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Does Paul Know that Judas Betrayed Jesus?

 

QUESTION:

In your list of the things Paul tells us about the historical Jesus (he was born of a woman, he was a Jew, he had brothers, he had twelve disciples, etc.) one thing you seem to have left out was the fact that he was “betrayed” on the night he had the last supper.  1 Corinthians 11:23 says

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you…”

Why haven’t you included the betrayal as part of the tradition about Jesus that Paul knows?

 

RESPONSE:

Ah, good question.  Many years ago when I was first teaching I did include that datum as rather important.  I don’t do so any longer any more for one particular (and, in my books, very good) reason: I think the word “betrayed” is a mistranslation of the Greek of the verse  I’m not alone in that.  It’s a fairly widely held view.  Here’s why.

The word Paul uses in the passage is PARADIDOMI.   It is the word that literally means “handed over.”  So the passage says “In the night in which he was handed over, the Lord Jesus took bread….”  What does that mean though?  Traditionally it has been thought that it means “the night Judas betrayed him.”  The problem is that there is a different, and related, word that means “betrayed.”  That is the word PRODIDOMI.  If Paul wanted to refer to Judas’s betrayal, he would have used that word. Instead he uses PARADIDOMI.

Paul uses PARADIDOMI on other occasions, and when he uses it in reference to Jesus, it is *not* to an act of Judas, but to an act of God.   Paul talks about God “handing Jesus over” to his fate.  As an example, see Romans 8:32:  God did not spare his son but “handed him over” for us.   That appears to be what Paul is referring to in 1 Cor. 11:23 as well.  It is a mistranslation, then, to translate PARADIDOMI as if it were, instead, PRODIDOMI.   Paul is saying that the last supper happened the night in which God handed Jesus over to fulfill his destiny.

One related point.  In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul indicates the various individuals and groups to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection – Cephas, James, all the apostles, 500 people at once, Paul himself, and, interestingly, “the twelve.”   But how is that supposed to work?  How could Jesus have appeared to his twelve disciples if one of them was the betrayer who had hanged himself?

There are two solutions to that question that both make sense to me.  I’m not sure how to decide which one is more likely.  The first is that in the New Testament “the twelve” is a technical term that simply refers to Jesus’ inner group of disciples, a term that is used even if there were not exactly twelve of them at any one time.  We certainly have analogies for that kind of usage.  If you’re a college sports fan, you know that one of the most important leagues (for decades now) is “The Big Ten.”  It was originally called that because it had ten teams in it.  Except it doesn’t any more.  It now has fourteen.  But the league that these fourteen are in is still called the Big “Ten.”  Go figure.  Maybe “the twelve” was like that: it was the designation for the group, even though there were not exactly twelve in it.

The other solution seems equally plausible to me.  Maybe Paul didn’t know the story about Judas betraying Jesus.  He certainly would not have been familiar with the Gospels that tell the story, since the Gospels had not been written yet.  In addition, Matthew is the only Gospel that indicates that Judas killed himself immediately after the crucifixion.   Do the other Gospel writers know about that?

Luke knows that Judas died, because he has an account of it, not in his Gospel but in the book of Acts (same author for both books).  The account is strikingly at odds with what is found in the Gospel of Matthew.  Here is a great exercise, and I highly recommend it: read carefully through Matthew’s version of how Judas died in Matthew 27:3-8 and then the account of his death in Acts 1:16-19.   Ask yourself: who bought the field that is mentioned in the story?  What is the relationship between the field and Judas’s death?  Why is it called the field of blood?  And how did Judas actually die?  If you don’t find discrepancies at these points, then you’re reading different versions than I am!

Luke thus knows that Judas died, but it’s not clear exactly when.  Mark and John say nothing about the matter.   And either does Paul.  Does Paul know about Judas?  If so, he doesn’t tell us.  (He never mentions his name, for example.)

Maybe, then, there were alternative versions not just of how Judas died, but of everything about Judas.  Maybe in some stories of Jesus’ death, there were no references to Judas.  It’s possible.  But it’s very hard to say.

What we can say, I think, is that Paul makes no definitive reference to Judas or the betrayal.  So that’s why I don’t include it in my list of things that we know that Paul knew.  I wish I *could* include it, since it would lengthen my list, and the more we can say that Paul knew about the historical man Jesus the more we can be certain that he knew about the historical man Jesus, a matter of some importance when dealing with those who claim that Paul did not even know there was such a man.  But my view is that we should not accept claims or data simply because they are convenient to our arguments!

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Misquoting Jesus Interview C-SPAN
Mythicists and the Crucified Messiah

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Comments

  1. Liam Foley  November 12, 2016

    Interesting stuff. Do you still think Judas betraying Jesus or handing him over is a real historical event? The discrepancies of how Judas died are quite obvious, how have these discrepancies been reconciled in Fundamentalist circles..or are they simply ignored?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Yes, I think Judas betrayed him. I explain the whole business in my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

    • Robby  November 15, 2016

      According to fundamentalist circles I’m familiar with, Judas hung himself from a tree and the branch broke. He then fell upon the rocks below splitting open his guts and thus died.

      • Bart
        Bart  November 16, 2016

        I wonder how the explain that Acts says he fell “headlong.” If the rope broke, he would go feet first….

        • Kazibwe Edris  November 17, 2016

          is there any implication in matthew that judas committed suicide in a field?

          in luke judas dies accidentally.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 18, 2016

            You can read it! It says nothing about him dying in a field.

  2. dgkelly  November 12, 2016

    Interesting that there needs to be a betrayal or identification of Jesus to the authorities at all. Wouldn’t he have been something of a public figure by then, and his whereabouts known? Maybe Matthew needs the Judas story to fulfill the ‘Jeremiah’ story (really Zechariah 11:12-13) that he cites? Does Luke want it for a similar reason? Or is a betrayal needed for other reasons?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      I don’t think Jesus was a major public figure, and I do think Judas betrayed him. I explain the whole business in my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

  3. Wilusa  November 12, 2016

    Paul had met with Cephas, John, and Jesus’s brother James. If we don’t have any religious preconceptions, it makes *very* good sense that they wouldn’t have told him about Judas’s betrayal! They found it embarrassing that one of the disciples had done that. It was only *later* that Christians convinced themselves it had all been “preordained,” and Jesus had known it was going to happen.

  4. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  November 12, 2016

    I think both of your explanations of “The Twelve” make sense. Judas’ death is a mysterious one. I do think the part about him bursting open is true. My working theory is that he did actually feel guilty for betraying Jesus, so he hung himself. No one knew for a while until the property began to have a stench that radiated to surrounding areas. (This actually happens when a dead body has been lying in a house for a while. Neighbors will call 911 complaining of a horrible smell on the street. Horribly gross but true, and it happens more often than you’d think.) Anyway, if he was hanging in an open field, the smell would radiate even further than if he’d died inside a dwelling. Someone finally came along to check it out, and there he was hanging and swollen to an enormous size. (Swelling being part of the decaying process.) Someone freed him from the rope, and when he hit the ground, he burst open which made the smell even worse. If no one bothered to clean it up, the smell would have lasted for a very long time. Who would want to go near such a creepy, smelly place? So people called it The Field of Blood. Over time, the story morphed into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    • Wilusa  November 13, 2016

      I think it’s more likely that Judas never regretted having betrayed Jesus. He’d done it because he’d *turned against* him, for reasons he perceived as completely valid!

      Perhaps, coming from a slightly different background, he thought Jesus’s behavior in the Temple was a sacrilege deserving of death.

      Or perhaps he’d become disillusioned because Jesus seemed to be talking about the coming “Kingdom,” not as it would benefit all God’s people, but solely in terms of an exalted role for himself. That would tie in with the specific thing he “betrayed” having been, as Bart believes, Jesus’s privately referring to himself as the future “King of the Jews.”

      The early Christians, once they acknowledged the betrayal, *had to* claim Judas suffered a fate they’d consider appropriate. I think the actual man simply walked away and went on with his life. In later years, if he was even aware of the beginnings of Christianity (dependent on the truth of the “resurrection”), he dismissed it as nonsense.

    • SidDhartha1953  November 16, 2016

      If a body is left to rot in the open, carrion eating birds and other scavengers will very quickly clean it up. The advent of forensic body farms has led to new insights about dating seemingly “old” remains.

  5. danieljcathers  November 12, 2016

    Was PRODIDOMI in Paul’s vocabulary?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Yes, certainly. I was a common word. (Just as “betray” is in everyone’s vocabulary today, even if they don’t use it a lot)

  6. Judith  November 12, 2016

    Terrific ending (in red)!

  7. Hume  November 12, 2016

    The theists argue that we have FREE WILL and thus all the problems of pain and suffering (except natural phenomena causing death or pain) are our fault! Is there a good argument against this?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Free will counts for some things. But so much suffering has nothing to do with humans deciding to inflict suffeirng on others. You might want to look at my book God’s Problem.

      • Hume  November 13, 2016

        The book has been purchased! Please buy yourself something nice with the royalties!

        • Rogers  November 16, 2016

          It’s a great read as you go through Bart’s survey of the Bible on the topic of suffering. But then you get to a section that is some tough emotional sledding. i tell people about what the book is about and most don’t won’t to try and tackle it.

  8. The Agnostic Christian
    The Agnostic Christian  November 12, 2016

    Seems your recent delve into the mythical world of the mythicists has gained you a lot of new, and somewhat hostile, followers Bart. 😉

  9. RonaldTaska  November 12, 2016

    Man, you know a lot of stuff. I am so envious. Wait just a minute. Is envy a sin?

  10. tcasto  November 12, 2016

    Well, I read the Matthew and Acts verses and while I agree there are minor discrepancies, seems like the two versions track reasonably well. Whether he hung himself or burst asunder; whether he bought the field or the priests bought the field. But this is Luke compared to Matthew. What connection does that have to do with whether Paul knew of Judas’ death? Because Luke traveled with Paul?

    Luke/Acts knows that Judas killed himself but doesn’t go into the why other than the reference to Judas “fulfilling the scriptures”. What scriptures?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      The ones he quotes in 1:20.

      • tcasto  November 13, 2016

        No fair, you only assigned 1:16-19! Nonetheless, my KJV 1:20 isn’t very specific as to which Psalms. So I searched for “desolate” and found, among others, this:

        {69:25} Let their habitation be desolate; [and] let none dwell in their
        tents.

        The connection between this psalm and the events referred to in Acts seems tenuous at best. So given all this, I would say the charge that Judas betrayed Jesus is perhaps circumstantial.

    • SidDhartha1953  November 16, 2016

      What about the fact that he repented in Matthew (literally throwing the money away) and went about his merry way (investing his ill-gotten gain in real estate) in Acts? That seems pretty major to me.

  11. nassergayed  November 12, 2016

    Prof. Ehrman
    I disagree with you in many respects since I am a true Christian believer. But I have great respect for your dedication of time to answer all these questions. So I am saying this in all sincerity. I don’t think debating people who don’t think Paul knew Jesus is worthy of your time.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Yeah, me either. It’s why I’ve only done it once.

    • godspell  November 14, 2016

      Very nitpicky, apologies, but Paul probably did not know Jesus. He knew Jesus existed as a flesh and blood human being, while still believing he was much more than that.

      And I share your feelings, but unfortunately, we can’t take it for granted that people–religious, atheist, whatever–are going to be reasonable. Some just refuse to be reasonable, and they can infect other people with their irrationality, and then–things happen. You know what I mean?

  12. VincitOmniaVeritas  November 12, 2016

    “So the passage says ‘In the night in which he was handed over, the Lord Jesus took bread….’ ”

    Is it possible at all this passage is referring to Jesus being “handed over” to the Roman authorities ? Is it also possible this passage is referring to one (or some) of Jesus’ followers, whether Judas or someone else, handing him over ?

    If the intention here is God handing him over to us, should there not be words there “to us”, as in the case of Romans 8:32 ?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Yes, all these are possible. My point is that this not a clear and certain refernece to the betrayal by Judas.

  13. TWood
    TWood  November 12, 2016

    1. Does 1 Cor 11:23-26 (or any other Pauline statement) imply Paul believed Jesus predicted his *death* before it happened?

    2. Is there anything in Paul’s letters than indicate he believed Jesus predicted his *resurrection* before his crucifixion?

    3. Is it right to say Jesus believed “in the resurrection at the last day” and that he’d be included in this if he were to die—and that in hindsight his disciples “put two and two together” and came up with the tradition that Jesus predicted he’d rise a few days after his death instead of at the “last day”?

    4. Does the “the sign of the prophet Jonah” appear anywhere other than Matthew—for example—is it part of the Q source(s)?

    • TWood
      TWood  November 12, 2016

      P.s. My fourth question is not clear… I mean the “three days and three nights” part of the “Jonah sign.” Luke mentions the “the sign of Jonah” but it doesn’t seem connected to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. I’m asking if there’s a “three days and three nights Jonah sign” found in Q or other early sources.

      • Bart
        Bart  November 13, 2016

        It’s definitely in Q only if it’s definitely in both matthew and luke

        • TWood
          TWood  November 13, 2016

          Thanks… sorry to push… but I understand the “Jonah sign” is from Q… my question is did Matthew add the “three days and three nights” part to accommodate the resurrection story? It seems Luke’s “Jonah sign” reps what was more likely in Q because the “three days and three nights” part isn’t there… Luke just says Jesus was like Jonah preaching to an evil generation… is it more likely that Luke *left out* the “three days and three nights” or that Matthew *added* the “three days and three nights” (if the 3 days/3nights is in Q, then it would seem that Q does refer to Jesus’ prediction of his own resurrection a few days after his death—which I don’t think is right—so I’m just asking if Matthew added that to what Q said while Luke recorded it as it was from Q—sans 3days/3nights part).

          I’m wondering because in the past I’ve heard you say that Q does *not* include Jesus prediction of his own death and resurrection. Is that not true? Does Q include either or both predictions of Jesus death and/or resurrection?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 14, 2016

            Either Matthew added it or Luke deleted it!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      1. Yes; 2. No; 3 Probably;

  14. Tony  November 12, 2016

    An excellent explanation as to the correct translation of 1Cor 11:23. But why do Bible translators persistently translate “handed over” as “betrayed”? Could it be that they are reading the Gospels into Paul’s letters and thereby completely changing Paul’s meaning?

    That practice seems to be widespread because Paul never uses the term “disciples” in connection with “the twelve” from 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, or anywhere else in his letters. So who are Paul’s twelve? And why is Cephas (Peter) not included as one of the twelve? I don’t think we know.

    The mythicist version of events provides (again) an alternate explanation. The Gospel writers linked Paul’s twelve to the twelve tribes of Israel and created the same number of Disciples for their story. Also, the bread and wine ceremony from 1 Corinthians 11:23 was likely borrowed from Paganism. Paul claims he “received” the ceremony information directly from the heavenly Jesus, (and not from any person).

    Of course, Paul’s bread and wine ceremony was incorporated into the Gospels as the Last Supper.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Yes, translators have been influenced by the Judas tradition at this point.

  15. Lms728  November 12, 2016

    Another explanation I’ve heard is that the passage in 1 Cor 11 is an early doctrinal statement that predates Paul. Thanks for your analysis of 11: 23-26, especially your comments about PARADIDOMI.

  16. toejam  November 12, 2016

    A question that always bugs me that I can never find a satisfying answer to: When it comes to the miracle stories – things like the spontaneous generation of bread and fish, cursing the fig tree, healing of the blind man in Gospel of John, etc., to what extent did the authors of the gospels expect their readers to take them literally vs. take them symbolically? I wonder if you could put that on the list of future topics to dedicate a full-length post to. Did the authors want their readers to think that Jesus *really* cursed a fig tree, or did they assume they would see it as parabolic story telling about Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      I wish we knew!

    • godspell  November 14, 2016

      Unknown, but certainly many well-educated early fathers of the church, such as Origen, would tell skeptical pagans that of course they did not literally believe all the things in the gospels happened. There were, even then, people who took it all literally, and those who were of a more symbolic bent.

  17. llamensdor  November 12, 2016

    Judas may or may not have “betrayed” Jesus but certainly the so-called Judas kiss, as familiar as it is, can’t possibly be correct. Roman soldiers and/or Temple Guards had no need of Judas kissing Jesus to identify him. Jesus had been preaching in the Temple, traveling up and back to Bethany, and assuredly all of the authorities, religious and political had been keeping an eye (actually eyes) on him. They needed no help in identifying him.

    • Wilusa  November 15, 2016

      You may be right, but I see it differently.

      Jesus was undoubtedly a little-known preacher; it’s likely no one in Jerusalem had ever heard of him before that Passover week, and relatively few heard of him even then. When he did whatever things he did in the Temple, it was comparable to someone today’s doing them in a crowded mall – without security cameras! Similarly, if he was preaching in the streets (possibly like numerous others), there’s no reason to think anyone connected with the “authorities” could have known where he’d be at any given time. Nor is it likely the “authorities” could have learned where he and his disciples were sleeping.

      When the group was together, they would all have been men of the same race, in the same age bracket. They might have had Galilean accents; but again, that would have been true of all of them. I find the “kiss” idea disgusting, but I do think those soldiers and/or guards would have needed someone they could trust to tell them which of the men was Jesus.

  18. godspell  November 12, 2016

    The simplest explanation (not always the correct one, though often it is) is that Paul could not reconcile himself to the notion that a mere man could have betrayed the incarnate divine being in human form he believed Jesus to be. That’s really in the gospel accounts too–Jesus knows Judas will betray him, basically tells him to do so. Judas hasn’t won, he’s merely played his part in the story. He did an evil thing, of his own free will, but it was an evil thing he was always fated to do, had to do (because Jesus couldn’t just turn himself in, or hang around in a public place until they found him?–that part of it doesn’t track).

    I believe some version of that part of the story did happen, but you could literally imagine a hundred variations on the basic theme (perhaps thousands). Is it possible that Jesus actually wanted to be handed over? That this was part of his plan? I seem to recall you’re skeptical about this, but to me it seems quite possible.

    Suppose Jesus was actively seeking martyrdom and perhaps some kind of transfiguration in death. Perhaps his sacrifice was necessary to trigger the coming of the Kingdom–he is the Lamb whose sacrifice will bring about change. And his coming to Jerusalem happened because he had a very definite scenario he wanted to play out–the first passion play, and he was playwright, director, and stage manager.

    In this scenario, it’s possible Jesus privately told one of his disciples to tell the temple authorities where he was. Maybe because he thinks he can control events better that way. But he might not have trusted all his disciples with this, because he didn’t think they’d understand (and he’d be right about that). They wanted him to be the triumphant Messiah they’d grown up believing in.

    There is evidence in the gospels that when he raised the subject of his death, he provoked angry horrified reactions from some of them, such as Peter. Perhaps Judas was more receptive to this idea. So Jesus worked through him (I’m hardly the first to think of this, I well know). He doesn’t want his followers to get into an open confrontation with the authorities. He’s not trying for an insurrection here. So he can’t tell most of them what he’s going to do.

    But given such theoretically confused communications going on, many stories would circulate over what happened. Judas might not have been around to tell his side of the story, or he might not have been believed if he had. And let’s be honest here–it’s a better story with Judas the betrayer in it. I’ve long noted that Luke loves to punch up the story, add a lot of colorful supporting details that aren’t in the other sources. I’m not saying he made it up, but he could have decided to write down what was merely gossip and speculation, circulated by people who didn’t like or trust Judas. The more complex facts of the story were lost, forever.

    You ever see The Shooting of Liberty Valance? “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Something really did happen there. Liberty Valance really did get shot. But the story people tell about that shooting isn’t what really happened.

    Only a few people knew the real story, or at least most of it, and either they didn’t want to tell it, or they told it and people didn’t want to believe them. The inner circle was gone in a handful of years, probably some of them killed for propagating their new beliefs. All that was left was the legend, and that’s what was written down.

    • SidDhartha1953  November 16, 2016

      Your simplest explanation doesn’t make much sense. If Paul would have been conflicted over the notion of a mere human betraying Jesus, how could he reconcile himself to the notion that mere humans crucified and killed Jesus? Paul definitely believes Jesus was crucified (I Cor. 2:2) and it would not be a simple explanation to say God crucified him miraculously.

  19. clipper9422@yahoo.com  November 12, 2016

    On another topic, I’m wondering what effect the success of the Maccabees might have had on Jewish apocalypticism. Didn’t their success mark the first time Israel had been an independent nation since the Babylonian exile? Didn’t the Book of Daniel (which I understand to mark the beginning of apocalypticism) precede the Maccabees? Israel’s independence didn’t last an especially long time but it seems like it must have stood out as a relative success in comparison with many/most of the other parts of the Mediterranean.

    My point is that the Maccabees seems like an actual, hopeful, historical development for Israel whereas apocalypticism seems like a last ditch effort to maintain hope. Wouldn’t the Maccabee’s success tend to undermine apocalypticism, ie, show that it might be possible for Israel’s independence to come about through means other than God’s massive intervention?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      It is usually thought that it was precisely during hte Maccabean period that apocalypticism came to flourish — or possibly better to say during the events leading up to the Revolt when things looked as bleak as could be and following the law was punishable by death.

  20. talmoore
    talmoore  November 13, 2016

    Another possibility for “The Twelve” is that Judas’ position was already filled by the time the disciples started seeing visions of the risen Jesus. For example, by the Matthew mentioned in Acts.

    One issue I have with the gospel accounts of how Jesus was arrested is how could the other followers of Jesus have possibly known what was going through Judas’ head that night? I get the sense that much of what we read from Judas’ perspective in those accounts is mere speculation on the part of the evangelists. They needed a motive as to why Judas would (ostensibly) betray Jesus, so they made up all that stuff about 20 pieces of silver and committing suicide from the guilt, etc. They didn’t know. They couldn’t have known. But they also couldn’t simply leave it unanswered. So they created a narrative based around their own acrimonious assumptions.

    This is probably the biggest problem that I’ve had to tackle in my Jesus novel. At first I simply had Judas betray Jesus. But then I had to give Judas a motive — a plausible motive, not a melodramatic motive. And the more I struggled finding a realistic motive for Judas’ betrayal the more it started to occur to me that Judas’ didn’t need a motive to betray Jesus, because the only reason we think Judas betrayed Jesus is that the others believed that Judas’ betrayed Jesus. And the only reason they think he betrayed Jesus was that Judas kissed Jesus right before Jesus was arrested, suggesting, if one puts two and two together, that Judas’ kiss was a signal to the soldiers as to which one was Jesus. In other words, Judas was guilty of singling out which one of the group was the ringleader, and that’s the one and only clue that Judas was a betrayer! That’s all the disciples had to work with, that one gesture. And from that they had to speculate as to Judas’ entire motives: WHY would he betray Jesus? (greed, Satan, etc.) HOW did he come to betray Jesus? (Jewish leaders prodded him.) WHAT happened to Judas after the betrayel? (In this case, the fact that there are so many inconsistent and contradictory accounts very, very strongly suggests that they are all complete confabulations that exist solely to supply an answer to this question.)

    So once I started to see that I started to see other possibilities. Was Judas merely a patsy, who unwittingly guided the Jerusalem authorities to Jesus’ whereabouts? Was Judas being somehow coerced into singling out Jesus, quite literally with a sword to his back? There are any number of possibilities. And I have yet to settle on one solution in my novel. I suspect that the further I get into the narrative the more a plausible scenario will simply emerge from the story. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

    • dragonfly  November 13, 2016

      I think we really don’t know much about this at all, so you have a lot of scope for being creative. I doubt any of the disciples ever saw or even heard of Judas again after the crucifixion. My question is why Judas had to point him out? Couldn’t he have just described him to the authorities? Maybe the kiss wasn’t to identify him, maybe it was the signal to say “now!”. Or maybe he just wanted to kiss him goodbye because he knew this was his last chance, and it wasn’t a signal at all. If the authorities didn’t couldn’t even recognise him, Judas must have been behind the whole thing. Given how anti-jewish the gospels became, I’m not confident it was the Jewish authorities at all. Might have just been Judas going straight to the Romans, who then arrested Jesus, end of story. Anyway, the way the gospels describe it just doesn’t add up to me.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  November 14, 2016

        “Couldn’t he have just described him to the authorities?”
        Hence why Judas’ “betrayal” seems suspicious. One of my tentative solutions to this problem is to have the Roman garrison in the Antonia Fortress sent out to find the guy who was causing a disturbance in the Temple (i.e. Jesus’ overturning the moneychangers’ tables, etc.), and they only manage to get hold of Judas. They tell Judas that if he leads them to the ringleader (i.e. Jesus), then they will let him live. So Judas is basically coerced into giving up Jesus. In order to avoid any commotion in the city, they have Judas agree to lead some soldiers outside the city after dark, where Jesus et al. agreed to rally. Judas then kisses Jesus in order to single him out in the dark.

        It’s a plausible, though not totally satisfying solution. It still comes across as a hackneyed trope. I’ll just have to sit on it for now.

        • dragonfly  November 17, 2016

          I’m not aware of any sources that suggest Jesus was arrested for making a scene in the temple. The canonical gospels are all pretty much in agreement that Jesus was attacked by a mob of angry Jews, who took him to the high priest, and accused him of being the Messiah. The high priest then turns him over to pilate and he’s sentenced for claiming to be king. Maybe Bart can correct me if I’m reading it wrong?

          • dragonfly  November 17, 2016

            Sorry, I meant the jews accuse him of *claiming* to be the Messiah.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  November 19, 2016

            “I’m not aware of any sources that suggest Jesus was arrested for making a scene in the temple.”
            From what I can tell, that’s actually the common consensus amongst most NT scholars. Every book I’ve read by a scholar of the historical Jesus — Dr. Ehrman, JD Crossan, John Meier, Geza Vermas, EP Sanders, and so on — they all seem to take it as a given that Jesus was arrested by the Jerusalem authorities (Roman and/or Jewish) primarily because he was creating disturbances within the Temple during a time (the Passover festival) when possibly over a million people were crammed into the religious powder keg that was 1st century Jerusalem.

    • godspell  November 14, 2016

      It does not seem likely to me that you could be one of ‘The Twelve’ without having been picked by Jesus himself. Impossible to say for sure, and maybe they did feel there was some special significance in that number, but wouldn’t the Acts of the Apostles and other texts we have mention something about the replacement? That seems like something they’d bring up.

      Which raises the possibility that Judas was not originally seen as having betrayed Jesus (at least not by all of Jesus’ followers), and remained one of the Twelve for some unknown period of time after the crucifixion.

      I think Paul tends to avoid controversial issues within the Christian community unless he happens to have a dog in that particular fight. He’s trying to enlarge the Christian community, not divide it. So many a minority view that might eventually become the consensus view–such as the Virgin Birth–he just skirts around. Judas could have been one of those. The fact that there’s a gnostic gospel purportedly written by Judas (from much later on) would indicate that the idea Judas was treated unfairly existed in the Christian community for a long time.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  November 14, 2016

        “but wouldn’t the Acts of the Apostles and other texts we have mention something about the replacement? That seems like something they’d bring up.”

        Acts 1:15-26
        15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms,
        ‘Let his homestead become desolate,
        and let there be no one to live in it’;
        and
        ‘Let another take his position of overseer.’
        21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

    • Wilusa  November 14, 2016

      “Another possibility for “The Twelve” is that Judas’ position was already filled by the time the disciples started seeing visions of the risen Jesus. For example, by the Matthew mentioned in Acts.”

      I think that when I once suggested this, Bart said Paul’s reference to “the Twelve” was written before he could have known Judas was “replaced” by someone else.

      I agree that there are so many possible explanations for Judas’s “betrayal” that we can never be sure what it was. Personally, I’m guessing he became disillusioned because Jesus – in his opinion – was making the movement all about himself. (The future King of the Jews!) And assuming that, I don’t think Judas ever had any regrets.

  21. Tempo1936  November 13, 2016

    In the Sunday school class this morning they spent an hour on
    1 Peter 1:18-19
    knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver
    but with the precious blood of Christ.

    Everyone in that class is well educated and believes that Peter wrote those words.

    It’s amazing that they refused to consider that first Peter was likely written 40 years later than Paul in Greek by By a well educated gentile who did not even know Peter and never lived in Israel and is just restating Pauls gospel.

    As more and more people understand this the traditional church Will decline in attendance .

  22. jmmarine1  November 14, 2016

    Below is 1 Corinthians 13:2:
    2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

    I have long wondered if is it possible that the phrase ‘a faith that can move mountains’ is Paul quoting a saying that may go back to Jesus? Could this passage be added to the list of items Paul learned from the Jesus tradition?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 14, 2016

      I suppose there is no way to know.

    • BobHicksHP  November 16, 2016

      While I’ve never researched it back to the original Jewish references, I’ve read that there are several places in the Talmud which refer to a particularly great rabbi as a “rooter of mountains,” implying that a proverb may have existed in the first century to which Jesus and Paul were referring independently.

  23. HawksJ  November 14, 2016

    If Judas fulfilled a prophecy, isn’t it more appropriate to say he SERVED Jesus rather than BETRAYED him?

  24. Rogers  November 16, 2016

    Bart,

    The Lord’s Supper of partaking the body (flesh) of Jesus as bread and his blood as wine in a ritual manner doesn’t strike me as something that would have gone over very well in Jewish circles. In fact, Paul, being a Jew – a rather devoted one he says of his upbringing – and that he really doesn’t seem to know that much about Jesus, I find it rather odd that he would introduce such a ritual. Doesn’t seem like the kind of thing he would likely pick up from Cephas and James either.

    Strikes me more like some Greek mystery school ritual. What’s up with Paul and this rather pagan Lord’s supper ritual? Where did it really come from? And what’s a good Jewish boy like Paul doing by promoting such a ritual?

    Did the gospel writers get this manner of the Lord’s supper through Paul or does it really go back to Jesus and the last supper event?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 16, 2016

      I think Paul inherited the tradition from others before him, as he suggests in 1 Cor. 11:22-24. Jesus’ last meal morphed (Last Supper) morphed into a meal commemmorating his death (Lord’s supper) which morphed — after the days of Paul and the Synoptics — into drinking his blood itself (Gospel of John, ch. 6)

  25. SidDhartha1953  November 16, 2016

    What a discussion! I wonder two things:
    1) I’ve heard some (at least one, since it wasn’t my idea) Judas mythicists suggest that the name Judas is code-speak to lay the blame on “the Jews.” Do you see any possibility that Judas waa “made up?”
    2) I’ve read somewhere that Gethsemane literally means “olive press” and that it may have referred not to the olive grove everyone visits now, but to a place where olive oil was produced, which Jesus and the 12 used as a hideout. Would that be a plausible explanation for the authorities needing an insider to lead them to Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 17, 2016

      I don’t think Judas was made up. See my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot. On Gethsemane: I don’t know! I’m not familiar with the theory.

  26. webo112
    webo112  November 16, 2016

    So Dr. Ehrman,
    How can the lay person show and source this example? Would I need to see older manuscripts find that verse, and word and translate it back? How can one “prove” this in a debate? So is the generally held scholarly claim that in early manuscripts (early translations), scribes translated the word incorrectly? So the (original) mis translations go far back, and the ‘error’ kept been copied correct?
    I know the answer is obvious in terms of motives for Christians- but why was this never corrected back to “handed over” as per its true meaning, in modern times? As all bible versions seem to use “betrayed”.

    I don’t think you mention this example in your book Misquoting Jesus, but perhaps you do in your other academia material?

    Also, what is a good source (non biblical) for translating Greek words to English and getting the true meaning?

    Great info and post!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 17, 2016

      It’s not a matter of manuscripts. The word is secure: no doubts about it. It has to do with translation from Greek. It would be hard to convince someone of it without knowing Greek!

    • Monarch  November 19, 2016

      To the best of my knowledge, the distinction about “paradidomi” was was first set forth by distinguished scholar William Klassen in his trade book, “Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?” Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1996.

      • Bart
        Bart  November 20, 2016

        Yes, I found his presentation completely convincing. It changed my mind.

  27. webo112
    webo112  November 16, 2016

    I realized I just need the Bart Ehrman version of the New Testament Bible! lol

  28. fcp  November 21, 2016

    I suggest a Kit-kat bar…royalties per copy aren’t that amazing. Probably, a multi-bestseller author could get two candy bars per book ?

  29. Jana  November 22, 2016

    One more book on order The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot. Do you know if the story about 30 pieces of silver is true or not or added afterwards? I’ve got a lot of catching up again.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 23, 2016

      It almost certainly was added later as a fulfilment of prophecy (and an explanation for why Judas did it)

  30. dankoh  November 26, 2016

    Why was it necessary (logically, not theologically) to have a betrayer – that is, someone from Jesus’ circle who would identify him to the authorities? As I read the texts, Jesus was well known to a number of the priesthood, since they had been arguing with him and trying to set traps for him. All they needed was for one of them to go along with the guards.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 27, 2016

      Yes, that’s why I think Judas betrayed something other than simply Jesus’ whereabouts.

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