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Two Rather Bizarre Accounts of How Judas Died

In my experience, most people don’t realize that there are two different accounts of Judas’s death in the New Testament, let alone that these two are very difficult indeed to reconcile with one another.  Virtually impossible, I would say.  But even more people don’t know that there are accounts of Judas’s death from *outside* the New Testament in other sources.  One of these two almost *nobody* knows about, except for a few specialist scholars.

The first account comes to us from Papias, a proto-orthodox church author who wrote a five- volume book called An Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord in about 120-130 CE (it is hard to know exactly when) This must have been a very large book indeed (five volumes!) and to our very great regret, it has been lost.  We don’t have it.  All we have are snippets of quotations from it by later church fathers, starting with Irenaeus (around 180 CE) and especially the church historian Eusebius (early fourth century).

We aren’t sure why exactly the book was not copied for posterity.  My guess is that most readers didn’t much like it.  The later church fathers didn’t think highly of Papias, in part, it appears, because he held to a literal understanding of what would happen at the end of time, that there would be literally a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth.  This is a view called Chiliasm, and it was rejected by later church fathers who realized that in fact the end was not coming “soon” with a literal return of Jesus from heaven to set up a kingdom here on earth.   Anyone who thought so was a theological simpleton.

But Papias whole-heartedly advanced this view, and this may be why later writers (and scribes) thought his work was unsophisticated and possibly naïve.  Eusebius at one point says that Papias was a “man of very little intelligence.”  Not exactly an endorsement.

In any event, among the few quotations we have of Papias in later authors is one that deals with the death of Judas.  It doesn’t coincide  ….

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The Name Judas Iscariot: What Does It Mean?
Can We Know Anything Historically About How Judas Iscariot Died?



  1. Avatar
    Aliyu  June 8, 2018

    What is the difference between these accounts of the end of Judas and the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels which were written by unknown Greek writers from oral traditions decades after Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      Same *kinds* of differences: contradictions difficult to reconcile.

  2. Avatar
    Antonio40  June 8, 2018

    I have read some early christian apologists. Minutius Felix’s Octavius was great fun (I am a lawyer) They seemed a sharp lot, generally speaking. They detected and pointed contradictions ably. So why they did not spot the judas flagrant contradiction? Were they conscious of the contradictions but disingenuous?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      I wish we know how they reconciled them. Origen may say something about them, but I don’t recall off hand what….

  3. Avatar
    Nichrob  June 8, 2018

    Judas and the roasting chicken. LOL. Good one…!!

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 8, 2018

    These four versions of the death of Judas powerfully illustrate your main point in “Jesus Before the Gospels,” namely that as stories about Jesus got passed along they get changed and different groups of people ended up having different accounts of the birth of Jesus, the empty tomb events, and so on and so forth, resulting among other things, in four different and, sometimes, contradictory, Biblical Gospels.

  5. Avatar
    saavoss  June 8, 2018

    I like the chicken story!

  6. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 8, 2018

    Bart, I don’t remember in which post you said this. You said Jesus and his followers couldn’t have expected to make *multiple* trips to Jerusalem for Passover Weeks, because it was a trek most people living as far away as they did could manage only once. I’d never thought of that.

    This just occurred to me. What if they’d intended, once they got to Jerusalem, to *stay* there? They’d already, for all intents and purposes, abandoned their families! And they could have found some kind of work to support themselves, as Paul always seemed to do in his travels.

    I’m assuming here, of course, that they weren’t expecting the Apocalypse to come *immediately* – just “within their lifetimes.”

  7. Avatar
    fishician  June 8, 2018

    Judas seems to have killed himself, and James the brother of John was killed by Herod according to Acts. Are all the other accounts of apostles’ deaths purely legendary, or do we have any reliable information about them? (Apologists love to claim that they were all killed for their faith, and they wouldn’t have died for a lie.)

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

      The evangelicals claim they are sola scriptura. That is to say, the accept and believe in ONLY the WRITTEN scriptures. They regard extra-biblical traditions as Catholic and popish. “If it ain’t written in my Bible, I don’t believe it.”

      But in that case, they have NO BUSINESS arguing that all the disciples died as martyrs, and nobody dies for a lie, because it is mostly a matter of tradition.

      For example — WHERE is it written IN SCRIPTURE that Peter went to Rome and was crucified there upside-down?

      Here is a site which states some of the legends:


  8. Avatar
    Hormiga  June 8, 2018

    The Judas and Field of Blood story/stories apparently go back to not many years after 33 CE, and then was/were picked up by Matthew and Luke-Acts in the 80s or thereabouts.

    Which leads to a question: does the hypothetical Q figure in the transmission to Matthew or L-A?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      I”m not sure what you’re asking. Judas is not in Q. But Q certainly contributed ot matthew and Luke, since both utilized it as a source.

  9. Avatar
    forthfading  June 8, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Would it behoove a doctoral student to undertake a dissertation on the historical Judas, or have scholars advanced this line of inquiry to it’s end?


    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      I always tell my doctoral students to pursue whatever they’re most interested in, read what other scholars have said about it, and figure out if there’s anything different you would like to say. If your views are already clearly set out by someone else, then there’s no reason to write a dissertation on it.

  10. Avatar
    3Timothy  June 8, 2018

    Bart, what is your view on the death of Ahitophel influencing the two New Testament accounts of how Judas died?

    Ahitophel famously betrayed King David. Judas betrayed Jesus. Both betrayers die in an ugly way.

    Matthew even duplicates the detail about hanging. Ahitophel hangs himself in 2 Samuel 17:23: “When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed…he put his house in order and then hanged himself.”

    Matthew and the other evangelists often reworked ancient scripture into new narratives for early Christians.

    I learned about the possible Ahitophel-Judas connection in John Dominic Crossan’s book Who Killed Jesus. I am skeptical about oral tradition being the primary basis for the ways Matthew and Luke depict the death of Judas.

    By the way, the suicide of Ahitophel stands out since suicide is rare in the Bible. I think there are 7, the others being Judas, King Abimelech, Samson, King Zimri, an unnamed armor-bearer to King Saul, and King Saul himself.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      Yes, I think there is probably an intertextual allusion (based on teh idea, in part, that Jesus is “the son of David”)

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

      Matthew in particular was in the business of promoting the new religion by stressing links from the Old Testament. For example, Matthew tells the story of Herod’s slaughter of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, and links to Rachel in Jeremiah, weeping for her lost children, because they are no more.

      It therefore makes sense that he would recall the Achitophel story and link it to Judas.

  11. talmoore
    talmoore  June 8, 2018

    When there are multiple accounts of how someone died, it’s a good indictation that no one actually knew when and where that someone died. I would bet a million bucks that neither Peter nor Paul nor John nor James nor anyone else connected with Christianity had any actual knowledge about where and when Judas died. After Judas kissed Jesus, he was gone in the darkness, never to be seen or heard from again. Anyone who thinks otherwise is terribly confused.

  12. Avatar
    prestonp  June 9, 2018

    “In other words, historical Jesus scholars have no objective, existential raw materials with which even to begin to attempt a legitimate historical enquiry.” Neil Godfry

    If he is correct, Jesus not only didn’t exist, He could not have existed. There is simply no raw evidence for Christ’s existence except for a mention or two by ancient historians, one of whom is questionable. For Him to have existed at a point in time we necessarily would have some raw evidence.

    Posting this comment here because I don’t know where it is supposed to go. Seems it fits into the overall subject of higher criticism.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      I’m afraid I conmpletely disagree. (And I don’t know who Neil Godfry is or what his qualificatoins are) You might look at my book Did Jesus Exist.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 10, 2018

        I agree with you. Vridar is his website.

  13. Avatar
    prestonp  June 9, 2018

    The Placebo Jesus. During testing scientists rely upon a placebo to sort through and verify data. They recognize that it contributes in a profound way to what people experience, even though there is nothing in the placebo itself to substantiate what they believe. Often, they are given a sugar pill, without knowing it, while others are given the real product, the one being tested and analyzed. Even those distributing the items don’t know what they are giving to whom in a double blind experiment.

    The problem for companies wanting a patent, permission or justification to develop their product is the placebo effect. They know that a percentage of people will respond favorably regardless. The evidence they need must demonstrate a significant statistical benefit above the placebo level. More later

  14. Avatar
    prestonp  June 9, 2018

    “Religious experiences” are not uncommon. They are as varied as the people who have them. The “born again” Christian crowd often claim profound, moving, deeply personal awakenings as the direct result of prayer, a prayer to receive Jesus as one’s personal savior. In fact, many millions testify eagerly how Jesus Christ became real to them as the Son of God. They often reflect how His love changed them, that their lives were forever transformed in wonderful ways, how they became more loving, kinder, more thoughtful and patient, more forgiving. These kinds of expressions emerge from people of all ages, backgrounds, educational levels, races, from all over the world and for thousands of years.

    This kind of phenomena by itself is scientifically important. Although religious experiences in general do occur, the statistical deviation from the standard in terms of the Christian experience is extraordinary and significant.

    • Avatar
      flcombs  June 10, 2018

      How was the “standard” fairly determined, and was it also measured in other religions? If other religions don’t ask you to find the same type of experience then obviously they couldn’t be compared. I’m not a Mormon so can’t speak in general. But I remember being asked by ones I was studying with to hold the Book of Mormon to my chest and deeply pray and I would be shown the truth if it. Didn’t work for me but had for them and changes their lives. Would you say their experiences show some significance for the validity of Mormonisim? What of Muslims with similar experiences? What you describe appears to really just be based on human desires and emotions… or as proof of many God’s perhaps?

      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 11, 2018

        “If other religions don’t ask you to find the same type of experience then obviously they couldn’t be compared”

        Ask 10,000 people from all over the world, of all ages, from all economic backgrounds and from every nation and race, male and female:
        Is God real?
        A. says, of course. I follow the rules and live a good life.
        B. says, I was raised in a religious family so I believe what I was taught.
        C. says, Yes. He changed my life. He has given me peace in the midst of heart break. He helped me to forgive people I hated.

        Not an actual survey. Simply pointing out that there are ways to discover what people believe, why they do and draw conclusions that can be scientifically meaningful.

  15. Avatar
    Tricia  June 9, 2018

    I dunno. My Christian believing doesn’t depend on how Judas died–one way or the other. Did he or didn’t he? Not important. For me it’s time to dispel the myth that Galilee was a backwater of rural culture and Jesus was a rube from that backwater. Nazareth was two days walk from Tiberias, a city being rebuilt by Herod II. It would have been on a trade route and a center of culture. And the city or town of Sepphoris is now being discovered by archaeologists just 3 miles from Nazareth. It was a town with at least 30 mikvahs or Jewish ritual baths. The idea that Jesus was a rural guy, walking in the garments of Moses (who lived 1500 years earlier) is disproven. If his father was a carpenter, or builder, he was working in Tiberias or Sepphoris. Only those in Jerusalem saw Galilee as a backwater–and that’s how they felt about most other cultures. No rural guy, Jesus.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      The issue with a topic like this is not so much about what you *believe* (e.g., in God, or Christ, etc.) but how you understand the Bible and what you think happened in the past — also important issues! (Though maybe not as important to you as your faith)

      • Lev
        Lev  June 10, 2018

        But Tricia makes an important point, not based on her faith, but on geography, archaeological discovery and historical information about the construction trade at the time of Jesus.

        I think these facts are important in reconstructing the likely economic conditions that Jesus grew up in. It seems to me that some scholars choose to ignore these facts in order for their Jesus to fit their profile they want: an illiterate, uneducated man living just above the poverty line.

        The geographic, archaeological and historical information we have suggests the economy of Galilee in the early first century was favourable to anyone working in the construction trade – just as Jesus’ family was, and this would have meant they could afford to educate their children.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 11, 2018

          No, I”m afraid not. There simply were not schools. See Catherine Hezser’s definitive study, Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 11, 2018

            I haven’t read Hezser’s work (it does sound good though) but I understand you’ve summarised the claim that a small % of the population were literate because they could afford the private tutors to educate their children.

            My argument is that Jesus’ family were reasonably wealthy, so the conditions for him (and his siblings) to be educated by private tuition were met.

            Paul acknowledges Jesus’ wealthy heritage in 2 Cor 8:9 “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that **though he was rich**, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

            The context of this passage in 2 Corinthians is discussing material wealth, so it’s difficult to argue that Paul is describing spiritual or some other form of immaterial wealth.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 12, 2018

            OK, I’d suggest not only Hezser but also read the archaeological reports about what we know about Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and spent his entire life, it appears, till the end. Nicely presented in Reed and Crossan’s Excavating Jesus. Highly impoverished. And there would not have been a school there.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 12, 2018

            “Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and spent his entire life, it appears, till the end.”

            Mk 2:1 Suggests Jesus had at some point in his life moved to Capernaum and purchased a home that the locals recognised as his: “When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.” Mt 4:13 also says that Jesus had relocated to Capernaum. Nevertheless, it appears Jesus spent a significant part of his childhood in Nazareth.

            Regardless of where Jesus grew up, you’re not saying private tutors would require a school building in order to teach are you? Couldn’t they simply do so from the family’s home or the local synagogue?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 14, 2018

            Private tutors? In a place like Nazareth? Yes, maybe I suppose.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 14, 2018

            I understand Nazareth had around 400 people at the time of Jesus. Those in the construction trade would have found a good and steady income from nearby Sepphoris where construction was booming.

            Private tutors would have found the demand and resources to educate children in Nazareth. A retired Rabbi who wants to earn some income could easily take on a dozen children and teach them literacy skills in the local synagogue.

            I don’t see how this isn’t plausable. It seems perfectly reasonable to me.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 15, 2018

            I’d suggest you read E. P. Sanders book on Jesus and Judaism to get a sense of what it might have been like to grow up in a place like Nazareth (it’s just a small part of his book); and the book by John Dominic Crossan and John Reed Excavating Jesus for the archaeological findings.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 15, 2018

            Do you mean ‘The Historical Figure of Jesus’ by Sanders? I’ve got both this and ‘Jesus and Judaism’ and can only find references in the index to Nazareth in the THFofJ. The page on Nazareth there doesn’t tell us much, only that it is likely that traders from Nazareth went to Sepphoris to sell their goods.

            I think Sanders missed the obvious question over what Jesus’ family would have done. We’re told they were construction workers and I understand Sepphoris was undergoing major reconstruction at the time of Jesus.

            Joseph (and perhaps also Cleopas) wasn’t going there to sell sheep or grain, he was probably working six days a week at building homes or the furniture or fittings within them. I should imagine such skilled and plentiful work would have netted him a decent profit which he could have used to educate his children back in Nazareth.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 17, 2018

            No, I meant hte scholarly book, Jesus and Judaism (though I have to admit, it’s been two decades since I read it last, but I *think* I remember him talking about the plausibility of Jesus spending time in Sepphoris or other big cities.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 17, 2018

            In the subject index of that book (I have the 1985 edition), there is no mention of Nazareth or Sepphoris.

            I’ve read most of it, and haven’t come across Sanders’ opinion of whether Jesus spent time in big cities or not (we know he visited Jerusalem, so I’m guessing Sanders believes he did?)

          • Bart
            Bart  June 18, 2018

            That he did visit Jerusalem? That’s one of Sanders’s central tenets.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 18, 2018

            Yes, that’s my point. You seem to be suggesting that in this book Sanders casts doubt on Jesus spending time in the big cities.

            You wrote: “I remember him talking about the plausibility of Jesus spending time in Sepphoris or other big cities.”

            I can’t find the discussion you mention here, and I would be surprised it Sanders felt it implausible that Jesus spent time in big cities such as Sepphoris as he frequently discusses Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem – which is a big city.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 19, 2018

            Interesting. Not sure what to say. But in any event, his argument is that day laborers like Jesus would have had to work six days a week just to survive. On Sabbath they couldn’t travel. So it’s unlikely he would have been hanging out in Sepphoris or Tiberias. Our modern imaginations of what would have been likely or probable are inextricably (and probably inevitably) tied to our modern conditions, especially those of us in the middle class with weekends and cars and all sorts of other travel possibilities and free time.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  June 18, 2018

            I think you fellas are getting caught in the weeds here. That is, it seems to me you’re arguing over irrelevant details.

            There’s one — and only one — detail that is important. The synoptic gospels, without exception, portray Jesus’ knowledge of scripture (and wisdom in general) as a divine gift. Specifically, in Mark, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit that comes to inhabit Jesus after his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, it is a gift from the Holy Spirit when Jesus is conceived. (And in John, incidentally, Jesus is literally the incarnation of wisdom in the form of the Logos.)

            In other words, the gospels are going out of their way to emphasize *that Jesus’ knowledge and wisdom do not come from earthly education but from God*. This is what I mean when I say that this is a blatant example of the Humble Origins trope we see so often in legendary biographies — especially hagiographies such as the gospels. This is all the more telling in the oldest form of the legend, where Jesus’ own family is so shocked to see him suddenly educated about scripture that they think he has literally gone insane. Mark is deliberating, expressly saying that before Jesus was baptized — and the Holy Spirit descended on him — he was just a typical, uneducated Galilean rube. But afterwards, Jesus was suddenly — explicably? — wiser than the wisest scribe. You see, it was a miracle!

            But let’s be honest. There’s something terribly suspicious about the gospel writers’ insistence that Jesus was a would-be bumpkin Messiah. The gentlemen doth protest too much, methinks. We all know (at least people like me and Bart who think otherwise) that Jesus wasn’t divinely gifted with his knowledge and wisdom. The Holy Spirit didn’t descend on him and suddenly give him the greatest Jewish education of all time. Jesus wasn’t literally born with the greatest Jewish education of all time, as Luke and Matthew suggest. No, we know there are only two possibilities. Either Jesus learned scripture the old-fashioned way (i.e. via study) or he didn’t know scripture at all! There cannot possibly be any other options.

            And not only that, simple deduction tells us which option is the most likely true. If Jesus didn’t know scripture at all, would anyone have taken anything he said seriously? Not. At. All. If Jesus’ followers could tell he didn’t know what he was talking about, they wouldn’t have followed him. So that only leaves us with option A: Jesus was knowledgable about scripture, and he gained that knowledge the old-fashioned way — he studied it.

            What kind of education did Jesus receive? Did he study with the best, such as the Pharisees in Jerusalem? Not necessarily. But he did study. He had to have studied. There’s no other way Jesus could have known what he knew. Who knows? Jesus could have been an autodidact. He could have studied with a second-rate teacher in Galilee. He could have studied with the best. That’s all irrelevant. The only thing that’s important is that, without question, Jesus was educated. He absolutely knew his stuff, and he learned it the old-fashioned way. He studied.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 19, 2018

            I think we’re talking cross purposes here.

            I’m not suggesting Jesus was ‘hanging out’ in the big cities at the weekend, but instead doing what Sanders says (in ‘The Historical Figure of Jesus’) those from Nazareth were doing – working in Sepphoris during the working days.

            As a construction worker/carpenter (pick whatever interpretation of Tekton you wish) Jesus’ father would have found a continuous form of income from a nearby city that was being massively reconstructed at the time.

            So it seems likely that Jesus’ family weren’t impoverished and barely subsisting, but were instead doing quite well for themselves and could afford at least some education in literacy for their children.

            When Jesus (and his brothers) were old enough, they would have worked alongside their father in Sepphoris – not bathing or watching plays, but grafting six days a week and earning a decent income.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 21, 2018

            It’s interesting that Jesus never visits the big cities in his ministry anywhere in the Synoptic Gospels, until that last week in Jerusalem

          • Lev
            Lev  June 21, 2018

            Aye, but aside from the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, the gospels were primarily concerned with Jesus’ ministry, not his former career as a ‘Tekton’.

            We don’t have any direct evidence that Jesus’ family worked in Sepphoris, but given it’s proximity to Nazareth and that it was being reconstructed during their lifetime, it highly likely they did.

            As you’ve said before, history isn’t an exact science so we must weigh up the evidence, circumstances and probabilities to arrive at a reasonable assessment over what is likely to have happened.

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  June 18, 2018

          In Dominic Crossan’s book, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, a carpenter was considered lower-class and illiterate. Their status was lower than a peasant.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 19, 2018

            In John Meier’s ‘A Marginal Jew’ (which I understand Bart recommends to his undergraduates) he ranks the economic classes in Palestine as follows:

            1. The Rich – people like Herod Antipas, powerful court officials, owners of large estates, highly successful merchants and overseers of the collection of taxes and tolls.
            2. The Middle Group – business people and craftsmen in cities, towns and villages (like Jesus was), as well as freehold farmers with fair-sized plots of land.
            3. The Lower Group – day labourers, hired servants, travelling craftsmen (like Paul) and dispossessed farmers forced into banditry. The “rural proletariat”.
            4. The Bottom – slaves.

            Meier claims Jesus was at the lower end of the Middle Group – equivalent to “a blue-collar worker in lower-middle-class America.” Raymond Brown in his ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ (another book Bart recommends to his students) quotes Meier’s claim approvingly.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 21, 2018

            I think it’d be hard to place Paul lower on the social ladder than Jesus.

          • Lev
            Lev  June 21, 2018

            I believe Meier was describing the economic classes here, rather than the social classes, but they are closely related. Paul came from a family of some means (which explains his education in Jerusalem) and as an educated Roman citizen, he would have started higher in the middle economic and social group than Jesus.

            He would also be making some decent coin selling tents in the cities of Jerusalem, Damascus, Tarsus and Antioch – perhaps even more than Jesus was as a Tekton in Sepphoris. However, that was reversed when he embarked on his missionary journeys as his economic status would have dropped to that of a travelling craftsman. He mentions times he went without food or shelter and was poorly clothed (1 Cor 4).

            According to Meier then, economically speaking Paul was worse off as a travelling tentmaker than when Jesus worked as a Tekton.

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  June 21, 2018

          I’ve been reading some of Sanders’ book, Judaism, and he does not give me the impression that he believes the literacy rates were as low as Crossan and Hezser state. He also points out how the idea of food scarcity and extreme poverty has been greatly exaggerated.

          On another note, Hezser says in her book that Jesus (her reasoning would include his disciples) most likely spoke both Greek and Aramaic. That one surprised me!

          • Lev
            Lev  June 21, 2018

            Meier goes even further, stating Jesus may have been trilingual, but taught in Aramaic:

            “It is likely that he knew and used some Greek for business purposes or general communication with Gentiles, including perhaps Pilate at his trial… As for Hebrew, Jesus would have learned it in the Nazareth synagogue or nearby school, and he probably used it at times when debating Scripture with Pharisees or scribes… In a quadrilingual country, Jesus may indeed have been a trilingual Jew; but he was probably not a trilingual teacher.”

            A Marginal Jew, p266-268.

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  June 23, 2018

          I’ve read most of Hezser’s book now, and there’s basically zero chance that Jesus learned to read or write growing up in Nazareth. But he did teach in parables, so I can’t really see him learning a skill like that unless he went elsewhere. Maybe that would explain why his family thought he was crazy and some called him illiterate—not that he couldn’t read or write (since nobody cared about that) but that he wasn’t an intellectual. The term “illiterate” took on different meanings in antiquity if I’m understand Hezser correctly. Someone who taught in parables would have been considered a sage or a wise man. (?) In places like Nazareth, maybe parables would have been a strange thing to hear. I don’t know!

          • Bart
            Bart  June 24, 2018

            Reading and writing: right! But as to story tellers, there have always been AMAZING storytellers who were illiterate. Still are.

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  June 23, 2018

          Follow up to my last comment: Hezser quoted a couple of scholars who believe Jesus was bilingual then goes on to other scholars who think it’s unlikely.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 10, 2018

        Ah, but which comes first? Of course, naturally we all are convinced that our personal beliefs have nothing to do with how we “see the facts.” In reality, even what we decide to regard as facts depends to some degree on our unconscious religious experiences, or lack thereof, perceptions, feelings, etc.

        The double-blind controlled testing protocol is universally honored by scientists. Testing for the efficacy/impact of a chemical in this fashion, where neither the patient nor the tester knows what is given to the patient, is the gold standard.

        This scientific methodology can be applied to determine the value of a variety of subject material. My position is that this testing procedure can be used as a tool to prove scientifically the validity of the New Testament.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 11, 2018

          I’m not dealing at all with issues of personal faith (whether it is given priority or not), but with historical events, that transpired or not independently of our personal religious views/beliefs. History can be done by people of different religious persuasions because historical evidence is not dependent on belief. Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address and Caesar crossed the Rubicon — whether you’re a Baptist or a Buddhist, a Mormon or a Muslim.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  June 11, 2018

            “Caesar crossed the Rubicon”
            How do you know, for certain? I’m not saying he didn’t. I’m questioning how we can be sure. My fear is that the criteria historians require to for something to qualify as historically acceptable may leave out important events and may include some things that did not happen. It is not a perfect science.

            What I’m saying is, if certain statements found in the New Testament can be verified and they support the claims that Jesus rose from the dead, scientifically, that would necessarily add credibility to the authenticity of the N.T. as a genuine record of the Messiah.

      • Avatar
        Tricia  June 10, 2018

        As much as I like your writing, I guess I sometimes think the natural tendency of scholarliness wastes time on topics that aren’t integral. I do agree that a study of the Bible is affected by what we believe–but its also affected by what we don’t believe.

  16. Avatar
    Prizm  June 10, 2018

    Poor Judas…the guy should be given a seat next to Jesus in heaven, since he played such a key role in God’s plan for saving humanity through Christ’s sacrifice. Or maybe the doctrine of atonement wasn’t mainstream yet…

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

      I teach English in a private school in Zgorzelec, Poland, and one of my students is this half-German half-Polish boy (fluent in both languages) who is an incredibly conservative (and AMAZINGLY well-educated) Catholic, in the Pius X / Mel Gibson mold.

      He told me of a legend about Judas which went like this:

      Judas is in Hell, and somehow is able to make a long distance call or something and speak with Jesus. And Judas says to Jesus, “Why are you PUNISHING me? ALL I did was TO DO EXACTLY AS YOU ASKED ME TO DO!”

      You sent me to sic the Temple authorities on you in the Garden, and that’s exactly what I did. And if that caused you to be crucified, how is that MY fault?

  17. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  June 10, 2018

    If Judas didn’t believe Jesus to be the messiah, I’m wondering why he didn’t just choose to leave The Twelve or go back home. Turning him in to the authorities was an extreme choice to make.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  June 10, 2018


    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

      I will answer your question.

      Judas DID believe Jesus was the Messiah. And by Judas’ reckoning, that meant, starting and WINNING a great messianic war (Joel 3, Zechariah) which would cause God to perform a miracle and usher in the great Age of the Messiah, where the lion lies down with the lamb; the nations beat their swords into plowshares, and nations no longer make war on each other. A world where all mankind comes to follow The One True God.

      That is a VERY lofty goal indeed!

      Jesus chose to come out on the Mount of Olives, because Jewish tradition said, that is where the Messiah must first appear.

      But, how does Jesus maneuver the Temple authorities, not to confront him before, but instead to leave him alone until he is ready for the confrontation on the Mount of Olives?

      Simple. He sends Judas to tell the Temple authorities where to find Jesus. Jesus WANTS to be found by the Temple authorities, but only at a certain time and date.

      By helping to set up the meeting — which Judas and Jesus expected to fulfill the prophecy of Joel 3 — Judas WAS helping Jesus to fulfill his mission of being the Messiah.

      In short, Judas did NOTHING wrong. He acted at all times as Jesus’ loyal agent.

      That is why he didn’t just pack up and go home.

  18. Altosackbuteer
    Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

    Dear Professor:

    I have another idea for you to add to your ever-growing list of topics for a rousing blog discussion. It is this:

    Who is responsible for ending Paul’s missionary journeys? The Sanhedrin (Acts 23)? The Romans? The Jerusalem Church (Acts 21)? Or a combination of all three?

    While waiting for the Site Moderator to get around to moderating and allowing past comments from readers (This topic was posted on June 8; nevertheless it is now June 10 as I write these words, and there is nary a single posted comment yet. This is infernally slow) — I had an email debate the other night with an evangelical friend of mine who took offense at the “ill will” I displayed when I informed him that it was the Jerusalem Church who put an end to Paul’s missionary journeys. I presume, because he thinks that both the Jerusalem Church and the Apostle Paul were good and holy, to pit one against the other required “ill will” on my part.

    I told him, I had no ill will toward the Jerusalem Church at all, and I came to the conclusion I have simply because I READ THE TEXT — carefully, openly, and HONESTLY. I TRY to read what is ACTUALLY present, not what I might like to see or what someone else wants me to see.

    How to answer this question? Well, we can start by agreeing that while Paul was on a missionary journey in Greece (Acts 19, 20), he received a summons to return to Jerusalem forthwith. He went there, and as a result, was taken into protective custody by the Romans, who held him for perhaps 2 years before shipping him off to Rome, during which journey (NOT a missionary journey; Paul was under arrest) Paul experienced shipwreck off Malta. He eventually arrived in Rome where he was held under house arrest until the end of his life.

    So far, so good — right?

    So why was Paul taken into protective custody by the Romans (Acts 21)?

    The roots of this go back to Acts 15, where Paul was in Jerusalem, meeting for the first time the Apostle James and the other elders of the Jerusalem Church. The question was, should the Jerusalem Church continue to require all non-Jewish followers of Jesus to first convert to full Judaism via circumcision as a condition of entry into the membership of the Jerusalem Church — or should the Jerusalem Church admit would-be non-Jewish followers WITHOUT requiring them to submit to circumcision and WITHOUT binding them to the full panoply of Mosaic Law?

    The decision was to allow the NON-Jewish followers into the Nazarene movement WITHOUT requiring them to convert to full Judaism, including circumcision, etc. (As I argue in my book) — by doing this, the Apostle James essentially said that if the non-Jewish followers would but submit to the simple yoke of the 7 Laws of the Sons of Noah, and not full Judaism, they would do just fine.

    So matters stood for 6 years (according to Finegan in his Handbook of Biblical Chronology); then the Jerusalem Church had caught word that not only was Paul preaching that the NON-Jewish followers of Jesus could refrain from following Mosaic Law, but also that the JEWISH followers ALSO should cease to observe Jewish Law. And this Paul was NOT allowed to preach!

    (And we KNOW Paul wasn’t allowed to preach this because, if he were allowed, there’d have been no reason to summons him to return to Jerusalem from Greece to answer for himself. And, furthermore, WE KNOW that this is EXACTLY what Paul had been preaching — NO ONE should follow the Law of Moses anymore because, thanks to Jesus, there are no more Jews and Greeks (non-Jews) because now ALL were united under Christ. And the Law of Moses is now null and void. And WE KNOW ALL of this, because Paul candidly admits all this in his letters.)

    Who summonsed Paul to come to Jerusalem? In Acts 20, after Paul lands at Caesarea Maritima, he receives a warning from a “prophet” named Agabus who warns him not to go up to Jerusalem because, vaguely, “the Jews” there will seek to kill him.

    But who are these “Jews”? And furthermore, what authority did ANY group of Jews have to summons Paul all the way from Greece? The Sadducees? The Pharisees? The Herodians? But NONE of THESE Jews had any authority outside of Judea. Paul could safely IGNORE THEIR summons.

    But there was ONE group of Jews whom Paul could NOT ignore — the Jews who ran the Jerusalem Church, the men who had been disciples of Jesus, knowing him personally while all walked the earth together. They had given Paul his preaching authority. Without them, Paul was NOTHING. So for THEIR sake, Paul HAD to return to Jerusalem.

    And it is THESE “Jews” whom Agabus warned Paul about. For when Paul arrived to Jerusalem, it was to THESE Jews that Paul reported; no other Jews (no Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Sadducees) even knew Paul was in town.

    Luke is guilty of trying to put fog over the real situation, but even Luke, in the end, had to adhere to a semblance of the truth, and even from his own foggy words does the truth emerge.

    So — Paul arrives. And in Acts 21:20-22, the Apostle James puts the question to him: 20) Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

    21) And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

    22) What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

    And that’s the question. Was Paul preaching this doctrine, or wasn’t he? In other words, the thousands of Jews who both believed in Jesus and who still followed Mosaic law will know that Paul is in town, and they will want to know the answer to this question.

    But evidently, the Apostle James wasn’t certain. Which tells us, Paul must have DENIED the accusation, for if he had been honest and had admitted it, there would have been no question in James’ mind about Paul’s guilt, and no need for this following step —

    23) “Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

    24) “Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

    There are several things we may infer from these two verses.

    a) James was not certain whether the question were true or not.

    b) This means, however, that Paul MUST have DENIED the accusation.

    c) Because, if Paul had admitted that the accusation were true, then James would be certain that, in fact, it WAS true.

    d) And in this case, there would be no need for Paul to undergo a Purification Test to prove he was innocent of the accusation.

    e) But because Paul did submit to the Purification Test, we may therefore be certain that Paul DENIED the accusation (that he’d been preaching that the Jewish followers now should abandon Mosaic Law).

    f) But because WE know that Paul HAD been teaching that the JEWISH followers now ALSO should abandon Mosaic Law, we therefore may conclude that Paul LIED to the Apostle James about whether he had been preaching this FORBIDDEN doctrine to the JEWISH followers of Jesus.

    In Verse 25, James then repeats what he’d already said in Acts 15 — that as long as the non-Jewish Christians follow the 7 Laws of the Sons of Noah, they will be alright.

    25) “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.”

    (And WE KNOW that James made his ruling based on the 7 Laws of the Sons of Noah because the smoking gun is his words that the non-Jews now should refrain “FROM BLOOD AND FROM (THINGS) STRANGLED, and from fornication.” This is the 7th of the 7 Laws of the Sons of Noah, and is a commandment that has no parallel in the 10 Commandments.

    (Which is why I claim that no one can properly understand this and certain other passages in the NT unless and until one knows about the Jewish concept of the 7 Laws.)

    Anyway — so Paul agrees to undergo the Purification Test in his attempt to prove the FALSEHOOD that he had NOT been preaching that the JEWISH followers of Jesus now ALSO should ignore the Laws of Moses.

    26) Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

    So Paul continues with his bluff and his deception. And he ALMOST got away with it. But on the final day of the Purification Test…

    27) And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

    Who were these “Jews of Asia” (Asia Minor, today’s Turkey)? Were they believers in Jesus themselves? Quite possibly, yes; Luke doesn’t say either way. But what is certain is that they recognize Paul and know exactly what he had been doing.

    28) Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

    At this point, the rest of the story tells itself. A riot ensued which came to the attention of the Roman garrison, who took Paul into protective custody. Thus permanently ended Paul’s freedom; thereafter he was held in custody for the rest of his life.

    In Acts 23 Paul is placed on trial again, this time before the Sanhedrin. And the decision to remand Paul to Rome is made.


    So, Professor — WHO is responsible for ending Paul’s missionary career?

    The Sanhedrin? Yes. The Romans” Yes. But what about the Jerusalem Church itself?

    Here, I argue, ALSO YES. For it was the meeting between Paul and James which caused the riot which led to Paul being held captive.

    Furthermore, I argue that the Jerusalem Church and the Sanhedrin WERE UNITED IN THEIR OPPOSITION TO PAUL. They were ALLIES against Paul.

    We think of the Jerusalem Church as Christian and the Sanhedrin as Jewish, and so therefore, they must have opposed each other.

    But — the evidence of Acts of the Apostles is CLEAR — the Jerusalem Church, though not Paul, observed and followed the Law of Moses. So too did the Sanhedrin. So why would they NOT be allies?

    How do we know this about the Jerusalem Church? There are numerous indications from Acts. But in addition was the scene, both in Acts 15 and 21, where the Apostle James makes a decision about non-Jewish followers based on the Jewish concept of the 7 Laws of the Sons of Noah. The fact that James based his decision on the 7 Laws shows his continued loyalty to Judaism and unity with the Pharisee-dominated Sanhedrin.


    Professor: What is YOUR take on all this?

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

      I apologize for the length of the above posting, and fully realize that longer is not gooder if I hope and expect readers to wade through it all.

      Generally, on this site, I TRY to keep comments as short as I can. But this one simply needed the space.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      Sorry, the comment is too long for me to interact with!

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

        I understand:

        Here, then is the gist of my question:

        Who is responsible for ending Paul’s missionary journeys and career as a roving missionary?

        Was it the Sanhedrin (Acts 23)? The Romans? Or the Jerusalem Church (Acts 21)? Or a combination of all of the above?

        My (admittedly) long posting states the argument why, ultimately, it’s fair to pin responsibility on the Jerusalem Church.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 11, 2018

          I think he was arrested by Roman authorities in Rome and probably died in the Neronian persecution.

  19. Altosackbuteer
    Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

    “Jesus will surely rise from the dead, and then he, Judas, will be in real trouble. His wife assures him: Jesus cannot rise from the dead any more than this chicken on the spit can come back to life.

    “But as soon as she utters these words, the dead chicken rises up, spreads its wings, and crows three times. A terrified Judas runs out to grab some rope and end his life.”

    This reminds me of one of the most colorful and interesting of stories from the Talmud. It is the story of a rabbi who visited as many prostitutes as he could, and what happened with him after his latest and last prostitute FARTED.

    Ah — PROSTITUTES! I figger, even if this posting is long, the mention of FARTS AND PROSTITUTES is certain to draw and retain the readers’ attention!

    The story is actually a charming PARABLE of sin and the power of repentance. I do not think the story should be taken literally, any more than any of Jesus’ parables should be considered as historically real. All of these are stories which are intended to teach a moral principle.

    Here goes:


    It is said of Rabbi Eleazar ben Dordai that he didn’t refrain from having intercourse with any prostitute in the world. Once he heard that there was a certain prostitute in a sea port who accept a purse of denarii for payment. So he took a purse of denarii, and he crossed seven rivers to reach her.

    As he was commencing intercourse with her, she FARTED. (Don’tcha all just HATE it when that happens?) Upon this, she commented, “Just as this fart will never return to its place, so Eleazar ben Dordai will never return to God and be accepted.”

    (And THIS is what reminds me of the story Professor told, of Judas and his wife who was cooking a chicken on a spit which came back to life and flew away.)

    Evidently, ben Dordai took this REALLY seriously, for he then went and sat between two mountain ranges, and said, “Mountain ranges, plead with God to have mercy on me.”

    Said the mountain ranges, “Before we pray for you, we should pray for ourselves, for Scripture says, ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed'” (Isaiah 54:10).

    Then he said, “Heavens and earth, ask God to have mercy on me.”

    Said the Heavens and the earth, “Before we pray for you, we should pray for ourselves, for Scripture says, ‘For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment'” (Isaiah 51:6).

    Then he said, “Sun and Moon, ask God to have mercy on me.”

    Said the Sun and Moon, “Before we pray for you we should pray for ourselves, for Scripture says, ‘Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed'” (Isaiah 24:23).

    Then he said, “Stars and Constellations, ask God for mercy on me.”

    Said the Stars and Constellations, “Before we pray for you, we should pray for ourselves, for Scripture says, ‘And the hosts of heaven shall moulder away'” (Isaiah 34:4).

    Then ben Dordai said, “Then this thing depends upon me alone.” He put his head between his knees (NOT to kiss his backside goodbye, but…) and groaned and wept until his soul departed.

    Then a heavenly Voice went forth and said, “Rabbi Eleazar ben Dordai has been summoned to the life of the World to Come.”

    When Rabbi Judah the Prince (who commenced the writing of the Talmud around 200 AD) heard this, he wept and said, “There are those who gain the World to Come by the toil of many years; and there are those who gain the World to Come in one hours.”

    And he added, “It is not enough for those who repent that they are accepted; they are called ‘Rabbi’ too!”

    Talmud Avodah Zorah, 17a.


    Now, does ANYONE REALLY think that Rabbi ben Dordai ACTUALLY and literally conversed with mountains and the sun, moon, and stars?

    Certainly not. It’s a PARABLE, meant to teach us to repent for our sins. who knows whether ben Dordai really was a whoremonger with an insatiable libido?

    It is like the New Testament parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some of them have to labor there all day long to earn their reward; others can earn the same reward with only an hour’s worth of effort.

  20. Avatar
    metanoia04  July 16, 2018

    Regarding Paul being set up during his final visit to Jerusalem by the Jerusalem Church – I found an excellent read in SGF Brandon’s’ The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church’. My only regret is lending it out many years ago and never receiving it back. One day I will get my hands on another copy!

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