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How Did Judas Iscariot Die? Readers’ Mailbag June 18, 2017

Two questions in this week’s Readers’ mailbag.  The first concerns the very strange tradition about how Judas Iscariot actually died, as found in the writings of the early church father Papias; the second is about modern evangelical Christian biblical scholars: how do they deal with the fact that our manuscripts contain so many textual variants?  If you have a question, feel free to ask, and I’ll add it to the ever growing mailbag.   QUESTION: Papias didn’t think very highly of Judas. I can’t remember exactly what he said, is his version closer to Matthew or Acts? Or a different tradition altogether?   RESPONSE: First some background.  Papias is one of the fascinating and virtually unknown figures from the early church.  He is normally thought to have been writing around 120 or 130 CE.  His major work was a five-volume discussion of the teachings of Jesus, called Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord.  We very much regret that we no longer have this book – it would have been the first known explanation of/commentary [...]

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 [...]

2020-04-03T13:05:16-04:00December 9th, 2015|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Judas and the Messianic Secret

Yesterday I gave one reason for thinking that Jesus considered himself the future messiah: he almost certainly told his twelve disciples that they would be future rulers in the coming kingdom.  It is hard to imagine how they could be twelve rulers in a kingdom if he himself was not the one over them, as the ultimate ruler, the king.  Jesus understood the coming kingdom in an apocalyptic sense: it would be brought in by a cataclysmic act of God in which the forces of evil were destroyed prior to the utopian rulership appeared.  And Jesus would be the king.  In *that* sense, he was to be the future messiah. I’ll give a second reason for thinking this in my next post.  For now I want to show how this understanding of Jesus’ view of himself makes sense of one other very puzzling datum, the betrayal of Judas. I don’t think there can be much doubt that Jesus really was handed over to the authorities by one of his own followers, Judas Iscariot.  Some people [...]

2020-11-08T00:03:25-05:00December 1st, 2015|Historical Jesus|
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