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Old 02-12-2001, 01:05 PM   #1
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Post Did Judas Iscariout Exist?

Judas. Judas Iscariot. Definitely one of the more important figures in the Gospels. He is famous for the ultimate betrayal. His very name has become synonymous with treachery. He is mentioned 22 times in the New Testament. Mark mentions him 3 times, Matthew 5 times, Luke/Acts 6 times, and John 8 times.

Some scholars have questioned whether he even existed. According to this theory, Judas was completely invented from wholeclothe by the gospel writers. To support their theory, they rely on 5 arguments:

1. There are few biographical details given about Judas.
2. The later written gospels seem to focus on him more, showing a progressive development of his character.
3. There are differing stories about his death. Matthew wrote that Judas hung himself. Luke wrote that he fell, swelled up, and burst.
4. "Silence" from Paul concerning Judas.
5. The name Judas is etymologically related to "Jew." Some have taken this to mean that Judas was invented to represent the treachery of the entire Jewish race towards Jesus.

I find these arguments unpersuasive and believe that Judas was a disciple of Jesus who eventually betrayed him.

First, there are more "biographical details" about Judas than most other New Testament figures. He was one of the 12 disciples (Mark 3:19), he was the son of Simon (John 6:71), he was the treasurer of Jesus' ministry (John 12:6). Not a biography of course, but more than we have on most of the other disciples. And as scholars are so fond of telling us, the Gospels are not biographies of Jesus, much less of Judas.

Second, the fact that Judas was mentioned more often in the gospels most scholars believe were written later does not imply that he never existed. The simply fact is that Matthew, Luke and John are well known for being larger, more detailed accounts. Moreover, the "increase" is minimal. Mark clearly records that Judas was one of the 12 disciples and that he betrayed Jesus to the authorities after the Last Supper. Matthew, Luke, and John all agree on that basic outline. Finally, the criterion of multiple attestation and the fact that all four gospels discuss Judas and his role as a betrayer support his historicity.

Third, although there are differing stories about Judas' death, that fact does not persuasively infer that he never existed. It could mean that one story is right about how he died and the other wrong. It could mean that neither story was right about how he died. The apparently different accounts of how Judas died are notable because they stand in contrast to the uniform account of him as the betrayer of Jesus.

Fourth, I completely reject the "silence" from Paul argument. To begin with, it's fallacy to refer to any "silence" from Paul when we do not have all of his writings. There are almost certainly letters from Paul that have not survived to our time. Also, Paul's letters were highly occasional. He was not writing a gospel account. Finally, although Paul does not refer to Judas by name he does state that Jesus was "betrayed" on the night of the Last Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23). Not only does that match the account given in all of the gospels, but the use of the term "betrayed" necessarily suggests that the betraying was done by a follower of Jesus.

Fifth, the gospels themselves never suggest that Judas represents all Jews. Judas a Patriarchal name which was very popular in New Testament times. Raymond E. Brown, Death of the Messiah, V. II, at 1395. In fact, there are seven other people in the New Testament with the name Judas. One of the other disciples was named Judas (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:12), and, interestingly enough, Jesus own brother was named Judas. He is referred to as "Jude" to differentiate him from Judas Iscariot.

Finally, I have some general objections.

There are no compelling reason for the gospel writers to have invented Judas. In fact, the betrayal by Judas has posed some theological challenges to Christianity. Celsus argued that Jesus could not have been perfect if he chose such an imperfect disciple.

There was no time to "invent" Judas. As 1 Corinthians 11 shows, the tradition of Jesus being betrayed by one of his followers after the Last Supper was established very early. "If he were a fictional creation, that would have had to take place within the first decade of Christianity." Brown, at 1396. The tradition was firmly established in Christianity well before the Gospel writers set "pen" to "paper."
 
Old 02-12-2001, 02:15 PM   #2
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">There are no compelling reason for the gospel writers to have invented Judas. </font>
Bzzzt! Thank you for playing, please try again.

Your inability to come up with a reason for the gospel writers to invent Jesus does not mean that such a reason does not exist. The gospelers invented Judas to typologically fulfill OT events, namely Ahithophel's betrayal of David (see 1 Sam. 17) and Joab's betrayal of Amas (1 Sam. 20). Look at the two ways that Judas dies, and tell me nothing looks fishy.

Also note that Paul does not saw that Jesus was betrayed at the Last Supper. Use a better translation. Paul uses the word traditionally translated as "betrayed" many times. It is almost always translated as "delivered," including in the first part of this very same verse! I find it quite odd that Paul would use the exact same word to mean "delivered" and "betrayed" in the same sentence. Check out Strong's # 3860 at www.blueletterbible.com if you want to see for yourself Paul's usage of "paradidomi."
And lets not forget 1 Cor. 15:5, where Paul seems unaware of Judas' death. (Yeah, he could be using ampliatio, but that's a bit of a stretch!)

Finally, another objection to the character of Judas is his uselessness. Jesus himself says that his betrayal was done only to fulfill prophecy, becasue they could have arrested him any time when he was teaching.
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Old 02-12-2001, 03:00 PM   #3
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Is it just me, or is this the 1000th time someone wondered if "Person X Existed" on this forum? There should be an award, or at least a small ceremony.

A good award might be a semester of "Historical Methods" classes.

Maybe we need a new forum called "Existence of historical persons."

http://www.iit.edu/~zehnaar
 
Old 02-12-2001, 03:11 PM   #4
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Layman

Here is an alternative scenario to the one you posited:

Layman
"There are no compelling reason for the gospel writers to have invented Judas."

Norm

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul was describing the ritual cannibalism that has become such an important part of modern Christianity. The author of Mark would have presumably been familiar with Paulís writings which described this in detail and familiar with Paulís use of the word betrayed. Therefore when the author of Mark wrote the part concerning the last supper, he used the words of Paul, and needed a betrayer. Someone called Judas was as good as anyone for this purpose. The other Gospel writers, using Mark as a source, could have simply copied and embellished what the author of Mark wrote.

Layman
"In fact, the betrayal by Judas has posed some theological challenges to Christianity. Celsus argued that Jesus could not have been perfect if he chose such an imperfect disciple."

Norm

There is a "get out of jail free" card with this one:

Luke 22 [3] Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.

John 13 [2] And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;

It is easy to argue that the authors of Luke and John saw this as a problem and reverted to "the devil made me do it" argument It really is not all that important as the existence or otherwise of Judas, specifically as the betrayer.

Layman
"There was no time to "invent" Judas. As 1 Corinthians 11 shows, the tradition of Jesus being betrayed by one of his followers after the Last Supper was established very early. "If he were a fictional creation, that would have had to take place within the first decade of Christianity." Brown, at 1396. The tradition was firmly established in Christianity well before the Gospel writers set "pen" to "paper."

Norm

Corinthians describes a betrayer. Later, Mark puts a name to the betrayer. The other gospel writers use Mark (or Markís source) as the source. Since "Judas" was the betrayer of the founder of their faith he needed an appropriate ending. Thus he died, twice, in two different ways. I think (as per your post) it would be easier to think that the descriptions of Judas death were more wish fulfilment than "gospel" truth.

Also, Jesus had been upsetting quite a few highly regarded people for a number of days. Would the Romans not know what he looked like? Why did he need to be betrayed with a kiss. It is pretty poetic, but pretty unrealistic in the circumstances.


As this response was pretty much "off the top" based on your comments and a very quick look at Bible references, I invite comment/criticism.

Norm

 
Old 02-12-2001, 03:12 PM   #5
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"Your inability to come up with a reason for the gospel writers to invent Jesus does not mean that such a reason does not exist. The gospelers invented Judas to typologically fulfill OT events, namely Ahithophel's betrayal of David (see 1 Sam. 17) and Joab's betrayal of Amas (1 Sam. 20). Look at the two ways that Judas dies, and tell me nothing looks fishy."

As I said, the contradictory nature of Judas' death does not imply that the very existence of Judas was created, even if the deaths are wholesale creations of their respective communities. In other words, even if Judas' deaths are typological creations, it is unlikely that Judas as betrayer is. At least two independant sources converge on this point, Mark and John.

Moreover, your alleged typology is extremely weak. The problem with the typological argument is that, given the breadth and scope of the Old Testament books, you can use it to explain away anything and everything. The Judas example is prime. Of course there are stories of betrayal in the Old Testament. But it would be ridiculous to treat every story of betrayal alleged to have taken place since the Old Tesament as simply a literary derivative.

As for your scripture references, I'll assume you meant 2 Samuel, rather than 1 Samuel. Yes, Ahithophel sided with Absalom against David for control over the throne. Ahithophel was generally considered the wisest of advisers. Of course, Ahithophel is one of only several people who betrayed David, as one would expect of a conspiracy to depose a King. And, yes, Ahitophel hanged himself. Of course, hanging is not that unusual a form of suicide.

As for Amas, I see almost no parallel. You are going to have to be more specific. Amasa was gutted by a sword. Neither Luke nor Matthew depicts Judas being killed at swordpoint. Specifics?

And, in this case at least, it begs the question. Even if the gospel writers were prone to manufacturing typological comparisons, WHY would they feel the need to do so? What theological purpose would it serve for the early church? And would that supposed theological purpose be outweighed by any negative implications?

I'll look into the 1 corinthains language bit. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

"Finally, another objection to the character of Judas is his uselessness. Jesus himself says that his betrayal was done only to fulfill prophecy, becasue they could have arrested him any time when he was teaching."

There are at least a few good reasons to believe that Judas would have been useful to the authorities wishing to apprehend Jesus. Jesus was travelling with a group of Galileans who would most likely have been simliarly dressed and with similar characteristics. Judas' ability to point Jesus out in the dark of night would allow for a quick seizure with a minimal scuffle. If it is true that some of Jesus' disciples were armed, this would have become even more important.

Additionally, Judas could provide them with information as to Jesus' whereabouts so that he could be seized when he was away from the crowds. If, as is likely, Jesus had some popularity with at least some of the population of Jerusalem, seizing him at "any time" would have been problematic, not simple. Given the nature of the Roman occupation, the Sanhedrin would have had very good reasons to try and avoid a religious riot requiring Roman intervention. Knowing when and where Jesus would be in a secluded location would be valuable information to avoid this issue. Judas would have known it.

Also, some scholars have speculated the Judas provided the Sanhedrin with testimony to be used at Jesus' trial. Jesus' statements about the temple, for example, which might have justified his deliverance to the Romans for execution.
 
Old 02-12-2001, 03:20 PM   #6
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Norm,

I explained some reasons that Judas would have been a useful betrayer above.

I strongly disagree that Mark was familiar with Paul's letters. I could be wrong, but I thought scholarly consensus was that none of the Gospels writers display any literary awareness of Paul's epistles. Remember, Mark, at least, was probably writing between 65-70CE. And, most likely in Rome. Even if he was familiar with Paul's epistle to the Romans, I doubt that Paul's epistle to the Corinthians would have been available to him.

As for your argument that Luke and John resorted to the "devil made me do it" explanation. If true, I think this demonstrates all the more that they were dealing with a difficult tradition which they had to explain away. In other words, why would the early church have invented such a problem for itself?

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 12, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 13, 2001).]
 
Old 02-12-2001, 04:48 PM   #7
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Layman

Thanks for your reply. I realise I am way out in "Speculationland" here. And I am not trying to argue against the events that Judas is supposed to be responsible for - I suspect many of the Gospels stories are historical if somewhat confabulated. But two quick points.

Since, as you said, it is likely that we do not have all of Pauls letters, the possibility of a now lost letter, or the verbal passing on of the text of one of his letters may have found its way to the author of Mark and used as the basis of the last supper as described in Mark.

After all in an emerging religion all information of common interest would surely get passed on to people who had a stake in that religion (where such a thing was possible). I guess my point is, that this possibility cannot be totally dismissed.

As to the "devil made me do it", perhaps Mark simply did not see this as a problem, but the author of Luke, and John, did and included a "justification" for Jesus choosing a betrayer (be it Judus or someone else) as a disciple.

Norm
 
Old 02-12-2001, 07:45 PM   #8
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To Layman:

Sorry about the scriptural reference. I was working without a Bible in front of me.

Here are the parallels to which I was referring:

David and Ahithophel: Ahithophel betrays David, and then hangs himself. Judas betrays Jesus (the son of David) and then hangs himself.

Joab and Amasa: Joab kisses Amasa to betray him. Amasa dies by having "his intestines spill" out. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. Judas dies by having his intestines spill out. (Exact same words used in Greek Septuagint and Acts!)

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Even if the gospel writers were prone to manufacturing typological comparisons, WHY would they feel the need to do so? What theological purpose would it serve for the early church? And would that supposed theological purpose be outweighed by any negative implications?
</font>
Typology was seen as a means of prophecy fulfillment. It was created in order to portray Jesus as:

1) A great prophet
2) The Messiah
3) The son of David
4) The new Israel

Examples abound, from the small to the great. Matthew's birth story is laden with typology, as is the rest of his gospel. He even breaks Jesus' speeches into five large sections, reminiscent of the five books of Moses.

Typology was also used to fill in details about Jesus' life that the gospel writers knew little of. This served a great purpose for the early church, usually with little theological baggage.

Your arguments as to the usefulness of Judas as a person assume the accuracy of the rest of the Bible. This particularly specious when we consider how contradictory the accounts are on Jesus' popularity. One minute, he's being greeted with chants of "Hosanna! Hosanna!," the next minute they're screaming "Crucify him!"

Would these people have wanted Jesus arrested, or would they have protested? Unless the Bible can agree with itself on this issue, I can't take it as evidence one way or another.

And of course, we still have Paul's mention of Jesus' appearance to "the twelve," indicating that this was not that early of a Christian tradition.
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Old 02-12-2001, 08:55 PM   #9
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Before beginning, let me thank you for a thorough and civil discussion on this issue.

I do not deny the existence of types in the gospels, especially in Matthew. Whether they are genuine fulfillment or the work of the redacter does not indicate that Judas never existed. Raymond E. Brown, for example, believes that Matthew may very well have invented the 30 pieces of silver reference, but that he was adding to a historical tradition of Judas. The two targets you have picked out would fit into Brown's explanation. Even if Matthew invented the story of Judas' death to match that of Ahithophel, that does not mean that Luke did as well. Moreover, even if both of them felt the need to fill in the details of Judas' death using the OT, that is no indication that he was invented in the first place.

You also ignore my point about multiple attestation. Even ASSUMING that Matthew and Luke invented embellishments, Mark and John both refer to Judas as a betrayer, and given their independence, I find it historically unlikely that they invented the same role, by the same disciple, in the same manner.

That being said, as I said in the above post, I find the two "types" you have offered to be weak.

"David and Ahithophel: Ahithophel betrays David, and then hangs himself. Judas betrays Jesus (the son of David) and then hangs himself."

As I said in my previous post, the association is rather weak. One who chooses to commit suicide has a limited number of options. Hanging is by no means an unpopular choice. Neither is the decision to commit suicide after a coup attempt. Rommel, for example, also took this course of action and I doubt he did so trying to mimic OT prophecy.

"Joab and Amasa: Joab kisses Amasa to betray him. Amasa dies by having "his intestines spill" out. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. Judas dies by having his intestines spill out. (Exact same words used in Greek Septuagint and Acts!)."

This one is even weaker. How can this by a "type" when Joab is protecting David (the messiah), and betraying David's enemy. Joab did not betray David (the messiah), but rather betrayed Amasa (David's enemy). What theological point could Luke possibly be trying to accomplish by presenting Judas' betrayal of Jesus as somehow related to Joab's "betrayal" of Amasa? And furthermore, kissing as a greeting was hardly a novel practice in the Old Testament or in First Century Palestine. It would have been odd that Joab NOT kissed Amasa upon greeting him.

Morever, you left out a KEY element. Amasa doesn't die because his intestines just spill out. Rather, he dies because Joab stuck a sword in his gut. Luke, on the other hand, states that Judas "fell headlong" in such a way that his guts burst out. So not only is the role of the "betrayal" in referse, but these are two very different ways to die.


A final note on "types." Too many skeptics think this is the answer to everything in the New Testament. Every miracle, every saying, every event in Jesus' life is explained away by "typology" or prophecy historicized. This demonstrates the fallacy and oversimplicity of falling back on this argument to explain so much of what Jesus did and said. Jesus must have did and said something. And must have did and said things that inspired the movement of Christianity and the early church. Moreover, those things that he did and said must have convinced them that Jesus had, in fact, been prophecied or foretold, in order for them to come to believe that he was the Messiah in the first place. Only when you get to that point does it make sense for the early Christians to start searching the OT in order to find even more parrallels demonstrating that Jesus was the messiah.


"Your arguments as to the usefulness of Judas as a person assume the accuracy of the rest of the Bible."

You are begging the question here. You said that Judas was "useless." I explained why he would be useful, especially in the context that the gospels have recorded. You avoid admitting that Judas could very well have been useful as a traitor if Jesus had obtained a certain level of public support. It need not have been unanimous support by any means, but enough that the authorities would have wanted to avoid a riot. For example, did the Rodney King riots mean that ALL of L.A. was dissatisfied with the officer's not guilty verdicts? Of course not. Similarly, I will tell you that just as there were people willing to riot because of the officer's initial acquittal, there were plenty of pissed of Californians when the feds got the officers on federal charges.

"This particularly specious when we consider how contradictory the accounts are on Jesus' popularity. One minute, he's being greeted with chants of "Hosanna! Hosanna!," the next minute they're screaming "Crucify him!"

Would these people have wanted Jesus arrested, or would they have protested? Unless the Bible can agree with itself on this issue, I can't take it as evidence one way or another."

First, as I explained above, one does no have to have unanimous backing to have enough public support to cause trouble. Second, your statement about the Bible not being evidence "one way or another" because it doesn't agree with itself is naive from a historical standpoint. Do you think that Josephus doesn't contradict himself, or, say Philo? Of course he does. Does that make him of no value as a historical source? Of course not. The key is to resolving the apparent contradictions and attempting to determine the most plausible explanation. Third, and finally, you use this as a "cop out." Either Jesus had some level of public support or he didn't. You avoid having admit that Jesus must have had some level of popluarity by pointing to some "contradictions" and then bailing on the question altogether.

On that note, a few more points. It certainly wasn't the "next minute" that the crowds "turned" on Jesus and need not have been the same "crowd" anyway. There can be no doubt that Jesus was a controversial figure. He was executed by the religious establishment afterall. But, to be a controversial figure one has to generate a certain level of a following, or there is no threat to the establishment. Surely you can admit that. So, on one hand Jesus had to be popular enough to be a threat, indicating a certain level of popular support for his ministry. (Luke 20:19). On the other hand, if he had been too popular then the establishment might have been too intimidated to move against him. Furthemore, keep in mind the diversity of Jewish sects at the time. There was not one giant mass of people in Jerusalem who all believed the same thing.

On top of that, if Jesus really had spoken against the temple, or if enough people believed that he had, this would have been plenty to engender hostility by the populace. However popular he may have been coming in, because of his reported miracles and exorcisms, threatening the temple, and then taking a whip to an influential group inside it, might very well have shifted public opinion against him.


[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 12, 2001).]
 
Old 02-13-2001, 08:08 AM   #10
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On the "Usefulness" of Judas

"Would not Jesus' whereabouts and identity have been well known to the authorities, or, at least, could they not have had police follow and arrest Jesus without Judas help? To that objection one can respond by the following: There were masses of people in Jerusalem for the feast, making supervision difficult; Jesus normally did not stay in Jerusalem but outside the walls (Mark 11:11; among friends in John 12:1-2); in the Synoptic accounts this is the first time Jesus had come to Jerusalem and he has not been there long; even in John, where he has been in Jerusalem frequently and could have been well known, Jesus had several times eluded arrest and hidden himself (John 7:30, 45-45; 8:59; 10:39-40; 11:54). Thus it is not illogical on the level of verisimilitude that the Jewish authorities could use help from Judas as to where and when they might take Jesus without a riot.... It is better to accept the Gospel evidence that the iniquity of Judas was to give over his teacher and friend to the Jewish authorities by showing them how they could arrest Jesus without public disturbance."

Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah, Appendix IV, at 1399-1401.
 
 

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