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Judas Iscariot (2)

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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i. The NT sources.

ii. Name and Designations:

(a) Judas.

(b) Iscariot.

(c) One of the Twelve.

(d) A thief.

(e) Betrayer or traitor.

(f) A devil.

(g) Son of perdition.

iii. Other NT references to Judas:

(a) Before the Betrayal;

(b) Describing the Betrayal;

(c) After the Betrayal.

iv. The character of Judas:

(a) The good motives theory;

(b) The Satan incarnate theory;

(c) The mingled motives theory; he was (α) covetous, (β) ambitious, (γ) jealous.

v. References to Judas in post-Biblical literature:

(a) Apocryphal works;

(b) Early Christian writings.

(c) Folk-lore.


i. The NT sources.—The basis of any satisfactory solution of the fascinating and perplexing problem of the personality of Judas must be a comprehensive and careful study of the words of Jesus and the records of the Evangelists. Interest in his life and character may have been unduly sacrificed to dogmatic discussions of ‘fix’d fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,’ but the reaction in favour of psychological methods of study may be carried to excess. Conclusions arrived at by the use of these methods are not always consistent with the historical data furnished by the Gospels. In psychological as well as theological investigations, speculation may prove an unsafe guide; at least it should always move in a path made by prolonging the lines laid down in the documents which are the main sources of our information. Theories framed by induction from a critical comparison of the narratives may claim to be attempts to untie the knot, but theories involving excisions from, and conjectural emendations of, the text of the Gospels and Acts are mere cuttings of the knot. A frank acknowledgment that there are difficulties at present inexplicable is preferable to the adoption of such violent methods of removing them. The NT material available for the investigation of the subject in its manifold aspects is found in the following passages:

1. The lists of the Apostles: Mark 3:16 ff., Matthew 10:2 ff., Luke 6:13 ff.

2. Early allusions to Judas: John 6:64 ff; John 12:4 ff; John 17:12, Luke 22:3 (cf. Mark 14:4 f., Matthew 26:8 f.).

3. The narratives of the Betrayal: Mark 14:10 f., Matthew 26:14 ff., Luke 22:4 ff.; John 13:2 ff.; Mark 14:18 ff., Matthew 26:21 ff., Luke 22:21 ff., John 13:21 ff.; Mark 14:43 ff., Matthew 26:47 ff., Luke 22:47 f., John 18:2 ff.

4. The two accounts of the death of Judas: Matthew 27:3 ff., Acts 1:16 ff.

From this classification it will be seen that, with the exception of Luke 22:3, the Synoptists say nothing about Judas before the Betrayal; their account of the Betrayal also differs in many details from that given in the Fourth Gospel. Some divergent traditions it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to harmonize; assumptions that the one is an intentional modification of the other, or that they are contradictory, must be carefully examined; suggestions that they are supplementary, or mutually explanatory, must be fairly considered. Statements in the Fourth Gospel which are said to show John’s bias against Judas will be investigated in due course.

ii. Name and Designations

(a) Judas.—In all the lists of the Twelve this is the name of the Apostle mentioned last. Another Apostle (see preced. art. No. 1) bore this common Jewish name, but ‘Judas’ now means the Betrayer of Jesus. His sin has stamped the word with such evil significance that it has become the class-name of perfidious friends, who are ‘no better than Judases’ (cf. ‘Judas-hole,’ ‘Judas-trap,’ etc.).

Ἰούδας is the Gr. form of the Heb. Judah (יהוּדָה), which in Genesis 29:35 is derived from the verb ‘to praise’ (יָדָה), and is taken as meaning ‘one who is the subject of praise’ (cf. Genesis 49:8). The etymology is disputed, but in its popular sense it suggests a striking paradox, when used of one whose name became a synonym for shame.

(b) Iscariot: the usual surname of Judas. Ἰσκαριώθ, a transliteration from Heb., is the best attested reading in Mark 3:19; Mark 14:10, Luke 6:16; Ἰσκαριώτης, the Graecized form in Matthew 26:14, Luke 22:3, John 6:71; John 13:2; John 13:26; ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης in Matthew 10:4, John 12:4; John 14:22. Eight of these passages refer to Judas; in two (John 6:71; John 13:26) his father Simon is called Iscariot; once (John 14:22) his fellow-Apostle is distinguished from his more famous namesake as ‘not the Iscariot.’ Only in John 13:2 does the full phrase occur—‘Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.’ Nestle thinks that ἁπὸ Καριώτου, a reading of Codex Bezae, found four times in Jn instead of Ἰακαριώτης, is a paraphrastic rendering of Iscariot by the author of the Fourth Gospel. Chase furnishes other evidence for this reading (The Syro-Latin Text of the Gospels, p. 102f.), but argues that it cannot be part of the original text. His conclusion is that an early Syriac translator represented Ἰσκαριώτης by this paraphrase (cf. ExpT [Note: xpT Expository Times.] ix. pp. 189, 240, 283)

Two facts already mentioned have an important bearing on the interpretation of Ἰακαριώτης: (1) the true reading, ‘Simon Iscariot,’ shows that the epithet was equally applicable to the father and the son, and this twofold use of the word suggests that it is a local name; (2) the paraphrase ἀπὸ Καριώτου confirms the view that Judas is named after his place of abode (cf. Zahn, Das Evangelium des Matthäus, p. 393). Cheyne says ‘we should have expected απο κεριωθ,’ yet admits that ‘it is a plausible view’ that Ἰσκαριώτης is derived from Ish-Kerioth (אִישׁ קְרָיוֹח), ‘a man of Kerioth’ (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2624). Dalman (The Words of Jesus, p. 51 f.) thinks that Ἰσκαριώθ was the original reading, and points back to the Hebrew, whilst ὁ ἁπὸ Καριώτου corresponds to the equivalent Aramaic דִּקִרִיוֹת or דְּמִן קְרִיוֹת Hence the surname Iseariot probably means ‘a Kariothite.’

It is impossible to say with certainty where the Kerioth was situate of which Judas was a native. (1) On account of this difficulty, Cheyne conjectures that Ἱεριχωτής, ‘a man of Jericho,’ is the true reading. (2) The majority of scholars incline to the view that Kerioth is the Kerioth-Hezron or Hazor of Joshua 15:25 (Vulgate Carioth); Buhl identifies the place with the modern Karjaten in South Judah (GAP [Note: AP Geographic des alten Palästina.] p. 182). (3) Others suggest the Kerioth mentioned in Amos 2:2, Jeremiah 48:24 (LXX Septuagint Καριώθ),—an important city, either Kir-Moab, or Ar, the capital of Moab. Harper (‘Am. and Hos.,’ Int. Crit. Com. p. 42) says that ‘the reference in the Moabite stone (l. 13) favours Ewald’s view that it is another name for Ar.’ A less probable opinion is that the town referred to is Κορέαι or Kurawa (Josephus BJ i. vi. 5, iv. viii. 1; Ant. xiv. iii. 4) in North Judaea (Buhl, GAP [Note: AP Geographic des alten Palästina.] p. 181). If any one of these towns was the birthplace of Judas, he was not a Galilaean.

(c) ‘One of the Twelve.’—In the Synoptic Gospels this phrase is found only in the narrative of the Betrayal, and it is applied only to Judas. It marks the mingled sorrow and indignation of the Evangelists, that within that select circle there could be a single treacherous heart. The simple formula is once changed by St. Luke (22:3), who adds to his statement that ‘Satan entered into Judas’ these significant words: ‘being of the number of the twelve’—i.e. counted among those whom Jesus called His friends, but about to become an ally of His foes, because in spirit he was ‘none of his’ (cf. Matthew 26:14; Matthew 26:47, Mark 14:10; Mark 14:20; Mark 14:43, Luke 22:3; Luke 22:47). In the Fourth Gospel the phrase is used once of another than Judas; like a note of exclamation, it expresses surprise that Thomas, a member of the Apostolic band, was absent when the risen Saviour appeared to His disciples (John 20:24). But St. John also applies the phrase to Judas, giving it a position in which its tragic and pathetic emphasis cannot be mistaken: ‘You—the twelve, did not I choose? and of you one is a devil. Now he spake of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot; for it was he that was about to betray him—one of the twelve’ (John 6:70-71). St. John’s phrase (εἶς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα) differs slightly from that used by the Synoptists (εἶς τῶν δώδεκα); Westcott suggests that it marks ‘the unity of the body to which the unfaithful member belonged’ (Com. in loc.).

That Judas was ‘one of the twelve’ is an important factor in the problem presented by his history. It implies that Jesus saw in him the material out of which an Apostle might have been made,—the clay out of which a vessel unto honour might have been shaped; it implies that Judas, of free-will, chose to follow Jesus and to continue with Him; and it implies that Judas heard from the Master’s lips words of gracious warning against the peril of his besetting sin. On the other hand, the fact that Judas was ‘one of the twelve’ does not imply that Jesus had the betrayal in view when He chose this Apostle and entrusted him with the common purse; it does not imply that even in that most holy environment Judas was exempted from the working of the spiritual law that such ‘evil things’ as ‘thefts … covetings, … deceit … proceed from within, and defile the man’ (Mark 7:22 f.); and it does not imply that there were no good impulses in the heart of Judas when he became a disciple of Jesus. Of Judas in his darkest hour the words of Lavater are true: he ‘acted like Satan, but like a Satan who had it in him to be an Apostle.’

In Mark 14:10 the best supported reading (אBCLM) is ὁ εἶς τῶν δώδεκα, with a note in (Revised Version margin)—‘Gr. the one of the twelve.’ Wright (Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek, p. 31, cf. p. 147) is of opinion that Mk. distinctly calls Judas ‘the chief of the twelve.’ He takes ὁ εἶς as equal to ὁ πρῶτος, as in τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (Mark 16:2). But the definite article is not found with this phrase in any other passage in the Gospels; moreover, it is almost impossible to believe that when the Gospels were written the assertion that Judas was ‘the chief’ or even primus inter pares had a place in the original text. On the other hand, Field (Notes on the Translation of the NT, in loc.) is scarcely justified in saying ‘ὁ εἶς τῶν δ. can mean nothing but “the first (No. 1) of the twelve,” which is absurd.’* [Note: Swete (Com. in loc.) explains the phrase as a contrast with οἱ λοιπαι, ‘the rest’; Judas was ‘the only one of the twelve’ who turned traitor.] The unique reading may, however, preserve a genuine reminiscence of a time in the earlier ministry of Jesus when Judas, the treasurer of the Apostolic company, had a kind of priority. If this were so, there would come a time when, as Wright suggests, the supporters of Judas would become ‘jealous of the honour bestowed on Peter.’ [Note: There is force in Edersheim’s remark (Life and Times, ii. 536), that ‘viewed in its primary elements (not in its development) Peter’s character was, among the disciples, the likest to that of Judas.’] Jealousy would account not only for the dispute about rival claims to be the greatest, but also for the respective positions of Judas and Peter at the supper-table. The most probable explanation of the details given (Matthew 26:23, John 13:23; John 13:26) is that John was reclining on the right of Jesus; but Judas ‘claimed and obtained the chief seat at the table’ next Jesus, and was reclining on His left, whilst ‘the lowest place was voluntarily taken by Peter, who felt keenly the Lord’s rebuke of this strife for precedence’ (cf. Andrews, The Life of our Lord, p. 485; Edersheim, Life and Times, ii. 493).

(d) ‘A thief.’—The meaning of the statement that ‘Judas was a thief’ (John 12:6) is quite plain, if the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 correctly renders the following sentence: ‘and having the bag, took away (ἐβάσταζεν) what was put therein.’ βαστάζω means (1) to bear, (2) to bear away, as in John 20:15 (cf. ‘cattle-lifting’). Its use in the sense of bearing away secretly or pilfering is established (cf. Field, op. cit. in loc.). In this context the statement that Judas carried the money put into the bag which was in his possession seems singularly tame, if it is not mere repetition. On the other hand, to say that Judas had formed the habit of pilfering is a natural explanation of the assertion that he had been guilty of theft. Weiss (Leben Jesu, ii. 443) thinks that ‘John had found out thefts committed by the greedy Judas’; this does not necessarily imply that the thefts were known to John at the time of Mary’s anointing, for they may have come to light after that act, but before the narrative was shaped in this form.

The rendering of ἐβάσταζεν by the neutral word ‘hare’ is adopted by some, who hold that John’s words do not imply more than that Judas had a thievish disposition. Ainger adopts this interpretation in a finely-wrought study of the character of Judas (The Gospel and Human Life, p. 231). It is true in a sense that ‘he may have been a thief long before he began to steal,’ but this exposition involves the unlikely assumption that the betrayal of Jesus was the ‘first act by which he converted his spirit of greed into actual money profit.’ If Judas had not formed the habit of pilfering, it is more difficult to understand how the thirty pieces of silver could be a real temptation to him.

Cheyne gets rid of the difficulty by assuming that the text is corrupt. In his conjectural emendation the word ‘thief’ has no place; he reads ‘because he was a harsh man, and used to carry the common purse’ (ὅτι χαλετὸς ἦν καὶ τὸ κοινὸν βαλλάντιον ἐβάσταζε). ‘The statement about Judas’ in this hypothetical text is then naïvely said to be ‘worthy of more credit than it has sometimes received from advanced critics’ (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2625).

(e) ‘Betrayer’ or ‘traitor.’—In the list of the Apostles given in Luke 6:16 there is a variation from the phrase by which Judas is usually described. Instead of δς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτόν (‘who also betrayed him,’ lit. ‘delivered him up’) St. Luke has δς ἐγένετο προδότης, well rendered by Field—‘who turned traitor’ (cf. Amer. Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘became a traitor’; Weymouth, ‘proved to be a traitor’). The translation in the Authorized and Revised Versions—‘which was the traitor’—neither brings out the force of γίνομαι, nor the significance of the omission of the article.

The statement that Judas ‘turned traitor’ should be remembered in framing or estimating theories to account for his history; it confirms what has been said on this subject under (c). From this point of view the various phrases used in the Gospels will repay careful discrimination: most frequent is the simple statement of the tragic deed as a historic fact—‘who betrayed him’ (Mark 3:19 παρέδωκεν); but there is also the prophecy, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed’ (Matthew 17:22 μέλλει παραδίδπσθαι), and the statement, when the time was drawing nigh, that the process had already begun, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed’ (Matthew 26:2 παραδίδαται). Similarly, Judas is described as ‘he who would betray him’ (John 6:64 ὁ παραδώσων), ‘he who is betraying me’ (Matthew 26:46 ὁ παραδιδούς), and as ‘he who had betrayed him’ (Matthew 27:3 ὁ παραδούς). In this connexion John 6:64 deserves special attention: ‘Jesus knew from the beginning … who it was that should betray him.’ Needless difficulties are occasioned when ‘from the beginning’ is regarded as referring to any period before the call of Judas; the thought seems to be that Jesus perceived ‘from the beginning’ of His intercourse with Judas the spirit that was in him. Hence the statement is wrongly interpreted in a fatalistic sense. The rendering, ‘Jesus knew who it was that would betray him’ has the advantage of suggesting that Jesus discerned the thoughts and intents of His unfaithful Apostle, and knew that ‘the germ of the traitor-spirit was already in the heart of Judas’ (cf. W. F. Moulton in Schaff’s Popular Commentary, in loc.).* [Note: Our Lord’s words to Pilate, ‘He that delivered me unto thee hath greater sin’ (John 19:11), are sometimes applied to Judas; but the reference is almost certainly to Caiaphas.]

(f) ‘A devil.’—In John 6:70 there is a contrast between the hopes of Jesus when He chose (ἐξελεξάμην) the Twelve, and His present grief over the moral deterioration of one whose nature is now devilish (διάβολός ἐστιν). Our Lord’s spiritual discourse to the multitude brought all who heard it to the parting of the ways; it shattered the hopes of those who were eager to share in the glories of an earthly kingdom. On the inner circle of the Apostles that teaching also cast its searching light; to Jesus, though not to Peter (v. 69), it was plain that Judas was at heart a deserter,—in sympathy with those who ‘went back and walked no more with him.’ What Jesus detected in Judas was ‘a sudden crystallization of evil, diabolic purpose, which made him a very adversary of the one whom he called friend’ (Wright, op. cit. in loc.). But an adversary is not an irreconcilable foe; the assertion taken in its full strength of meaning is a message of conciliation as well as of warning. It involved no lowering of the position of Judas among the Twelve, for his name is not mentioned; and it assuredly involved no relaxing of our Lord’s efforts to scatter with the light of love the gloom which was creeping into the heart of one whom He had chosen ‘to be with him.’ A strained interpretation of the saying underlies the statement that it ‘appears to be inconsistent with the equal confidence in all the disciples shown by Jesus according to the Synoptic tradition’ (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2624). ‘No man,’ says Pressensé, ‘could be more akin to a devil than a perverted apostle’ (Jesus Christ, p. 324).

(g) ‘Son of perdition.’—The Gr. word rendered ‘perdition’ in this phrase (John 17:12) is ἀπώλεια, which signifies the state of being lost. It is the substantive derived from the same root as the main verb of the sentence (ἀπώλετο). The connexion of thought is not easy to reproduce in English. Ainger (op. cit. p. 227) brings out the sense of the passage in a paraphrase: ‘None of them is lost, but he whose very nature it was to be lost—he (that is to say) whose insensibility to the Divine touch, whose irresponsiveness to the heavenly discipline, made it a certainty that he should fall away.’ The apostasy of Judas is traced to the ‘natural gravitation’ of his character. By a well-known Hebraism Judas is described as the ‘son of’ that which stamps his nature; he is of such a character that his proper state is one of loss (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3). The same word (ἀπώλεια) is rendered ‘waste’ in the Synoptic accounts of Mary’s anointing (Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:4). ‘To what purpose is this waste?’ was the expression of indignation of ‘some’ (Mk.) of the disciples; perhaps it was originally the question of Judas, though St. John does not say so. It may well be, however, that he whose audible murmur, ‘Why this loss or waste?’ was echoed by the other disciples is himself described by Jesus as ‘the son of loss’—‘the waster.’

This verse (John 17:12) is often appealed to by rival champions of Calvinism and Arminianism. In Bishop Sanderson’s Works (v. 324 f.) there is a letter to him from H. Hammond, who affirms that ‘here it is expressly said that Judas, though by his apostasy now become the son of perdition, was by God given to Christ.’ But the true reading is, ‘I kept them in thy name which thou hast given me’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), and the thought (cf. John 17:9 ‘those whom thou hast given me’) is rather that ‘they in whom the Father’s object is attained’ are those ‘given’ to the Son; Judas, therefore, was not so given. ‘To suppose that Judas is now brought before us as one originally doomed to perdition, and that his character was but the evolving of his doom, would contradict not only the meaning of the Hebraic expression “son of” (which always takes for granted moral choice), but the whole teaching of this Gospel. In no book of the NT is the idea of will, of choice on the part of man, brought forward so repeatedly and with so great an emphasis’ (W. F. Moulton, op. cit. in loc.).

iii. Other NT References to Judas

(a) Before the Betrayal.—The obscurity which rests upon the early history of Judas accounts to a large extent for the difficulty of estimating his character. But for occasional allusions in the Fourth Gospel, all that is related of him before the Betrayal is that he was one of the chosen Twelve, and that he turned traitor. There is, however, a statement peculiar to St. Luke among the Synoptists, which is obviously intended to furnish an explanation of the act of Betrayal—‘Satan entered into Judas’ (john 22:3). It finds a fitting place in the introduction to the narrative of the Betrayal in the psychological Gospel which so often gives internal reasons; ‘the Gospel of the physician is also the Gospel of the psychologist’ (Alexander, Leading Ideas of the Gospels, p. 107). The same phrase, ‘Satan entered into him’ (εἰσῆλθεν εἰς ἐκεῖνον ὁ Σατανᾶς), is also found in John 13:27, and it is preceded by the statement (John 13:2) that the devil had ‘already put into the heart (ἤδη βεβληκότος εἰς τὴν καρδίαν) of Judas’ the thought of betrayal. It is true, as Cheyne says (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2625), that in Jn. we have ‘a modification of the Synoptic tradition,’ but that is not equivalent to ‘quite a different account.’ So far from asserting that ‘it was at the Last Supper that the hateful idea occurred to Judas,’ St. John prefaces his description of the proceedings at the Supper (δείπνου γινομένου) by the emphatic assertion that ‘already’ (ἤδη), i.e. at some time other than the Supper, the suggestion of the devil had been entertained by Judas. In St. Luke’s brief account it is said, once for all, that ‘Satan entered into Judas.’ In the Fourth Gospel the genesis of the foul purpose is distinguished from its consummation; the Satanic influences were not irresistible; the devil had not full possession of the heart of Judas until, ‘after the sop,’ he acted on the suggestion which had then become his own resolve.

The Fourth Gospel also makes the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:4 f.) a definite stage in the process which is sometimes called the ‘demonizing’ of Judas, but is better described as his ‘giving place to the devil’ (Ephesians 4:27). St. Luke does not mention Mary’s anointing. St. Matthew and St. Mark have full accounts of it, but Judas is not named; yet immediately after the narrative of the Anointing both Mt. and Mk. place Judas’ offer to the chief priests to betray Jesus for money, thus clearly recognizing an intimate connexion between the two events. St. John explains this sequence by adding the significant detail that the murmuring against Mary’s waste of ointment had its origin in the heart of Judas. Our Lord’s defence of Mary’s beautiful deed implied a rebuke to Judas, and unmasked his hypocrisy; moreover, our Lord’s plain references to His coming death involved the disillusionment of His ambitious Apostle. The reproof would rankle; the disappointment would be acute. The angry spirit engendered by such emotions is closely akin to the spirit of treachery and revenge. On insufficient grounds, therefore, Gould speaks of ‘John’s evident attempt to belittle Judas’ (Int. Crit. Com., note on Mark 14:4). No more likely origin of the murmuring, which was not confined to Judas (Mark 14:6, Matthew 26:8), is suggested. On the other hand, there seems to be no reason for belittling St. John; his addition to the Synoptic Gospels justifies their association of Mary’s anointing with Judas’ desertion of Christ; it also furnishes a link between the Anointing of which St. Luke gives no account and his statement ‘Satan entered into Judas,’—that statement is the psychological explanation of the actions of Judas recorded in the narratives of the Anointing and the Last Supper.

(b) Describing the Betrayal.—In the Passion narratives all the Gospels refer to our Lord’s consciousness of His approaching Betrayal; all record His announcement, at the beginning of the Supper, of the presence of the Betrayer; and all mention the consternation and self-questioning of the Apostles to which that statement gave rise (Mark 14:18 ff., Matthew 26:21 ff., Luke 22:21 ff., John 13:21 ff.). There is no reason to suppose (Weiss) that Judas was definitely indicated by our Lord’s words, ‘He that dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me’ (Matthew 26:23). Before the lamb was placed on the table, each guest dipped his own bread into the bitter sauce and ate the sop. The aorist participle (ὁ ἐμβάψας) refers to this act, but does not necessarily fix its time; as thus interpreted, the phrase is in harmony with the vague expression ‘that man,’ used twice in Matthew 26:24, with the passage quoted (John 13:18) from Psalms 41:9 (‘He that eateth my bread’; cf. ‘messmate’), and with the parallel passage in Mark 14:20 where the present participle is used (ὁ ἐμβαπτόμενος). An addition to the Synoptic tradition is found in the Fourth Gospel, which describes Jesus as giving a sop to Judas (Mark 13:26). At Eastern meals this was a mark of special attention (cf. Macmillan, ‘A Mock Sacrament,’ in ExpT [Note: xpT Expository Times.] iii. 107 f.); our Lord’s action would indicate the traitor to the disciple who was ‘leaning back’ on His breast, though it left John, like the rest, in ignorance of the meaning of the words with which Jesus urged Judas to hasten the work he was already doing (Mark 14:27). To the traitor himself the words of Jesus, gradually narrowing in their range and therefore increasing in intensity, were at once a tender appeal and a final warning. St. Matthew alone records the question of Judas, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ and our Lord’s answer, ‘Thou hast said’ (Matthew 26:25). If Judas had the chief seat at the table next to Jesus (cf. above, ii. (c)), the assent conveyed, perhaps in a whisper and certainly not in the ordinary form (cf. Dalman, The Words of Jesus, 308 f.), must have had for him a tragic significance. As Zahn points out (op. cit. in loc.), the prefixed pronoun in σὺ εἷπας heightens the contrast between the questioner and the speaker, and conveys the meaning, ‘What thou hast said, there is no need for me to say.’ St. Matthew does not state that at this juncture Judas left the Supper-table, but the next allusion to Judas (Matthew 26:47) implies an absence of some duration. The probable solution of the much-discussed problem, ‘Did Judas eat the Passover?’ is that, although he ate the sop given to him by Jesus at the beginning of the Supper, he had gone out into the darkness (John 13:30) before Jesus gave the bread and the wine to His disciples. It is true that in Luke 22 the narrative of the Supper precedes our Lord’s announcement of the Betrayer’s presence, but the ‘order’ (Luke 1:3) characteristic of this Gospel does not imply chronological sequence in every detail; Wright (op. cit. p. 132) accounts for the variation from the parallel passages by the suggestion that St. Luke was influenced by the language of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:29.

In their accounts of the actual Betrayal of our Lord the Synoptists state that the kiss of Judas was the prearranged signal for His arrest (Mark 14:45, Matthew 26:49; cf. Luke 22:47). In the Fourth Gospel nothing is said of the kiss, but a graphic account is given of our Lord’s unexpected declaration to His foes that He was the Nazarene for whom they were seeking (John 18:4 f.). The silence of St. John is no proof that the kiss was not given; nor is the fact which he records any evidence that the kiss was superfluous. A sufficient motive for the self-manifestation of Jesus is mentioned: ‘let these go their way’ (John 18:8); such a request is appropriate whether the kiss of Judas be placed before or after the question of Jesus, ‘Whom seek ye?’ If before, our Lord supplemented the Betrayer’s signal owing to the hesitancy of the awestruck soldiers, who shrank from arresting Him. If after, Judas must have been disconcerted by our Lord’s action; the kiss would not be given until later, when, as his courage returned, he did not scruple to kiss his Master with the unnecessary demonstration of a feigned affection (κατεφίλησεν, Mark 14:45, Matthew 26:49). Our Lord’s discernment of the evil purpose underlying this emotional display is indicated by His question, ‘Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?’ (Luke 22:48). In Matthew 26:50 Jesus is reported to have also said ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), ‘Friend, do that for which thou art come’ (cf. Authorized Version ‘Friend, wherefore art thou come?’).

Bruce (Expos. Gr. Test. in loc.) takes the lacooic phrase ἐφʼ ὅ πάρει as a ‘question in effect, though not in form; its probable meaning is ‘Comrade, and as a comrade here?’ (cf. Bengel, in loc. ‘Hoccine illud est cujus causa ades?’). Blass unnecessarily (cf. Matthew 22:12) changes ἐταῖρε into αἶρε, which yields the meaning ‘take away that for which thou art come,’ or ‘art here,’ according as ταρει is taken from ταριέναι or ταρεῖναι. Cheyne (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2626) conjectures that the true reading is ὑποκρίνει, ‘thou actest a part,’ or ‘thou art no friend of mine’; ἑταῖρε is got rid of as a dittograph.

(c) After the Betrayal.—In three of the Gospels (Mk., Lk., Jn.) there is no mention of the Betrayer after the arrest of Jesus; but Matthew 27:3 ff. relates the after-history and fate of Judas as the fulfilment of prophecy. The ascription to Jeremiah of Zechariah 11:13 is probably due to a failure of memory; the passage is freely quoted, and may include reminiscences of the language of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 18:2ff; Jeremiah 19:1ff; Jeremiah 32:6 ff.). The absence of Ἱερεμίου from some of the Old Lat. and ancient Syriac VSS [Note: SS Versions.] shows that the name was a stumbling-block to early translators of the NT. Zahn (Gesch. des NT Kanons, ii. 696) says that the Nazarenes had a Hebrew MS ascribed to Jeremiah, in which the passage is found verbatim,—‘manifestly an Apocryphon invented to save the honour of Matthew.’ The variations from the Heb. and LXX Septuagint are not consistent with the theory that the Evangelist’s narrative is a legend evolved from the passage in Zechariah; they are explicable on the supposition that the facts suggested the prophecy. J. H. Bernard (Expositor, 6th series, ix. 422 ff.) shows that St. Matthew’s account must be based upon ‘a tradition independent of the prophecy cited.’ The ‘salient features’ of this tradition are thus summarized—(a) Judas, stricken by remorse, returned the money paid him; (b) he hanged himself in despair; (c) the priests with the money bought a field called the “Potter’s Field,” which was henceforth called Ἀγρὸς Αἴματος; (d) the field was used as a cemetery for foreigners.’ The point of connexion between the fact and the prophecy is the exact correspondence between the amount paid for the prophet’s hire and for the prophet of Nazareth’s betrayal. In both cases the paltry sum was the expression of the nation’s ingratitude; the thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32). Meditating on the details of the Betrayal, the Evangelist called to mind the experience of Zechariah, and saw in it the foreshadowing of the treatment of Jesus in which the sin of a thankless people reached its climax.

In Acts 1:18-19 a different account of the death of Judas is given. Plummer regards the tradition preserved in the Gospel as ‘nearer in time to the event, and probably nearer to the truth’ (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ii. 798a). Bartlet holds that the Lukan tradition ‘represents the actual facts most nearly’ (‘Acts’ in Cent. Bible, Note A). The chief argument for the latter view is a saying of Papias which resembles the statement in Acts, though it adds repulsive details (Cramer, Catena on Mt.). Dr. Rendel Harris, AJTh [Note: JTh American Journal of Theology.] iv. 490 ff., thinks that the Papias tradition is ‘the fountainhead of the Judas legends, to which fountainhead Luke lies nearer than Matthew.’ The difficulties involved in this supposition are, (1) that it treats the account in Matthew as ‘a mere substitution’; (2) that it involves the conjecture of an original reading in Acts, ‘he swelled up and burst asunder.’ It is more probable that the Papias story contains later additions from folk-lore than that the present text of Acts omits essential details. Dr. Harris points out striking coincidences between the Judas narratives and the accounts of the death of Nadan, the traitorous nephew of Ahikar, Sennacherib’s grand vizier; but the parallel does not prove that the Ahikar stories are ‘the literary parent’ of the Judas stories. Knowling (Expos. Gr. Test. in loc.) rightly says: ‘Whatever may be alleged as to the growth of popular fancy and tradition in the later account in Acts of the death of Judas, it cannot be said to contrast unfavourably with the details given by Papias, Fragment 18, which Blass describes as “insulsissima et fœdissima.” ’ See, further, Akeldama.

iv. The Character of Judas

(a) The good motives theory.—Many have attempted to explain the action of Judas as arising not from treachery and avarice, but from an honest endeavour to arouse Jesus to action and to hasten His Messianic triumph. Modern writers reproduce, with slight modifications, the theory to which the charm of De Quincey’s literary style has imparted a fascination out of all proportion to its probability (Works, vi. 21 ff.; cf. Whately, Essays on Dangers to the Christian Faith, Discourse iii.). The theory assumes (1) that Jesus, like Hamlet, was ‘sublimely over-gifted for purposes of speculation, … but not correspondingly endowed for the business of action’; (2) that Judas was alive to the danger resulting from this morbid feature in the temperament of Jesus, and acted not from perfidy, but with a genuine conviction that if Christ’s kingdom was to be set up on earth, He ‘must be compromised before doubts could have time to form.’ This theory implies that the judgment of Judas was at fault, but that he had no evil intent; it finds no support in the Gospel history, and it is inconsistent with our Lord’s stern words of condemnation.

(b) The Satan incarnate theory.—Dante (Inferno, xxxiv. 62) places Judas in the Giudecca, the lowest circle of the frozen deep of Hell, accounting him a sharer in the sin of Satan, inasmuch as his treachery was aggravated by ingratitude towards his benefactor. A similar tendency to set Judas apart as the arch-villain is manifest in works which reflect the popular imagination. Critics of the Ober-Ammergau Passion-play complain that the Betrayer is represented as a low, cunning rascal, and is often made to look ridiculous. But the comic personifications of Judas, as of Satan himself, in folk-lore are really tokens of popular abhorrence (cf. Büttner, Judas Ischarioth, p. 11 f.); they are the result of regarding him as an incarnation of Satanic wickedness. Daub, in the Introduction to a speculative work on the relation of good to evil (Judas Ischarioth, oder Betrachtungen uber das Böse im Verhältniss zum Guten), conceives Judas as the Satanic kingdom personified in contrast with Jesus who is the Divine kingdom personified; Judas is ‘an incarnation of the devil.’ Dr. Fairbairn, who gives (Studies in the Life of Christ, p. 264 f.) a succinct summary of Daub’s ‘gruesome book,’ truly says that he is ‘unjust to Judas, sacrificing his historical and moral significance to a speculative theory.’ The practical effect of such exaggerations of the innate vice of Judas is to place him outside the pale of humanity; but they are as untrue to the Evangelists’ delineation of his character as are the attempts to explain away his sin. The same objection may be urged against theories which portray Judas as a mere compound of malice and greed, uninfluenced by any high impulse or noble ambition. In the Gospels he appears as a man ‘of like nature with ourselves’; he was both tempted of the devil and ‘drawn away by his own lust’; Satan approached his soul along avenues by which he draws near to us; he was not ‘twofold more a son of hell’ than ourselves (Matthew 23:15); he went to ‘his own place’ in the ‘outer darkness,’ because he turned away from the ‘light of life’; the darkness ‘blinded his eyes’ because he would not abide in the light, though ‘the true light’ was shining upon him (cf. 1 John 2:8 ff.).

(c) The mingled motives theory.—The key to the complex problem of the character of Judas is not to be found in a single word. The desire to simplify his motives has led, on the one hand, to an attempt to exonerate him from guilt; and, on the other hand, to a description of him as the devil incarnate. The truth lies between the two extremes; in Judas, possibilities of good were unrealized because he ‘gave place to the devil.’ It is a mistake to set one motive over against another, as though a man of covetous disposition may not also be ambitious, and as though an ambitious man may not also be jealous. The references to Judas in the Gospels, to which attention has already been called in this article, furnish reasons, it is believed, for saying that Judas was swayed by all three motives, one being sometimes more prominent than another, and the one reacting upon the other. It may well be that ambition would, for a time, restrain covetousness, and yet revive it in the hour of disappointment; whilst, in turn, jealousy would embitter, and covetousness would degrade ambition.

(α) Violence is done to the statements of the Evangelists when covetousness is eliminated from the motives which influenced Judas. His covetous disposition is not incompatible either with the fact that he was a disciple of Jesus of his own free will, or with his position of trust, or with his remorse at the consequences of his perfidy. (1) The call of Jesus would arouse ‘a new affection,’ powerful enough to expel for a time all selfish greed, even though Judas, like the rest of the disciples, cherished the hope of attaining to honour in the Messianic kingdom. (2) His appointment by Jesus to a position of trust scarcely ‘proves that he was no lover of money’ (Fairbairn, op. cit. p. 266); to entrust a man possessing more than ordinary business gifts with the common cash-box is to provide him with an opportunity of honourable service which may become the occasion of his downfall; it was along the line of his capacity to handle moneys that the temptation came to Judas to handle them to his own gain. (3) The objection that the remorse of Judas discredits the idea of his being actuated by greed of money has force only when covetousness is regarded as the sole motive of the betrayal. What we know of the conduct of Judas towards the close of his career suggests that covetousness—the sin against which Jesus had so earnestly warned His disciples—was once more gaining the upper hand.

(β) To say that Judas was ambitious is not to differentiate him from his fellow-Apostles. The contrast between him and them was gradually brought to light as together they listened to the spiritual teaching of Jesus; that contrast is definitely marked by St. John when he first mentions Judas (6:71). It was a time of crisis; the Apostles had been severely tested (1) by the refusal of Jesus to accept the homage of the Galilaean crowd, who had been impressed by His recent miracles and desired perforce to make Him king; (2) by the searching question, ‘Would ye also go away?’ (v. 67) put by Jesus to the Twelve, when Master and disciples were alike saddened by the desertion of the many. St. Peter thought he was speaking for all the Twelve when he made his confession of faith; but within that select circle there was one who had not found in Christ all that he was seeking. Jesus saw that already in spirit Judas was a deserter, and, as Westcott points out, a man who regards Christ ‘in the light of his own selfish views’ is ‘turning good into evil’ (διαβάλλειν), and is, therefore, a partaker of ‘that which is essential to the devil’s nature’ (Speaker’s Com. in loc.). It was in the light of the Betrayal that St. John came not only to recognize in Judas the disloyal Apostle to whom Christ referred without mentioning his name, but also to perceive the significance of the words of Jesus, ‘One of you is a devil’ (6:70). The whole incident shows that the words and actions of Jesus had proved a disillusionment to Judas; when he joined the disciples of Christ, he hoped for more than ‘words of eternal life’; baffled ambition was one of the motives which prompted him to do the devil’s work of betrayal.

(γ) Reasons for believing that jealousy was one of the motives which led Judas to turn traitor have been given above (cf. ii. (e)). An ambitious man is peculiarly susceptible to this temptation. It would embitter Judas to realize that he was in a false position owing to his misconception of the aims of Christ, that his chances of advancement in the coming kingdom were dwindling, and that some of the least of his brethren would be greater than he. In proportion as others gained a higher place than himself in the esteem of Christ, the expectations he had been cherishing would fade. ‘Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmation’ of their fears. Fuller knowledge of the life of Judas would probably enable us to see this sin in germ. It may also be, as Ainger suggests (op. cit. p. 234), that the Evangelists are silent because ‘there was so little to tell.’ Judas is described as ‘a sullen and silent person … dwelling ever on himself—how he should profit if the cause were victorious, how he might suffer if the cause should fail.’ Such a man would be prone to jealousy and ‘fit for treasons.’

Whether covetousness, ambition, or jealousy was the basal motive of Judas when he betrayed Jesus, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to say. It is probable that the flame of resentment, kindled by baffled ambition, was fanned by malign jealousy and base desire to snatch at paltry gain when all seemed lost. That the thirty pieces of silver tormented Judas does not prove that they had never attracted him; that he keenly suffered from the pangs of remorse makes neither his evil deed nor his evil motives good. All that we are warranted in saying is well expressed by Bruce (The Training of the Twelve, p. 367): ‘He was bad enough to do the deed of infamy, and good enough to be unable to bear the burden of its guilt. Woe to such a man! Better for him, indeed, that he had never been born!’

v. References to Judas in post-Biblical Literature

(a) Apocryphal works.—In the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles Judas Iscariot is mentioned (§ 2). In the Arabic Gospel of the Childhood (§ 35) Judas is represented as possessed by Satan at the birth of Jesus; he tried to bite Jesus, but could not; he did, however, strike Jesus, and immediately Satan went forth from him in the shape of a mad dog. In the Gospel of Judas (Iren. adv. Haer. i. 31; cf. Epiph. xxxviii. 1. 3) the Cainites—an important Gnostic sect—are said to have declared ‘that Judas the traitor … knowing the truth as no others did, alone accomplished the mystery of the betrayal.’ In the Acts of Peter (§ 8), Peter speaks of Judas as his ‘fellow-disciple and fellow-apostle’; he also refers to his ‘godless act of betrayal.’ In the Acts of Thomas (§ 32) the dragon or serpent says, ‘I am he who inflamed and bribed Judas to deliver the Messiah to death.’ Later (§ 84), there is a warning against ‘theft, which enticed Judas Iscariot and caused him to hang himself.’ The account of the death of the serpent (§ 32) probably contains reminiscences of the story of the death of Judas; after sucking the poison the serpent ‘began to swell,’ and ultimately ‘burst.’ Dr. Rendel Harris (op. cit. p. 508) quotes from Solomon of Bassora, The Book of the Bce, the interesting comparison: 

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Judas Iscariot (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​j/judas-iscariot-2.html. 1906-1918.
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