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Why Did Judas Betray Jesus? Most-commented Blog Post: #8

April 21, 2022

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #8, with 187 comments.



Why Did Judas Iscariot Betray Jesus?

June 3, 2018

In this edition of the Readers’ Mailbag I address an interesting and perplexing question about Judas Iscariot:



You may have mentioned this (I cannot recall) but why did Judas go to the authorities in the first place?



              I wrestled with this question long and hard while writing my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, which includes a section on what we can know about the historical Judas.  In the book I argue that there are some things that we can know with relative certainty about Judas (he was one of the Twelve and was the one who actually betrayed Jesus); other things we can profitably surmise based on our evidence (e.g. what it is Judas betrayed to the authorities – not just Jesus’ whereabouts, I argue); and other things that are almost entirely in the realm of speculation.

Among the latter I would include the reasons Judas *wanted* to betray Jesus.  Scholars have offered numerous suggestions over the years.  You may have your own favored view.  Here is what I say about the matter in my book.


The Gospels give various answers to this question.  In the (newly discovered) Gospel of Judas, he betrays Jesus because that’s what Jesus wants him to do.  In our earlier accounts there are a range of different reasons given: (a) John portrays Judas as inherently evil, “a devil,” and so naturally he does what he is inclined to do (John 6:71) ; (b) Luke suggests that “The Devil made him do it” (Luke 22:3-6); (c) Matthew indicates that he does it for the cash (Matt. 26:14-16).

But what was the real motivation behind Judas’s act?  At the end of the day, I’m afraid we can’t know for certain.  It might be that the scenario I’ve suggested above is the right one, that Judas simply wanted Jesus removed from public view until after the Festival had ended and they could return to Galilee to continue their public preaching.

But there’s another option that might be even more intriguing, possibly hinted at in Mark, our earliest surviving account.  Throughout Mark’s account Jesus has been preaching about the coming Kingdom of God, speaking about the coming of the Son of Man in judgment, indicating to his disciples that it would happen soon.  Then he comes to Judea from Galilee, cleanses the Temple, and is anointed by an unknown woman in the town of Bethany.  Apocalyptic fervor among his disciples must have been at its peak.  Jesus has just given his lengthiest apocalyptic discourse in Mark 13, describing what will happen soon, at the end of the age.  When he is anointed in Bethany, what does it mean?  The act, of course, could be interpreted in a number of ways.  If Jesus is about to become king, could it not be a symbolic statement that he is about to assume the throne as the Lord’s “anointed”?  Possibly that’s what the disciples think.  But Jesus does not interpret it this way.  Instead he indicates that this unnamed woman has anointed his body “for its burial” (Mark 14:8).

Every time Jesus speaks about his coming death in Mark, the disciples misunderstand him: isn’t he to be the future king who will rule, and aren’t we to rule with him?  So too here.  As soon as Jesus speaks of his impending death, Judas goes out to betray him.

Is it possible that we have a historical recollection of the real situation here?  For Judas, Jesus’ interpretation of his anointing may have been the last straw.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the disciples, including Judas, were looking ahead to the time when they were to rule in the coming kingdom.  This would happen soon.  How soon?  Certainly within their own generation.  But sooner even then that.  In one of those sayings preserved in Matthew, but which may go back to Jesus himself, Jesus sends his twelve disciples out to preach the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God, telling them: “Truly I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man arrives” (Matt 10:23).  In its own historical context, what could such a saying have meant?  It can’t have meant that Jesus himself was going to follow each of the twelve to all the towns they visited.  Is Jesus here referring apocalyptically not to himself, but to the cosmic judge of the earth, who will arrive not some time later in “this generation,” but imminently, before the mission of the twelve is even finished?

If that’s what he meant – or at least if that’s how he was understood – the disciples must have been bitterly disappointed when the end in fact did not come and things went on just as before.  After a while, did all this talk about the coming Son of Man, the Kingdom of God, the ruling of the twelve tribes of Israel, the entire apocalyptic vision – did all of this begin to lose its plausibility?  Jesus may well have come to suspect that he would run afoul of the authorities.  His predecessor John the Baptist had done so.  The prophets of sacred Scripture had done so.  Other prophets of his own time had done so.  There’s nothing implausible about Jesus himself beginning to think that he too would do so.  That is, after all, the constant refrain of his preaching in the Gospels.

So, why did Judas betray Jesus?   It is possible, as I suggested above, that he simply thought matters were getting out of hand and he wanted Jesus securely taken out of way before any violence broke out   But maybe it was the delay of the end that finally frustrated Judas and made him rethink everything he had heard.  He, along with the others, thought they were to be glorious kings.  They had made a trip to Jerusalem, raising their hopes that this would be the time; but nothing was happening and nothing evidently was about to happen.  Maybe Judas had a crisis of faith, triggered by Jesus’ enigmatic references to his own coming demise. And out of bitterness he turned on his master.  Maybe his hopes were dashed.  Maybe he rebelled.  Maybe he turned on the one he had loved out of despair, or anger, or raw frustration.

All of this, as I indicated, must lie in the realm of speculation.  As much as we would like to know, we simply will never have reliable information to indicate what it was that motivated Judas, one of Jesus’ closest followers, to betray his master.  What is clear is that for one reason or another, Judas became a turncoat and handed Jesus over to his enemies – not simply telling them where to find him, but giving them the insider information they needed in order to have him brought up on charges before the Roman governor.  Jesus had been calling himself the king.

2022-04-11T09:36:00-04:00April 21st, 2022|Public Forum|

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  1. Fiaschi April 21, 2022 at 10:49 am

    I’ve also heard the possibility that Judas was trying to force the hand of Jesus to fight his captors and begin a rebellion against the Romans. It could be, with all the talk from Jesus about the coming Kingdom and keeping in mind that the Jews wanted a military leader after the style of Judas Maccabeus, Judas possibly thought that when they tried to arrest Jesus, a fight would ensue. Of course, the very opposite happened.Supporters of this point to the fact that Judas later tried to return the coins and repent. Do you think there’s any merit to this given the highly charged atmosphere during the passover?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:26 pm

      Yes, that’s one of the more common explanatoins. It’s possible, for certain. But since I think Judas revealed not just Jesus whwereabouts but his messianic identity, the motive may have been something more sinister. (If he only revealed where he could be found, you could be imagine that he thought they all would put up a fight)

  2. fishician April 21, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    Or perhaps Judas was invented to further incriminate the Jews, the name Judas being synonymous with “Judah” or “Jew.” Invented as a symbol of how the Jews betrayed their own Messiah, in the increasingly anti-Semitic Gentile church. Perhaps the Romans simply crucified Jesus as a trouble-maker but as the Gentile influence increased they needed to shift the blame, to Judas and the Jews in general.

    • elizvand April 22, 2022 at 7:36 pm

      Fishician —
      Dr. Ehrman will correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the obvious problem with this explanation is that the name “Judas” is already there in Mark, the earliest Gospel, and at that point (c. 70 CE) there was no “increasingly anti-Semitic Gentile church” yet.

      • fishician April 25, 2022 at 8:33 pm

        Even though Mark is not as anti-Semitic as the later gospels I suspect the Gentile church was already heading in that direction. All it would take would be one early anti-Semitic group within the church to get the “Judas” ball rolling, but I recognize that’s hard to prove.

  3. gavriel April 21, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    Isn’t a s simpler solution that Judas, judging the aftermath of the “cleansing episode”, understood that they were all in jeopardy? So he saved himself?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:28 pm

      I”m not sure it’s simpler (a simpler response would have been just to go home instead of stick around), but it’s plausible.

  4. jayakron April 21, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Judas wanted Jesus arrested out of spite? That seems a definite possibility to me. I’ve worked with people who’ve been disenchanted with certain religions, and the human reaction to the perception of having been fooled by a religious movement’s leader can be quite strong.

    That Judas wanted Jesus arrested to “securely take him out of the way” as a kind of Passover time-out seems less of a possibility to me, but then again, how would events likely have turned out if Jesus had not been arrested? Widescale riots?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:28 pm

      If he had not been arrested my guess is they would have gone back to Galilee the next day and the world would have forever been a different place…

  5. Brittonp April 21, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    I can imagine a scenario where Judas never intended to betray Jesus. Jesus’ actions had the authorities looking for him. Someone recognized Judas as one of Jesus’ disciples and they approach him innocently wanting to know more about Jesus. Judas was talkative and didn’t realize what he was saying would lead to Jesus’ crucifixion. When asked if they could meet Jesus, Judas leads them to him not realizing soldiers were lurking behind. Judas is now the betrayer.

  6. Jayredinger April 21, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    Do you think that the references to his own death were historical? I wouldn’t have thought they were, considering his anticipation of becoming king of the Jews. Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples that they would rule with him? It would seem contradictory if he believed he was going to be killed.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:29 pm

      Yes, I think htat’s right. He thought the kingdom would come and he would be king with his twelve as cogerents. I don’t think he planned to die or, up to the end, expected to.

      • RICHWEN90 April 24, 2022 at 9:02 am

        I know there are some who argue that Jesus looked at the same scripture passages that later Christians distorted, and distorted them in the same way: “Yes, that’s ME they’re talking about, and I must suffer and die to usher in the Kingdom of God!” In which case Jesus had delusions of reference. Maybe in matters like these scholars should apply Occam’s Razor, and decide that the simplest explanation of events is more probable. I think some have argued that Jesus used Judas to bring about the crisis– tell them who I am, that I may be crucified and then the Kingdom will come. Sorta.

  7. stevenpounders April 21, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    Why would a betrayal by Judas have even been necessary to the authorities who arrested Jesus? Did they really not recognize him without Judas identifying him? What threat would have been posed by a man who was too unknown to be easily recognized?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:34 pm

      That’s my point: it must have been something other than pointing out the right guy to them. The betrayal was more serious than that.

  8. Hon Wai Lai April 21, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    If we rely only on a surface reading of the gospels especially how and why Judas betrayed Jesus, isn’t it difficult to understand why the authorities needed an insider to identify Jesus? After his entry into Jerusalem, lots of people could have ID him, and he wasn’t in hiding, hence he wasn’t difficult to find. The gospels never said Judas revealed to the authorities about Jesus’ claim to be the king. But if Judas did make this revelation, the trial and conviction made sense. Under this scenario, would Judas have told the authorities something they did not know beforehand, or they had long suspected it and merely needed an insider witness?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2022 at 5:36 pm

      Yup, that’s my point. the betrayal must have involved something more than an identification (hence my thesis of what it reaslly was). I don’t know if they suspected that Jesus was calling himself King before Judas informed them; wish I did!

      • LiamQ April 23, 2022 at 11:53 pm

        Is it a widespread scholarly opinion that Judas revealed that Jesus was secretly teaching his own future kingship?

        • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:48 pm

          No. Most would say he revealed Jesus’ whereabouts.

  9. rivercrowman April 22, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Bart, this is off topic. Your recent YouTube debate with Catholic senior apologist Jimmy Akin now has 49,231 views!

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:18 pm

      Who. I was afraid you were going to say 666.

  10. Em.Freedman April 22, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Dr Ehrman!

    If Mark 14:8, where Jesus refers to his burial, is something Jesus actually said (in order for it to have affected Judas to commit an act that actually happened) how did Jesus know that he was about to be crucified, to say this?

    Thank you!

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:18 pm

      I don’t think he did. Mark, writing 40 years later, wants his readers to think that he know exactly what was supposed to happen to him.

  11. Kirktrumb59 April 22, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    Reading “The Great Fire of Rome” by Stephen Dando-Collins. Learning lots.
    Therein one finds the assertions:
    a. “Paul’s Roman citizenship has never been questioned by historians or theologians, but no one has ever been able to explain how Paul came by that citizenship.”
    b. Paul trained With Gamaliel (the elder)
    Per your 7-20-12 and 10-23-12 posts and other sources, Paul’s relationship with Gamaliel and the interaction among Paul, the Sanhedrin and Gamaliel as depicted in Acts V are fictions, as is most of Acts.

    So, 1. comment: Don’t believe everything you read. Check, double check and check again
    2. question: My understanding is that Paul’s Roman citizenship HAS been questioned. Has it not?

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:19 pm

      a. Wrong. It is standard to question it. b. No, no evidence that Paul studied in Jerusalem, let alone with Gamaliel.

  12. brickleytre April 22, 2022 at 4:39 pm

    First, thank you for so often giving us snippets of work you’ve already done in your books. I think that is very generous and helpful.

    Second, thank you for depressing me. I’m half-joking!:) But, in all seriousness, as someone who is deeply fascinated with history in general and the history of Christianity in particular, it pains me to realize how many interesting and important questions we can ask that the available evidence just cannot answer with certainty.

  13. David91 April 22, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    Must say that this reading is very insightful. Do you think that Judas originally betrayed Jesus straight to the Romans or do you think that Judas went first to the Jewish authority who then later gave him up to the Romans?

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:20 pm

      My guess is that he could have had access to Jewish authorities but not Roman.

  14. JoshuaBakradze April 22, 2022 at 5:46 pm


    For Matthew, what are the Keys that Peter receives in Matthew 16:18-19? Are they some kind of a rabbinic authority to teach? What is the meaning of the keys?


    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:24 pm

      My sense is that the passage is saying that the decisions of the apostolic followers of Jesus are binding because they reflect the views of God.

  15. Jack April 22, 2022 at 8:49 pm

    What about the traditional theological theory that Judas was only playing his necessary part, that “hey, somebody had to do it”? Since my earliest childhood, I’ve thought it contradictory for believers to condemn Judas on the one hand, and then claim it was all God’s Plan from the beginning. Given that legend that Jesus supposedly ascended through the clouds some time after the resurrection, the antagonist Judas appears to have been necessary to the story. So why condemn him? Further, I agree with Bart that it was more than ‘identification” alone; that Judas himself felt betrayed by Jesus and by his own false hopes.

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:28 pm

      I can’t think of anything in the texts that suggest it. Jesus in the Gospels certainly doesn’t attribute that view to Judas. My sense is that historically JEsus wasn’t expecting the betrayal.

      • Kirktrumb59 April 25, 2022 at 9:26 am

        OK. Jesus wasn’t expecting the betrayal. But to Jack’s point:
        What about John 13:2 “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him…” and John 17:12 “While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

        Of course there’s no (actual) devil, the author of John either invented the narrative and the farewell rap and/or incorporated fragments of stories he’d (? she’d) heard, of course “destiny” as a 1st century concept is nonsense (I assume that “John” was unaware of Feynman diagrams). But 13:2, read literally, indicates “Judas” as a passive recipient. And, well, “destiny.”

        • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:58 pm

          All of these passages are trying to explain both that JEsus knew what was going to happen and that Judas was driven by evil impulses. The early Christians very much wanted to explain both things after the fact, since no one expected it to happen.

  16. Steefen April 23, 2022 at 1:24 am

    Dr. Ehrman,

    After having written Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, how would you answer this question,

    Given these two definitions:

    Secular Definition of Satan:
    a constructive Devil’s Advocate, adversary, personification of constructive adversary and constructive criticism

    Satan Defined in the Bible (Ezekiel 28:14-18 and Isaiah 14:12-17):
    an angel filled with violence and sin; disgraceful, banished, a prideful beauty, corrupted wisdom, a splendor, unjust, dishonest, profane, destroyer of nations, would-be usurper of God, dwells in Sheol (place for the souls of the dead)

    Does Satan exist?

    Thank you,
    Steve Campbell, author of Historical Accuracy

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:29 pm

      Not sure what you’re asking.

      • Steefen April 24, 2022 at 9:09 pm

        Does Hell exist?
        If so, is the most important entity there Satan?
        Does Satan have influence on Earth?
        Was Jesus tempted by Satan?

        Most important question: Is Satan real/does Satan exist?

        • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:43 pm

          You’re asking my opinion? No. No. No. No. and No. But these are religious/theological views, not historical onces, and for the most part I try to stick to history here.

          • Steefen April 28, 2022 at 12:57 pm

            Steve Campbell, Author of Historical Accuracy
            That would be more subtractions from the Biblical Jesus to the historical Jesus.
            To get from the Biblical Jesus to the historical Jesus, sometimes the religious and theological views–and the mythological views–need to be subtracted.
            Jesus’ value is to deliver us from evil and evil personified-deified as Anti-Christ and Satan.
            (A feat of Jesus was God intervening in history. God’s Adversary also intervenes in history.)

    • sLiu April 26, 2022 at 10:57 am

      Satan exists as I was taught in church growing up.
      But not God, the Lord & Savior as delineated or impressed upon me since I was in elementary school

  17. agraf April 23, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    Why would Jesus (from what we know a peasant) and his disciples (also peasants) think they would become Kings? What made them think they were special? Is this era’s apocalyptic fervor and piety sufficient to explain their attitude? Why would anybody-including Judas-would be so gullible to assume that a person preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God would be the future king?

    • BDEhrman April 24, 2022 at 8:42 pm

      Jesus believed God had revealed it to him and the disciples believed Jesus.

      • KeitaTakahata July 3, 2022 at 10:50 pm

        By “reveal”, do we know how? There’s no indication of how Jesus came to believe he was to be the messiah and his followers to be kings. No vision or dream. Perhaps he just believe it would happen. Similar to a person believing they will be president one day. Jesus believe he would be put in that spot, like a president or prime minister?

        • BDEhrman July 5, 2022 at 1:52 pm

          We don’t really know. MY sense is that Jesus knew God revealed these things to him the same way most people know what God has revealed to them. It popped into his head outta nowhere and/or after intense prayer.

  18. DEBourque April 24, 2022 at 10:38 pm

    I too have come to as similar conclusion, but I would like to ad some points to ponder.
    1) If Jesus was indeed the Son of Man, then wouldn’t he know whom he was choosing to be among his disciples?
    2) If he was unaware that Judas was to betray him later, then this jeopardizes his own stature.
    3) If he did know, then he had to have also known, what was to come later. (I read many do not feel he knew).
    4) After he proclaimed at the Last Supper that one of them will betray him, in both Matthew and Mark, he makes a statement; and I paraphrase, ‘but woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man, for it would be better for him if he had never been born.’
    5) After Judas supposedly hears this threat, he goes and continues with his deed just the same????
    6) In John, when Jesus hands him the morsel, he tells Judas, what you are about to do, do quickly.
    7) When Judas realizes what chain of events he has started, according to Matthew, he hung himself.
    I do not believe Judas knew what he was engaging.
    I would like your thoughts on this, if you would.

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:47 pm

      These are good questions, and I don’t think the traditional answers make much sense in light of them. It’s more likely that Jesus did not know that Judas would betray him; and we don’t really know what happened at their lasst meal or to Judas — though I do think he died soon thereafter in connection with a “field of blood” in Jerusalem. But the account in Acts is very different from Matthew’s.

  19. TimOBrien April 26, 2022 at 9:43 am

    Claiming that Judas betrayed Jesus “because that’s what Jesus wants him to do” [Judas] requires presupposing the gnostic theology that inspires this gospel.

    The idea that the betrayer was “inherently evil” [John] and/or that “The devil made him do it” [Luke] also stands on a theological (albeit orthodox) paradigm. Worse, it implies a blame-shifting logic that would also absolve Adam of responsibility for committing the “Original Sin” — the expiation of which is what (again, per orthodoxy) created the need for a Redeemer for Judas to betray. If evil is innate, both Adam’s transgression and Judas’ betrayal are inevitable, foreordained elements of Yahweh’s plan to make a human sacrifice (of his own son! 😳) to himself.

    While simple greed [Matthew] requires no theological grounding, this explanation is only less implausible by comparison. The idea that anyone willing to renounce home and family, property and livelihood, to follow Jesus on his itinerant, vagabond ministry — for months (or years) — could have suddenly been seized by so venal an aspiration absolutely demands supporting evidence. Personally, I’d need something more than the author’s abrupt and unsubstantiated character assassination.

  20. TimOBrien April 26, 2022 at 9:50 am

    Mark provides an entirely plausible account of Jesus’ fateful, final week. All the particulars — his apocalyptic pronouncements (“Olivet Discourse”), anointing in Bethany (ceremonially making him the “Anointed One”), arrival in Jerusalem (“Triumphal Entry”), symbolic overturning of the old order (“Cleansing of the Temple”), etc. — provide recognizable stage-setting for a Messianic showdown with God’s enemies, both Roman occupiers and apostate Jews.

    Especially compelling is the anointing in Bethany, faithfully reproduced by Matthew and independently attested by John (that author explicitly naming Judas as the fastidious objector and offering some explanatory support for the accusation which Matthew conspicuously omits.)

    The ending of this anecdote, however, that has Jesus deflecting with an observation about the intractability of poverty and the suggestion that the anointment was in anticipation of his death, is not credible.

    Doesn’t your inference that “For Judas, Jesus’ interpretation of his anointing may have been the last straw” depend on Jesus having actually MADE this prophetic pronouncement? 🤔

    Doesn’t the “she has anointed my body beforehand for the burial” quote sound suspiciously like pot hoc interpolation by proselytizers? Couldn’t this retort have already become a legendary trope during the oral period BEFORE eventually being preserved (independently) by both Mark and John?

    • BDEhrman April 28, 2022 at 5:32 pm

      Yes, it’s not a point I’m willing to fight hard for, but the option I was suggesting is that Jesus realized the gig was up and that was more than Judas could stand.

  21. TimOBrien April 27, 2022 at 9:07 am

    Why would Judas have wanted Jesus “removed from public view until after the Festival had ended”? All signs were that THIS was the big “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.” moment!

    It is altogether fitting and proper that the Son of Man should appear at the Temple, in the capital city of the Promised Land, during the Passover Festival, to finally vanquish all God’s enemies, foreign and domestic, and at last establish His eternal Good Kingdom on Earth.

    Why would Judas (or any disciple) want to “return to Galilee to continue their public preaching” when “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”?

    Those grand expectations were, of course, dashed when Jesus was simply arrested, condemned and ignominiously executed as a common criminal.

    Doesn’t it seem more likely that “Every time Jesus speaks about his coming death in Mark” we are merely hearing apologia the author has put on Jesus’ lips? In fact wouldn’t such morbid pronouncements by Jesus, himself, have been as perplexing to hearers during his ministry as they were convenient for post hoc, evangelists after his dispiriting demise? Isn’t it more probable that Jesus never made ANY prophetic claims about his looming death and resurrection?

    • BDEhrman April 28, 2022 at 6:08 pm

      I”m not assuming that Judas thought this *was* the time or the place, or that he was expecting an uprising. And yes, Mark is writing an apologia.

  22. TimOBrien April 27, 2022 at 9:13 am

    Unlike most of the disciples, Judas was not a fisherman from Capernaum. By all accounts he didn’t join the Jesus entourage until somewhere down the ministry road.

    Could he have been a “Fourth Way,” partisan insurrectionist who just happened upon this earnest, peasant rabbi from Galilee — and was so moved by the spiritual power of his words (and IMHO spiritual presence of “the Word”) that he believed Jesus WAS the prophesied Messiah, put his sword “back into its place,” and became a “fisher of men” for the Son of Man?

    Though “Iscariot” is generally taken to be a reference to Judas having hailed from the town of Kerioth (like Mary of Magdala), might it, instead, have referred to his having belonged to the Sicarii faction of Zealots (the dagger-wielding assassins of the JPF suicide squad 😉)?

    Erstwhile Sicarii or not, Judas might have been as devoted a true-believer as any of the Twelve. Why not accept on its face that he came to believe he had, indeed, found the long-awaited Messiah? If Jesus of Nazareth was God’s Chosen One — the very ”Son of Man” prophesied by Daniel — wouldn’t provoking a confrontation simply instigate the final, apocalyptic showdown?

    • BDEhrman April 28, 2022 at 6:09 pm

      Yes, some have thought that he was in favor of a political/military uprising. It’s certainly one of the options.

  23. TimOBrien April 28, 2022 at 10:06 am

    Maybe Judas expected an establishment push would come to an End of Days shove from the Messiah. Once confronted, the apocalyptic prophet would undoubtedly call on the power of the Father — who would send legions of angels for him to lead to glorious victory over the pagan forces of foreign occupation and their Jewish collaborators.

    BUT… was he on vacation the week Jesus gave his fabled Sermon on the Mount? Did he somehow miss all the occasions when Jesus preached some version of “love your enemies”? Did he actually fail to notice that the rabbi he was following advocated pacifism SO radical that the proper response to a face-slapping is not even to flee, but to stand there and offer up the other cheek, as well?

    However he came to so woefully misunderstand the “Lamb of God,” when Jesus did exactly what he said he would, DIDN’T “show opposition against an evil person” and, instead, simply surrendered to an ignominious fate, Judas must have been left in utter confusion and total despair.

    Disillusioned and despondent, he threw the Sadducee’s blood money (he might have originally thought an ironic token) into the Temple — and then, utterly disconsolate, hanged himself.

  24. TimOBrien April 28, 2022 at 10:10 am

    Well done, Judas. Good old Judas.

    It’s really not for us to say whether or not he’s “damned for all time.” That’s between him and his maker. However, he certainly came to a tragic and notorious end.

    But not because he was following instructions from Jesus, or was evil by nature, or seduced by the devil, or a greedy embezzler, or resentful over the cost of some ointment, or fearful of reprisal by authorities and hoping for future opportunities.

    His terrible mistake was that — despite all the time he had spent with Jesus — he apparently didn’t “have ears to hear.” He never actually LISTENED to the words of the Word! He failed to grasp that the salvation Jesus brought was a spiritual rescue of individual souls, not a temporal rescue of Yahweh’s Chosen People.

    Judas just didn’t get it.

    Unfortunately, two millennia later, he has a helluva lot of company among millions of his benighted, “Christian” successors.

  25. sLiu April 30, 2022 at 11:31 pm

    But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned a against me.’

  26. Porphyry May 12, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Why think that Jesus didn’t envision a violent uprising–which he planned to foment–as part of the Son of Man’s coming?

    Fighting-age, Jewish males would have vastly outnumbered Pilate’s soldiers in Jerusalem during the week leading up to Passover. If even a sizable fraction of them might be ready to rebel with Jesus, it could have been risky for the authorities to confront Jesus in public (so they might have stood down, and bided their time during a triumphal entry or a cleansing of the temple).

    If that was the dynamic playing out, it could explain two things really nicely:

    First, it would give a disillusioned Judas two motives to betray Jesus (rather than just going home): First, he would have been an insider on an imminent insurrection, and he would want to distance himself from it definitely rather than risk being labeled an insurrectionist himself. Further, by stopping the insurrection before it started, he would also have saved the country from ruin–we know how Rome handled open rebellion.

    Second, it would explain why the authorities wanted to know Jesus’s secret, nocturnal location. They were afraid to confront him when there was a crowd present that might be incited to violence.

    • BDEhrman May 14, 2022 at 7:51 pm

      He wasn’t fomenting. He was waiting. The passivist tradition int he Gospels is very strong and I think the most plausible explanation: Jesus did not think humans would usher in the kingdom in any sense.

      • Porphyry May 15, 2022 at 10:28 am

        Please permit me to press on for a moment:

        Can’t Jesus’s passivity during his arrest and trial be neatly explained, first, by his initially calculating that this was not an opportune moment for violent conflict (e.g., in the garden when they were isolated and outnumbered by professional soldiers) and later by despair and shock–after the crowd assembled but disowned him rather than rioting for him?

        Meanwhile, the militaristic element of his message would have been largely forgotten (but not entirely; Lk 22:36-38) because of dissimilarity–Jesus crucified could only plausibly be the messiah if he never planned to take power by force.

        Conversely, the gospels pretty uniformly attest that the authorities feared the crowd which supported Jesus. And, Pilate’s mocking the Jews (“what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?”, and crucifying him as their king) only makes sense if the crowd had actually called him their king.

        Now you propose this claim of kingship was a secret, the secret that Judas betrayed. But that only makes sense if you write off the triumphal entry as grossly exaggerated. If it happened more-or-less as described, then his being a putative king would have been manifest.

        • BDEhrman May 17, 2022 at 2:17 pm

          Yes, there certainly are other plausible explanations. But yes, as well, I very much thing the descriptions of the Triumphal Entry are greatly exaggerated. If anything like that actually had happened Jesus would have been arrested on the spot. I’ve discussed that at greater length on the blog before if you want to look of Triumphal Entry.

  27. fiadeiro November 21, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    Bart, how do you explain these passages:
    John 13:2 – The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
    John 13:27 – As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

    • BDEhrman November 23, 2022 at 6:18 pm

      I suppose usually people say that first the devil convinced/prompted him to do it and hten later entered into him to accomplish what he had been convinced/prompted to do.

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