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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The Gr. verb for betray’ is παραδιδόναι. ταράδοσις never occurs in the sense of ‘betrayal’ in the NT; in the Gospels it is used of ‘the tradition of the elders’ (Matthew 15:2-3; Matthew 15:6 = Mark 7:3; Mark 7:5; Mark 7:8-9; Mark 7:13), by St. Paul also of the Christian tradition (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). τροδοτης, ‘traitor,’ occurs in Luke 6:16; cf. Acts 7:52, 2 Timothy 3:4.

Had Jesus not been betrayed into the hands of His enemies, His death would hardly have been averted, but it would have been delayed. They would fain have seized Him and made short work of Him, but they dared not. He was the popular hero, and they perceived that His arrest would excite a dangerous tumult. The goodwill of the multitude was as a bulwark about Him and kept His enemies at bay, malignant but impotent. The crisis came on 13th Nisan, two days before the Passover (Matthew 26:1-5 = Mark 14:1-2 = Luke 22:1-2). He had met the rulers in a succession of dialectical encounters in the court of the Temple, and had completed their discomfiture by hurling at them in presence of the multitude a crushing indictment. Enraged beyond endurance, they met and debated what they should do. They were resolved upon His death, and they would fain have seized Him and slain Him out of hand; but they dared not, and they agreed to wait until the Feast was over and the throng of worshippers had quitted Jerusalem. ‘They took counsel together to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; but they said: Not during the Feast, lest there arise a tumult among the people.’

Such was the situation when, all unexpectedly, an opportunity for immediate action presented itself. Judas, ‘the man of Kerioth,’ one of the Twelve, waited on the high priests, probably while Jesus was engaged with the Greeks (John 12:20-50), and offered, for sufficient remuneration, to betray Him into their hands. Judas was a disappointed man. He had attached himself to Jesus, believing Him to be the Messiah, and expecting, in accordance with the current conception of the Messianic Kingdom, a rich recompense when the Master should ascend the throne of His father David, and confer offices and honours upon His faithful followers. The period of his discipleship had been a process of disillusionment, and latterly, when he perceived the inevitable issue, he had determined to abandon what he deemed a sinking cause, and save what he might from the wreck. It may be also that he desired to be avenged on the Master who, as he deemed, had fooled him with a false hope.* [Note: It seems hardly necessary to refer to the theory popularized by De Quincey (Works, vi. 21 ff.), which has since his time found favour with not a few. This ingenious theory seeks to explain the conduct of Judas by attributing the betrayal not to covetousness or spite, but to an honest, if mistaken, determination to ‘force the hand’ of Jesus and compel Him to assert His Messianic dignity and hasten the establishment of His Kingdom. It may suffice here to remark that this explanation, while psychologically possible, finds no support in the Gospel narratives, and appears to De quite irreconcilable with the stern words of condemnation spoken by our Lord with reference to the action of Judas (cf. e.g. Matthew 26:24 ‘Woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if the had not been born’). For a full discussion of the motives of the traitor see art Judas Iscariot.] He therefore went to the high priests and asked what they would give him to betray Jesus into their hands. They leaped at the proposal, and offered him thirty shekels. It was the price of a slave. [Note: Cf. Exodus 21:32; Arakh. xiv. 2: ‘If anyone kills a slave, good or bad, he has to pay 30 shekels.’] and they named it in contempt not of Jesus but of Judas. Even while they trafficked with him, they despised the wretch. Impervious to contempt, he accepted their offer; and, as though in haste to be rid of him, they paid him the money on the spot.

Such, at least, is St. Matthew’s report. St. Mark and St. Luke represent them as merely promising money, the amount unspecified. It might be supposed that St. Matthew’s account is assimilated to Zechariah 11:12-13 (cf. Matthew 27:9-10); but (1) Matthew 27:3-5 proves that the money had been paid, at all events before the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. (2) ἕστησαν, even if it be taken in its literal sense, ‘weighed,’ need not be an unhistorical embellishment borrowed from the prophecy. Cf. PEFSt [Note: EFSt Quarterly Statement of the same.] , Apr. 1896, p. 152: ‘To this day it is usual in Jerusalem to examine and test carefully all coins received. Thus a Medjidie (silver) is examined not only by the eye, but also by noticing its ring on the stone pavement, and English sterling gold is carefully weighed, and returned when defaced.’

It remained that Judas should perform his part of the bargain, but he encountered a difficulty which he had hardly anticipated. Jesus was aware of his design, and, anxious to eat the Passover with His disciples ere He suffered (Luke 22:15), He took pains to checkmate it. The next day was the Preparation, and, when His disciples asked where He would eat the Supper, He gave them a mysterious direction. ‘Away into the city,’ He said to Peter and John, ‘and there shall meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water: follow him.’ Some friend in Jerusalem had engaged to provide a room in his house, and Jesus had arranged this stratagem with him, in order that Judas might not know the place and bring in the rulers in the course of the Supper* [Note: Euth. Zig. on Matthew 26:18; ὅτως μὴ μαθὼν τὴν οἰκίαν Ἱούδα; ἑκδράμη τρὸς τοὐς ἑτιβούλους καὶ ἑταγάγη τούτους αὑτῷ πρὸ τοῦ ταραδοῦναι τὸ μυστικον δεῖτεον τοῖς μαθηταὶς.] (Matthew 26:17-19 = Mark 14:12-16 = Luke 22:7-13).

That evening, as they reclined at table, Jesus, desirous of being alone with His faithful followers, made the startling announcement: ‘One of you shall betray me,’ and, amid the consternation which ensued, secretly gave Judas his dismissal. The traitor left the room, and, hastening to the high priests, summoned them to action. See Arrest.

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘Judas Iscariot’; Fairbairn, Studies in the Life of Christ, p. 258 ff.; Stalker, Trial and Death of Jesus Christ, p. 110 ff.; Hanna, Our Lord’s Life on Earth [ed. 1882], pp. 458–467; Bruce, Training of the Twelve5 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 362 ff.; Expositor, 3rd ser. [1889], p. 166 ff.; D. Smith, The Days of His Flesh, p. 436 ff.

David Smith.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Betrayal'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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