THE ROLE OF JUDAS & THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS
About Judas: His name; did he betray Jesus?
Judas Iscariot's first name:
Yeshua of Nazareth became called Jesus Christ, because Jesus is the Greek
spelling for Yeshua, and "Messiah" is the Greek translation of "anointed one."
So too, Judas was not the real name of the disciple who "betrayed" Yeshua. His
actual Hebrew name is Judah, which means "praised." It is Judas in Greek. James Robinson writes "Judah is about as popular a
name as one can find in all of Judaism. Indeed, Judaism itself is named after
Judah! Judah is, after all, the origin of the word Jew." 1
Judah is also the name of one of the original twelve tribes of Israel. When
the kingdom was divided under Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the southern kingdom was called
Judah. Under the Roman occupation, it was named Judaea. Judea remains the name
used by Israel today to refer to the occupied West Bank and other areas.
Judah /Judas was a very popular name in first century CE Judea. There are six
individuals mentioned in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) with this
name. One was a brother of Jesus. The Epistle of Jude was actually written by
man who claims to be Judas, the brother of James. This presumably makes him the brother
of Jesus mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures.
In an attempt to differentiate between the Judah who "betrayed" Jesus
and the Judah who was a brother of Jesus, the translators of the King James Version of the Bible
arbitrarily changed his name, and the name of his epistle, to Jude. Most other
translations have followed suit, apparently feeling that tradition is more
important than accuracy. Of the 30 translations of the New Testament in our
group's library, all but two -- The Authentic New Testament by Hugh J.
Schonfield and the James Moffatt Translation -- refer to Jude and the
Epistle of Jude. The former contains "Open letter to Gentile communities --
Judas" The latter contains "The Epistle of Judas (Jude)." 1
The meaning of "Iscariot:"
There are many theories but no consensus on the meaning of Judas' last name.
It may mean:
||"From Karioth" -- a town in southern Judea, a.k.a. Kerioth.
||"Of the Sicarii." The Sicarrii is a name for Zealot terrorists
and assassins. 3
||"The false one" from the Aramaic ishqaraya.
||"The deliverer" from the Hebrew word sakar.
How has the Christian Church treated Judas?
The Christian Church has been inconsistent in its treatment of individuals
from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):
||Mary Magdelene whom Jesus particularly loved and who had the honor of
being the first person to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid
(according to the Gospel of John). or was among the first group to visit the
tomb (according to the synoptic gospels), has been systematically denigrated
as a prostitute.
||In various passages of the Christian Scriptures, Jesus is recorded as
rejecting his mother and family, referring to Peter as Satan, criticizing
his disciples for their lack of understanding of his message, censuring them
for sleeping while he prayed, etc. Yet, the Christian church has raised all
of them to the level of saints. Mary, Jesus' mother, is held in particular
esteem by the Roman Catholic Church and some other
denominations where she referred to as co-redemptrix,
mediatrix and advocate second only to God in status.
||The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has even rehabilitated Pontius
Pilate by declaring him a saint, even though he was a Pagan who was
responsible for sentencing Jesus to death, for the crucifixion and the
massacre of many Jews. 2
||Numerous passages in the four canonic gospels
describe Judas Iscariot as a betrayer, traitor, devil, thief, and transgressor.
According to the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus said "woe to that
man" who betrayed him. He also said that it would be better if Judas had never
been born. However, Judas has never been rehabilitated
by the Church. He remains a pariah, despised by Christians.
Was Judas a betrayer?
Did Judas truly betray Jesus? There are a number of
||Jesus was unable to foresee Judas' actions.
This theory is inconsistent with a number of passages in the Christian
Scriptures which specifically state that Jesus was aware of Judas' betrayal
from the time that Judas became a disciple. It is also inconsistent with
most Christian groups' concept of the Trinity and of the omniscience of God.
||Jesus knew of Judas' actions in months in
advance but was unable to prevent it. This also conflicts with the idea of
the omniscience and omnipotence of Jesus.
||Jesus knew of Judas' intent to betray him, but
chose to allow him to continue because it would allow the God's plan to come
||Judas and Jesus worked together to make
certain that Jesus would be crucified, in order to facilitate God's design
for humanity. This is the belief of many Gnostic groups and is the theme of
the Gospel of Judas. This conflicts with Jesus' threats of Judas' future
punishment found throughout the gospels.
||Author William Klassen suggests that Judas did not
betray Jesus at all. 5 He suggests that the word "betrayal"
found throughout English versions of the Bible is a mistranslation of the
Greek word "paradidomi." An accurate translation would be "handed
over." Klassen suggests that Judas was only planning to give Jesus over
to the Jewish authorities so that they could evaluate his claims. This
theory cannot account for the word translated as "traitor" in Luke
6:16. The "traitor" could have been a mistake by the author of Luke, or a
||Another possibility is that the story of
Judas' "betrayal" and Jesus' subsequent arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane,
his trial(s), his appearance before Pontius Pilate etc. might be a work of
All of the canonic gospels have a description of an aggravated assault by
Jesus on commercial interests in the Jerusalem temple. This appears in the
Gospel of John at the start of Jesus' ministry, and in the synoptic gospels
near the end. It is extremely unlikely that Jesus could have assaulted so
many people without having been quickly arrested by either the temple guards
or the Roman garrison. An individual who did this near the time of Passover
in Judea during the first century CE -- when
nationalistic feelings were high among the population -- could be expected
to be arrested by the Roman army, given a hearing before a junior officer,
and promptly sent to Golgotha for execution. If this is what really
happened, then there would have been no betrayal by Judas; there might even
have been no Judas at all among Jesus' disciples.
The punishment of Judas:
There are some serious philosophical and
theological concerns regarding Jesus' threats that
Judas would be punished for his actions:
||If Jesus knew of Judas' deception in advance
then Judas has no free will and cannot prevent the betrayal from happening.
Thus he is not morally responsible for his actions. This would be
particularly applicable if Judas was possessed by a demon, as stated in some
of the canonical Gospels.
||If, as most Christian denominations teach, the
death of an innocent man-god, Jesus, was
necessary for the salvation of some humans, then
Judas would be punished for playing a necessary role in the salvation of
humanity. That seems profoundly unjust.
||Jesus only suffered for a few hours while he
hung on the cross. If Judas is sent to Hell for his deception, then he will
suffer punishment for all eternity. Thus, Judas had already suffered much
more than Jesus had by the end of the day of his suicide.
||Luke 23:34 records Jesus' last words as: "Father,
forgive them; for they know not what they do." A case can be made that
this granting of amnesty extended to all involved in his execution,
including the Roman executioners, Pontius Pilate, and Judas. 3
James M. Robinson, "The secrets of Judas: The story of the misunderstood
disciple and his lost Gospel," HarperSanFrancisco, (2006), Pages 33-35.
Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
"Of Black Madonnas and Eunuchs: Ethiopia extends its hands to God,"
Ukrainian Orthodoxy, at:
- Op cit., Robinson, Pages 35 & 36.
"Judas Iscariot," Answers.com, at:
William Klassen, "Judas: Betrayer or friend of Jesus," Fortress Press,
(1996). This is believed to be out of print.
copies may be available from Amazon.com online book store
Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First published: 2006-APR-08
Most recent update: 2006-APR-08
Author: B.A. Robinson