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Everyone Wants to Save Judas, But He's Dead

Scholars have been trying to save Judas, but Judas is already dead. The real question is why? Why have they been trying to revive this infamous villain? Because Judas is an unfortunate Son worth a fortune. (Do you hear Creedance Clearwater Revival playing?) Judas was worth cash money in the first century because he could betray Jesus. And he is worth dough now. Save Judas’ reputation and you are famous—you get media hype and you sell books. But the sleazsters didn’t think it through; they were wrong. Scholars wrong? You betcha.

 

Here’s what went down. Back in 2006, the Gospel of Judas publicly surfaced after being locked in a safe deposit box since 2000. The box and manuscript was owned by Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos. Before Tchacos bought it, it went through the hands of several antiquities dealers, after it was found in a cavern sometime around 1970. As soon as scholars found out about it, everybody and their mother jumped on the band wagon. How could this thing not be a get-rich-quick ticket? The National Geographic Society, funded by over a million bucks from the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, got on board. They grabbed Mr. Controversy, Bart Ehrman, and several real Coptic scholars (Erhman isn’t one of them, by the way) and pumped a translation with accompanying essays out right away. Everyone knew their work was produced way too fast to be good scholarship, but National Geographic did a good job of keeping that hush-hush.

Then an amazing back lash from nearly every major early Christian scholar was felt around the globe. The swiftest and harshest critique came from N.T. (Tom) Wright. Ehrman and his buddies fought for a bit, but they couldn't get around the fact that first century Jesus would not have had third century flavored conversations. The Gospel of Judas was clearly written much later and did not reflect the historical Jesus or the historical Judas.

But there's more. Ehrman and his buddies had to cower down in their holes after nearly every Coptic scholar condemned not just their interpretations and conclusions, but their translation. At the risk of National Geographic sacrificing their reputation, they were forced to produce a new translation (the link above is to the new translation, by the way—it's hard to get your hands on the original these days). Why? Because their old one sucked—it was flat out wrong in way too many places. The New Yorker’s August 3rd article by Joan Acocella points this out:

When Jesus, in the gospel, tells the disciples that no mortal, or almost none, will be saved, one assumes that Judas will be an exception, and that’s what National Geographic’s translators said in the first English edition. But then a number of other scholars took a look at the Coptic text and objected that this was a misreading. The translators must have seen their point, because in the second edition of their version, published last year, the line has been changed—to mean the opposite. Jesus now says to Judas, “You will not ascend on high” to join those in Heaven. In other passages, too, the second edition tells a widely different story from the first.

I looked into this and The New Yorker is correct. To be honest, it makes me a chuckle a bit. Not because I have an axe to grind, but because scholars who do sloppy work, claiming it destroys basic beliefs of Christianity, deserve to be smacked around.

I bet the Misquoting Jesus guy and his pals (Kasser, Meyer and Wurst) are regretting their decision now. Maybe they feel a bit like Judas and are wishing they could give the money back.

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will be paid if you purchase something through them. Nonetheless, if you wish to research this topic, these are some of the titles I think you should consider purchasing (with my critiques in mind, of course). 

Comments

John, I love the way you combine a scholarly approach and a wymsical spirit. Great post!

Thanks Mark. Very kind of you.

--John

John,

Excellent post! For a scholar, you've got a great sense of humor! Nice to have you back.

Thanks Stan. It's good to be back.

--John

If Judas identified Jesus to the soldiers at Gethsemane and thereby set in motion the events that were necessary to save the world from sin, why is he remembered so foully? Without Judas, no crucifixion; no crucifixion, no resurrection; no resurrection, no redemption; no redemption, no Christianity, and therefore no churches for all the people who have spat on his memory over the last 2000 years. This is enormously hypocritical.

Michael,

I think you are taking things too far to call it hypocritical. Think about what the gospels say about Judas. They surely don't see him as an actor in divine providence. Or even a necessary part in the cause and effect chain. It was going to happen either way, whether Judas was involved or not (Matt 26:24, 45). It was his choice to go down in infamy. He is not the hero here. Let’s look to Matthew’s gospel as an example:

Matt 10:4 "Judas Iscariot, who handed over [Jesus]."

Matt 26:14 "Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests [Note: They are Jesus’ enemies in the gospel] and said, 'What will you give me if I deliver [Jesus] over to you?' And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to hand over [Jesus]."

Matt 26:25 "Judas, who would hand him over, answered, 'Is it I, Rabbi?' [Note: Judas calls him Rabbi (which means teacher) not Lord, like the other disciples. There is a whole host of other reasons why this scene in a Jewish context also shows that he is full of disrespect and ultimately treason – including his manners at the table (dipping his hand in the dish before Jesus).]

If Judas really thought he was doing the right thing by Jesus, would these verbs surround his actions against Jesus?: paid, handed over, and give (for his own benefit). How about the nouns: silver (what he is paid) and Rabbi (what he calls Jesus).

And then look at the end of the story:

Matt 26:47 “While [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.” [Note who surrounds him here. Who is Judas affiliated with? The “one of the twelve” line is for contrast. He was "one of the twelve," but now he has allies himself with the chief priests and the elders (Jesus' enemies). He allies himself with those who have swords and clubs. Does a non-violent teacher need to be brought in with swords and clubs? And who brings him? One of his own. If that is not betrayal, what is?]

Matt 27:3-4 “Then when Judas, his betrayer (literally his hander-over) saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’” [So, Judas tries to redeem himself, but it’s too late. You know the end of the story: Judas hangs himself out of guilt. If he didn’t think he had betrayed Jesus, why does he try to give back the money and then kill himself? He feels horrible remorse. I feel for the guy—this is a sad and traumatic event. But it was his choice to betray Jesus, and his choice to not seek forgiveness from God. Even the chief priests and elders recognize the money as blood money (27:6) and they buy a field with it to bury strangers. (They are the hypocrites here, not Christians who are calling Judas' actions like it is. If we don't call it like it is, we won't learn from the story. So I think we need to proceed with caution.) ]

Just because Judas set the events in motion, doesn't mean he is innocent. He still handed Jesus over for cash money. There is no evidence to suggest Judas was thinking, "Well, this is the will of God. If I get him killed, he will be resurrected."

It is easy for us to see how the events unfolded in retrospect, and perhaps call it providence (though that is even a stretch in my book), but it is very difficult to place those exact thoughts in Judas' head, based on the actual evidence in the gospels. And the Gospel of Judas doesn’t provide us any evidence to read the story another way either, which is the point of my original post.

--John

We all need to pitch in and buy Michael a "Judas is My Homeboy" T-shirt!

:-)

http://www.zazzle.com/judas_is_my_homeboy_tshirt-235071777323354651

Who's in?

Nowhere is it ever written that Judas is dead. In the Book of Acts we hear that "he has gone to his own place," a phrase that in no way indicates he is dead.

Judas Iscariot had not imagined that the religious leaders would kill Jesus. When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse. He regretted what he had done and wanted to undo it. So he returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. - payday cash advance

This is interesting. I wonder how will they save Judas and what are their reasons for this. - Incredible Discoveries

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.