As already noted (§ 13.3b), the role of Judas as the one who 'betrayed' Jesus is too deeply rooted in the tradition to be doubted as to its historicity. Whatever the precedents,30 it is hardly likely that they provided a sufficient template on which some tradent with dramatic flair cut the cloth of his imagination to create Judas ex nihilo.31 The embarrassment of Jesus having personally selected Judas and promised him one of the thrones to judge the twelve tribes (Matt. 19.28/Luke 22.30) would surely have created more tension in the Jesus tradition than is evident were the Judas traditions of later contrivance.
But if Judas did 'betray' Jesus, the question Why cannot easily be silenced — or answered. The question has been of endless fascination, just because Christian hindsight regarded the act as so heinous, the very pinnacle of evil, the most unforgivable of all sins.32 But equally others have been drawn to a more
29. See Brown's earlier discussion in John 1.428-30.
30. The story of Ahitophel, David's trusted counsellor who deserted him, is the most obvious example: the story includes David's crossing of the Kidron and ascent of the mount of Olives (2 Sam. 15.23, 30), and Ahitophel's subsequent suicide by hanging (17.23); further detail in Brown, Death 125-26, 643; Davies and Allison, Matthew 3.565-66.
31. Brown concludes that the Ahitophel story probably generated Matthew's account of Judas's suicide by hanging (Death 656-57).
32. 'It would have been better for that man if he had not been born' (Mark 14.21c/ Matt. 26.24c). His death is depicted in Acts 1.18 in the classic terms of the death of an evil man (cf. 2 Sam. 20.10; Wis. 4.19; 2 Mace. 9.9), and he 'went to his own place' (Acts 1.25) —
sympathetic portrayal of the man who, in Christian faith, was an essential pawn (both indispensable and dispensable) in the sacred drama to achieve Christ's atoning death for the sins of the world. Who could not feel for the man elected to be so despised and rejected, the all-time hate figure for subsequent centuries of Christianity?33 The trouble is that we have so little to go on. The Evangelists hint that he did it for greed (Mark 14.11 pars.).34 And John reinforces the suggestion by naming him thief (John 12.6). But otherwise they show little interest in him beyond the fact that he 'handed Jesus over'. And the reports of Judas's death (Matt. 27.3-10/Acts 1.16-20), which gave an opportunity to exculpate Judas in at least some measure, were hardly counted as core tradition, come to us in scarcely reconcilable versions, and scarcely provide sufficient basis for speculation as to his motivation, either for his suicide or his earlier action.36 Judas remains an enigma.
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