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The Judas Goat: the Substitution of Christ on the Cross (cont.)
By Tracy R. Twyman

Later, it states that crucifixion had been specifically chosen by God as the proper method of death for Judas:

“God, who had decreed the issue, reserved Judas for the cross, in order that he might suffer that horrible death to which he had sold another. He did not suffer Judas to die under the scourges, notwithstanding that the soldiers scourged him so grievously that his body rained blood.”

As Judas protested, he made it clear that he believed himself to be innocent of wrongdoing, and believed that it was Jesus who was an outlaw and a sinner. He told them that Jesus was a magician, and had transformed Judas into his own likeness by his demonic powers. Just before he died upon the cross, Judas cried out a plea that demonstrates his belief in his own innocence:

“So they led him to Mount Calvary, where they used to hang malefactors, and there they crucified him naked, for the greater ignominy. Judas truly did nothing else but cry out: God, why have you forsaken me, seeing the malefactor has escaped and I die unjustly? Truly I say that the voice, the face, and the person of Judas were so like to Jesus, that his disciples and believers entirely believed that he was Jesus; wherefore some departed from the doctrine of Jesus, believing that Jesus had been a false prophet, and that by the art of magic he had done the miracles which he did: for Jesus had said that he should not die till near the end of the world; for that at that time he should be taken away from the world.”

So in this version of the story, the crucifixion did not accomplish the salvation of man from sin through the sacrifice of God’s only son, but the substitution of that sacrifice. And instead of gaining believers for Jesus’ cause, the crucifixion actually lead to an initial loss of faith amongst his followers – although, in the years to come, the notion of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would gain the Catholic Church nearly global hegemony. After his death, it was Judas’ body, not Jesus’, which was stolen away from the tomb by Christ’s closest disciples. This is the scene depicted in the Station of the Cross in the church at Rennes-le-Chateau. The Gospel of Barnabas continues:

“But they that stood firm in the doctrine of Jesus were so encompassed with sorrow, seeing him die who was entirely like to Jesus, that they remembered not what Jesus had said. And so in company with the mother of Jesus they went to Mount Calvary, and were not only present at the death of Judas, weeping continually, but by means of Nicodemus and Joseph of Abarimathia; they obtained from the governor the body of Judas to bury it. Whereupon, they took him down from the cross with such weeping as assuredly no one would believe, and buried him in the new sepulchre of Joseph; having wrapped him up in an hundred pounds of precious ointments.”

It is easy to see why this “Gospel” was embraced by Islamic sects. In it Jesus is portrayed as a holy man, but as mortal, not the “Son of God”, and the coming of the Prophet Muhammad is predicted:

“And though I have been innocent in the world, since men have called me God, and Son of God, God, in order that I be not mocked of the demons on the day of judgment, has willed that I be mocked of men in this world by the death of Judas; making all men to believe that I died upon the cross. And this mocking shall continue until the advent of Muhammad, the Messenger of God, who, when he shall come, shall reveal this deception to those who believe in God's Law.”

One of the many criticisms made by Jewish scholars against the theology of Christianity is that the symbolism of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is an apparent confusion of two totally separate Judaic rituals. As Jesus purportedly died on Passover, and as he repeatedly is referred to in the New Testament as the “Paschal Lamb”, it is easy to associate Jesus’ sacrifice with the symbolism of Passover. Yet according to Louis Ginzberg’s The Legends of the Jews, the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb represents the covenant made between God and the Israelites, in which they agreed to abandon the idol worship the Egyptians had taught them in favor of the sole worship of God. As Ginzberg writes:

“Unto this purpose He commanded them to sacrifice the paschal lamb. Thus they were to show that they had given up the idolatry of the Egyptians, consisting in the worship of the Ram.”

The metaphor implied by this is quite different from that of the sin-offering on the day of atonement (Yom Kippur), with which Jesus is also repeatedly connected in the Bible. (1) More specifically, two goats are sacrificed on Yom Kippur for this purpose. The ritual is first described in Leviticus 16:

“And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness… Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil… and sprinkle it upon the Mercy Seat…
…And Aaron shall lay both hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited…”

It is clear that, while still identifying himself with the Paschal Lamb, Jesus was drawing a connection between his death and the Yom Kippur ritual as well. It is ambiguous, however, whether he identified himself more with the sin-offering, or with the scapegoat. According to some theologians, he was both. As Suzetta Tucker writes on her website, “The Bestiary” (2):

“These goats were symbolic of the two aspects of Christ’s crucifixion. The slain goat prefigured the death of Christ upon the cross to make atonement for sins. The scapegoat represented His taking the guilt of the sins of the world upon His own head and carrying it away from His people into the wilderness of Hades.”

So although there exists in the crucifixion story a blending of ancient Judaic symbolism, it is a blending of symbols that already bore many connections. One of the most obvious connections between the sacrifices of Yom Kippur and Passover can be found in the figure of Azazel, a demonic being to the Israelites (and a god to nearly every other Middle Eastern culture). Azazel is named in The Book of Enoch as being the leader of the rebellious Watchers, the “fallen angels” of Judeo-Christianity. After his fall from Heaven, Azazel apparently became, in Judeo-Christian lore, judge of dead sinners in Hell, and it was to him that the scapegoats were sacrificed. Alternate translations of Leviticus 16:8 state that God told Aaron to “place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the Lord, and the other marked for Azazel.” Thus Azazel is identified as both the recipient of the sacrificed scapegoat, and the scapegoat himself.

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