The Judas Goat: the Substitution of Christ on the Cross (cont.)
By Tracy R. Twyman
The image of Judas Iscariot hanging from a tree has mutated into a peculiar icon familiar to all Western occultists. I am speaking of the tarot trump common to most decks called “The Hanged Man.” It usually shows a court jester figure hanging upside-down by one foot. Although this figure has been connected to that of the Grail hero Parzival by some who study the tarot, the Hanged Man was originally depicted holding a money bag in his hand, connecting him to Judas Iscariot.
However, it seems that this image has an even more ancient origin. It can be traced back to the Jewish legend of the Watchers: angels who purportedly descended from Heaven and mated with human women to breed a race of giants. This race was seen as an abomination by God, who did not approve of the miscegenation between angels and men. He also did not approve of them teaching their human descendants certain secrets, including sciences and sorcery. God thus decided to flood the Earth, to rid it of this hybrid race. He also decided to punish the angels who had fathered this race by imprisoning them within the center of the Earth.
Now the legends state that these Watchers had been led to sin by two angels in particular: Shemhazai and Azazel. And while Shemhazai seems to have taken the lead by persuading his fellow Watchers to marry human women, Azazel seems to have taken the lead in teaching secrets to mankind. And apparently, this was the greater sin, for Azazel became the scapegoat of the Watchers, receiving the bulk of the damnation that God placed upon them. God is quoted in The Book of Enoch as saying:
“All the earth has been corrupted by the teaching of the work of Azazyel. To him therefore ascribe the whole crime.”
So Azazel took the blame on behalf of the Watchers for the sins that they all had committed. However, he is not said to have been particularly repentant. Shemhazai, however, repented greatly. As Louis Ginzberg’s The Legends of the Jews tells us:
“Shemhazai then did penance. He suspended himself between heaven and earth, and in this position of a penitent sinner he hangs to this day. But Azazel persisted obdurately in his sin of leading mankind astray by means of sensual allurements. For this reason two he-goats were sacrificed in the Temple on the Day of Atonement, the one for God, that He pardon the sins of Israel, the other for Azazel, that he bear the sins of Israel.”
So it does indeed seem that Shemhazai, Azazel’s partner in crime, can be equated specifically with the goat of atonement sacrificed on Yom Kippur, just as Azazel can be equated with the scapegoat. And Shemhazai has been depicted in religious iconography, just like the Hanged Man, as hanging upside-down by a rope, in this case one that is suspended from Heaven. (6) Thus the figure of Shemhazai and the goat of atonement can be connected to the image of Judas Iscariot.
Although it is a popular belief that Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus, having been consumed with guilt, only one gospel, that of Matthew, specifically mentions this. Mark and Luke refer to the apostles as “the eleven” instead of “the twelve” after Jesus’ execution, but that only indicates that Judas was no longer a member of their party, as one would expect. It does not necessarily mean that he was dead, much less that he had committed suicide. The only other scripture that verifies this story is found in the speech of St. Peter quoted in Acts 1:16-20:
“Men, brethren, the scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was the leader of them that apprehended Jesus: who was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. And he indeed hath possessed a field of the reward of iniquity, and being hanged, burst asunder in the midst: and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: so that the same field was called in their tongue, Haceldama, that it to say, the field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take.”
This “field of blood” of which Peter speaks is discussed in Matthew as well, although the story varies significantly. But to understand this, we must first review the significance of the thirty pieces of silver. All of the gospels agree that Judas sought out and received payment from the Sanhedrin in exchange for his betrayal, but only Matthew specifies the amount paid: thirty pieces of silver. But after Jesus’ trial, Judas regrets his deeds:
“Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? Look thou to it. And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and went and hanged himself with an halter.”
In the story told by St. Peter, it is implied that Judas bought the field with the thirty pieces of silver, and it became known as the “field of blood” because he died upon it. But in Matthew, the field is bought by the priests, after Judas had given the money back to them and hanged himself. In Matthew 27: 6-10, we read:
“And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”
So in this version, it is called the “field of blood” because it was purchased with the money that was paid for Jesus’ life. Thus the field and the silver are forever linked as part of the same symbol and metaphor. But what could this metaphor be pointing to?
All the portrayals of Judas and his thirty pieces of silver show them being carried in a small purse. Thus, when Judas is shown in films and plays casting the silver onto the floor of the temple, he is invariably shown throwing the entire bag to the ground, Judas’ association with a purse full of money is an integral part of his image. As I have already stated, The Gospel of John asserts that Judas was the purse-bearer of the apostles. The consistent message about Judas’ character is that of a greedy person obsessed more with money than with the kingdom of God.