i.The NT sources.
ii.Name and Designations:
(c)One of the Twelve.
(e)Betrayer or traitor.
(g)Son of perdition.
iii.Other NT references to Judas:
(a)Before the Betrayal;
(b)Describing the Betrayal;
(c)After the Betrayal.
iv.The character of Judas:
(a)The good motives theory;
(b)The Satan incarnate theory;
(c)The mingled motives theory; he was (α) covetous, (β) ambitious, (γ) jealous.
v.References to Judas in post-Biblical literature:
(b)Early Christian writings.
i. The NT sources.—The basis of any satisfactory solution of the fascinating and perplexing problem of the personality of Judas must be a comprehensive and careful study of the words of Jesus and the records of the Evangelists. Interest in his life and character may have been unduly sacrificed to dogmatic discussions of ‘fix’d fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,’ but the reaction in favour of psychological methods of study may be carried to excess. Conclusions arrived at by the use of these methods are not always consistent with the historical data furnished by the Gospels. In psychological as well as theological investigations, speculation may prove an unsafe guide; at least it should always move in a path made by prolonging the lines laid down in the documents which are the main sources of our information. Theories framed by induction from a critical comparison of the narratives may claim to be attempts to untie the knot, but theories involving excisions from, and conjectural emendations of, the text of the Gospels and Acts are mere cuttings of the knot. A frank acknowledgment that there are difficulties at present inexplicable is preferable to the adoption of such violent methods of removing them. The NT material available for the investigation of the subject in its manifold aspects is found in the following passages:
1. The lists of the Apostles: Mark 3:16
ff., Matthew 10:2
ff., Luke 6:13
2. Early allusions to Judas: John 6:64
ff; John 12:4
ff; John 17:12, Luke 22:3
(cf. Mark 14:4
f., Matthew 26:8
3. The narratives of the Betrayal: Mark 14:10
f., Matthew 26:14
ff., Luke 22:4
ff.; John 13:2
ff.; Mark 14:18
ff., Matthew 26:21
ff., Luke 22:21
ff., John 13:21
ff.; Mark 14:43
ff., Matthew 26:47
ff., Luke 22:47
f., John 18:2
4. The two accounts of the death of Judas: Matthew 27:3
ff., Acts 1:16
From this classification it will be seen that, with the exception of Luke 22:3,
the Synoptists say nothing about Judas before the Betrayal; their account of the Betrayal also differs in many details from that given in the Fourth Gospel. Some divergent traditions it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to harmonize; assumptions that the one is an intentional modification of the other, or that they are contradictory, must be carefully examined; suggestions that they are supplementary, or mutually explanatory, must be fairly considered. Statements in the Fourth Gospel which are said to show John’s bias against Judas will be investigated in due course.
ii. Name and Designations
(a) Judas.—In all the lists of the Twelve this is the name of the Apostle mentioned last. Another Apostle (see preced. art. No. 1) bore this common Jewish name, but ‘Judas’ now means the Betrayer of Jesus. His sin has stamped the word with such evil significance that it has become the class-name of perfidious friends, who are ‘no better than Judases’ (cf. ‘Judas-hole,’ ‘Judas-trap,’ etc.).
Ἰούδας is the Gr. form of the Heb. Judah (יהוּדָה), which in Genesis 29:35
is derived from the verb ‘to praise’ (יָדָה), and is taken as meaning ‘one who is the subject of praise’ (cf. Genesis 49:8
). The etymology is disputed, but in its popular sense it suggests a striking paradox, when used of one whose name became a synonym for shame.
(b) Iscariot: the usual surname of Judas. Ἰσκαριώθ, a transliteration from Heb., is the best attested reading in Mark 3:19
; Mark 14:10, Luke 6:16
; Ἰσκαριώτης, the Graecized form in Matthew 26:14, Luke 22:3, John 6:71
; John 13:2
; John 13:26
; ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης in Matthew 10:4, John 12:4
; John 14:22
. Eight of these passages refer to Judas; in two (John 6:71
; John 13:26
) his father Simon is called Iscariot; once (John 14:22
) his fellow-Apostle is distinguished from his more famous namesake as ‘not the Iscariot.’ Only in John 13:2
does the full phrase occur—‘Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.’ Nestle thinks that ἁπὸ Καριώτου, a reading of Codex Bezae, found four times in Jn instead of Ἰακαριώτης, is a paraphrastic rendering of Iscariot by the author of the Fourth Gospel. Chase furnishes other evidence for this reading (The Syro-Latin Text of the Gospels, p. 102f.), but argues that it cannot be part of the original text. His conclusion is that an early Syriac translator represented Ἰσκαριώτης by this paraphrase (cf. ExpT
ix. pp. 189, 240, 283)
Two facts already mentioned have an important bearing on the interpretation of Ἰακαριώτης: (1) the true reading, ‘Simon Iscariot,’ shows that the epithet was equally applicable to the father and the son, and this twofold use of the word suggests that it is a local name; (2) the paraphrase ἀπὸ Καριώτου confirms the view that Judas is named after his place of abode (cf. Zahn, Das Evangelium des Matthäus, p. 393). Cheyne says ‘we should have expected απο κεριωθ,’ yet admits that ‘it is a plausible view’ that Ἰσκαριώτης is derived from Ish-Kerioth (אִישׁ קְרָיוֹח), ‘a man of Kerioth’ (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2624). Dalman (The Words of Jesus, p. 51 f.) thinks that Ἰσκαριώθ was the original reading, and points back to the Hebrew, whilst ὁ ἁπὸ Καριώτου corresponds to the equivalent Aramaic דִּקִרִיוֹת or דְּמִן קְרִיוֹת Hence the surname Iseariot probably means ‘a Kariothite.’
It is impossible to say with certainty where the Kerioth was situate of which Judas was a native. (1) On account of this difficulty, Cheyne conjectures that Ἱεριχωτής, ‘a man of Jericho,’ is the true reading. (2) The majority of scholars incline to the view that Kerioth is the Kerioth-Hezron or Hazor of Joshua 15:25
(Vulgate Carioth); Buhl identifies the place with the modern Karjaten in South Judah (GAP
p. 182). (3) Others suggest the Kerioth mentioned in Amos 2:2, Jeremiah 48:24
(LXX Septuagint Καριώθ),—an important city, either Kir-Moab, or Ar, the capital of Moab. Harper (‘Am. and Hos.,’ Int. Crit. Com. p. 42) says that ‘the reference in the Moabite stone (l. 13) favours Ewald’s view that it is another name for Ar.’ A less probable opinion is that the town referred to is Κορέαι or Kurawa (Josephus BJ i. vi. 5, iv. viii. 1; Ant. xiv. iii. 4) in North Judaea (Buhl, GAP
p. 181). If any one of these towns was the birthplace of Judas, he was not a Galilaean.
(c) ‘One of the Twelve.’—In the Synoptic Gospels this phrase is found only in the narrative of the Betrayal, and it is applied only to Judas. It marks the mingled sorrow and indignation of the Evangelists, that within that select circle there could be a single treacherous heart. The simple formula is once changed by St. Luke (22:3), who adds to his statement that ‘Satan entered into Judas’ these significant words: ‘being of the number of the twelve’—i.e. counted among those whom Jesus called His friends, but about to become an ally of His foes, because in spirit he was ‘none of his’ (cf. Matthew 26:14
; Matthew 26:47, Mark 14:10
; Mark 14:20
; Mark 14:43, Luke 22:3
; Luke 22:47
). In the Fourth Gospel the phrase is used once of another than Judas; like a note of exclamation, it expresses surprise that Thomas, a member of the Apostolic band, was absent when the risen Saviour appeared to His disciples (John 20:24
). But St. John also applies the phrase to Judas, giving it a position in which its tragic and pathetic emphasis cannot be mistaken: ‘You—the twelve, did not I choose? and of you one is a devil. Now he spake of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot; for it was he that was about to betray him—one of the twelve’ (John 6:70-71
). St. John’s phrase (εἶς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα) differs slightly from that used by the Synoptists (εἶς τῶν δώδεκα); Westcott suggests that it marks ‘the unity of the body to which the unfaithful member belonged’ (Com. in loc.).
That Judas was ‘one of the twelve’ is an important factor in the problem presented by his history. It implies that Jesus saw in him the material out of which an Apostle might have been made,—the clay out of which a vessel unto honour might have been shaped; it implies that Judas, of free-will, chose to follow Jesus and to continue with Him; and it implies that Judas heard from the Master’s lips words of gracious warning against the peril of his besetting sin. On the other hand, the fact that Judas was ‘one of the twelve’ does not imply that Jesus had the betrayal in view when He chose this Apostle and entrusted him with the common purse; it does not imply that even in that most holy environment Judas was exempted from the working of the spiritual law that such ‘evil things’ as ‘thefts … covetings, … deceit … proceed from within, and defile the man’ (Mark 7:22
f.); and it does not imply that there were no good impulses in the heart of Judas when he became a disciple of Jesus. Of Judas in his darkest hour the words of Lavater are true: he ‘acted like Satan, but like a Satan who had it in him to be an Apostle.’
In Mark 14:10
the best supported reading (אBCLM) is ὁ εἶς τῶν δώδεκα, with a note in (Revised Version margin)—‘Gr. the one of the twelve.’ Wright (Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek, p. 31, cf. p. 147) is of opinion that Mk. distinctly calls Judas ‘the chief of the twelve.’ He takes ὁ εἶς as equal to ὁ πρῶτος, as in τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (Mark 16:2
). But the definite article is not found with this phrase in any other passage in the Gospels; moreover, it is almost impossible to believe that when the Gospels were written the assertion that Judas was ‘the chief’ or even primus inter pares had a place in the original text. On the other hand, Field (Notes on the Translation of the NT, in loc.) is scarcely justified in saying ‘ὁ εἶς τῶν δ. can mean nothing but “the first (No. 1) of the twelve,” which is absurd.’*
The unique reading may, however, preserve a genuine reminiscence of a time in the earlier ministry of Jesus when Judas, the treasurer of the Apostolic company, had a kind of priority. If this were so, there would come a time when, as Wright suggests, the supporters of Judas would become ‘jealous of the honour bestowed on Peter.’†
Jealousy would account not only for the dispute about rival claims to be the greatest, but also for the respective positions of Judas and Peter at the supper-table. The most probable explanation of the details given (Matthew 26:23, John 13:23
; John 13:26
) is that John was reclining on the right of Jesus; but Judas ‘claimed and obtained the chief seat at the table’ next Jesus, and was reclining on His left, whilst ‘the lowest place was voluntarily taken by Peter, who felt keenly the Lord’s rebuke of this strife for precedence’ (cf. Andrews, The Life of our Lord, p. 485; Edersheim, Life and Times, ii. 493).
(d) ‘A thief.’—The meaning of the statement that ‘Judas was a thief’ (John 12:6
) is quite plain, if the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 correctly renders the following sentence: ‘and having the bag, took away (ἐβάσταζεν) what was put therein.’ βαστάζω means (1) to bear, (2) to bear away, as in John 20:15
(cf. ‘cattle-lifting’). Its use in the sense of bearing away secretly or pilfering is established (cf. Field, op. cit. in loc.). In this context the statement that Judas carried the money put into the bag which was in his possession seems singularly tame, if it is not mere repetition. On the other hand, to say that Judas had formed the habit of pilfering is a natural explanation of the assertion that he had been guilty of theft. Weiss (Leben Jesu, ii. 443) thinks that ‘John had found out thefts committed by the greedy Judas’; this does not necessarily imply that the thefts were known to John at the time of Mary’s anointing, for they may have come to light after that act, but before the narrative was shaped in this form.
The rendering of ἐβάσταζεν by the neutral word ‘hare’ is adopted by some, who hold that John’s words do not imply more than that Judas had a thievish disposition. Ainger adopts this interpretation in a finely-wrought study of the character of Judas (The Gospel and Human Life, p. 231). It is true in a sense that ‘he may have been a thief long before he began to steal,’ but this exposition involves the unlikely assumption that the betrayal of Jesus was the ‘first act by which he converted his spirit of greed into actual money profit.’ If Judas had not formed the habit of pilfering, it is more difficult to understand how the thirty pieces of silver could be a real temptation to him.
Cheyne gets rid of the difficulty by assuming that the text is corrupt. In his conjectural emendation the word ‘thief’ has no place; he reads ‘because he was a harsh man, and used to carry the common purse’ (ὅτι χαλετὸς ἦν καὶ τὸ κοινὸν βαλλάντιον ἐβάσταζε). ‘The statement about Judas’ in this hypothetical text is then naïvely said to be ‘worthy of more credit than it has sometimes received from advanced critics’ (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2625).
(e) ‘Betrayer’ or ‘traitor.’—In the list of the Apostles given in Luke 6:16
there is a variation from the phrase by which Judas is usually described. Instead of δς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτόν (‘who also betrayed him,’ lit. ‘delivered him up’) St. Luke has δς ἐγένετο προδότης, well rendered by Field—‘who turned traitor’ (cf. Amer. Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘became a traitor’; Weymouth, ‘proved to be a traitor’). The translation in the Authorized and Revised Versions—‘which was the traitor’—neither brings out the force of γίνομαι, nor the significance of the omission of the article.
The statement that Judas ‘turned traitor’ should be remembered in framing or estimating theories to account for his history; it confirms what has been said on this subject under (c). From this point of view the various phrases used in the Gospels will repay careful discrimination: most frequent is the simple statement of the tragic deed as a historic fact—‘who betrayed him’ (Mark 3:19
παρέδωκεν); but there is also the prophecy, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed’ (Matthew 17:22
μέλλει παραδίδπσθαι), and the statement, when the time was drawing nigh, that the process had already begun, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed’ (Matthew 26:2
παραδίδαται). Similarly, Judas is described as ‘he who would betray him’ (John 6:64
ὁ παραδώσων), ‘he who is betraying me’ (Matthew 26:46
ὁ παραδιδούς), and as ‘he who had betrayed him’ (Matthew 27:3
ὁ παραδούς). In this connexion John 6:64
deserves special attention: ‘Jesus knew from the beginning … who it was that should betray him.’ Needless difficulties are occasioned when ‘from the beginning’ is regarded as referring to any period before the call of Judas; the thought seems to be that Jesus perceived ‘from the beginning’ of His intercourse with Judas the spirit that was in him. Hence the statement is wrongly interpreted in a fatalistic sense. The rendering, ‘Jesus knew who it was that would betray him’ has the advantage of suggesting that Jesus discerned the thoughts and intents of His unfaithful Apostle, and knew that ‘the germ of the traitor-spirit was already in the heart of Judas’ (cf. W. F. Moulton in Schaff’s Popular Commentary, in loc.).*
(f) ‘A devil.’—In John 6:70
there is a contrast between the hopes of Jesus when He chose (ἐξελεξάμην) the Twelve, and His present grief over the moral deterioration of one whose nature is now devilish (διάβολός ἐστιν). Our Lord’s spiritual discourse to the multitude brought all who heard it to the parting of the ways; it shattered the hopes of those who were eager to share in the glories of an earthly kingdom. On the inner circle of the Apostles that teaching also cast its searching light; to Jesus, though not to Peter (v. 69), it was plain that Judas was at heart a deserter,—in sympathy with those who ‘went back and walked no more with him.’ What Jesus detected in Judas was ‘a sudden crystallization of evil, diabolic purpose, which made him a very adversary of the one whom he called friend’ (Wright, op. cit. in loc.). But an adversary is not an irreconcilable foe; the assertion taken in its full strength of meaning is a message of conciliation as well as of warning. It involved no lowering of the position of Judas among the Twelve, for his name is not mentioned; and it assuredly involved no relaxing of our Lord’s efforts to scatter with the light of love the gloom which was creeping into the heart of one whom He had chosen ‘to be with him.’ A strained interpretation of the saying underlies the statement that it ‘appears to be inconsistent with the equal confidence in all the disciples shown by Jesus according to the Synoptic tradition’ (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2624). ‘No man,’ says Pressensé, ‘could be more akin to a devil than a perverted apostle’ (Jesus Christ, p. 324).
(g) ‘Son of perdition.’—The Gr. word rendered ‘perdition’ in this phrase (John 17:12
) is ἀπώλεια, which signifies the state of being lost. It is the substantive derived from the same root as the main verb of the sentence (ἀπώλετο). The connexion of thought is not easy to reproduce in English. Ainger (op. cit. p. 227) brings out the sense of the passage in a paraphrase: ‘None of them is lost, but he whose very nature it was to be lost—he (that is to say) whose insensibility to the Divine touch, whose irresponsiveness to the heavenly discipline, made it a certainty that he should fall away.’ The apostasy of Judas is traced to the ‘natural gravitation’ of his character. By a well-known Hebraism Judas is described as the ‘son of’ that which stamps his nature; he is of such a character that his proper state is one of loss (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3
). The same word (ἀπώλεια) is rendered ‘waste’ in the Synoptic accounts of Mary’s anointing (Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:4
). ‘To what purpose is this waste?’ was the expression of indignation of ‘some’ (Mk.) of the disciples; perhaps it was originally the question of Judas, though St. John does not say so. It may well be, however, that he whose audible murmur, ‘Why this loss or waste?’ was echoed by the other disciples is himself described by Jesus as ‘the son of loss’—‘the waster.’
This verse (John 17:12
) is often appealed to by rival champions of Calvinism and Arminianism. In Bishop Sanderson’s Works (v. 324 f.) there is a letter to him from H. Hammond, who affirms that ‘here it is expressly said that Judas, though by his apostasy now become the son of perdition, was by God given to Christ.’ But the true reading is, ‘I kept them in thy name which thou hast given me’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), and the thought (cf. John 17:9
‘those whom thou hast given me’) is rather that ‘they in whom the Father’s object is attained’ are those ‘given’ to the Son; Judas, therefore, was not so given. ‘To suppose that Judas is now brought before us as one originally doomed to perdition, and that his character was but the evolving of his doom, would contradict not only the meaning of the Hebraic expression “son of” (which always takes for granted moral choice), but the whole teaching of this Gospel. In no book of the NT is the idea of will, of choice on the part of man, brought forward so repeatedly and with so great an emphasis’ (W. F. Moulton, op. cit. in loc.).
iii. Other NT References to Judas
(a) Before the Betrayal.—The obscurity which rests upon the early history of Judas accounts to a large extent for the difficulty of estimating his character. But for occasional allusions in the Fourth Gospel, all that is related of him before the Betrayal is that he was one of the chosen Twelve, and that he turned traitor. There is, however, a statement peculiar to St. Luke among the Synoptists, which is obviously intended to furnish an explanation of the act of Betrayal—‘Satan entered into Judas’ (john 22:3
). It finds a fitting place in the introduction to the narrative of the Betrayal in the psychological Gospel which so often gives internal reasons; ‘the Gospel of the physician is also the Gospel of the psychologist’ (Alexander, Leading Ideas of the Gospels, p. 107). The same phrase, ‘Satan entered into him’ (εἰσῆλθεν εἰς ἐκεῖνον ὁ Σατανᾶς), is also found in John 13:27,
and it is preceded by the statement (John 13:2
) that the devil had ‘already put into the heart (ἤδη βεβληκότος εἰς τὴν καρδίαν) of Judas’ the thought of betrayal. It is true, as Cheyne says (Ency. Bibl. ii. 2625), that in Jn. we have ‘a modification of the Synoptic tradition,’ but that is not equivalent to ‘quite a different account.’ So far from asserting that ‘it was at the Last Supper that the hateful idea occurred to Judas,’ St. John prefaces his description of the proceedings at the Supper (δείπνου γινομένου) by the emphatic assertion that ‘already’ (ἤδη), i.e. at some time other than the Supper, the suggestion of the devil had been entertained by Judas. In St. Luke’s brief account it is said, once for all, that ‘Satan entered into Judas.’ In the Fourth Gospel the genesis of the foul purpose is distinguished from its consummation; the Satanic influences were not irresistible; the devil had not full possession of the heart of Judas until, ‘after the sop,’ he acted on the suggestion which had then become his own resolve.
The Fourth Gospel also makes the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:4
f.) a definite stage in the process which is sometime