Judas Iscariot

Update: It appears that while ancient, this document was not written by the Judas who actually knew Jesus, but came many years later, written by people called the Gnostics. Here is what one the professors of Asbury Seminary had to say. The following excerpt is from the blog of Dr. Ben Witherington III.

I was on the phone yesterday with my close friend Dr. A.J. Levine who teaches at Vanderbilt Div. School. She was called in late in the game to give a bit more balance to the group of scholars unveiling the Gospel of Judas. I asked her point blank: " Well A.J. is this document of any importance at all in helping us understand the historical Jesus or the historical Judas and their relationship?" She said unequivocally - "none whatsoever". In other words, we need to all have our baloney detection meters set to 'heightened alert' as we watch the special on the Gospel of Judas tonight. While this document will tell us more about the split off movement called Gnosticism, and so is of considerable interest as we learn more about church history in the period from the late 2nd century through the fourth century, it tells us nothing about the origins of Christianity or the beginnings of the Jesus movement.

I just got finished watching an ABC Nightline piece about Judas Iscariot. According to news reports flying around, a manuscript has been uncovered which some claim is essentially the Gospel of Judas. For those not familiar with the background around him, he was the disciple who betrayed Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, ultimately leading to Jesus' crucifixion.

Jesus seems to have foreknown this though, telling him at the last supper to go about betraying him quickly (John chapter 13). There has been much debate over whether or not Jesus asked Judas to betray him. To me, it seems odd that money would be involved from a 3rd party if Jesus had requested this as a favor. There's certainly nothing about it in the canonized Biblical scriptures, but if this manuscript is the real deal (it's not, written long after Judas' death), then maybe we can learn more about Judas' character traits.

It was kind of cool to be watching TV and see Ben Witherington, one of my favorite professors appear on the screen. He was being interviewed about the character of Judas, and possible motives for betraying Jesus. While the interview was very brief, one thing struck me as a bit inaccurate.

It wasn't something Dr. Witherington said, rather it was the reporter who seemed to misunderstand her terminology. She equated Zealots, who some have speculated Judas was affiliated with, to terrorists. They were / are both violent, to be sure, but Zealots were not in the habit of killing indiscriminately.

Instead, their primary goal was to overthrow the Roman government and bring freedom to the Jewish people. Ransacking a Roman guard patrol is hardly the same as blowing up a bus in London. The motives of Zealots were political, killing select Jewish people who conformed to Roman rule, seeing it as a sign of selling out on God's authority. If anything, the Zealots could be better equated to early American colonialists who carried out the Boston Tea Party, or fought in the revolutionary war.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating these types of methods. My point is that mainstream news media really needs to choose its words more carefully, and try not to sensationalize things into modern day context, simply because the topic of terrorism is a hot one right now. The Biblical times were riddled with their own problems, unique to their culture and context, so it is neither necessary nor tasteful to gloss over nuances which can change the meaning of an interview entirely. For example: "Everyone against Jesus and Christianity is a terrorist," which of course is not the case.

// end_rant