Author of the Month

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

But why did Judas betray Jesus? And if Judas hated Jesus so much from the very beginning, why did Jesus choose to keep him on as an apostle? The reason for Judas’ betrayal becomes clear if we accept that he and Judas Thomas are the same, and that he is Jesus’ twin brother – a true contender for the messiahship in his own right. In Matthew, Mark, and John, there is an incident that precedes (and in Matthew and Mark, immediately precedes) Judas’ betrayal. It is the anointment of Jesus with spikenard by a woman with an alabaster jar – a woman identifiable with Mary Magdalene when all of the accounts are compared. This event has been long recognized by biblical scholars as a royal anointing of Christ as king and messiah, since spikenard was traditionally used for this purpose, and since Magdalene was not only the wife of Christ, but a scion of the tribe of Benjamin – a tribe assigned the task of anointing Israel’s kings. If Judas believed that he was the rightful messiah, or at least the rightful co-messiah, this act would have enraged him, as it constituted a complete denial of his rights in favor of Jesus as the sole king. The gospels describe exactly this. John 12: 4-6 says:

“Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.”

The other reason given for Judas’ betrayal is more metaphysical. The gospels tell us that Judas was possessed by a demon! Moreover, they say that it was Jesus himself who infected Judas with that demon. This may be connected to a belief amongst Jesus’ contemporaries that he and John the Baptist were both sorcerers, and that John had been in control of a demon, the control of which passed to Jesus upon John’s death. He may have passed this demon on to Judas after programming it to have Judas “betray” him to the Sanhedrin. Jesus foretells his betrayal numerous times throughout the gospels, and finally, at the Last Supper, he actually identifies his betrayer. In John we read:

“When Jesus had said these things, he was troubled in spirit; and he testified, and said: Amen, amen I say to you, one of you shall betray me… He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped. And when he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the morsel, Satan entered into him. And Jesus said to him: That which thou dost, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew to what purpose he said this unto him. For some thought, because Judas had the purse, that Jesus said to him: Buy those things which we have need of for the festival day: or that he should give something to the poor.”

The fact that Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal, and that Judas does not seem surprised at the accusation, is telling. So too is the fact that Jesus makes no attempt to stop him from doing this, but instead tells him to hurry up and get it over with. And later that night, when Judas arrives with the Roman guards to arrest him, Jesus is fully aware of what is about to befall him. He allows Judas to come up and identify him to the Romans by kissing him on the cheek, saying “Hail Rabbi.” Jesus plays his part accordingly, replying, “Judas, betrayest thou the son of Man with a kiss?” More than that, Jesus is shown as actually rushing out with his disciples to meet Judas and the Roman guards. In Matthew, he wakes his sleeping apostles just before Judas’ arrival and says, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.” Thus, many scholars believe that the entire “betrayal” scenario was concocted, rehearsed, and enacted in collusion between Jesus and Judas. The Messianic Legacy states:

“It is not that Judas is actually betraying Jesus. On the contrary, he has been deliberately selected by Jesus, probably to his own chagrin, to discharge a distasteful duty so that the drama of the Passion may enact itself in accordance with Old Testament prophecy. When Jesus proffers the dipped morsel, he is in fact imposing a task upon Judas… In short, the whole business has been carefully planned, even though the other disciples seem not to have been privy to the arrangement. Judas alone seems to have enjoyed Jesus’ confidence in the matter.”

Seen in this light, Judas appears as someone to be admired rather than demonized:

“Commentators on the New Testament have long recognized how vital, how indispensable, Judas is to the entire mission of Jesus. Without Judas, the drama of the Passion cannot be enacted. As a result, Judas must have been seen as something very different from the scurrilous villain of popular tradition. He emerges as precisely the opposite – a noble and tragic figure, reluctantly consenting to play an unpleasant, painful, and obligatory role in a carefully pre-arranged script. As Jesus says of him: ‘I have watched over them and not one is lost except the one who chose to be lost, and this was to fulfill the scriptures.’”

It is in this view that certain heretical Christian groups have seen Judas throughout the years. One such group, interestingly called “the Cainites”, are said by chronicler St. Irenaeus to have possessed an apocryphal Gospel of Judas, extolling the betrayer’s virtues as a critical player in the redemption of mankind. This “gospel”, if it ever really existed, has been lost.

But the canonical gospels make it clear that Judas was not blessed, but cursed by Jesus for his actions – quite literally. Matthew 26:24 states: “The son of Man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the son of Man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” Almost identical lines can be found in Mark and Luke. In John 13:11 it says, “For he knew who should betray him; therefore he said, Ye are not all clean.” Later, in John 19:11, as the manner of Jesus’ death is being decided, Jesus says to Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” ` Clearly, even though Jesus may have seen Judas’ betrayal coming, and may have concocted a master plan that included this betrayal as its lynch-pin, Jesus still hated Judas, and not only wished to see him dead, but to see him die in the worst way possible, and to be cursed because of it. For from the perspective of pre-Christian Judaism, to die upon a cross brought no salvation or redemption, but only malediction. Crucifixion is an old practice, and while the Romans perfected the art by erecting crosses, it had been practiced in ancient times by simply nailing the afflicted to a tree. In fact, mythological figures in both Norse and Greek legends have been martyred in this way, prefiguring the story of Christ. But in Judaic mythology, such a death was not seen as martyrdom. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 states:

“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; His body shall not remain all night up on the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed by God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

Knowing the scriptures as he did, it is unlikely that Jesus would have chosen this cursed manner of death for himself, even if he had been seeking martyrdom. He may, however, have reserved this manner of death for his greatest enemy, the betrayer. If this were the case, there would have had to have been co-conspirators in on it as well. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who both sat on the Sanhedrin, are two likely suspects. They could have arranged to have Judas arrested in secret just after Jesus’ arrest, and done the switch at any point while they were incarcerated. Then Jesus would have been sent away, according to the arrangement, and Judas would die in his place.

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