Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, ranks as the most hated and despised character in the Bible with the possible exception of Satan. Is such intense loathing justified, or is Judas the victim of biased reporting? Interestingly enough the sole source of information on Judas is the New Testament gospels and the Book of Acts all of which were written long after the events allegedly took place. He receives not a single mention in the writings of Paul, the Gospel of Thomas, or the reconstructed document, Quelle (Q). Also, any mention of Judas is conspicuously absent from the writings of such important first century Jewish historians as Philo Judaeus and Flavious Josephus.
Judas first appears in the nineteenth verse of the third chapter of the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the canonical gospels, where he is appointed by Jesus as one of his twelve disciples. In this passage we are tipped off in advance of Judas’ treachery. The authors of Matthew and Luke, recognizing a good thing, repeat Mark’s version almost verbatim. The author of John does likewise but embellishes the story. In John 6:70-71 Jesus announces that one of the twelve, Judas, is a devil. In John 12:4-6 we learn Judas was also a thief. At John 13:18 Jesus says, obviously in reference to Judas, that he made his choices “so that scripture might be fulfilled.” He then quotes Psalm 41:9 “He that eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me.” This, in all probability, provided the inspiration for the betrayal story.
As was predicted, Judas went to the chief priests and offered to identify Jesus. They accepted his offer and agreed to pay him thirty pieces of silver which brings up another perplexing question. Why would the authorities pay to have someone pointed out to them whom they already knew? In Matthew 26:55 Jesus says to those who came to arrest him, "I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, yet ye laid no hold on me."
Judas proceeds to identify Jesus by way of that treacherous kiss, and that’s the last we hear of him in the gospels of Mark, Luke and John. However, the author of Matthew doesn’t let it drop there. Apparently Judas’ conscience got the better of him because according to Matthew 27:3-5 he made a sincere attempt to repent but was denied forgiveness. In a gesture of frustration he flung the money on the temple floor and went and hanged himself. Matthew goes on to say that the chief priests and the elders used the money to buy a piece of land. Because it was bought with blood money, the land became known as "The Field of Blood."
In Matthew 18:21-22 when Peter came to him, and asked, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?” Jesus replied, "I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven." Therefore, wasn’t Jesus obligated by his own words to forgive Judas? But instead of forgiving him, Jesus openly cursed Judas when during Passover Seder (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21) he said, "But woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed for it would have been better for him had he never been born". Contrary to Peter, Judas never denied Jesus. While his action may not have been all together ethical, Judas, unlike Peter, committed neither apostasy nor blasphemy, the two unforgivable sins.
Had the Judas story ended with the betrayal followed by the suicide everything might have been hunky-dory, but the writer of Acts couldn't leave well enough alone. In 1:15-19 he tells us that Judas didn't give the money back; he invested it in real estate. We also learn that Judas didn’t commit suicide; his death was accidental. Because of the messiness of this accident, the property became known as (you guessed it) "The Field of Blood." So, did Judas commit suicide as the writer of Matthew claims or was his death an accident as we are told in Acts? Also, was this the same land that the priests bought, or were there two fields of blood? But, it gets worse.
Mark 16:14 and Luke 24:33 state that following his resurrection Jesus appeared to "the eleven." Who was missing? After all that had transpired one would just naturally think it was Judas. Apparently not, because in John 20:24 we learn that the one missing was Thomas. Therefore the eleven had to include Judas. To further confuse things, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:5 that following his resurrection Jesus was seen by “the twelve.” This had to include Judas because it wasn't until after the ascension, some forty days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3), that another person, Matthias, was voted in to replace Judas (Acts 1:26). So, apparently Judas neither committed suicide nor died by accident. In Acts 1:25 we are told that Judas "turned aside to go to his own place."
Another clue confirming the absence of the Judas story in the earliest Christian documents occurs in 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 is Q (QS 62). Q predates the gospels and is considered to be one of the earliest Christian documents. It was obviously written before Judas and the betrayal story were invented by the writer of Mark.
For centuries Judas Iscariot has been held up as the archetypical traitor, the exemplar of treachery, the quintessential turncoat. This is strange indeed when one considers Acts 1:16. Here Peter tells us, "This scripture (Psalm 69:25) must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus." So according to Peter, Judas' betrayal was a part of God's grand plan all along. Not only did Judas serve as a vehicle through which key Old Testament prophecy might be fulfilled, it was by way of his betrayal that Jesus was able to complete his earthly mission. One might say that it was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it. Judas was in reality an enabler. Instead of hating and reviling him, Christians should appreciate Judas’ contribution.
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P. S. Please, please, and please, this is not about me, and it is not my article, and as such, nobody should direct any inflammatory comments at me. I created this topic so that core issues on this subject may be compromised, and misconceptions totally cleared. Please deal with the issue at hand, and stick to it. That's going to be really appreciated by me and those willing to learn. Thanks for your anticipated co-operation.