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


“Jesus said, ‘Two will rest on a couch; one will die, one will live.’”
-The Gospel of Thomas

The above essay was written during the week of Easter, 2004. Since then a great deal of information on this and related subjects has come to my attention. Two books in particular have become invaluable in my research. The first is In Search of the Birth of Jesus by Paul William Roberts, published in 1995. This is a log of the author’s travels throughout Iraq, Iran, and Syria tracking local legends regarding the magi who supposedly attended the birth of Jesus. In the process he encountered a group[ of Mandaeans: a Gnostic Johannite sect (that is, followers of John the Baptist). They told him that all Mandaeans believe that not only was Judas Thomas Jesus’ twin, but that it was this Judas who was crucified in Jesus’ place. Furthermore, they believe that Jesus afterwards took on the identity of his brother, calling himself Thomas, and that he was the true author of The Gospel of Thomas, as well as supposedly The Gospel of John. The travels throughout the East that have been attributed to Thomas were accomplished by Jesus as well. As Mr. Roberts writes:

“After Persia, he returned west, living near Damascus in Syria before finally being forced to travel beyond the reach of Roman forces. Nabatean priests and Magi had helped him, arranging safe passage along the trade routes. Jesus had resided in Basra and Palmyra briefly before crossing through Mesopotamia, spending some months in Susa, then moving from Magian stronghold to Magian stronghold - places where any Essene Jew apparently would have been always welcome - until he reached the Indus Valley. Here, Brahmans, who maintained close ties with the Western mystical orders, initiated him into their deepest mysteries before escorting him to the relative safety of India’s southwestern coast - not the southeastern coast where others have speculated he ended up, near Madras.”

Moreover, Roberts’ Mandaean informants told him that both twins had been blessed by the magi at the nativity:

“Hearing about Jesus and a twin brother, I still had never stopped to think what this would do to the Nativity story... [According to the Mandaeans the] Magi’s astrological skills had... allowed them to foresee the potential dangers ahead. They informed those Nazarean-Essenes with whom they were in regular contact, and then made sure that Mary and Joseph escaped to Egypt, where Jesus and Thomas were raised by Essene Magians while their parents returned to Israel... There had been two Magi, after all: one for each child.”

The other invaluable source of information I have found is Hyam Maccoby’s Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil. In it he discusses all symbolic elements of the image of Judas. He repeatedly returns to the idea of Judas as Jesus’ dark half, or doppelganger: a Black Christ. As he writes:

“The Christian myth is about sacrifice. Jesus, the incarnate God, suffers death in order to redeem mankind, and to procure eternal life for those who accept him as their saviour. But this description of the myth is not quite accurate. There are really two sacrificial figures in the myth, one of whom loses his life, and the other his soul. These two figures, who may be called the White Christ and the Black Christ, are both essential to the Christian myth, as to many similar myths…
Judas is not merely fulfilling an individual decision. He is fulfilling a prophecy. Yet no credit or happiness is allotted to him for doing what is fated and necessary. His reward for his share in the salvation of mankind is accursedness and damnation. He himself is a kind of sacrifice; he is the Black Christ who, through his destructive and self-destructive action, brings delivery to his fellow human beings... [It is] a double sacrifice, since it requires both the death of Jesus and the damnation of Judas.”

He also comments on the idea of sacrifice in the ancient world, indicating that the nature of sacrifice requires a scapegoat to take the blame for the sacrifice:

“... the community wants the sacrifice to occur, because otherwise there will be no salvation, but it shifts the responsibility to some evil figure. The death of the victim is mourned with every appearance of heartfelt grief, for the deeper the grief the more complete the dissociation of the community from the death which they desired. The means by which the death came about is disowned, either by banishing, ostracizing or humiliating the executioner, or even... holding a trial of the knife with which the sacrifice was performed.”

Maccoby’s analysis of Judas’ ceremonial role leads him to a fascinating conclusion: that the role played by Judas is a symbolic continuation of the role played by Cain when he murdered his brother Abel:

“A disguised example of this is the biblical Cain, who killed his brother, yet received divine protection in his wanderings, and was the founder of a city and the ancestor of the founders of the arts (Genesis 4:17-22); what the Bible calls a murder, was, in the Kenite saga from which the Bible derives the story, a salvic sacrifice. The Jews too, despite the loathing inspired by their alleged cosmic crime, have also been regarded with a certain awe. Even at their lowest ebb of powerlessness, they have been viewed as the possessors of magical power. The legend of the Wandering Jew (which has sometimes coalesced with the legend of Judas Iscariot) expresses this Christian awe of the Sacred Executioner, condemned to suffer for the act that brought salvation to mankind. In the New Testament, Judas Iscariot does not, like Cain or the Wandering Jew, receive the dubious gift of prolonged life; he dies by suicide in one version, by heavenly destruction in another. But in some later versions of the story, his charisma is enhanced. He becomes a prince, and a formidable person, with an awesome destiny. However much the aim of the myth is to foster detestation, it can never be quite forgotten that he is after all the Black Christ, an agent of salvation.”

It does make sense to seek parallels between Cain’s murder of Abel and Judas’ murder of Jesus, or, as I have hypothesized, Jesus’ murder of Judas. For one thing, there is the obvious parallel, in that in both instances, both the murderer and the victim are brothers. And if one considers the symbolism of the scapegoat ritual that seems to be present in the sacrifice of Judas and Jesus (in which one – Judas – is sacrificed to atone for sin, and the other – Jesus – must go into exile, to bear the sin), it is obvious that the same symbolism exists in the Cain and Abel story. Like the scapegoat, Cain was sent off in exile to “the land of Nod” to bear the weight of his sins. But his sin was the killing of Abel, which, like the slaying of the World Bull by Mithras, is seen by mythologists as representing a sacrifice that was necessary for the fertility of the land. At another point in the book, Maccoby continues this analysis, likening the death of Abel to the death of Judas described in Acts:

“The graphic picture of Judas’ blood and entrails spilling on to the raw earth of an open field evokes the story of Cain and Abel; Abel’s blood was also spilled in a “field” (Genesis 4:8). God said to Cain, ‘Thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now thou art cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.” (Genesis 4:10-11). The Hebrew Bible’s doctrine that the spilling of blood dries up the land is a late development in human history; behind it lies the opposite idea that precisely the spilling of blood in human sacrifice renders the land fertile. The image of the earth ‘opening her mouth’ to receive blood is very ancient; originally this was a hungry acceptance by the earth goddess of her due.
The story of Cain and Abel, as we find it in the Hebrew Bible, is one of simple murder; but more than one scholar has argued that it is a transfigured account of human sacrifice, in which the earth was not accursed, but blessed, by Abel’s blood.”

This symbolic connection between Cain and Judas is interesting considering that it was the Gnostic group known as the Cainites that, out of all the heretical sects, held Judas in the highest regard. Irenaeus wrote of this sect that:

“[They] declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They bring forward a fictitious history along these lines, which they call the Gospel of Judas.”
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