The Judas Goat: the Substitution of Christ on the Cross (cont.)
By Tracy R. Twyman
In the canonical gospels, as Jesus nears the moment of his arrest, he continually prays to God that “this cup may pass away from me” – that he might be spared the cross. Thomas, on the other hand, declared in The Gospel of John his willingness to die with Lazarus. Might he not be even more excited about the idea of dying in the place of the Messiah – in fact fulfilling one of the main roles of the Messiah himself? Could this explain Jesus’ declaration in The Gospel of Thomas, stating that Thomas had “become intoxicated with the bubbling spring which I have measured out”? If Thomas had been enlisted to die in his place willingly, he would have been forbidden to tell the other disciples. Perhaps this is what is hinted at in The Gospel of Thomas where it says:
“And He took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, What did Jesus say to you? Thomas said to them, If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.”
Is it possible that Judas Thomas, the messiah’s twin, is the same as Judas Iscariot, the man who supposedly died in his place? The story told in The Gospel of Barnabas is one of treachery and trickery, not of a willing human sacrifice dying for his cause. Perhaps Judas was under the impression that Jesus would be the one to die, and that it would be his job to play the resurrected Jesus after his death. Perhaps he believed that the death would be faked - that he would be revived again after his body had hung on the cross, and had been placed in the tomb for show. Or perhaps both Judas and Jesus were secretly plotting to betray one another, and it was Jesus whose trickery won the day over that of his brother. Certainly there are many reasons why Jesus and Judas, like many mythological twin gods before them, might have had a long-standing sibling rivalry. For any child, sharing with a brother or sister, especially a twin, has always been a bit annoying. But imagine what it must be like for twins to be born into a royal, priestly, or even divine inheritance. According to Jewish custom, the twin who emerges from the womb first is the first-born heir, entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof. There is more than one story in Jewish legend in which such a scenario is related. Invariably, one twin pokes his arm out of the womb, and the midwife ties a string around the infant’s wrist to mark him as the firstborn. But then the arm gets sucked back up into the womb, and the other twin’s body pops out in full, making him the first-born. The child grows up expecting to be the heir, but all along the twin brother knows that he has been cheated, and plots revenge.
Even if such an instance had not occurred in the birth of Jesus and Judas, it is easy to see how Judas, consumed with jealousy and resentment, could have imagined that it had. Either way, the knowledge that the order in which the twins had emerged from the birth canal was the only thing that barred him from the kingship of Israel must have eaten away at Judas Thomas. Perhaps Jesus sensed that Judas was plotting to betray him, and concocted a way to neutralize his enemy with maximum benefit to the cause. There would even be a secret symbolism of sacrifice known only to those who were in on the plot – one having to do with the dual goat sacrifice of Yom Kippur. The twin (Judas) who hung upon the cross could act as the atoning sin sacrifice, providing the salvation of man from the punishment of sin. The one who fled into hiding to secretly spread the ministry of Christ to the “wilderness” outside Israel would act as the scapegoat, taking the weight of the people’s sins onto himself and away from them, just as Jesus declares himself to be doing in the gospels. This may explain the many sightings of Jesus both in and outside of Israel after the crucifixion, as well as the sightings of Thomas, since Jesus may have used his brother’s name in certain instances.
Many people will not believe that Judas Iscariot and Judas Thomas could possibly have been the same person. The general consensus is that they are not, and in fact, many lines in the gospels go to great lengths to maintain this. In Matthew, both a “Thomas” and a “Judas Iscariot” are listed among the twelve apostles, as is the case in Mark. Luke lists both “Thomas” and “Judas, the brother of James” (5), as well as “Judas Iscariot, which was also the traitor.” John does not definitively list the apostles, but he refers separately to “Thomas” and to “Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” Also, during a discussion with his apostles in John 14, Thomas is quoted as saying, “Lord, we know not wither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” A few lines later in the chapter, it reads:
“Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?”
While it is possible that John wanted us to see this person as Judas Thomas, he was also quite clearly trying to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.
But is this just a cover story? Biblical scholarship is full of disagreements about whether or not certain gospel characters described and/or named differently in separate instances are in fact the same. For instance, opinion is divided over whether or not Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same. Such disagreements did not begin with modern scholarship, but are exhibited by the authors of the scriptures themselves. And if the scenario hypothesized in this article were in fact true, one would expect most if not all of these scriptures, both canonical and apocryphal, to be full of disinformation and carefully hidden clues regarding the subject (discernable only to the initiated). You would also expect opinions by even the first-hand witnesses of the crucifixion to be varied, as probably none but Jesus and Judas themselves knew the full story. It cannot be ruled out at all that Judas Thomas and Judas Iscariot were the same figure. Certainly Judas Iscariot seems to be one of the most misunderstood figures in the entire saga of Jesus.
Much of what we know of Judas comes from The Gospel of John, which is the only one to identify him as the treasurer for Christ’s ministry, although it does not say what he did before he joined the ministry. And John’s is the only gospel to identify Judas as the “son of Simon” – the only indication we have of who his family was. “Iscariot”, according to many scholars, supposedly means “of Kerioth”, a town in the land of Judah. But others claim that “Iscariot” is a corruption of “Sicarius”, a word identifying him as a member of the radical Zealot movement, which pushed for Israelite independence from Rome. It is thought that Christ and his family were involved in this same movement. It has also been noted that almost every mention in the gospels of Judas Iscariot is accompanied by a reference to his betrayal. Both Matthew, Mark, and Luke call him “Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” Every description of Judas in the New Testament is so overwhelmingly negative that Judas seems to embody a sort of Antichrist archetype. Indeed, even Jesus himself identified Judas as an incarnation of Satan. In John 6:70, Jesus is quoted as saying to his apostles, “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John continues: “He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for it was he that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” The authors of The Messianic Legacy make further mention of this aspect of Judas Iscariot as Christ’s antithesis:
“Symbolically speaking, Judas is the evil brother, the dark side of which Jesus is the light. In Judaeo-Christian tradition, the antithesis between them is another manifestation of the conflict dating back to Cain and Abel… If Jesus … becomes synonymous with God, Judas – dragging the Jews in general with him – becomes the very embodiment of God’s adversary.”