JUDAS THE ENIGMA

Some Bible discrepancies keep me guessing.

Did Judas go to heaven or hell?

I notice I am starting to draft this post on August 6.  The day of Hiroshima.  Talk about betrayal.  One part of humankind retaliated with unspeakable barbarity, betraying their own humanity.

What is there to say about the apostle Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus of Nazareth?  The New Testament doesn’t say much about Judas.

One of the most obvious contradictions in the New Testament involves the passages related to the demise of Judas.  In Matthew he hangs himself.  In Acts he falls down, and from the gruesome details, I guess we are supposed to conclude it is fatal.  So which is it?

In Matthew Judas returns his payment to the chief priests and they buy a field.  In Acts, Judas buys a field with that money.  So which is it?

The field has the same name in each but for different reasons.

Compare Matthew 27:3-10 (NIV) and Acts 1:15-19 (NIV) with one click.

The account of Judas’ suicide is inserted in the passage where Jesus is with Pilate and apparently happens right then.  The account of Judas’ fatal fall is inserted just before the selection of his replacement by the remaining apostles, but includes Judas’ prior purchase of a field and therefore the timeframe is indefinite.  Typically people do not make purchases of expensive items like fields without a lengthy period of deliberation.

Does it matter when Judas dies?  Hold on.

Another interesting problem is in 1 Corinthians 15:5-10 (KJV), where the author Paul of Tarsus recounts that Jesus appeared to “the Twelve.”  Is that an error?  Then Paul has Jesus appear to “all the apostles.”  Is that redundant?

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances all took place prior to his ascension (not later than 40 days after his resurrection), with the exception of Paul’s “revelation,” at least that is the tradition.  So how could Jesus appear to twelve apostles – weren’t there only eleven at the time of his ascension?  I’m assuming Judas had either gone off or died.  After the ascension the text has, “Judas left to go where he belongs,” (Acts 1:25 (TNIV)), but we don’t know when he left or where he went.

I suspect that Paul is not limiting Jesus’ appearances to the 40-day timeframe.  Paul has Jesus appear to the reconstituted Twelve, in opposition to Acts which closes the door on appearances just before the new Twelfth (Matthias) has been selected.  Then Paul has Jesus appear to “all the apostles.”  Paul’s message would seem to be that Jesus can appear at anytime and that there are more than just 12 apostles.  This is followed by another of Paul’s self-serving discussions about his self-appointed role as apostle (he calls himself an apostle even though he is not one of the Twelve), and he says that he worked harder than all of them. (1 Corinthians 15:9-11 (TNIV))

But maybe Paul was simply not aware that Acts says the Eleven became Twelve after the ascension.  Thus, “Twelve” is just an error.  It is popular to think that Acts was written after the time of Paul.  On the other hand, maybe Acts is wrong on the timing of when the Eleven became Twelve.

Or maybe there is something really astonishing in all this.  Did Jesus appear to the Twelve?  To the original Twelve?  Did Jesus appear to Judas?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matthew 5:47 (KJV)), meaning, if you greet only your friends, aren’t you just like everyone else?

If Jesus did not return to say a word to Judas then I would be disappointed.

Buddha reportedly could say one word that could turn around someone’s life.  No doubt, Jesus could do this also.

I’m betting that Judas received the word that he needed.

Judas is often presented as a greedy, mixed-up, insensitive person who thought only of money, who betrayed Jesus to get silver coins from the chief priests.  But there is an interesting phrase in Matthew 27:3 (KJV):  Judas was filled with remorse “when he saw that [Jesus] was condemned.”   Wouldn’t condemnation be the expected outcome?  Why remorse?  Now I know I’m not the first one to comment on this, and cannot recall where I got the following about how Judas maybe betrayed Jesus in order to force his hand.  Judas thought that if he got Jesus arrested, then Jesus would react by showing all his power and the kingdom would be established instantly.  When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned and had not performed a miracle to escape, it was a huge shock to him.

Judas had very generously given up his seat in the kingdom in order to force its arrival.  Maybe in this instance, Judas wasn’t greedy.  Just impatient.

Jesus had chosen Judas in the beginning knowing the impatience in his essential being.  Jesus wasn’t going to desert him for being himself.

A mini-puzzle:  In Matthew 26:15, Judas gets shown a payment of thirty silver coins.  In Mark 14:11 and Luke 22:5, he gets told he will get paid (TNIV).  Did he?  The two conflicting purchases of fields indicate yes, but maybe there is another possible ending – unstated.

Another mini-puzzle:  What was the value of the coins?  The text doesn’t indicate.  Could a mere thirty silver coins of any currency actually pay for a field?  Maybe a teeny-tiny field.  Not something I’m going to research right this minute.  Could such a payment be an incentive to betray?  Maybe the amount is not historical and was simply chosen by the author in order to “fulfill scripture.”

Was Paul capable of subtlety?  Could he have hinted that Jesus appeared to his original Twelve, including Judas?  Paul was brilliant enough but did he have the temperament to be subtle?

Could Jesus have actually practiced what he preached and visited Judas?  Seems likely.

If Judas got a greeting, then there’s hope for all of us.

If he didn’t, then the metaphor which is the New Testament would seem to be incomplete.

It suddenly occurred to me that it doesn’t matter whether Jesus appeared to the original Twelve or the reconstituted Twelve, because Paul says also that Jesus appeared to “all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7)  All.  All would include Judas.

Judas did not lose his status as an apostle even while guiding those arresting Jesus, “He that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.” (Luke 22:47 (KJV))  However, the King James Version of Acts 1:25 has This ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”  In the latter quote, the act of betrayal ends his apostleship.  So which is it?  On this one, I think I’ll go with the New International Version (NIV), which does not deprive Judas of his status as apostle because of what he did, but simply indicates his absence, “this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” (Acts 1:25 (NIV))

But what if Judas had already died?  Somehow I don’t think that would be an impediment to Jesus, the one pictured co-existing with the ancestors (chatting with Moses and Elijah in the “Transfiguration”).  (Luke 9:28-36 (TNIV))

I prefer to believe that Judas got the greeting he needed to heal his soul.

Did the New Testament author(s) intentionally lead me on this wild goose chase?  Are the discrepancies deliberate so I can come to realize some important truth?

I don’t know.

I am certainly grateful for the scholarship of the TNIV in this case which lets me see the difference between Matthew 27 and Acts 1 (hanged/or not).  The Catholic Confraternity Edition harmonizes the text so their Acts incorrectly reads “being hanged,” only letting me know in a footnote that the Greek actually says, “‘having fallen forward,’ or perhaps ‘having swollen up.’”  Their footnote hypothesizes that maybe Judas hanged himself as in Matthew 27, and then the rope or branch broke and thus he fell.  It broke???!!!  Maybe the texts are not supposed to be harmonized by the translators!  How did the erroneous word “hanged” happen to creep into the Catholic Acts – by way of the Latin Vulgate?

How does the Catholic Confraternity Edition finesse the problem of “Twelve” in 1 Corinthians 15:5?  They write “Eleven”!  Then they have a footnote, “The correct reading is probably that of most Greek MSS [manuscripts] ‘the Twelve.’  In fact there were only eleven Apostles after the loss of Judas, but ‘the Twelve’ had become the title of the group irrespective of the actual number.”  The title of the group???!!!

I really know I’m onto something when I read these sorts of footnotes.

With translators and copyists working so hard to obscure differences in the New Testament texts over nearly two thousand years, how many mind puzzles can have survived?

The discrepancies (hanged/or not, and twelve/eleven) allow me to decide for myself what is Jesus’ relationship to Judas.  What a wonderful and worthwhile spiritual exercise for me as I ponder my relationship to all that is!

Was Jesus able to minister to Judas who was overcome by sinfulness (delusion that he was in need of money, delusion that he needed to control events, delusion that there was something more important than the Compassion residing within himself).  Could Jesus minister to anyone so afflicted?

The problem in the texts as to when Satan enters Judas is perhaps designed to call our attention to that question.  Compare Luke 22:3 (entering) and both John 13:2 and John 13:27 (prompting and later entering) (TNIV).  There are two discrete entering events.  Is this a conflict?  Or should we assume that this entering can take place any number of times?  If a conflict, is it intentional or an error?  Is John 13:2 (TNIV), with Luke’s entering reformulated as prompting, an ancient editing copyist’s attempt to harmonize the texts?

Could Judas’ alignment with evil hamper Jesus in any way?

Of course not.  Jesus can and does minister to Judas.  The scenes in the Synoptics where Jesus distributes the Holy Bread do not indicate that Judas is excluded, so I assume he is included.  In John, there is no specific blessing of the bread; however, Judas becomes the focal point as Jesus hands him a piece of bread (John 13:26 (TNIV)).  It is with great excitement that I realize that author “John” dramatically recasts the institution of the Eucharist – there is none, except with Judas – a very interesting Eucharistic moment, with Jesus who represents salvation from above giving bread to Judas who represents deluded humankind.  Jesus very willingly accepts him and shares, despite knowing Judas is a traitor.  Jesus also washed Judas’ feet during that meal.  In Mark 14:20 (TNIV), they dip their bread in a bowl together.  Matthew 26:23 is different also – they dip their hands in a bowl together (a finger bowl to wash the fingers?).

Matthew 9:12 (KJV), “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”

Jesus’ interaction with Judas is in stark contrast to today’s hierarchs who busy themselves excommunicating and denying communion bread to those they disagree with.

I wonder if there is some interesting imagery about Judas in the Greek text – I don’t know Greek and so I’m not sure but here goes:  Grosvenor’s Analysis tells me that in the Greek, “repent” in Matthew 27:3 literally means to “change what one has at heart.”  So Judas changes his heart.  Also, I was curious what Judas’ last name means.  Iscariot (Ἰσκαριώτης and other spellings) contains the modern Greek words, Ἰσ = currency and καρ = heart.  So his last name means something like “he-with-his-heart-set-on-currency”?  That’s from clicking around in the Google translator, and I cannot guarantee the ancient Greek meaning is the same as the modern words.  But there might be a nice play on words here with the character’s name in the story reflecting his nature, and his change of heart invoking his heart-name??

Does Judas’ change of heart mean that there is hope for him?  I was momentarily puzzled that there did not seem to be any corresponding “repentance” in Acts 1.  Is there any sign that Judas has overcome, has been renewed, has been saved?  I looked again at Acts 1:25.

Judas left to go where he belongs,” (Acts 1:25 (TNIV)) and “That he might go to his own place.” (Acts 1:25 (KJV))

Where was the place that was his own, where he belonged?  Did he arrive?

Jesus is reported saying, “Trust in me.  I am going to prepare a place for you.  Then I will come back and take you to be with me, and we will be together.” (paraphrase John 14:1-3)  Is Judas entitled to such a place?

The Bible-thumpers would say that Judas went to the deepest pit of fiery hell, thrown there by angry Yahweh-god.

But somehow that does not seem compatible with Jesus washing Judas’ feet and giving him Holy Communion.

I shall lose none of all those entrusted to me.” (adapted from John 6:37-39)

Ah.

Jesus did not betray Judas.

Judas arrived.

Is there anything in the texts that contradicts what I just wrote?

Good were it for that man if he had never been born.” (Mark 14:21 (KJV))

I’ll take that as a question rather than a fact.  The Gospel of Judas (not part of the New Testament) makes Judas into a “good guy,” someone who assists Jesus.  Who knows what role Judas actually played in the mind of his Source, assuming Judas was a real person.

Within the context of the New Testament story, it is the will of the Almighty that Jesus should be killed (Romans 3:25 and 8:32, 1 Corinthians 15:3, Galatians 1:4 (TNIV)).  If Judas was predestined to betray Jesus because of God’s will, isn’t Judas not responsible for his actions and therefore blameless?  Or if Judas had freedom to choose, maybe he should even be rewarded for acting in accordance with God’s will?  But those arguments won’t work, because God does not will suffering.

“He should not have been born”?  Quite the contrary.  Judas’ repentance causes joy in heaven.  “Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:7 (KJV))  That’s assuming he repented (Matthew 27) instead of buying a field (Acts 1).

But isn’t that repentance nullified by Judas’ committing suicide, if indeed that was the path he took?  Isn’t that an automatic ticket to hell?  Well, I can’t be the judge of that.  In any event, he can’t go to hell if there is no such thing.

Unless we want to put conditions and limitation on God’s love, I think we have to conclude that Judas’ arrival at his “own place” is based, not on what he did or didn’t do, but on the simple fact that his journey was over.  He went home.

Well, now I am having second thoughts about all this.  Maybe Jesus did finally reject Judas.  The passage John 13:18 (YLT) would seem at first glance to damn him:  Jesus says, “Not concerning you all do I speak; I have known whom I chose for myself.”  (Greek for “whom” is plural).”  Then continues with a discussion of Judas’ treachery.  Does this mean that Judas is not chosen?

Or is it an assurance that not all are traitors, followed by an assurance that Jesus is still mindful of those he chose?  I flipped through my New Testament to find the passages where apostles were selected.  OK!  Luke 6:13 (TNIV) definitely says Judas was “chosen.”  (I think it is the same Greek verb for the verb to choose in each case, but since I don’t know Greek, I can’t say for sure.)  So when Jesus says he knows those he chose, I’ll assume he does know.

So where did the chosen one end up?

He who is least among you all — he shall be great.” – saying attributed to Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 9:48 (YLT)).

Who is “least”?  Paul says he is the least among the apostles and does not even deserve to be called an apostle.  (1 Corinthians 15:9 (NIV)).  But so much humility must have been too much for him because he later clarifies that to:  “In nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”  (2 Corinthians 12:11 (KJV)).

Who has been more despised than Judas over the many centuries that have passed – his name now synonymous with “traitor.”  Judas must be the least among us.

Who knows how much Wisdom Judas garnered as a result of his unfortunate experiences?

Who knows who is “sitting at the right hand” of He whose name means “God-saves” and She who conceives of him, both enthroned at the right hand of Beingness?

Must be somebody chosen and great.

The Good News of mercy and salvation would seem to be incomplete if Judas is left behind.

Is it possible to sort out the New Testament’s story about Judas?  The story certainly leaves room for many different interpretations and doubts.

Update September 28, 2011:

Well, someone has reminded me of what may be another piece of the puzzle.  So what shall I do, delete this post?  I am tempted.

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”  (John 17:12 (KJV))

So Jesus is losing someone – “the son of perdition.”  My Webster tells me “perdition” can mean damnation and comes from a root meaning “to lose.”  So we get lost son of lost-ness.  Who is it?  Judas?

We might like to jump to the conclusion that it is Judas.

But it is someone not named.  So how can we know who is it?

It is not a woman.

It might be anyone else.

Possibly even someone named Nobody (!)

Quite a puzzle.

I have decided not to despair over this post because there is a clue as to who the son of perdition might be in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (KJV):

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”

This person called the “son of perdition,” who will masquerade as God is a “man.”  The Catholic Bible (CE) theorizes in a footnote that this man is the Anti-Christ (a false prophet).  I’m not sure it can be the same as the Anti-Christ of Revelation as this quote is from 2 Thessalonians, but I can’t rule it out.  The TNIV calls this “son of perdition” the “man of lawlessness” and is silent on who it is.

The son of perdition in 2 Thessalonians is still to come, or is presented as such, and so is not likely to be Judas, a man who died a generation or two before the text was written.  I suspect the son of perdition is rather some contemporary of the writer, an opponent the writer does not like, and so he engages in this name-calling.

Another clue is that John 17:12 says, “that the scripture might be fulfilled.”  I don’t recall anything in scripture that says Judas is the one lost.  Rather, it is the Anti-Christ (false prophet) of Revelation who is predicted to be lost.

Of course, that reference to scripture in John 17:12 might be to a previous “none lost” statement by Jesus where he says that he will lose none of all those entrusted to him (see John 6:37-39)).

Yet another “none lost” statement is in John 18:5-9.  Judas is leading those arresting Jesus.  Jesus asks the soldiers to “let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.” (KJV)  When Jesus says, “let these go,” is he talking about only Peter, James, and John, and the unnamed others who are at his side, or does it include Judas as well?  Judas is right there and in no danger at that moment, but is not immune from later prosecution.  And when the text says this happened to fulfill scripture, does it mean that only those present with Jesus that night and standing with him, perhaps only a small subset of his followers, constitute those “not lost”?  Who knows!

What about the millions and billions in later generations?  Are they included among the “not lost”?  Guess where I am on this issue.

Is Jesus the Savior going to lose the nameless and unknown “son of perdition”?

Don’t bet on it.

The author of 2 Thessalonians is thought by scholars to be a deutero-Paul (forger) despite his ringing proclamation at the end, “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.”  (2 Thessalonians 3:17 TNIV)  So how much credence will I give a forger who apparently has a quarrel with someone he is slandering anonymously?  I must say I don’t get the same sense of fakery from the KJV translation:  “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”  Is the author claiming to be Paul or just saying he/she habitually uses Paul’s greeting?  Still, I suspect this “son of perdition” name-calling is just factions quarreling.

If John pre-dates 2 Thessalonians, John may have been altered later to include mention of that letter’s son of perdition.

Or John could have an entirely different son of perdition.

Is there someone in scripture who would fill the role of “son of perdition” in John, if John’s son of perdition is different from that in 2 Thessalonians?

Yes, there is someone in scripture who is a son of perdition who fits the role neatly:  Lucifer – the personification of evil (Satan) in the Bible.  (I don’t think we are supposed to see this entity as more than just a personification, but many think it is like a second god with power to disrupt God’s work.)

Was Lucifer someone who belonged to Jesus?  And did Jesus lose him?  Certainly, we can get the idea that the Christ is a divine entity existing since before time began, or which exists beyond time.  In the Bible story, Jesus is a personification (incarnation? culmination? example?) of Christ (and we are led to realize we can all function as Christs), and so, yes, Jesus the Christ has lost Lucifer, once one of the angels, who is now in eternal opposition to him.  Lucifer is a “son of God,” just as in Luke, Adam is a “son of God,” created directly.  So it would be correct to call Lucifer a lost son.

I’m in favor of saying John’s “son of perdition” is not Judas, maybe not even a human.

Of course, I’m not sure who it is.  I’m just not convinced Judas was lost.

How could the Gospel of Good News and Hope be filled with hope and be good news if the Savior with the starring role isn’t able to salvage all of his human protégés – each and every one?

 

 

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4 Responses to JUDAS THE ENIGMA

  1. care4earth says:

    You’re right! You probably will meet Judas in Heaven. ‘Iscariot’ might have something to do with carrying a hidden dagger. I expect Judas doesn’t get to take his dagger with him to heaven.

  2. truleeyours says:

    Check out the various translations of Luke 22:21 at Biblegateway-dot-com. No less than the NIV has “But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” With mine!!! Were their hands clasped together?? In order to be close enough to be part of the bread-dipping event, Judas had to be either at Jesus’ side to his immediate left, to his immediate right, or directly across the table from him. OR Judas was the “beloved disciple” leaning on Jesus’ chest?? Perhaps you can remind me why Judas cannot be the “beloved disciple”? Or the “other beloved disciple”? Maybe Luke 22:21 is even more important than Luke’s “Forgive them, they know not what they do” in demonstrating the depth of Jesus’ forgiveness.

  3. truleeyours says:

    Mark 14:22 Jesus gives the consecrated bread to the disciples. It doesn’t say any were excluded. Likewise Matthew and Luke. In Luke 22:21 “But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table” is stated AFTER the consecration. So Judas was present. Whether he received any bread other than dipped bread is unknown. What I was referring to is John 13:26: “So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.” John has Judas leave after taking the dipped bread (13:30), but John does not have a consecration. Most biblegateway-dot-com translations of John 13:30 ADD that Judas left “immediately” or similar. If I read the MOUNCE correctly, the Greek does not have any such immediate timing. Do you think Jesus was unforgiving and gave the consecrated bread to all present except Judas? What is signified by intimately dipping bread with an “enemy”? (NRSV) [Aloysia says, “I hear it may very well mean that there was a custom of placing the dipped bread into the mouth of a beloved guest which would make the giving even more poignant.”]

  4. truleeyours says:

    At that moment when Jesus gave Judas the drippy dipped-bread they were very close together, unless Jesus pitched it across the room to him like a baseball. (That must have been quite a trick to give someone a piece of drippy bread without dripping it on his clothing.) I went back and reread John 13:23 through 13:28, with Judas as the “beloved” leaning back on Jesus. It works so well, you should try it. Also we don’t know when Judas died or how (contradictory passages, compare Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:15-19 (NIV)). Maybe Judas was among those to whom Jesus appeared in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, fulfilling John 21:20-23 re the beloved. I am just thrilled that you alerted me to Luke 22:21 because I hadn’t noticed that verse before. Who else but “the beloved” would be trusted with Jesus’ purse? Who do you think is the beloved and why?

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