Tuesday, April 11, 2006

That thou doest do quickly

I’ve been reading a few seasonal news stories about the discovery of the Gospel of Judas which supposedly shines shocking new light on the relationship between Judas and Jesus.

Maybe Jesus told Judas to betray him

Ooooh, radical

Reaches for theologian’s hat…


I have a soft spot for Judas and one of these days will do something that rehabilitates him in the public imagination. A tough task but he deserves it.

Without quoting huge chunks of gospels (John 13, Mark 14, Matthew 26, Luke 22 and Corinthians 11 if you're interested) any open-minded reading of the New Testament makes it clear that Judas was explicitly ordered by Jesus to betray him ..

'And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. ...Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.'

'Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me ... Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.'

Spot the 'And after the sop Satan entered into him' line. Verily, methinks this is a later addition.

Judas isn't so pleased about this task but completes it, then hangs himself immediately afterwards. The 30 pieces of silver are irrelevant. He clearly didn't do it for the money.

Even you were to persist in believing that Judas betrayed Jesus of his own accord you're stuck with the problem that Judas clearly had no choice. If he hadn't betrayed Jesus there would have been no crucifixion and no completion of God's plan. I can just see it now, Judas having second thoughts and Christ saying 'ah well, better luck next Passover'. Clearly Jesus had pre knowledge of Judas' betrayal. How far back? As early as when Jesus called Judas to being a disciple?

So, you have one of two scenarios:

  • Judas betrayed his beloved teacher because the teacher instructed him to. He did as he was told and, torn by remorse, killed himself immediately afterwards
  • Judas was predestined to betray Jesus. If he hadn't he would have been acting against God's Earthly plan.

I mention all this because I drew a few conclusions from the Judas story long ago back when I was still at school, a Catholic school

  • It is possible to indoctrinate people such that they can read a line like ‘Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.' and completely fail to register its most obvious meaning. This handy quirk of the human mind has many applications outside of religion
  • It’s very difficult to reconcile the concept of free will with the notion of an all powerful creator
  • The New Testament really might be a document of actual events. If you were going to make it up from scratch you really would make a better job of it.

In retrospect it was probably a good idea that I didn't sit the Religious Studies 'O' Level exam

Theology post ends


Robert said...

The great Argentine writer JL Borges wrote a short story entitled 'Three Versions of Judas' which is fantastic and well worth a read if you are a Judas fan.

Borges' final version suggests that if God is incarnate as man, and that man is necessarily a sinner, then God would sin, and moreover, commit the ultimate sin! The ultimate sin is of course betrayal - the betrayal of the Messiah to boot. Furthermore, the ultimate sin requires the ultimate punishment, damnation! Death for three days (Jesus) is nowhere near as hard-core as eternal damnation (Judas). Judas' damnation is required for our salvation. Judas was the true Son of God.

Stef said...

Thanks for the tip. I shall

/searches for short story section of nearest file sharing network

Wolfie said...

Also what sometimes gets forgotten is that every one of the disciples [being Jewish/converts] would be well aware of the Messianic prophesy right from the start and would be watching each other carefully like wild-west poker-players, wondering who was going to be the one to pull the trigger. A considerable responsibility n'est pas?

Apprentice said...

"He did as he was told and, torn by remorse, killed himself immediately afterwards"

Or did it before someone else got him. Thinking insurgency (horribly overused word I know), civil war, an occupying force. And shame can be a bigger factor than remorse. Or post-hoc rationalisation. That notion crumples lots of buttons these days.

The '30 pieces of silver' thing was played up as a way of rationalising anti-Jewish hatred as far back as Shylock and Dickens. The Nazis didn't invent the hooknosed moneylender, although the James1 bible is full of references to moneylenders in the temple etc etc. Hmm.

I could go on and on. Remind you of anything?

And if Judas is innocent, we can all happily give our undivided attention to hating the infidels for the downfall of the 'human' race, can't we?

Anyt day now there's going to be a massive food scare involving chick pea curry. They've tried it with soya beans, the bastards are all infected, but that didn't involve humans, apart from the white-coated specimens working for Monsanto.

We're witnessing the re-inforced resurrection (ahem) of the Judo/Christian pact against the Moors, piece by piece.


Ellie said...

I haven't really looked at Bible the way you did, perhaps it's the language, or maybe it's just the sheer amount of words that intimidates me. But since I am born into a Catholic family and was baptised as an infant, I always took things for granted. But after watching a program on TV about Holy Grail and stuffs, and your blog entry, I think I should sweep the dust off my Bible and start reading it again.
But sometimes I think, since the Bible is the word of God, shouldn't we just accept it without any questioning? *yes, I know I am ignorant, well, ignorance is bliss, isn't it?*

David said...

The gospel of Bruce:

Twas nice to see you, and to see you twas nice. And verily it was a good game, so good it had to be repeated. But nay, you get nothing for a pair for that be the law. And the word of Bruce was the people should be all right, my loves, and that is the gospel.