or sacrifices should be looked to as the root of Jesus' denunciation. Again, not an attack on the cult itself.
There are other aspects to take into consideration in regard to Jesus’ “anti-temple” language as well. Those who controlled it embodied, encouraged, and inflamed opposition to Jesus. If Jesus was God's true prophet for the new age and the temple continued to be indefinitely controlled by those opposed to Him, could God permanently permit the situation to continue?
For that matter there was Jesus' own grim evaluation of the future: if the nation erupted in rebellion and the temple became involved--as it inevitably would--how could it escape destruction at the hands of the Romans? Dragged into the middle of a war as the symbol of nationalism to the rebels and of insurrection to the suppressors, how could the temple escape destruction? It would not be a matter of being “anti-temple” but of being politically astute and realistic.
Even so, one could imagine Judas combining the prediction of the temple's destruction with his own disillusionment and/or embitterness and transforming the language into an attack on the entire religious culture itself. And then picking himself as the temple’s defender in reporting on such things to the chief priests. Whether this scenario was actually present is far harder to determine.
There is nothing in the record of any of the apostles to suggest either a hyper-reverence or an aversion to the temple. Least of all Judas. Furthermore, if that had been the straw that broke the camel’s back would we not expect him to have sought out the priests immediately after the prediction in Matthew 24 rather than after the anointment of Jesus? Hence what token data we have argues against the reconstruction.
A reason for deep concern for the
future of the Jesus movement was certainly reasonable. But the existence of multitudes who honored Jesus as He entered
Although the ultimate “failure” of Jesus was certain--He had
repeatedly warned the apostles that He would die in
Hence if one is going to work from the premise that Judas acted from an evaluation of what was going to happen to Jesus, the movement, and his own role in it, one must assume that Jesus' predictions of His death had come to preoccupy Judas' mind. Acting out of an obsession with that knowledge one could imagine him trying to salvage what he could. Credible on its own merits, the New Testament record presents the apostles as unable to accept the reality of the death predictions as meaning what they seemed to portend: literal death. Was Judas that much more perceptive than the others?
The Loss of Faith Explanation
James V. Brownson argues, in effect, that Judas was an intellectual and spiritual apostate in the most literal of senses: he no longer believed in the validity of Jesus’ teaching. “The fourth gospel suggests, in a variety of ways, that Judas betrayed Jesus, even though he was His disciple, because he rejected the claims of Jesus regarding his divine identity and origin.”
Brownson suggests two major evidences for this approach. The first comes from John 6, which also happens to be the first time Judas is mentioned in that gospel. This passage heavily stresses Jesus’ supernaturalness: He is the bread of life that both came “down from heaven” (; cf. verses 50, 58 for similar assertions) as well as the one who returns there (verse 62). This heavenly loaf was manifested in Jesus’ appearance in flesh and blood and these had to be partaken of (eaten) in order to have “eternal life” (verses 53-54).
After such words, Jesus loses a large number of His disciples (verse 60). This “cannibalism” type allusion was simply too much for them to handle, but was that all that caused the breach? Commentators are divided between those who prefer to strictly limit the cause of the falling away to this specific teaching and those who make it refer to the entire previous dialogue, which included the heavy stress on Jesus’ heavenly origin and unique relationship with the Father (verses 46-50).
The possibility I prefer is that the “eating” references pushed them over the edge. The earlier teaching would have alarmed them and made them wary, but this was simply too much for them to handle on top of it. James V. Brownson embraces this type of approach. He argues that it is the over-all teaching itself, including the Christological material, that lead to the rejection. This fits well with verses 63-64, “ ‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ [In context, believe the words He had spoken, rw.] For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him” (linking together unbelief and betrayal).
Brownson’s second major proof text, even he admits is “made in a slightly more oblique fashion” than that found in chapter six. This involves the anointing of Jesus (chapter 12). Jesus defends it on the grounds that He will not always be with them though the poor will be, yet Judas vigorously protests the action. Judas had rejected this “appeal to the uniqueness of Jesus.”
Actually Judas’ objection--and that of certain of the other apostles--had nothing obvious to do with that topic at all. Rather it was related to the high cost involved. It is more valid, certainly, to observe that “Judas is portrayed as one who thinks that excessive devotion is being paid to Jesus. . . .”
But Jesus Himself, in John 12, defends the action not on the grounds that He deserves the respect because of His uniqueness, but because His death is rapidly approaching. In other words, it would normally have been a very reasonable objection that Judas made. But not in these particular circumstances.
In spite of the failure to establish the point from chapter 12, chapter 6 certainly represents an impressive argument in behalf of the theory that Judas’ faith was disintegrating and vanishing. Yet this would still leave the “chicken and egg” dilemma: Did the greed, alienation, or recognition of their grim prospects (to mention the options we have already discussed) cause (or rationalize) the loss of faith or did the lack of faith provide the opening for these others motives to gain their power over Judas?
Alternatively we could argue that the loss of faith by itself caused the betrayal. Everything else was secondary and in the cause and effect cycle totally unrelated. Yet it seems very hard to strip the story of Judas totally of one or more of these additional factors being involved in Judas' treachery. It seems better to see the interaction of several elements working together to produce his decision.
Bertil Gartner regards it not as a loss of faith in Jesus’ teaching in general but a loss of faith in Jesus as Messiah in particular. In this approach the very defense of the anointing as preparing Him for burial snuffed out Judas’ last, lingering hope, “One could very well imagine that Judas’ messianic hopes finally died at this moment and that he could see no other way out than to deliver Jesus over to the chief priests. For the sake of the people, who also hoped in Jesus (Mark 14:2), Jesus had to be unmasked for now he had broken definitely with all ‘normal’ messianic expectations.” Craig L. Blomberrg sees in Judas’ action the apostle’s own frustration at Jesus’ on-going refusal to be a “nationalistic, military liberator” type of Messiah who “would free them from Roman tyranny.”
At least since John 6, however,
Jesus had emphatically rejected the idea of temporal kingship. Although this could have been dismissed as an
act of temporary expediency--awaiting a more appropriate time--He had not done
anything to encourage the belief that He had altered His fundamental
attitude. That did not necessarily
extinguish the apostles’ hopes and the anointing at
The religious leadership had reasons for their desire to destroy Jesus. The teaching He had given vastly weakened those reasons, however. Hence for Judas to brazenly betray the Lord as he did requires a terribly “bent” heart in this reconstruction--far more than normally imagined: for Judas possessed the “inside information” that could have encouraged the Sanhedrin to abandon their crucifixion designs.
After all, if Jesus were, indeed, nothing more than a religious “enthusiast,” who lacked political aims, that was to hugely downgrade the “risk factor” that He represented to the Sanhedrin. John the Baptist had pioneered religious reform without any pretension to kingship. Why was it so inappropriate for Jesus to similarly emphasize reform but within a context of spiritual kingship, of being a new Moses so to speak?
If anything, to the extent they were convincingly informed of it, the repudiation of temporal designs should have been a relief to the Sanhedrin. They feared that Jesus’ success could cost themselves both their position as well as provoke a bloody confrontation with the Romans in an independence war. Peace and stability was what they most wanted.
Jesus’ repudiation of the latter would simply have removed one of their two fundamental fears. Indeed Jesus’ rejection of it had the potential of going far to undermine His base of support among the masses as well, thereby further weakening Jesus’ potential threat to their leadership position as well.
The “Satanic” Explanation:
Judas as a Mere Tool of the Devil
Oddly enough this possibility gets rare attention any more. We live in a secular age that rebels at the idea of such things. Yet there are several passages that could be utilized to “prove” that Judas’ inner being had been effectively gutted and it was more Satan acting through him than Judas himself being in control.
Although the scriptures certainly recognize the Satanic element in Judas, none of them viewed this as removing his own responsibility. Why should we? If he had permitted his own opportunities to become a closer apostle to Jesus to go unfulfilled, was it not Judas himself who made the “possession” possible? Hence if he is to be regarded as a “victim” at all, it should be as a self-created victim.
Some have regarded such language as character assassination to make the other apostles look better with all their own faults, “John frankly calls him a ‘thief’ or ‘betrayer,’ ‘possessed by the devil,’ or ‘the son of perdition.’ It is as if the evangelists could not paint him black enough in retrospect.”
If so, the descriptions would have been far more numerous and the charges more lovingly detailed. If anything, the gospel writers seem to want to avoid talking about Judas any more than they can--as if he were a collective embarrassment to the apostles (which, in a very real sense, he was).
But what of the specific texts that allude to a “satanic” factor?
Luke 22:3 refers to how “Satan entered Judas” prior to the Passover and how that this resulted in His going to the priests and making a deal to betray Jesus. John also mentions how “Satan entered him.” With this “entering” at the Passover itself, Judas leaves to carry out the deal already made.
We consistently read in the gospels of demons possessing individuals on behalf of Satan and never of Satan himself doing the possessing. Hence the idea is unlikely to be literal possession, but, rather, clear-cut control or mastery.
When the initial decision to strike a deal with the Sanhedrin occurred, Judas had come under the power of Satan. Under the renewed opportunity/obligation to remain with Jesus in the short term, he was exposed to a countervailing Power. Instead of embracing it, he rejected it only to once again throw himself into the Devil’s control, by actually carrying out the deal he had arranged earlier.
In John 6:70-72 Jesus describes Judas as a “devil.” Damuel T. Habel reminds us that the term is diabolos and is also used in the broader sense also of “ ‘enemy,’ ‘informer,’ ‘slanderer,’ and ‘accuser.’ It is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew ‘Satan.’ ” Hence the intended emphasis may well be more on his hostile character than upon anything strictly devilish.
Be that as it may, since he had allowed himself to become a tool of the devil as well as functioning in several of these manners, the term was an unusually apt one to describe what he had done to himself. Even today we speak of how a good actor becomes his or her character. In a similar sense, Judas played the role of the Devil, “becoming” him in the accommodative sense that we use of actors and actresses.
Since Judas had not yet betrayed Jesus, the root of the allusion is probably to his having begun such by his thievery from the common purse. Even without his having betrayed Jesus, this would have been adequate grounds for him to be replaced in his apostolic office (cf. Acts ). Short term the situation might be tolerated, but certainly not permanently.
What might other usages of the term and its equivalent tell us? In John the term “devil” is applied to certain enemies for four reasons: (1) he is “your father;” (2) he has always been “a murderer;” (3) he rejects the truth and speaks lies; (4) and, finally (though mentioned first in the verse), “the desires of your father you want to do.” They became sons of Satan by acting like him. So did Judas.
The term “Satan” was also used by Jesus in rebuking Peter’s rejection of the possibility of Jesus dying (Matthew ). He had become Satan like, a Satan substitute, filled with the purposes of Satan (temporarily). Similarly was Judas when he struck the deal with Jesus’ bitterest enemies and when he actually carried it out.
In all these cases they became, so to speak, occupied by Satan and it had nothing to do with something demonically miraculous. Hence the language of supposed Satanic “possession” of Judas should be understood in a similar manner. Satan made Judas do nothing, but by deciding to act in the manner that favored the Devil’s interests, his purposes and goals were those Satan desired. Satan “entered” him not by force but by Judas freely giving himself over. Hence, in our judgment, any form of literalistic Satanic caused betrayal falters and falls short.
Hyam Maccoby believes that John is depicting the gradual spiritual disintegration and collapse into “deviltry” (so to speak) by the apostle in the various references to him in chapters 6, 12, and 13,
How are we to understand this three-fold introduction of Judas’ diabolism? Perhaps we may see in it not a contradiction, but John’s portrayal of the gradual unfolding of a diabolic mission. First, Judas prepares himself by a general program of mean-spirited evil; then the thought of a great act of betrayal enters his mind, suggested by Satan himself, who has selected him as a suitable instrument; finally, the thought of this betrayal so pervades him that he loses all individuality and becomes the incarnation of Satan. For to John, more than to the other Gospel-writers, the death and resurrection of Jesus form part of a cosmic drama in which Jesus is locked in combat with Satan, the “prince of this world” (John ; ; ).
With the addition of the word “becomes virtually the incarnation of Satan” or “becomes, effectively, the incarnation” of Satan”--to avoid any unintended literalism--this analysis makes a great deal of sense. Yet the human element still co-existed with the evil that dominated him or the remorse that came after the conviction would have been impossible. The evil side had triumphed, but the human and compassionate element still existed sufficiently to rebel against what had been done.
The “Power Play” Explanation:
A Determination to Make Jesus
Reverse Course and Claim
a Temporal Kingship?
Jesus' refusal to accept the crowd’s demand in John 6 that He become a temporal King, flew in the face of the traditional image of the Messiah. From Judas’ standpoint (and that of the other apostles) it could have been dismissed as either a matter of prudence (the grab for power to come later) or as a test of their own loyalty and faithfulness.
Yet even as further time went by Jesus showed no inclination to go that route. Could Jesus be compelled? In this approach the betrayal was an effort to force Jesus to immediately act rather than delay any longer. Alternatively, to act to create the kind of kingdom His previous doctrine and behavior indicated He rejected.
The use of kataphilein (to repeatedly/affectionately kiss) in the accounts of Matthew and Mark is unexpected and odd. We earlier suggested that it was to mask, however temporarily, the obvious betrayal going on--to buy a little extra time before the apostles could react. William Barclay, however, suspects that this points to what Judas expected to happen next. “When Judas kissed Jesus, maybe there was a blaze of excitement on his face and a flame of expectation in his eyes. ‘Hail, master!’ he said (Matthew 26:49). On to victory! Unleash your power!”
Against this scenario is the consistent gospel emphasis that Jesus preached the imminence of the kingdom. Are we to believe that Judas was really that impatient that he could not wait a little longer? That he, alone, of all the twelve had run out of patience?
The emphasis by Jesus on the nearness of His own death could have left Judas with the feeling that there was no time left for delay: it was now or never. On the other hand, if Judas retained faith in Jesus as being at least a prophet, it was more likely that he believed that the kingdom would be established at the very time Jesus was facing His predicted death.
Its miraculous establishment and Jesus' miraculous escape either before or at death would go hand-in-hand, thereby establishing His credentials to be King. Rather than encouraging him to act to betray Jesus, the linkage of these two facts would have encouraged passivity and patience until the “inescapable” occurred. Could he possibly have had the arrogance to believe that he could choose the appropriate timing rather than leave it in the Lord’s hands?
The Innocent Intermediary Interpretation
The only piece of real evidence in behalf of this theory is the argument that the word translated “betray” has been systematically mistranslated. As William Klassen argues,
The most astounding result of our search was the discovery that the deed for which Judas is almost universally blamed--that of “betraying Jesus”--does not rest on linguistic ground. The Greek verb paradidomi, which virtually always has been translated “betray” in connection with Judas’s deed, does not mean “betray” in any classical text we were able to discover; never in Josephus and never in the New Testament. . . . More and more modern translators recognize this.
As he sees it, Judas was a well-intentioned informant to the temple authorities, keeping them well versed--as a good, faithful Jew should--of what this Galilean religious teacher was saying in public and private. Judas was simply attempting to arrange a meeting between Jesus and the authorities so they could iron out their differences. Indeed, it is quite possible that Judas was doing this with the full knowledge and approval of Jesus Himself (also see below).
Linguistically, Klassen has a good case, but a fundamental “real life” certainty seems to have escaped him: if you act as the intermediary for an innocent man who then quickly gets railroaded into the death penalty, it is inevitable that your action in “handing over” the accused will be read by his friends--and quite possibly even by his enemies--as “betrayal.” The word does not have to mean “betrayal” to take on that connotation in such a context.
Furthermore, if all this was innocent and aboveboard and completely well intentioned, why did Judas accept the money? Why is he pictured as under Satanic influences? Why is Jesus quoted as saying it would be better than he had never been born? Unless these are to be rejected as pervasive bias by the writers, it is impossible to strip guilt from the behavior of Judas.
Others make Judas functionally innocent by a clever play of words. In reality “there is ultimately no difference between him and the other disciples, because all forsake Jesus. Judas and Peter are in fact doubles; they both betray Jesus. . . . [A]ll betray Him in the end.”
Peter and the other apostles, in the weakness of the flesh, panic and flee at the arrest. Judas, on the other hand, takes cash to arrange the handing over of Jesus. Although one could sermonically speak in terms of all “betraying” Jesus, there is only a verbal similarity. The nature of what the other apostles did, when contrasted with that of Judas, is a world different. Act, intent, and result are all poles apart.
Yet another means of removing guilt from Judas is to make it all the result of a prior agreement between Jesus and Judas. The pivotal text is John 13:18-21 in which Jesus points out that He must be given over to fulfill scripture and then tells Judas to go about his business. Hence, “Judas, faithful to his Master, set out to accomplish what Jesus had asked of him--to fulfill prophecy by arranging for Jesus’ arrest. This is the plain meaning of the text. But because it is so plainly stated, many refuse to believe it means what it says. ‘Naked is the best disguise.’ ”
It does not encourage faith in this reconstruction when it is accompanied by the claim that Jesus somehow anticipated getting judged “dead” by the Roman execution squad and His body removed before actual death occurred. “It was mad. But if Jesus was the messiah, it would have to work.” Jesus placed full trust in the Old Testament predictions and they required it. In this scenario it is all a conspiracy for Jesus to survive and pretend resurrection.
Bribery could work wonders in that day as in ours, but the chance of (1) drawing bribable soldiers for the execution detachment, (2) successfully bribing them all (for any less would have been inadequate), and (3) not being double-crossed, borders on the non-existent. Jesus was thought to be many things in His day but a “fool” was not among them.
Not to mention the fact that one must somehow account for the supposedly praiseworthy act being translated into a despicable act. If Jesus had wanted to die on the cross--rather than just recognizing it as a prophetic and unpleasant necessity--there was no need. The twelve were Jesus’ specially selected elite. Judas could openly have made the arrangements and one can fantasize the other apostles hugging him and sending him off to the chief priests with either happiness that someone else had to carry out the duty or envy that it was not themselves.
After all, “scripture demanded it” and, working together, the pseudo-resurrection would occur and they would nurse Jesus back to full health. A scenario that salvages one apostle’s honor (more or less) by making many or all of them unscrupulous spiritual counterfeiters of a pseudo-resurrection seems dubious even if one chooses to reject the reality of an actual resurrection.
Possible Reasons for Judas’
Repudiation of His Betrayal
How do we explain Judas' remorse at Jesus' death? Having betrayed Him, what else could he expect but for the death to occur? Yet the human mind often blinds itself to the consequences of its own decisions. Could that explain it?
On the other hand, the reaction is also fully consistent with a belief that--somehow--Jesus would not be executed. The purpose of this last chapter is to examine both possibilities and to seek out the motives and rationales that could have been at work to produce this outburst of self-reproach and horror at what he had done.
The Action in Light of
Suggested Motives for the Betrayal
Fitting this action into the greed scenario. Gaston Foote points argues that if love of money had been the basic motive for the betrayal, that Judas’ voluntarily refusing to keep the money makes no sense. On the other hand, the greedy person may be horrified at the full result of his or her action. For example, if one has embezzled and the company goes bankrupt, some degree of shock would seem inevitable. And even guilt.
Furthermore, there is a vast difference between acknowledging something intellectually and coming face to face with it in the real world. To do something that would cause Jesus' death might well be far easier to contemplate when it is only in the future and far grimmer to ponder when it is in the process of occurring. Having said all this, it admittedly retains a tingle of oddness if covetousness were Judas' primary or only motive. But not if it were one element of several.
Fitting this action into the alienation scenario. Gaston Foote argues that since greed is irreconcilable with the return of the bribe, that the real explanation must lie in “resentment.” But this leaves us with the dilemma of how even resentment could cause the rejection of the money.
Psychologically, one can imagine that he had only expected to see Jesus humiliated. Yet Jesus had stoically stood up against everything. Alternatively (or in addition), that he had expected to see the apostles physically abused or killed and that had not happened either. Like an annoyed child he throws back the money in anger.
The texts, however, speak of his confession of guilt while throwing the money. The psychological profile we have suggested carries no connection with consciousness of having done wrong, only at consciousness of having one’s desires frustrated. Hence, standing alone, the alienation scenario does not adequately do justice to Judas’ act of returning the bribe.
Fitting the remorse into the scenario that Judas was attempting to force Jesus to act to save Himself and establish a temporal kingdom. Instead of being a covert hero who had acted in the best interests of his Master in forcing Him to do what He “should” have done in the first place, he discovers that his Master is not going to escape death after all. J. G. Greenhough makes a powerful argument that this best explains Judas’ behavior,
His subsequent remorse is hardly explicable on any other supposition. It was so sudden, so complete, so desperate, and showed such an awful revulsion of feeling, that to understand it we are almost obliged to think that his last hope had utterly failed.
When he found that Jesus quietly yielded to His enemies, and that in betraying Him he had really given Him up to condemnation and crucifixion, all the madness, the folly, the malignity, the miscalculation, the purposeless guilt, the horrible enormity which he saw in a lightning-flash of self-revelation, combined to overwhelm him and crush him under a load of self-loathing. He threw down with disgust the price of blood, and rushed to find oblivion in suicide.
Yet we saw that, in regard to the betrayal itself, this is a dubious approach. Furthermore, why should Judas blame himself even at this stage? Was it not Jesus’ responsibility? He had clearly demonstrated miraculous powers repeatedly during His ministry. If He refused to utilize them at the end, it clearly wasn’t Judas’ fault, was it? Any more than if you have a life vest and you don’t put it on when a boat sinks, you can’t blame someone else.
True, Judas might have felt personal contrition if he had betrayed Jesus in order to compel Him to act, but he might just have easily felt even angrier at the Lord. Indeed, the human desire not to admit personal guilt would argue that it would have been more likely.
Furthermore, Judas was part of that apostolic company that had repeatedly heard Jesus predict His coming death. How would bringing death about then get Jesus to opt for a temporal kingdom after all?
Jesus had already accepted that He was going to die. Jesus had repeatedly demonstrated that He was a (constructively) “stubborn Man:” What He needed to do, He was going to do—period. Indeed, Judas’ intervention might well undermine Jesus’ already laid out plans for as much as he knew!
On this score, however, there is at least a partial answer. Judging by the New Testament records, the other apostles had vast difficulty in “understanding” this blunt language of approaching death as well. If they didn’t grasp or understand it on an emotional level, Judas’ failure on this score would not be unexpected either.
Judas could easily have felt certain that faced with the cruel reality, He would reject the option. Yet, even so, if this scenario were valid his bitterness at Jesus’ refusal would make just as good sense as his taking out his rage upon himself.
The Action Considered as Motivated
by Different Factors
than the Betrayal
If fitting suggested reasons for the betrayal into a scenario explaining the repudiation of his own earlier action is difficult, perhaps more progress can be made if we consider the possibility that separate and independent motives existed and to examine what they might have been.
There were at least two of these. The first lies in a reaction to the excesses of the religious and secular trial Jesus underwent.
This itself has two aspects. First there was Jesus’ moral heroism in enduring with “fortitude and patience” His humiliating treatment during the inquisition. Judas had known Jesus too well to consider Him deserving of any of this.
Second, there was the very brutality of the sessions. Verbal intimidation, lying witnesses. The trial before Pilate, in which the governor is successfully pressured into going against his best judgment. The severe physical abuse out of court. The vicious flogging. Then having to carry his cross and being so weak he lacked the strength to do so.
Some or all of this Judas had personally observed. Whatever he had missed he would have learned quickly from those who had been present. A person only had to be marginally fair minded to be repelled by the spectacle.
Another possibility lies in the sense of personal betrayal in the discovery that the promised punishment of Jesus was to be exceeded and was to be death itself.
In Mark we read of Judas’ understanding with the religious authorities, “Whoever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.” This is normally taken in the sense of “securely,” arrest Jesus and get Him “safely” away from where others could intervene. But was that all going through Judas’ mind? Should we read it to indicate that he was interested in Jesus’ physical safety from danger even at the time of arrest itself?
Without appealing to this text in particular, this is Donald Spoto’s reconstruction. Judas was not guilty of Evil (capitalized) but of petty ante evil (lower case) that resulted in severe consequences far beyond his anticipations. “We are told only that he was greedy, a little resentful--just small-minded enough, in a rash moment, to turn against a friend.” Furthermore, he did not anticipate, “in turning him over to religious authorities, that Jesus might indeed be summarily executed.” When he was convicted and sentenced to death, remorse and guilt overwhelmed him.
It may or may not be significant, but it remains intriguing that in none of the three references to the meeting between Judas and the chief leaders is there any explicit mention of what was to be done with and to Jesus. In Luke, the meeting is preceded by a reference to how the leaders “sought how they might kill Him” (22:2). In other words, it was not a matter of whether, but of methodology. The policy decision had been made; the only question was of its implementation.
Would they share this decision with Judas or would they flat out lie as to what they intended? Or be creatively ambiguous (perhaps “speak with Him and decide what is best to do with Him”)?
From their standpoint, the offer to hand over Jesus implied some kind of a breach between Judas and His leader. But how deep was it? If they were too blunt, might they not lose the opportunity that had been gained? Hence the practicalities of the situation argue that the death decision was either not mentioned or so played down as to leave the impression that it was only a remote possibility. Prudence requires that even the conscience of a traitor not be pushed too far.
Judas' remorse bore witness that he still had the remnants of a torn and shattered conscience. The tragedy of Judas as a human being lay in the fact that he could not face his own guilt—he could only think of self-destruction when faced with the full magnitude of his miscalculation and abuse of position. Peter was able to face his own, so he goes down as a hero. Wallowing in self-hate and self-pity Judas could not, so he enters the history books as a self-destroyed betrayer.
It might have been different. The betrayal was predicted and somebody important to Christ’s ministry was going to do it. There is no compelling evidence, in my judgment, that that required that Judas was the specific individual who would perform the deed. The ultimate decision was his. And the guilt that comes from blood stained hands.
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Gospel according to St. John; Volume 3: Commentary on Chapters 13-21. Translated from the German
by David Smith and G. A. Kon. In the series Herder’s
Theological Commentary on the New Testament.
Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News according to Mark. Translated by Donald H. Madvig.
Stoger, Alois. The Gospel according to
St. Luke. In
the New Testament for Spiritual Reading series. Translated from the German
by Benen Fahy.
Summers, Ray. Commentary
on Luke: Jesus the Universal Savior.
Sweetland, Dennis. Mark:
From Death to Life. In the series Spiritual Commentaries on the Bible.
Talbert, Charles H. Reading Acts: A Literary
and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles.
Tannehill, Robert C. Luke.
In the Abingdon New Testament Commentaries
Archer, Kenneth S. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.
Farrar, F. W. Texts
Zeitlin, Irving M. Jesus and the Judaism of
Bacon, Bejamin W. “What Did Judas Betray?” Hibbert Journal 19 (1920-1921): 476-493.
Cary, Clement C. “The Case of Judas Iscariot.” Methodist Quarterly Review 59 (October 1910): 825-829.
Davies, William W. “Judas Iscariot.” Methodist Review 103 (May 1920): 466-473.
Harper, L. Alexander. “Judas, our Brother.” Saint Luke’s Journal of Theology 29 (March 1986): 96-102.
Harris, J. Rendell. “Did Judas Really Commit Suicide?” American Journal of Theology 4 (1900): 490-513.
Harris, J. Rendell. “St. Luke’s Version of the Death of Judas.” American Jurnal of Theology 18 (1914): 127-131.
Senior, Donald. “Fate of the Betrayer: A Redactional Study of Matthew 27:3-10.” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 48 (1972): 372-426.
van Unnik, Willem Cornelius. “Death of Judas in Saint Matthew’s Gospel.” Anglican Theological Review Supplement 3 (March 1974): 44-57.
 For a summary of such arguments, see Brown, Death, 1395-1396.
 Ibid., 1396.
 Halas, 1; cf. 7.
 For example, of many, Getz, 164; Lockyer, 101; Nicole, 12; Ward, 215; Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (1-12), in the Anchor Bible series (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966), 298; and John Hargreaves, A Guide to Mark’s Gospel, Revised Edition (London: SPCK, London, 1995), 65.
 Kraeling, 216.
 For an analysis of various possibilities, see Halas, 14-16.
 Robert Freeman, What about the Twelve? (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1929), 153.
 For a discussion of this, see Halas, 11-12.
 Kraeling, 216.
 Ibid., fn. 4, 285.
 For a discussion of the matter, see Halas, 20.
 E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Volume 1, translated from the German (Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark Company, 1865), 367.
 See the discussion in Brown, Death, 1414.
 Barnabas Lindars, The Gospel of John, in the New Century Bible series (London: Oliphants, 1972), 276.
 Kraeling, 216.
 For a description of Lightfoot’s reasoning, see Halas, 21-22.
 Harald Ingholt, “The Surname,” in Studia Orientalia Ioanni Pedersen Septuagenario, edited by [not given], 158; for a detailed explanation of the logic, see 158-161. Albright and Mann, 118, find this a far more attractive possibility than the other interpretive options.
 Irving M. Zeitlin, Jesus and the Judaism of His Time (Cambridge, [Great Britain]: Polity Press, 1988) 143.
 For example,
 For a discussion of this scenario, see Halas, 23-24.
 Klassen, 30.
Jewish War, 135, as quoted by
 Cf. Bock, Luke (IVP), 118.
 In the
context of Mark’s gospel, Joel Marcus believes that the term likely refers to
The reason is that Christians at the time of the writing of the gospel
saw in the actions of Judas the kind of betrayal and misuse they themselves had
suffered from such people. See Joel
Marcus, Mark 1-8, in the Anchor Bible series (
 See the discussion in Brown, Death, 1414-1415.
 Ibid., 1415. Also see the discussion of Halas, 25-27.
 Alluded to but not discussed by Halas, 27.
 Ibid., 27-28.
 Hengstenberg, 1:368.
 Bertil Gartner, Iscariot, translated from the German by Victor I. Gruhn (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971 page 7). Others who adopt this meaning include R. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke, in The Century Bible: New Edition (London: Nelson, 1966), 111.
 For a discussion of Lightfoot and Origen’s approaches, see Halas, 22-23.
 Getz, 164.
 Barclay, Master's Men, 74, and Brown, John (1-12), 298.
 J. G. Greenhough, The Apostles of Our Lord (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1904), 116.
 James V. Brownson, “Neutralizing the Intimate Enemy: The Portrayal of Judas in the Fourth Gospel,” in Society of Biblical Literature 1992 Seminar Papers, edited by Eugene H. Lovering, Jr. (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1992), 52. Cf. Lindars, 526-527.
 Cf. Morris, John, 645.
 Freeman, 152.
 Halas, 52.
 Lockyer, 101.
 For example, Getz, 170. Charles E. Guice,
The First Friends of the Finest Friend:
Studies of “The Twelve” (
B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, Fifth Edition, Revised and
 Lockyer, 105, and J. D. Jones, The
Glorious Company of the Apostles: Being
Studies in the Characters of the Twelve (
 MacCartney, 129.
 Guice, 102. In a similar vein, Weatherhead, 25.
 Habel, 120. Ronald Brownrigg, 206, argues for its modest value in spite of conceding this.
 Lockyer, 109 implies they were, though holding to the view that it was still a very modest amount of money.
 W. G. Ward, 231-232, and Carl A. Glover, With the Twelve (Nashville, Tennessee: Cokesbury Press, 1939), 246.
 Bradley, 152.
 Jones, 252-253.
 Ibid., 253.
Mackintosh Mackay, The Men Whom Jesus Made:
A Series of Studies in the Characters of the Twelve Apostles (
 Cf. Alexander B. Bruce, 373.
 Cole, 211. The unidentified author of “The Metamphorsis of Judas" (http://www. mathpages.com/home/kmath224/kmath224.htm) effectively argues that the apostle took the anointing incident as conclusive evidence that Jesus had become self-centered and was rejecting the needs of the poor. The analysis hinges upon a rigid separation of each of the gospel narratives rather than attempting to see how they might credibly fit together into a synthesis.
 J. G. Greenhough, The Apostles of Our Lord (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1904), 119, argues that this is always the case.
advocates of the alienation theory not cited below include Clausen, 27; John H.
Baumgaertner, Meet the Twelve (Minneapolis,
Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House,
1960), 99; and Joseph Klausner, Jesus of
 Bradley, 145; Brownrigg, 204; and Foote, 116.
 Cf. Mackay, 200.
 Cf. Alexander B. Bruce, 374, and Harper, 97.
 Habel, 118.
 Smith, 148.
 E. P.
Sanders, “Jesus in
 Foote, 116, and Mackay, 200-201.
 Alexander B. Bruce, 374.
 Foote, 116.
 Getz, 171. Others who embrace some form of a grim reality scenario include Ward, 228-229, and George W. Swope, Christ and His Apostles (Lynchburg, Virginia: J. P. Bell Company, Inc., 1912), 106.
 Alexander B. Bruce, 375.
 James V. Brownson, “Neutralizing the Intimate Enemy: The Portrayal of Judas in the Fourth Gospel,” in Society of Biblical Literature 1992 Seminar Papers, edited by Eugene H. Lovering, Jr. (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1992), 50.
 Ibid., fn. 2, 50.
 Ibid., 51, and fn. 2, 50 presents these two verses as separate arguments: one, that the overall subject matter is under consideration (verse 63) and the second (verse 64), that it was a lack of faith in the teaching in general that motivated the rejection and betrayal. We have woven these together for simplicity and greater impact.
 Ibid., 51.
 Gartner, 21. Klausner, 324-325 paints an even broader picture, of a very human Jesus who repeatedly contradicted Himself in His teaching. Judas was finally pushed over the edge into repudiation by Jesus’ failing to back up His private claim to Messiahship by public anti-Roman acts aimed at publicly establishing the claim.
 Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, in the New American Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1992), 387.
 Brownrigg, 204.
 Bock, Luke (Baker), fn. 6, 1704 argues that it “is probably beyond our ability” to be certain whether literal possession is intended or not “given the brevity of the text.” Evans, 775, argues for a literal possession being intended by Luke.
 Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to St. John; Volume 3: Commentary on Chapters 13-21, translated from the German by David Smith and G. A. Kon, in the series Herder’s Theological Commentary on the New Testament (New York: Crossroad, 1982), 31, and fn. 93, 404, appears to argue for the possession scenario as being intended though he uses the language of “mastery.”
 Habel, 120.
 Ibid. Clement C. Cary stresses that the text describes Judas in the present tense--“is a devil”--thereby conspicuously not claiming that he had always been that way (“The Case of Judas Iscariot,” Methodist Quarterly Review 59 [October 1910]: 828). For an analysis that the problem with Judas lay in what he became rather than what he was when he first became a disciple or an apostle, see 825-829.
 Cf. Hengstenberg, 1:366-367.
 Maccoby, 67.
 A. E. Knoch, “The God of Judas Iscariot” (http://people.zeelandnet.nl/ wjanse/judas.htm), argues at length that the betrayal had to be specifically by Judas and no one else and that it was accomplished not by Judas surrendering himself to the temptation of Satan but by Satan literally and personally--rather than through one of His demons--entering and taking control of the apostle. In our judgment this is excessive and needless “literalism,” as in the case of the other texts. Literalism is fine, but only when intended and when consistent with other passages.
 Maccoby believes that the picture of a betraying Judas was a later invention. On 152 he traces the steps he believed that this evolution went through. Even so his exegesis on the intention of the Johnanine passages remain thought provoking.
 Those who take this type of approach include Greenhough, 121, Hargreaves, 248; Rollins and Rollins, 229; Weatherhead, 28-29. On the internet, see Jay Atkinson, “Judas Iscariot,” at http://latter-rain.com/ltrain/judasi.htm.
 Barclay, Master's Men, 72, 79.
 Klassen, 202.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 69.
 Ibid., 66-67; cf. 56-57.
 Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, The Gospel and the Sacred: Poetics of Violence in Mark (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1994), 44-45.
 Max I. Dimont, Appointment in Jerusalem: A Search for the Historical Jesus (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), 101.
 Ibid., 107.
 Ibid., 109.
 Earle McMillan, The Gospel according to Mark (Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1973), 167.
 Foote, 117.
 Greenhough, 121-122.
 Mackay, 204.
 Prat, 406.
 Donald Spoto, The Hidden Jesus: A New Life (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 189.
 Implied by Donald Senior, “Fate of the Betrayer: A Redactional Study of Matthew 27:3-10,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 48 (1972): 402, 404.
 Summers, 267.