Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
April 30th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Judas

Mexico City hanging of Judas (see Burning of J...

Mexico City hanging of Judas (see Burning of Judas) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve written about Judas before, a while ago. These are more notes, however. I think we give Judas a bum rap. 

Notably, there is the suicide of Judas (in Matthew’s account, at least), which must be — because of the nature of the story in the Gospels and the close parallel to Jesus — examined more closely, even nothing else as a way to measure the literary reception of suicide.[1] Daube does not see in the story of Judas a crime but almost an atonement.[2] Judas kills himself exactly because of remorse and, perhaps, in light of the Mosaic legal requirement found in Numbers 35.33 and Leviticus 24.17.[3] Augustine would disagree with that sentiment,[4] causing something of a disruption in his own theology of suicide and sin.[5] Jerome sees two crimes, with only one (suicide) necessary.[6] What was the remorse for? Several scholars have suggested παραδίδωμι is directly related to the idea of a sacrifice.[7] If this is the case, that Judas is sacrificing Jesus, then we are meant to see the kiss as part of that sacrifice as well.[8] Perhaps this explains Judas’s remorse, that he had sacrificed Jesus — meaning, that Judas’s death is at least in some way connected to a cosmic struggle.

[1] It should be noted that that account in Acts 1.18 of Judas’ self-inflicted death is reminiscent of Razis’ final end. The tradition of Judas’ death is contrary to Paul’s view (1 Corinthians 15.5) and apocryphal sources (The Gospel of Peter). For Papias, Judas did not die immediately but lingered on, eventually succumbing to death because of disease.

[2] The fate of Judas has been preserved in Christian memory via several apocryphal gospels, one of which is the Coptic “Book of the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” a work sometimes paired with the Gospel of Bartholomew. According to Hans-Josef Klauck, the harrowing story, of which Judas figures as one of the three remaining souls in Hades, predates the Gospel of Nicodemus, perhaps even to the second century. This is important given that it was not the suicide of Judas that prevented his escape, but his betrayal. See, Apocryphal Gospels: An Introduction (T&T Clark, 2003), 99.

[3] Daube, “Death as a Release in the Bible,” 88–89.

[4] Augustine, De civ. Dei 1.17.

[5] See Wolfhart Pannenberg, Anthropology in Theological Perspective (T&T Clark, 1985), 153. He writes, “But the reasons he gives—that suicide is a form of murder; that (as in the case of Judas) suicide expresses a despair of divine mercy; and that the suicide allows himself no chance to repent—do not connect suicide with the psychological analysis of sin as egoism and concupiscence.”

[6] Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, 4.27. Jerome sees suicide as necessary to fulfill the biblical commandment against sinning against a fellow believer.

[7] Inhee C. Berg, Irony in the Matthean Passion Narrative, 167–68; H. J. Koch, “Suicides and Suicide Ideation in the Bible: An Empirical Survey,” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 112, no. 3 (2005), 169. Παραδίδωμι was used by Herodotus to suggest a type of atoning sacrifice. “Κῦρος μὲν δοκέων οἱ Δαρεῖον ἐπιβουλεύειν ἔλεγε τάδε· τῷ δὲ ὁ δαίμων προέφαινε ὡς αὐτὸς μὲν τελευτήσειν αὐτοῦ ταύτῃ μέλλοι, ἡ δὲ βασιληίη αὐτοῦ περιχωρέοι ἐς Δαρεῖον. ἀμείβεται δὴ ὦν ὁ Ὑστάσπης τοῖσιδε. «ὦ βασιλεῦ, μὴ εἴη ἀνὴρ Πέρσης γεγονὼς ὅστις τοὶ ἐπιβουλεύσειε, εἰ δ᾽ ἐστί, ἀπόλοιτο ὡς τάχιστα· ὃς ἀντὶ μὲν δούλων ἐποίησας ἐλευθέρους Πέρσας εἶναι, ἀντὶ δὲ ἄρχεσθαι ὑπ᾽ ἄλλων ἄρχειν ἁπάντων. εἰ δέ τις τοὶ ὄψις ἀπαγγέλλει παῖδα τὸν ἐμὸν νεώτερα βουλεύειν περὶ σέο, ἐγώ τοι παραδίδωμι χρᾶσθαι αὐτῷ τοῦτο ὅ τι σὺ βούλεαι.» Ὑστάσπης μὲν τούτοισι ἀμειψάμενος καὶ διαβὰς τὸν Ἀράξεα ἤιε ἐς Πέρσας φυλάξων Κύρῳ τὸν παῖδα Δαρεῖον.” (Histories, I.210.) Closer to Judas’s context, the 3rd aorist passive of παραδίδωμι is used in Greek Isaiah 53.12, διὰ τοῦτο αὐτὸς κληρονομήσει πολλούς, καὶ τῶν ἰσχυρῶν μεριεῖ σκῦλα· ἀνθʼ ὧν παρεδόθη εἰς θάνατον ἡ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀνόμοις ἐλογίσθη, καὶ αὐτὸς ἁμαρτίας πολλῶν ἀνήνεγκεν, καὶ διὰ τὰς ἀνομίας αὐτῶν παρεδόθη.” See 1. Alberdina Houtman et al., eds., The Actuality of Sacrifice: Past and Present, 195, 195.n7). If we take the kiss in light of Hosea 13.2, then we can see the connected between the kiss and the sacrifice.

[8] Compare the kiss between Jesus and Judas to the one by Joseph to Jacob (Friedrich Schwally, Das Leben Nach Dem Tode, 8) and 1 Kings 19.8 where Elijah attempts to find Israelites who had not “kissed” Baal.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

5 Responses to “Judas”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    Regarding sacrifice, here is a classic military scenario.

    Soldiers are on the field of battle or engaged in a training exercise. An armed explosive device — such as grenade — either thrown by an enemy combatant or mishandled by friendly forces lands close enough to them to put all of them within the casualty radius.

    One of the soldiers throws himself (or herself) on the device before it explodes.

    Assuming the soldier is killed in the process: Did he (or she) commit suicide; were they merely a fool; or was their sacrifice consistent with John 15:13?

    • why does it have to be a choice?

      Your question is extremely valid, and it is one I can’t get people to ask.

      • Know More Than I Should says

        The decision is less a choice for the hero than it is a judgment for proverbial Monday morning quarterbacks — and there are always Monday morning quarterbacks! That truly is the American pastime.

  2. Might as well include the Gospel ofJudas. From the horse’s mouth. Or the other end, depending upon your persuasion. Let’s see, Jesus knows everything. Therefore, Judas’s betrayal is known before hand. Thus Judas’s betrayal is a natural requirement of Jesus’ mission. Thus Judas is carrying out Jesus’ mission. Thus Judas is Jesus’s closest disciple. His apparent suicide is a anti-Jewish expression of later proto orthodox Christians. Closest bud, or worst satanic enemy, your choice. If Jesus is all-knowing, how can he trash Judas? Without Judas, Jesus might have become “Life of Brian”. Calvinists have to turn over in their graves.

    • I add this only because I found it funny, after reading a little about Judas’ death in a Ehrman book.
      Your comment “For Papias, Judas did not die immediately but lingered on, eventually succumbing to death because of disease.”…
      After reading about the gruesome disease and death of Judas as written by Papias (which I will refrain from describing),
      “Eusebius…concluded that “Papias was a man of very small intelligence” (Church History, 3, 39, 13).”

      Of note,
      “There’s an even bigger problem with taking Papias at his word when he indicates that Mark’s Gospel is based on an eyewitness report of Peter: virtually everything else that Papias says is widely, and rightly, discounted by scholars as pious imagination rather than historical fact. This is one of those interesting instances in which scholars who want certain comments to be factual accept them as fact, even when there are other comments they are willing and eager to admit are fictitious.”

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