Sunday, June 12, 2016

Who Was Judas Iscariot? (Part 1)

AP: Judas appears twenty times in the canonical Gospels. He is one of the disciples of Jesus. The character belongs entirely to the literary tradition, paremiology, and popular legends . His name is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Yĕhûdâ (יְהוּדָה) translated "Judah." The Greek transliteration is Ioudas (Ἰούδας), and that in turn gets carried into English as "Judas."

This name was actually a popular one among the Hebrews. A number of famous people were given this name, such as Judas Maccabaeus, the one who liberated Israel from the yoke of the Syrian-Greek monarchs (160-170 B.C.), and Judas the Galilean who flourished in the 6th A.D. According to the ancient Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews XVIII 4-10.23-25 ​, Judas the Galilean was one of the "founders" of the so-called "Zealots", i.e. those who were filled with the zeal of God and his Law. These people have existed in the history of the Jewish people under various names, including as the Hasidim or pious ones, from at least the second century B.C. It was only in the second half of the first century A.D. that this group of pious ones became an actual political party, until A.D. 60, just before the Great War of the Jews against Rome.

There are four different men named Judas in the New Testament:
1. Judas Iscariot, who later became the "traitor" (Luke 6:16; John 13:26; 14:22).
2. Judas, also one of the Twelve, the son of James (Luke 6:16). In the list found in Matt 10:2-3 he is called Thaddeus. It is not known if these two are different characters (the exact name of all components of the Twelve was not preserved by tradition), or one with two names: Judas Thaddeus. In my opinion, though, they were probably two different people.
3. Judas son of Sabas (Barsabas). He was a prophet (Acts 15:32) and was a delegate of the community of Jerusalem, along with Silas/Silvanus, to carry a letter with the decisions of the "Council of the apostles" from the capital of Palestine to Antioch (Acts 15:22ff.).
4. Judas, the brother of James, and as a result the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; Matt13:55).
The first of these four, Judas Iscariot (Ἰούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ; Mark 3:19; 14:10; Luke 16:16), is the hero of the Gospel of Judas. His name means "Judas, the man (Hebrew ish) from the village of Iscariot" (or "Skariot" according to Codex Bezae Cantabrigensis in Matt. 10:4), a village of Judea (John 6:71; 13:26). Iscariot is thus the name of a place (Gk. Ἰσκαριώθ in the Synoptics) . But in John's Gospel his name, as a variant preferred by editors as the most difficult (see 6.71; 13.26) - listed as "Judas (son of) [the] Iscariot (Ἰσκαριώτου)" This reading supposes that his father was born in that village, but nothing about him per se. If this is so, we can say that Judas was the only disciple of Jesus that was from Judah. All the rest would have been from Galilee.

The historicity of this character is the subject of much debate. Was there really even a Judas or was he the invention of Christian tradition? Or if there actually was a Judas, how was reinterpreted or his identity possible misconstrued or inaccurately preserved in history? Before we turn to these questions, it is probably necessary to review the identity of the man based on the record of him preserved in the canonical Gospels.

The first observation we need to make is that the Gospel record is not consistent when it comes to the person of Judas. We need to distinguish between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, and how each presents who this individual/character was.
1. The first three Gospels are known as the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew and Luke are not independent sources. They depend on Mark. One tradition is represented in these three texts, not three.
2. The Gospel of John, which offers a somewhat different view. It presents a number of details not found in the other tradition. And, of course, its presentation of who Judas was is much harsher and more critical of him. As we shall see, the Gospel of John is probably an evolved version of Judas, which morphed over time. 
So let's turn our attention first to the Judas of the Synoptic Gospels. We must distinguish the tone in which each Gospel presents the character. There are some points where the first three Gospels agree with one another. We can start with the places of agreement and then move to the differences.

Each of the three Synoptic Gospels emphasizes that Judas belonged to the group of the "Twelve,", i.e. the closest of Jesus' disciples. We find him mentioned in the lists of the Twelve: Matt. 10:14/ Mark 3: 16-19//Luke 6:13-16. This list does not appear in the Gospel of John nor is he found in the other list recorded in Acts 1:13. The number "twelve" is certainly symbolic. It represents the twelve tribes of Israel, whose religious restoration by God was one of the impulses that motivated the movement of Jesus as a prophet he proclaimed the coming restoration of Israel. Judas is placed last in each of the lists, in order to place him in a negative light (Matt. 10:4//Mark 3:19//Luke 6:16).

They also agree that it was the apostle who handed Jesus over to the authorities. The Greek term (παραδίδωμι; e.g., Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 22:48) used by the Synoptic authors denotes more than a betrayal. He was handed over in a way that would bring about his certain death.

In each of the Synoptics, Jesus predicts what is going to happen to him by Judas and his actions (Matt. 17:22//Mark 9:31//Luke 9:44). He seems to accept what is going to happen, but he later laments the future fate of his unfaithful disciple and, in some places, wishes he had never been born.

They also agree that Judas was actively involved in the arrest of Jesus and led the Roman authorities to Jesus (e.g., Matt. 26:47 and parallels).

And they aree that the "delivery" or betrayal of Judas is a fulfillment of the Scriptures. Therefore, it was part of the divine plan of salvation and announced in advance (see also Acts 1:16).

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