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  • Writer's pictureDavid McNitzky

Judas: Second Thoughts

At first glance Judas would seem to be an easy character to make judgments about in the Bible. John says he was stealing the disciples’s money as their treasurer. All of the gospels name him as the betrayer of Jesus. He is paid for the betrayal. Matthew, Mark and Luke write that he hanged himself after learning of Jesus’s coming crucifixion. John indicates that Judas was working for the devil in the betrayal. Surely if there was ever a man beyond redemption and sympathy it would be Judas.

Upon further examination, there may be more to the story. Judas was not from Galilee but rather he was from Ishcarot, a town in Judea. This may explain the name Iscariot which also means “memories.” His hometown was one of the few zealot towns in Judea. Tradition also identifies Judas as a Zealot. Zealots were Jewish fanatics who longed for a violent overthrow of Rome. They would have expected the Messiah to be a part of this revolution. Therefore, many scholars conclude that Judas betrayed Jesus not because he did NOT believe that Jesus was the Messiah but because he DID believe. He was hoping that when push came to shove from the arrest of Jesus, the Messiah would call down the angels from heaven to destroy the Roman oppressors and free the Jews.

Two more things to note here: Judas threw his thirty coins away in the temple- a possible sign that he did not do this for the money and possibly a sign of repentance for his miscalculation (Ezekiel 7:19 talks about throwing coins away at the temple when people realize that money is worthless compared with God); and Jesus included him in the Last Supper even though he knew that Judas would betray him- a possible sign of Jesus’s acceptance of Judas.

So perhaps the case of the evil Judas is not quite open and shut. Perhaps we might remember that when we are tempted to judge or write off those of whom we disapprove.


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