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Does Paul Know about Judas Iscariot?

In my previous post I indicated that Paul shows no evidence of knowing about the tradition that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.  In fact, one passage may suggest that he actually did not know about it.  I’ll get to that in a second.

First I need to stress that we really don’t have any way of know most of what Paul knew, or thought he knew, about Jesus’ life.  He tells us so very little.  As I have mentioned on the blog before, scholars have had long and hard debates about why Paul says so little about Jesus’ life: Did incidents from Jesus’ life seem irrelevant to what really mattered to him (salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection)?  Did information of Jesus’ life not matter for the issues that he was addressing in his letters to his trouble congregations?  Did he simply not know any more than he mentioned?  Each of these options is attractive and each of them is seriously problematic.  But the reality is that Paul doesn’t tell us much and we can’t actually tell how much more he knew.

Did he know about the tradition that Judas betrayed Jesus?

We can say several things for certain:  Paul never…

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Ehrman-Bass Debate Did the Historical Jesus Claim to be Divine
The Reversal of the Disciples’ Decisive Disconfirmation

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Comments

  1. godspell  December 9, 2015

    Possible that Judas was a sore point for Paul, since he himself had been a factor in having Christians ‘handed over’ to the authorities for punishment. Certainly it was not something the early Christians would have enjoyed remembering, that one of the men Jesus had chosen as his disciples, and perhaps future rulers of Israel, had proven to be a traitor. That casts doubt on Jesus infallibility, and the later answer–that Jesus knew all along, that this was part of his plan, that Judas was merely being used by God–that would have come later. The story has not yet been rewritten to any great extent, and they’re still trying to figure out what really happened, and why. So you stay away from sensitive subjects like that when writing to far-flung Christian communities. Just as you’d stay away from subjects like some people maybe saying Jesus’ mother was a virgin and Jehovah was his father.

  2. Pegill7  December 9, 2015

    Could it be that Paul was aware that Matthias had been selected by lot to fill the vacancy created by Judas’ death?
    (Acts 1:26) That would account for his mention of “the twelve.”

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      In Acts Matthias is selected *after* Jesus has finished appearing to the disciples and has then ascended to heaven,

      • godspell  December 11, 2015

        And since Paul met Peter, and James, and presumably other witnesses, we can be sure he knew more than we do about what really happened then. It’s a great pity he did not have a historical bent of mind. But he could have gotten confused about when Matthias was selected. We’ve all made worse mistakes than that. Or maybe there were versions of the story in which Jesus appeared to the 12 after Matthias was selected. Maybe Acts got it wrong–if the author of Luke wrote it, it probably got a whole lot wrong.

        If there was a Judas, and he did betray Jesus, Paul would have known about it. Of that we can be sure. We can’t be so sure he’d have written about it (or that he didn’t, in letters that have not survived). Nor can we be sure Jesus wouldn’t have appeared to Judas after his death. Who would be more likely to have guilt-inspired visions? Maybe he did kill himself after having such a vision. Or maybe that’s a story people told, that didn’t get written down. A stretch, I know. It’s pretty much all stretches, when you’re trying to explain why somebody didn’t mention something in a letter.

        To me the Doctrine of Embarrassment makes it unlikely Judas was made up out of whole cloth. They didn’t need Judas to explain how Jesus got arrested, tried, and executed. He does add to the story, make it more powerful, and no doubt the story was retooled in response to things that were going on in the Christian community when the gospels were written. And it’s entirely possible Judas was misunderstood, even unfairly blamed.

        Here’s another stretch–what if Judas was framed? There certainly was a tradition in Gnostic Christianity, well after the synoptics were written, suggesting he was not the villain he’s portrayed as being. No, I don’t believe the Gospel of Judas is based on fact, but it could be based on a memory that some defended Judas back at the time.

        So maybe Paul didn’t mention Judas, because to him, Judas was just one of the 12. Some said he was a betrayer, some said he wasn’t, and Paul may not have been much of a historian, but he was a pretty sage politician. Wherever there is controversy in the Christian community, he tends to shy away from it. He’s got his own ideas to promulgate, and people won’t listen to him if he takes a side they don’t like in an ongoing debate. He’s willing to fight when it matters to him–like over not forcing Jewish customs on gentile converts–but he picks his fights. This just isn’t a fight he felt like having.

  3. tasteslikecorn
    tasteslikecorn  December 9, 2015

    “One is that Paul is using “the twelve” in a technical sense to refer to “the closest disciples of Jesus,” known as “the twelve” (whether or not there were actually twelve of them). That probably is the most common interpretation.”

    Considering the judeo-christian preoccupation with numbers, this has never seemed to me like a satisfying explanation for Paul’s use of “the twelve.” It seems more plausible that Paul knew nothing of the Judas as betrayer narrative. We are told throughout the gospels that the twelve lacked clarity and consensus regarding Jesus and his message. To me, it seems more plausible that Judas Iscariot said something about Jesus to someone outside the twelve whom he thought he could trust and that this third party turned the information over to the Jewish authorities. If Judas, who had given up his former life to travel with an itinerant preacher, had a change of heart, wouldn’t he just walk away? Short of feeling betrayed himself, Judas’ actions as portrayed in the gospels don’t make sense. A Judas who remains committed to Jesus, but excitedly spreads the “good news” to the wrong third party seems like a more likely explanation. Judas still may have been resented by the rest of Jesus followers in such a scenario and the legend of his mistake grown in the retelling. By Paul’s time, the legend hadn’t grown to the point of of labeling Judas as a betrayer.

  4. mcritzman  December 9, 2015

    The idea of the betrayal never made much sense to me if Jesus was supposed to die on the cross. To me the betrayal only makes sense if he wasn’t supposed to and wasn’t expecting to die. That being said, I do think that he was betrayed since it’s in all the gospels. I wonder if Paul doesn’t mention it because Judas only inadvertantly (a loose lips sink ships kind of thing) betrayed Jesus and didn’t set out to betray him. Then a later tradition added a more nefarious reason for the betrayal.

  5. Blackwell  December 9, 2015

    Discussion of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus and his disciples should start from consideration of where he got this knowledge from in the first place.
    News spread to expatriate Jewish communities that a preacher who had been predicting an imminent apocalypse had been executed in Jerusalem and had then come back to life.
    For some people, this confirmed that the Roman Empire was about to be overthrown. Paul, who was himself a Jew, was appointed to spy on these people in case they did anything rash, so he first heard of Jesus from these expatriate Jews.
    Paul’s big idea, resulting from his conversion experience, was that this Jesus was not just an ordinary human but was divine, like the Greek gods. He repeats over and over again in his epistles that this secret has been revealed to him and he has been given the task of explaining that Jesus had gone back to heaven and would return at the apocalypse, saving only those who believed this message.
    It would therefore have been absurd for Paul to lecture his converts about the life of Jesus, since they already knew more about this than he did. Details about Judas and the crucifixion would have been irrelevant to him.

  6. Scott  December 9, 2015

    “But even so, you would think that Peter would mention the important events surrounding Jesus’ death.”

    Paul obviously knows about the Last Supper in detail. One would think that his knowledge of the entire episode would be good right up to the crucifixion. I mean, who tells the Passion story WITH the Last Supper but WITHOUT how Jesus came to be captured.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Well, we only have two other independent versions of it (Mark and John) (and that’s assuming John is independent)!

  7. brandon284  December 9, 2015

    Hi Dr. Ehrman. I’m wondering if, and I know it’s indeed problematic, that if Papias is right and Mark’s Gospel is essentially a recording of Peter’s thoughts that Peter would use Paul as a powerful example of Christ’s saving power? Since Peter clearly knew Paul, it seems it would be a powerful testimony to use. Even if it was deviation from the narrative flow of Mark.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Unfortunately neither Papias nor Mark mentions Paul.

  8. Omar6741  December 9, 2015

    After reading Paul’s letters so many times over the years and discussing his life with other historians, how confident are you that Paul was sincere in his claim to have received revelations?
    An alternative is that, when he found the Christians not being sufficiently intimidated by his persecution, he decided to create divisions from within the movement by pretending to convert due to a vision; religious believers often can’t resist the “infidel-turns-good-by-miracle” story.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Yes, I think he was certainly sincere.

      • Omar6741  December 11, 2015

        Can I ask why you think that? There are frauds and conmen out there, after all, and they sometimes engage in their frauds day in and day out for years on end.

        • Bart
          Bart  December 12, 2015

          I think you always have to ask for evidence when you reach any historical conclusion. With Paul we have seven letters he wrote. I would say that even if he had faults (and I think he did), he could never be accused of being insincere.

  9. talmoore
    talmoore  December 9, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman,
    I know you scholars like to split hairs, but in this case I have to say you’re left with splitends. To me it’s quite obvious that Paul is speaking euphemistically when he says that Jesus was “handed over” rather than saying he was betrayed. And it would make sense why Paul would speak euphemistically, because Paul is, for lack of a better word, a salesman trying to sell a product. That product is Jesus, and no one wants to buy a defective product. A betrayed Jesus sounds like a man who doesn’t know what he’s doing. A Jesus who has been “handed over,” on the other hand, sounds it’s all part of the plan. Paul needs to convince his converts that what happened to Jesus was all part of a grand design, and that the progress of history was leading to a spectacular finale. Saying Jesus was betrayed makes it sound like there is no grand design, that even Jesus, the purported savior of humanity, is stumbling around in the dark just like the rest of us.

    And this certainly isn’t the only case where Paul speaks euphemistically. He does it habitually. He says that the dead believers are “asleep”. Being asleep doesn’t sound nearly as bad as being dead. He talks about God “giving over” the unbelievers to Satan, instead of saying what he really means. God willfully abandons those who don’t worship him. (That kind of makes God seem not so nice, doesn’t it?) Paul regularly equates God’s judgment with loving “kindness.” Hey, God’s not such a bad guy. If you think about it, God’s doing you a favor. It’s pretty clear what Paul is doing here. He’s trying to be honest while at the same time not scaring away the customer. For that reason, I take anything Paul says with a grain of salt.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      The question is whether PARADIDOMI is a euphemism. It is a common word, and Paul uses it — never to intimate betrayal (quite the reverse!)

  10. Wilusa  December 9, 2015

    OK, now I get it! You aren’t really stating as absolute *fact* that he didn’t know, just that it’s a strong possibility.

    But I can think of another reason he might have said “the twelve” in that letter: it was just a slip-up, that he didn’t notice and correct.

  11. LWE  December 9, 2015

    This seems like a pretty good reason to be a Judas Myther – to insist that Judas likely never existed. Are there any reasons to think that he was a real person at all?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Well, he’s multiply attested in a number of independent sources (Mark, John, Acts, Papias)

      • veryrarelystable  December 13, 2015

        Is Acts really independent of Mark?

  12. Garrett20
    Garrett20  December 9, 2015

    Interesting post. I have always taken “the twelve” to refer to Jesus’ closest followers. Matthew 28:16-17 does state there were eleven that Jesus appeared to, but I understand what Paul meant. I still have a hard time reconciling Paul not knowing about Judas. I just simply do not think Paul ever really needed to mention Judas in his letters. Even assuming Paul did not know about Judas’ death, all four Gospels identify him as the betrayer at the very least. The passage you mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11 could easily be understood as betrayed even though it means “handed over” since that is what happened. Are there any manuscripts with PARADIDOMI as opposed to PRODIDOMI? But this is interesting, to say the least. In Galatians 1, we do learn that Paul spent some time with Peter, but as you mentioned there was a lot for them to talk about (It would be very cool to have writings from this meeting!).

  13. billw977  December 10, 2015

    I noticed that you left out the possibility that the 12 are still the 12 because they chose Matthias to replace Judas. Acts 1:26. Even if Paul’s letters were written before the Acts, he could still be knowledgeable of this replacement since it happened shortly after the crucifixion.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      It’s because matthias was chosen after the final appearance and ascension.

      • Bwana  December 13, 2015

        OK, but does Paul actually “know” about the ascension? Besides, how does he reconcile the ascension with his own Jesus encounter?

        • Bart
          Bart  December 14, 2015

          No, I don’t think Paul imagines that 40 days after his resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven. He probably thinks that at the resurrection Jesus was exalted to be with God.

          • Bwana  December 14, 2015

            Exactly. But then from Paul’s point of view, the ascension being a non-event, Matthias could just as well have been part of “the twelve” to which Jesus appeared in 1Cor.15:5.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 16, 2015

            It’s possible. But why should we think Paul knows about Matthias? Or even that there was a Matthias? It’s all dependent on Acts.

          • Bwana  December 16, 2015

            Sorry to keep bugging you on this, but it’s become a bit of a methodology issue to me.
            Discounting certain (or even all) events in Acts as historically not reliable is fair enough if they’re not otherwise attested. But then it seems to me that the Matthias replacement argument should be dismissed because of that very reason, historical unreliability, and not because the event doesn’t fit the chronology relative to another, even more improbable event in that same narrative.

            In another reply in this thread you answered:
            “If you want to rely on the reliability of Acts for the appointment of Matthias, then it doesn’t work to use the narrative to explain that this happened before Jesus appeared to the disciples.”

            But the corollary also applies:
            If you DON’T want to rely on the reliability of Acts for the appointment of Matthias, then it doesn’t work to use the narrative to explain that this happened AFTER Jesus’ final appearance to the disciples.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 18, 2015

            I’m not dismissing the event because of chronology. I’m simply saying you can’t use it to show who the twelve were for Paul, since he shows no knowledge of the event. If you want to use Acts to verify the event, then you need to recognize that it happened long after the event that you want to use it to substantiate!!

          • Bwana  December 18, 2015

            OK, clear. Thanks for the elucidation.

  14. Joseph  December 10, 2015

    Can you explain the difference we see when a persons name is given? Why in some cases do we see Jesus of Nazareth and not Jesus Nazareth or Paul of Tarsus but not Paul Tarsus versus Mary Magdalene not Mary of Magdalene or Judas Iscariot and not Judas of Iscariot? Is there any significant difference here?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      The big question is Judas; the others are clear descripters: of Nazareth; the Magdalene; etc. No one quite knows if Iscariot is that kind of thing or something else. (like “Simon Peter” e.g.: name/nickname)

    • talmoore
      talmoore  December 11, 2015

      Magdalene means from Magdala (a town by the sea of Galilee), just as how Nazarene (supposedly) means from Nazareth.

  15. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  December 10, 2015

    First of all, why did Paul say that Jesus appeared to Peter and THEN to the Twelve? Wasn’t Peter one of the Twelve? Could Paul have written I Corinthians before meeting with Peter and knowing the full story?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Yup, it’s an interesting question. I wrote an article once arguing that Peter was not a member of the twelve because he and Cephas (a member of the twelve) were two different people!

      • Eric  December 14, 2015

        Wow! I’d love to read that article!

        • Bart
          Bart  December 14, 2015

          Yeah, it’s kinda technical….

          • Eric  December 14, 2015

            Let me rephrase — that is a significant and very interesting assertion (or speculation? – in either case); could you put a layman’s overview on your list of future topics. If you can’t make the full proof without getting too technical (for instance, just say the “Greek implies this, not this” without getting into the actual Greek technicalities, if that helps), I still think blog readers would find the general argument interesting. Thanks.

  16. Mark  December 10, 2015

    Since you’re in the mood for Greek: In The First Urban Christians, Wayne Meeks translates ἁρπαγμὸ as “good luck” in the Philippians Christ poem. You translate as “something to be grasped after,” and NRSV goes with “exploited.” What would you say to “windfall”? Does that capture the essence of it?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Are you sure he translateds it as “good luck”??? I have read the Meeks book probably six times and don’t recall that (seems like I would, since that’s not what the word means)

      • Mark  December 14, 2015

        Page 144 of second edition:
        who being in the form of God
        did not count it his good luck
        to be equal to God,
        but emptied himself

        To be fair, he says Paul is quoting a hymn, and says that the hymn would have sounded “something like this:” So maybe he thinks that’s what the original hymn was. But no indication why Paul would have changed it.

        • Bart
          Bart  December 14, 2015

          Wow. OK, it’s a stretch, but I see what he’s doing. He’s taking “something to be grasped” to mean “something that he was lucky enough to have but was willing to let go of.”

  17. Jana  December 10, 2015

    Can anyone date the inclusion of the “Judas Betrayal” in the Four Gospels? Is it possible that the story was invented and inserted at a later date in order to “glue” a sequence and a philosophy/theology?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      It almost certainly is original to the Gospels, not a later scribal alteration.

  18. Epikouros  December 10, 2015

    Maybe the stories about Judas were created after Paul wrote his letters? He was writing 20 or 30 years before Mark, after all.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Yes, that’s one of the options I’m exploring. I don’t think so, but it’s an option.

  19. Judith  December 10, 2015

    This had me thinking if it gets any better, I’m not going to be able to stand it! Thanks, Dr. Ehrman.

  20. JSTMaria  December 10, 2015

    Does this mean that the replacement of Judas with another disciple thereafter is a bogus story? I just assumed the replacement disciple would make up “the twelve” again. No?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      In Acts that happens *after* Jesus’ final appearance and ascension to heaven.

  21. Menoclone  December 10, 2015

    Cephas and Saul seemed to be antagonistic. Maybe Peter kept things close to the vest.
    Maybe Judas only got Jesus an interview that went south?

  22. Adam Beaven  December 10, 2015

    Doctor Ehrman

    mark
    “31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. ”

    paul
    2. he says, None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. — 1 Corinthians 2:8

    question: any hint in pauls word that jesus got caught off guard by the authorities? is paul saying if the rulers understood the torah they would not crucify jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      It’s a tough passage to interpret. What is the “mystery” that the rulers don’t understand (it’s almost certainly not the Torah); and who are the rulers? Pilate and Co.? Or demonic beings ultimately behind the passion?

  23. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  December 10, 2015

    Isn’t one of the definitions for PARADIDOMI “to betray?” Could it have been used interchangeably?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      No and no!

    • jbjbjbjbjb  December 12, 2015

      What is not so clear is that PRODIDOMI has to mean betray. In Romans 11:35 it definitely doesn’t. Bart may well be right (that Paul was not referring to Judas but instead to God handing him over), but the assumptions of clear-cut definitions as he puts them here failed to satisfy me today.

      Another thing PARADIDOMI doesn’t mean betray?!
      Bart does specify that PAUL doesn’t use it this way, but he also does not draw attention to the fact that all four gospel writers use this word EXTENSIVELY to describe Judas and his act. If Paul doesn’t focus on Judas in his writings (or the very few writings that WE have), what other occasion would he have had to use PARADIDOMI in a betrayal sense? Finally, (smaller point) when Paul (and “Peter”) use PARADIDOMI, it is a bit wider than simply God delivering his son; Jesus also gives himself up, people are delivered to their own depravity, it’s quite general and not specifically located in a narrative, unlike this one passage in 1 Cor. 11:22-24.
      Thanks.

      • Bart
        Bart  December 12, 2015

        I’m not saying that any of htese terms means any one thing; but I am saying that if you want to say “betray” in Greek you use PRODIDOMI, not PARADIDOMI. If you want to pursue this further, you might look at my discussion in my book on Judas. (I’m out of the country now and can’t remember which scholar convinced me on this point. Was it William Klassen???)

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  December 13, 2015

          If I’m understanding you correctly, Paul never used paradidomi to mean betrayed, so it was mistranslated in your view. However, I found this website–http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/paradidomi.html– and it has one of the definitions as betrayed. What reasons could there be to translate paradidomi as betrayed rather than handed over?

          • Bart
            Bart  December 14, 2015

            Does it give any passages in any Greek author where it unambiguously means “betray”?

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  December 14, 2015

            This is what comes up on the website:

            The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon
            Strong’s Number: 3860 Browse Lexicon
            Original Word Word Origin
            paradidomi from (3844) and (1325)
            Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
            Paradidomi 2:169,166
            Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
            par-ad-id’-o-mee Verb
            Definition
            to give into the hands (of another)
            to give over into (one’s) power or use
            to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage
            to deliver up one to custody, to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented, put to death
            to deliver up treacherously
            by betrayal to cause one to be taken
            to deliver one to be taught, moulded
            to commit, to commend
            to deliver verbally
            commands, rites
            to deliver by narrating, to report
            to permit allow
            when the fruit will allow that is when its ripeness permits
            gives itself up, presents itself

            NAS Word Usage – Total: 119
            betray 17, betrayed 10, betraying 9, betrays 3, commended 1, committed 3, deliver 6, delivered 21, delivered over 1, delivering 3, entrusted 3, entrusting 1, gave 4, gave…over 3, given…over 1, hand 6, handed 9, handed…over 1, handed down 4, handed over 4, hands 1, permits 1, put 1, putting 1, risked 1, surrender 1, taken into custody 2, turn…over 1

            NAS Verse Count
            Matthew 31
            Mark 19
            Luke 17
            John 15
            Acts 13
            Romans 6
            1 Corinthians 6
            2 Corinthians 1
            Galatians 1
            Ephesians 3
            1 Timothy 1
            1 Peter 1
            2 Peter 2
            Jude 1
            Total 117

            On the website, you can click on them, and it will take you to the verse where the word is used. I don’t know if they’re unambiguous.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 16, 2015

            No, they’re not unambiguous. This is simply the older view that assumed the word must mean “betray.” I don’t know of a single instance where it probably means that. But I’d be happy to see an example (not just in the NT, but in Greek generally) if anyone knows of one.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  December 13, 2015

        Yes, I found that. It would be helpful to mention this (for any Greek word) when posting. Otherwise, I’m left thinking it’s impossible for paradidomi to mean anything other than handed over. That’s only true for Paul’s writings perhaps, but not the rest of the NT.

        • jbjbjbjbjb  December 14, 2015

          Mark 3:19 is an example of the verb applied directly to Judas, and as I said there are multiple examples from all four gospels. It seems to me that Bart is saying that this is not a pure form of betrayal. It speaks more of a (simpler? more descriptive?) “handing over”, even when applied to Judas like in Mk 3:19.

          Couple of problems in trying to protect the two Greek words from possibilities of overlap or of flexibility (at least on the part of the one we are probing more deeply, paradidomi). Firstly, if Jesus hands *himself* over, therefore not implying deceit, how can we see “the man” by whom the Son of Man will be “handed over” in Mark 14:21/Luke 22:22 as equally guiltless? We can’t, whether or not Paul was familiar with these accounts. Secondly, as you mention, it seems that many of the Greek reference sources agree that betrayal IS one of the shades of meaning of this word.

          Regarding the whole issue of “the twelve” – I don’t see why, if I put myself temporarily in Bart’s shoes (big and very respectable shoes that I shouldn’t be toying with probably), then I don’t see why I would be so heavily leaning on a book like Acts and its historicity about precisely when the twelfth member was re-appointed. There are waaaay to many “what ifs” that could come into play to explain Paul saying “the 12”. What if Judas did betray Jesus but Jesus also was known to have appeared to him as one of the 12 before Judas banished himself to another country in perpetual shame (hence discordant death stories)? What if Paul made a mistake (hardly anyone would have remembered the very short period when people went around talking about the “eleven”)? What if the only person who EVER mentioned “the Eleven” like that was Luke telling his story decades later in a Tolkienian fashion to engage his readership (before the Mark long-ending-writer grabbed it from Luke) (Luke IS the only one to mention the Eleven in the NT)? What if Luke made a mistake about the timings of the replacement apostle, and would it be the first time he fitted events and stories into a timeline he applies to keep a narrative feel? What if Paul really didn’t know much about what happened in terms of the technicalities of the betrayal/handing-over (like Judas’ name)? What if saying Judas’ name (for some) for a relatively short period of early church history was sooo bad that it was like exposing yourself spiritually to similar betrayal? What if… well I’m not as good as Bart is for the what-if scenarios, but I am sure he and probably many others on this blog could come with a really good list if they really wanted to.

          Theology really is quite crazy. I just forgot why this Judas-betrayal question even matters! I guess the familiarity of Paul with the gospels is a big one.
          BTW I still loved the “spilling the messianic secret beans” post. Seems more and more plausible each time I think about it, unlike this one, which I think has to remain open. I am grateful for being made to think about it quite deeply and discover more of the nuances here in the Greek.

          Final thought on Paul’s remarkable ignorance – I can’t find another mention of him after Acts. So it’s not just Paul who does not focus on this key gospel figure.

          • jbjbjbjbjb  December 14, 2015

            “I can’t find another mention of him after Acts.” = “I can’t find another mention of Judas after Acts”. Sorry.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 16, 2015

            Again, I’m not relying on Acts for “when the twelfth member was appointed.” I don’t know if there ever was a Mathias, or if he became the twelfth member, or if anyone was reappointed to be one of the twelve. The only passage that says that is in Acts: Paul never gives a hint of it. If you want to rely on the reliability of Acts for the appointment of Matthias, then it doesn’t work to use the narrative to explain that this happened before Jesus appeared to the disciples.

  24. Adam0685  December 10, 2015

    “you would think that Peter would mention the important events surrounding Jesus’ death.”

    -It may be that a lot of the stories in the gospels do not originate from the story-telling of the disciples and that, like Paul, the disciples themselves may not have known the stories in the gospels. The could reflect a Christian tradition not that closely related to them and we, in the end, know little about what the disciples actually believed.

  25. RonaldTaska  December 10, 2015

    It does seem odd that Paul rarely quotes Jesus (What would Jesus do?) about the issues Paul addresses in his letters.

    It’s hard to imagine that Paul would have become such an energetic evangelist if he did not know much about the life of Jesus and what Jesus taught.

    On the other hand, maybe Paul’s letters address very specific matters and the life of Jesus did not really apply to these matters and Paul discussed the life of Jesus in sermons, etc. of which we no longer have any record.

  26. gavriel  December 10, 2015

    I assume that the criteria of authenticity applied to Judas make a convincing conclusion for his historical existence. That Paul preferred to use the term PARADIDOMI because he considered Judas a some sort of a key player in Gods plan for atonement, rather than just being a lousy traitor? If one really believes in a divine plan for salvation through crucifixion (Paul’s major point of view) Judas would have an instrumental role, miserable but may be not like betraying. Do you think the concept of “betrayal” according to this would not fit in with Paul’s theology?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      My sense is that Paul could easily have *made* it fit!

  27. BrianUlrich  December 10, 2015

    Here’s a question – I just learned that some scholars – I don’t know their background – argue Herod the Great actually died in 1 BC and not 4 BC. Do you have any views on that? I’m not sure the actual date matters for much, but I guess some people want to use the possibility to argue that our calendar originator knew what he was doing.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      No, I haven’t heard that. I wonder what their evidence is….

        • sleonard  December 18, 2015

          Hi Brian,
          If you want a rebuttal to the idea that Herod died in 1 BC, you can find it here:
          http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/quirinius.html#alive

          A few choice quotes:

          “…an argument some Christian apologists advocate out of desperation to preserve Biblical infallibility, drawing on a particular work by Jack Finegan (Handbook of Biblical Chronology, rev. ed., 1998). This is the assertion that in fact Herod the Great was still living in 2 B.C., and since we do not know who was governing Syria then, it was “obviously” Quirinius. Besides having no evidence whatsoever for either fact (and thus it is an entirely ad hoc theory), the evidence we do have stands against such a thesis.”

          “So the case for any date earlier than 5 B.C. or later than 4 B.C. for Herod’s death is simply untenable in every respect.”

          Hope that helps.

  28. majimenez  December 11, 2015

    How can be explained that Jesus met Jesus´s brother and Peter and he looks not to know anything about Jesus life and sayings?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      That’s what I’m asking. Does he know more or not?

  29. michael  December 11, 2015

    Was Judas not replaced among the twelve after his demise?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2015

      Yes, but only after the resurrection appearances were over.

      • FrankJay71  December 14, 2015

        You seem to be relying on the chronology of events as depicted in Acts with to reconcile Paul’s statement about the order of appearances of the resurrected Christ. Since we don’t believe Acts is historical, and because it wasn’t written until long after Paul penned Corinthians, why is relevant when Mathias replaced Judas? Do you believe Paul received a version of events from Peter that closely resembled the events in Acts?

        • Bart
          Bart  December 14, 2015

          Ah, sorry — I thought you were referring to the narrative in Acts yourself, since that is the only place where there is any mention of an election to replace Judas. If you were referring to Acts, then the problem is that the only source for the event places it after the time you were referring to.

  30. dragonfly  December 11, 2015

    I’d say Paul never met Jesus. The first he heard about him was from christians after his death and resurrection. But to be so against christians he must have heard a bit about him. And then after his conversion he met and talked with Peter. So he must have known a fair bit of jesus life, even though he hardly says anything about it in the letters we have. So I don’t think there’s any reason to think that he didnt know about judas or the betrayal just because he doesn’t mention it. As for the twelve, doesn’t Acts talk about judas being replaced? I don’t think there’s any reason to think jesus had the same twelve the whole time during his life. And the different names in the different traditions might even suggest that some did get replaced.

  31. madmargie  December 11, 2015

    I’ve often wondered how we could know anything that Jesus said because so few people were literate and certainly Jesus’ disciples must have been since they were simple fishermen. Surely, no one followed Jesus around with pen and paper and wrote down what he said and did.

    • Blackwell  December 14, 2015

      According to Bart Ehrman in his book ‘How Jesus became God’, referring to passages in Acts, he notes
      ”Luke is writing decades after the events he narrates, and no one at the time was taking notes. Ancient historians as a whole made up the speeches of their main characters, as such a stalwart historian as the Greek Thucydides explicitly tells us (Peloponnesian War 1.22.1-2). They had little choice”.
      If gospel stories were also first written down decades after the events described, then the same conditions would apply. Basic facts, such as who Jesus met, and where (but not necessarily the order in which things happened) might be accurate, and possibly the gist of parables, but in general, words attributed to Jesus would be whatever the original author thought he might have said (or what the author thought he ought to have said).

  32. paulheeney  December 11, 2015

    Thanks Bart.. Re. the “betrayed” vs “handed over”, this kind of thing makes it rather difficult for the lay person (without knowledge of what the source text may have meant) to study using only our modern bible, which brings me neatly onto a question re. Ann Nyland’s Source New Testament. I had heard that this suggests radically different but entirely plausible translations of the text. Is this something you’re recommend as a good source of possible translations? I must admit it does sound almost too good to be true. Many thanks, Paul.

  33. Theonedue  December 11, 2015

    Where did the concept of the trinity in the new testament come from? paganism? there is no holy spirit mentioned in the old testament.

  34. Wilusa  December 12, 2015

    Some question *why* Judas would have betrayed Jesus. I’m just guessing, of course. But I keep coming back to Jesus’s ruckus with the moneychangers in the Temple.

    I’m sure the “ruckus” was, by our standards, minor. But Judas may have had a different background than Jesus. It’s possible his family had been able to visit the Temple when he was a boy, and his father – whom he respected – had found no fault whatever with the practices Jesus was condemning. Whether or not that was the case, he may have been brought up to believe *any* actual “bad behavior” in the Temple was a blasphemous desecration. He hadn’t objected to Jesus’s prophesying (if he ever had) about its being destroyed in the future, after God had “left” it. But he couldn’t tolerate what he was seeing and hearing now.

    So what he felt obliged to report to the Temple priests was Jesus’s “blasphemy.” (They’d probably already heard exaggerated reports of it from the moneychangers, via the Temple guards.) The priests themselves, if they’d been there, might *not* have thought Jesus’s behavior was outrageous enough to require punishment. But now they did.

    So they enlisted Judas to help by *identifying* him. And since the Romans wouldn’t execute him for blasphemy, they came up with another charge: that he was being called the “Messiah” – not denying it – and that really *meant* “King of the Jews.”

  35. Xeronimo74  December 15, 2015

    That’s one of those mind-blowing details that come from reading the Bible CLOSELY!

  36. Michael  December 22, 2015

    Paragraph 2. Maybe fix “First I need to stress that we really don’t have any way of know”

  37. RGM-ills  December 29, 2015

    Paul may have been referring to the cosmic 12 as we don’t remove a month at the end of the story.

  38. jhague  May 5, 2016

    What is your opinion on Judas Iscariot? Do you think its probable that he did not exist and that is the reason Paul did not mention him?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2016

      I think he certainly did exist. In fact, I wrote a book about him!

  39. Simulacrum  January 31, 2017

    Hi Bart

    I don’t mean to correct you, (actually I’d love to if I can!) but in your original response you state that “And there is another passage that may indeed suggest that Paul did *not* know about the tradition of the betrayal. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is intent on explaining why the believers in Jesus will be physically raised from the dead at the end of time; in large part his reason is that Jesus himself was physically raised from the dead. It was not some kind of bodiless, spiritual resurrection that Jesus experienced, but a bodily, physical one. The evidence is that Jesus actually appeared, bodily, to people afterward.”

    I don’t understand your definition of *bodily*, because Jesus was *seen* by Paul and all others. This suggests a vision rather than a raised corpse, does it not? And Paul says that the dead will be raised in a spiritual body, not a natural body, and that flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2017

      Sorry — I’m having trouble following your question. The passage I was talking about was where Paul says (in 1 Cor. 15) that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. But you’re asking a different question about that passage? On the bodily nature of the resurrection, I don’t think Paul knew anything about non-veridical visions. If you saw Jesus, it meant he was there bodily. But Paul makes a HUGE distinction between the body and the flesh. The body is raised, but the flesh will not be. Paul has a technical meaning for the term “flesh” (he doesn’t mean what we do, since we equate it with the body). Maybe I better post on this, because it will take a long time to explain.

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