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
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