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Why Did Judas Iscariot Betray Jesus?

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 matterggggg 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 …

To see an intriguing answer to the question, you need to belong to the Blog!  Joining has never been easier — it is quick and costs less than a MacDonald’s milkshake a *month*!  Don’t drink a milkshake.  Join the blog!!

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The Death of Judas in Matthew
Did the Gospels Originally Have Titles?



  1. Avatar
    markedward  June 3, 2018

    On the topic of the παρουσια of the son of man. Mark 13 resolutely anticipates the event as occurring at, or soon after, the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. If Mark was written right around that time, it’s understandable.

    By the time of Luke (late 90s, early 100s?), the delay in the παρουσια is explained as there being the ‘time of the gentiles’, an intermediate period between Jerusalem’s fall and the παρουσια.

    What about Matthew, though? The book is thought to be written in the 80s or 90s, but the book stresses even more strongly that the παρουσια was to happen during the lifetime of the apostles and their contemporaries (10.23, 16.27-28, 23.36, 24.32-34), and says the παρουσια will happen ‘immediately after the suffering of those days’ (Jerusalem’s fall). Why would Matthew stress this if (by the time the book was written) it should have happened a decade or more ago?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      POssibly to convince his readers that it really is to be “soon.” Even today people read him that way!

  2. Avatar
    flshrP  June 3, 2018

    How about this? Judas was scooped up by the Temple police in a partially successful roundup of Jesus’ close followers. Threatened with death, he revealed the private teachings that Jesus gave to his Apostles. Namely, that he is the Son of Man, the Messiah, and the future king of the Jews. This was enough to convince the Jewish leaders that Jesus was a blasphemer and to convince Pilate that Jesus was guilty of sedition (advocating the overthrow of Roman rule). Conviction and execution then were inevitable. I don’t think this is an outlandish idea considering the meager evidence in the NT.

    • Avatar
      godspell  June 4, 2018

      And then they had to investigate his apparent suicide. Foul play? Next, on CSI: Jerusalem.

      Modern policing methods didn’t really come into being until the 19th century. I’m not sure Judas would be remembered as a traitor simply for having broken under questioning (or torture).

      What exactly did they need to learn that they didn’t already know? How concerned would they be with not convicting the wrong man?

      It could have been a lot of things. Maybe it was something that had nothing to do with Jesus, some kind of crackdown he got caught up in by mistake, and that kind of random-ness was just too much for later generations of Christians, so they added some drama–like you just did.

      Maybe Jesus intended to get picked up, deliberately provoked the authorities, and that’s the only reason he came to Jerusalem in the first place. Because seriously, why else? What’s he doing there? He knows its dangerous.

      • Avatar
        flshrP  June 5, 2018

        Two words: Inquisition. Waterboarding. You don’t need “modern” policing methods to flip a suspect using threats and intimidation.

        • Avatar
          godspell  June 7, 2018

          Judas certainly could have been tortured, but I can’t see why, if that’s the case, he’d be remembered as a willful traitor, instead of just someone who was tested and failed. As Peter reportedly failed after Jesus’ arrest, and nobody tortured him.

          Somehow, the belief developed that he’d willingly turned Jesus in. However, no story says that Judas’ testimony was necessary for Jesus to be crucified. No story even says he was present at the trial. Why not?

          • Avatar
            flshrP  June 8, 2018

            Threat of torture is all that’s needed to get most individuals to talk. Judas need not be present at the trial if the Jewish leaders passed on his testimony about Jesus’ sedition to Pilate.

    • Avatar
      Wilusa  June 5, 2018

      Certainly possible, though I’m inclined to believe Bart is right in that Jesus *didn’t* believe he was the “Son of Man.”

  3. ronaldus67
    ronaldus67  June 3, 2018

    Wow….a lot of speculation indeed. How can we be sure there even was a betrayal in the first place?
    Maybe the author of Mark had certain motives to fit it in the story? Is there any need for a betrayal to get Jesus crucified from historical point of view? Jesus wasn’t unnoticed or hiding corresponding the story.
    Anyone could have pointed out to him. I know, this is a lot of speculation also. Maybe that’s my point. How can we know?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      The betrayal passes the various criteria: it is independently attested in several sources and is not the kind of tradition of Jesus one would expect his followers later to make up.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  June 10, 2018

      Another possibility is that the story took place just as it’s written. By eliminating references to the supernatural any attempted thorough and accurate assessment of the N.T. is by definition limited.

      On an unrelated but pertinent topic? the probability that DNA is the product of random processes doesn’t exist. To have faith that three billion letters (representing 4 chemicals abbreviated A, T, G, and C, which are a chain of nucleic acids of nitrogen-containing bases joined by sugar-phosphate backbone) positioned in the exact order necessary for life, takes far more confidence in the impossible than accepting the miraculous recorded in the N.T. “Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature” Flew realized after a lifetime refuting the concept of God.

  4. Avatar
    godspell  June 3, 2018

    I agree with a lot of this (though it contradicts some other scenarios you’ve presented). However, there are so many variables involved.

    If we could know for a fact which stories presented in the gospels are solidly based on fact, and which ones are not, then we’d be in a better position to play detective, unravel motivations, get into the heads of the primary participants.

    I know a big part of your job is trying to figure out what part of the gospel story is fact. But you know better than most how hard that really is.

    Maybe we never know the answers, but at least we come up with better-informed questions.

    Here’s a question: Jesus was neither the first nor the last radical Jewish religious leader to run afoul of the authorities, and thus meet his end.

    None of the other stories we have about such happenings involve a Judas figure.

    Whether Judas really existed or not, whether there was a betrayal or not, whatever the reasons for that betrayal might be–would it really have been a necessary factor in Jesus’ ‘trial’ and crucifixion, if in fact he was in some way defying both the religious and secular authorities at the very center of the Jewish world?

    Only if Jesus himself engineered that event, to fulfill what he believed was his destiny. Which would argue for some version of the story told in the Gospel of Judas.

    It is Peter, after all, who most vehemently rejects Jesus’ declaration that he will be killed. Peter was the most powerful figure in Christianity after Jesus died. Even if Judas had done as Jesus told him–and we have evidence, however blurred by faulty recollection, that Jesus may have done just that–Peter might not have been able to forgive Judas for carrying that order out.

    The hardest part of reconstructing history stems from the fact that humans are frequently contradictory and irrational in their behavior. If we all behaved logically, always acted in our own best interests, it would be much simpler.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

      Acts of the Apostles 5 mentions two other failed Messiah-wannabe’s — Theudas and Judas of Galilee. And, I think it is, Josephus, who mentions someone called “the Egyptian.”

      And in the 2nd century, the Jewish revolt of 132 – 135 AD was led by Shimon bar Kochba. The leading Pharisee / rabbi of the time was Rabbi Akiva, who proclaimed bar Kochba to be the Messiah.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 6, 2018

      I just now looked it up.

      “The Egyptian” is mentioned in Acts 21:38. Paul has just been taken into protective custody by the Romans after the riot which occurred near the end of his Purification Test, when he was outted by (believing?) Jews from Asia Minor who recognized Paul as teaching that not only the Gentile but also the Jewish followers of Jesus now should abandon Mosaic Law.

      Paul asks to speak to the captain of the Roman guard, who asks him, could he speak Greek? And then the captain asked, “Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?”

      It may be that Josephus mentions The Egyptian too; I don’t know.

      What ordinary band of murderers come together to form an army of 4,000? This evidently is an army of rebels led by someone making his own bid to be the Messiah. And since one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, it is natural that Romans would think of The Egyptian as leading a band of killers.

  5. Avatar
    John  June 3, 2018

    A possible future post, perhaps.

    I was intrigued with your explanation about literary seams in The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writing, particularly in John with the farewell discourse, which appears to be a hot topic at the moment with the ‘I am’ statements. You suggest that these are possibly based on 2 sources that have been stitched together and not very well at that.

    Would love to hear more about this including for example whether the writing styes are different and any other evidence pointing to a variety of writers.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      OK, I’ll add it to the (long!) list.

      • Avatar
        llamensdor  July 19, 2018

        One thing for certain, Jesus never said any of the high falutin, pious claptrap that John’s author ascribes to him. Unfortunately, through the centuries, much of this baloney has formed the crux of Christian religious thinking.

  6. Avatar
    forthfading  June 3, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I came across an interview with Dr. April DeConick, professor of religion at Rice University, and in the interview she said that the original translators of the Gospel of Judas got the translation completely wrong. It was not to be understood that Judas was actually closest to Jesus and was acting within Jesus’ will, but that Judas was demonic and the Gospel really portrays Judas worse than the earlier Gospels. She claimed to have changed the tide of scholarship concerning the Gospel of Judas.

    Are you familiar with this scholar and her work on the Gospel? Will you provide your opinion on her findings?


    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      Yes, I know her well (had breakfast with her last month!). I think her reading is wrong, but that the original views were probably not nuanced enough. Judas is superior to the other apostles in this other Gospel, but still is not one of the elect. See the introduction to the text in the book I co-produced with Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels.

      • Avatar
        balivi  June 4, 2018

        You think her reading is wrong, or are you sure? This is very important. It’s important who’s out of the cloud in the original views. I think her reading is correct.

        • Avatar
          balivi  June 4, 2018

          I think, the gospel of Judas is an early church (pauline doctrine) criticism.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 5, 2018

          Yup, I”m pretty sure. Read the text! He’s superior to the other apostles. I think the problem with her reading is that she sees “daimon” and she immediatly thinks “demon” — (= evil spirit) in the sense of the New Testament — rather than daimon, in the sense widely known otherwise widely known in the Roman world (an intermediate level divinity)

          • Avatar
            balivi  June 5, 2018

            “…the problem with her reading is that she sees “daimon” and she immediatly thinks “demon”
            Oh I understand. Ok. But we, (this is what I tried to explain in the past) Paul’s Apostle Readers we do the same, when the Paul said Christ (in itself), and we immediatly thinks “Jesus”. But is wrong. I can prove that.

        • Avatar
          llamensdor  July 19, 2018

          The lady is wrong and (unfortunately) so is Bart. There is a much better explanation, but I won’t go into it now.

  7. Telling
    Telling  June 3, 2018

    The Jane Roberts/Seth material I earlier mentioned, gives an authoritative answer to this riddle. It is, of course, a metaphysical book scholars and historians of the science, and particularly theologians would never consider and would, in fact, fear. I, however, am not bound to these restrictions and do consider it.

    In Seth’s version, there were multiple “messiahs” preaching the message in that day, but Jesus became the central focus of it.. He, an advanced psychic master (per Seth), had no interest in a crucifixion and was not crucified. He would have taught of knowledge which boils down to:”your thoughts create your reality”, and he would have preached of avoiding “entanglement”, for by practicing non-attachment we avoid the pitfalls inherent in worldly activity. This idea appears in the Gospel of Thomas: “be passersby”, etc, and is visible in the Gospel of Mary “You love what deceives you”.

    Seth says another such “messiah” wanted to fulfill the ancient prophesies and become King of the Jews, and it was this man, entangling his thoughts with those of the many who we’re thinking that too, was arrested (with Judas’ involvement) and was crucified. Judas thought he was protecting Jesus.

    Historians generally say the incident of turning over the money changer tables led directly to the Crucifixion. Yet, the money changers were doing a legitimate temple business. Only a stupid man would do such a thing, it is a violent act, and disruptive to the Passover celebration. A learned man, a “Master”, would not do this.

    Now we have a situation where Jesus is believed to have been crucified but was not. Maybe 500 and more people see him “resurrected”, perhaps some knowing the truth, others not. His continued presence becomes something of an embarrassment (per Seth), and he, in New Testament fashion, “wills himself away”. This would be seen as an ascension to witnesses, their minds putting the event into a narrative their physical minds can comprehend.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

      You’re quite right about the money-changers. They performed a NECESSARY service in two respects.

      1) Sacrifices cost money, right? I mean, animals don’t come for free, right? If you want a sacrifice, you have to pay a fair price for the critter, and probably to the priests too.

      This required MONEY. And the only form of money in those days were coins. But there were literally hundreds of different kinds of coins. All sizes, all with varying precious metal content, sometime chipped away. It required the services of a professional to sort them all out and assign a fair value.

      2) Many coins bore graven images of gods or deified emperors, and were wholly unsuitable to be used for paying for Temple sacrifices. The money-changers were there to accept these base coins in exchange for kosher coins — naturally for a reasonable fee.

      The gospels give the money-changers an undeserved bad name.

      • Telling
        Telling  June 5, 2018


        You are quite right, and it’s stronger yet.

        The emperor’s coins, containing a graven image, were not allowed on temple grounds, and so an exchange to a Jewish coin was necessary. The money changers were in the gentile area of a courtyard expanded by Herod, not in the sacred areas, not in the temple itself. Had that been true, the Jews would have rioted.

        And in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 14 reads:

        23And you are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks, in the presence of the LORD your God at the place where He will choose as a dwelling for His Name, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24But if the distance is too great for you to carry that with which the LORD your God has blessed you, because the place where the LORD your God will choose to put His Name is too far away, 25then exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place where the LORD your God will choose.26Then you may spend the money on anything you desire: cattle, sheep, wine, strong drink, or anything you wish. You are to feast there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household.…

        So the money-changers were actually mandatory.

        Now, add to this that chasing the money changers from doing their required duties led directly to his arrest and execution, and you have a man here who I would personally avoid like the plague.

        But I am for certain that Jesus taught an elevated knowledge-based message, and he was not crucified, as said in the Muslim Koran.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 9, 2018

          You are not the first person to suppose that a bodily Jesus was not really crucified or died on any cross. I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses today believe this. And numerous Gnostic heresies in ancient times believed this as well.

          I personally believe — as does Ehrman, I believe — that a real man named “Jesus” really died on a cross; furthermore, his followers genuinely believed that he rose from the dead (Ehrman my not entirely agree with this).

          However, I do not think Jesus’ followers inferred from the risen Jesus what today’s Christians infer.

          Today’s Christians infer, Jesus was divine. But I think his own followers, the men who actually knew him, personally and in the flesh, simply thought that God had performed a miracle and had raised the MAN named Jesus from the dead.

          Coming back from the dead is not unknown. In the Books of Kings (2 Kings 17, I think), Elijah the Prophet raises a small boy from the dead, but nobody thinks he or the boy were God. And in Acts 9, the Apostle Peter raises a young woman named, alternately, Tabitha or Dorcas, from the dead, but nobody infers from this that either Peter or the young woman were God.

          Coming back from the dead does NOT mean that the raised one is himself God.

          One ought never confuse a miracle from God with Divinity itself.

      • Avatar
        dynamis878  June 5, 2018

        I was always taught that the moneychangers were defiling the temple by conducting commerce inside the temple. In Bart’s courses he explained basically what you said. But I wonder how a second century christian would have interpreted Jesus’ actions with the moneychangers.

        For that matter I don’t even know how other current denominations interpret this event!

      • Avatar
        balivi  June 5, 2018

        “The gospels give the money-changers an undeserved bad name.”

        Yes, but because of Paul. (1Cor10:25) Sacrifice, sacrificial meat to eat, and to shop, it was not forbidden in the Pauline churches.

      • Avatar
        Okbill  July 19, 2018

        I believe on point # 2, the image issue was not the point, the important thing was stable and consistent value. Talents were 95% silver guaranteed and thus the coin of choice. The fact that it had an image of Hercules on it was less important than verifiable worth.

    • Avatar
      llamensdor  July 19, 2018

      Why do so many scholars and even ordinary folks believe that being the Messiah includes becoming king of Israel? There were some people who believed in this combination, but there were many more who did not. For Jesus and the Zealots, there would be “No ruler but God.”

  8. Avatar
    doug  June 3, 2018

    I’ve long heard (before the Gospel of Judas Iscariot was discovered) that Jesus chose Judas for the purpose of betraying him. But that does not mesh well with Jesus telling his disciples – including Judas – that they would rule in the Kingdom of God. Even Judas, who is denounced by the New Testament!?

  9. Avatar
    ask21771  June 3, 2018

    Who is the whore of babylon in Revelations and what is the adultery that the king’s of the earth have committed with her

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      She is an image for the city/empire of Rome; the adultery involves “doing business” with her.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

        The Book of Revelations is based on imagery from the Book of Daniel, which itself is based on many Jewish traditions about the end times.

        The rabbinical commentaries speak about the rise of 4 kingdoms — Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Quite naturally, the author of John would incorporate this by reference.

  10. Avatar
    Stylites  June 3, 2018

    Hyam Maccoby makes a rather convincing case that Judas Iscariot never existed. You do make several references to his work in the notes to your book on Judas. However, you and most other scholars appear to reject the view that Judas is just a piece of fiction. Without asking you to write another book length treatise, could you briefly explain why?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      The tradition is attested independently in several sources, and does not appear to be the sort of thing ealry Christians would make up (that one of Jesus’ own followers turned him in). And if someone *invented* him, where did “Iscariot” come from?

      • Avatar
        DavidNeale  June 4, 2018

        Is it true that “Iscariot” is likely to mean “man of Kerioth”?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 5, 2018

          That’s my interpretation. But it does have problems, one of which is that we don’t know of a village/town called Kerioth at the time.

          • Avatar
            Wilusa  June 5, 2018

            I saw a map online somewhere (don’t know whether it was trustworthy) showing it as in southern Judea. I think it’s supposed to have been near Hebron. But the most interesting feature of the map is that it also showed Jerusalem – and Nazareth. The distance between Kerioth and Jerusalem seemed to be slightly less than that between Nazareth and Jerusalem. Implying that if Jesus could have traveled to Jerusalem, Judas could have done so just as easily.

          • Avatar
            DavidNeale  June 5, 2018

            Interesting. I vaguely remember Maurice Casey’s book referring to Kerioth as being in Judea (though I’m on a train and don’t have it to hand), but I don’t think he mentions what primary source he was getting that from. (I haven’t yet read your book on Judas, hence why I didn’t know your view on this point, but I’ll buy it this weekend.)

          • Bart
            Bart  June 7, 2018

            There’s a place mentioned in the Hebrew Bible that apparently no longer existed in Jesus’ day; and I guess it’s a bit unlikely that he had a follower from southern Judea as one of the twelve.

          • Altosackbuteer
            Altosackbuteer  June 7, 2018

            Professor, please see my reply immediately adjacent about the issue of men being given names pertaining to their place of origin.

            There is evidence from Pirkei Avot — Ethics of the Fathers — which to me appears to refute your thesis that “Kerioth” is a place-name.

          • Avatar
            JohnKesler  June 11, 2018

            Jeremiah 48:
            21 Judgement has come upon the tableland, upon Holon, and Jahzah… 24 and KERIOTH…

            Amos 2:
            2 So I will send a fire on Moab, and it shall devour the strongholds of KERIOTH…

            Is it not plausible that since elements of the Judas story appear to have been borrowed from the OT (e.g. Ahithophel betrayed David, then hanged himself), that the name Kerioth/Iscariot was too? Also, I’ve been told that the name “Iscariot” is different in the Greek in Matthew 26:14 compared to Mark 3:19. Would this indicate disparate origins of “Iscariot”?

        • talmoore
          talmoore  June 5, 2018

          Kerioth also literally means “small walled town” in Hebrew. So it could refer to an actual town called Kerioth, or it could simply refer to any town that is a “kerioth”. I have outlined various possibilities for the origin of Iscariot in previous comments.

          • Altosackbuteer
            Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

            All the Gospels say that Jesus was from Galilee and recruited his disciples from the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee. It is all over 100 miles from Jerusalem.

            Someone speculated that Judas was from a town named “Kerioth,” which was in southern Judea. This “Kerioth” was on the far side of Hebron from Jerusalem. In other words, around 200 miles from the Sea of Galilee.

            MOST UNLIKELY that Jesus recruited Judas from such a place.

          • Avatar
            DavidNeale  June 15, 2018

            A bit like “borough” in English, then?

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 7, 2018

          You are correct to say that the “Is” of “Iscariot” means “man.” The issue then is, what does “kerioth” mean?

          Your theory is that “Kerioth” is a place-name, but the problem with this theory is that there is no town of “Kerioth” in Galilee. I have seen reference to one place by this name, but it’s in southern Judea, a very long ways away from where Jesus recruited all of his disciples. Furthermore there is the problem, why is Judas the only one of the Twelve with an added “second name,” as though “Iscariot” were a surname, like “Jones” or “Johnson” or “Trump”?

          (Do you remember the Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter or the composer Irving Berlin, both of whom bore the place-names of where they’d come from. Or Anthony Weiner; his people came from Wien, which in English we know as “Vienna”? Or Tony Romo the football player, with obvious ancestry he can trace to Rome?)

          If it were important enough to state Judas’ full name of “Judas Iscariot” because it was important to state where he came from, then why not for Simon Peter, clearly more important than Judas? We know that Simon was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Since the principle city of that lake is Tiberias, why then was Simon not known as “Simon Tiberias”?

          I disagree with Prof. Ehrman on this one. I believe, clearly, “Iscariot” means “Man of Daggers,” which is a street name meaning that Judas was one of the sicarii, Jewish men who practiced assassination of Romans with dagger thrusts. By the way, the common English words “cigar’ and “Cigarette” come from this Latin word “sicarius,” which originally meant “dagger,” since both cigars and cigarettes has a general resemblance to daggers, being long and thin.

          See my comments below.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  June 7, 2018

            A problem with that theory is that “sicarii” was the Roman word for these assassins, because the word sicarius, meaning “daggerman,” is Latin. Not to mention that “Ish-sicarius” would literally mean “daggerman-man,” which is kind of redundant. It’s possible that with time they adopted the name Sicarii, but originally, among themselves, it’s unlikely they called themselves Sicarii. They probably gave themselves a Hebrew name, such as חיילים or “fighters”. So if we’re being consistant, Judas’ epithet would be, in Hebrew, something like Ish-chayal, or “fighter-man”.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 7, 2018

          In the Talmud, many men are known by the places where they come from. I cite here a few examples from the mishna known as Pirkei Avot — Ethics of the Fathers.

          Perek I mentions “Antigonos ish Socho” (Antigonos a man of a place known as Socho), “Jose ben Yoezer ish Tzeredah” (Jose son of Yoezer, [and a] man from Tzeredah), and “Jose ben Yochanon ish Yerushalayim” (Jose son of Jonathan, a man of Jerusalem).

          But my objection to the theory of that “Kerioth” as a place-name is 1) “Kerioth” takes the feminine plural noun ending “iot.” If, for example, a place named “Smithtown” got that name because it once had a village blacksmith and a smithy, that would be like saying it should have been named “Smithies” because it boasted two blacksmiths each with a smithy.

          Very, very few places ever get named in the plural form. This argues against “Kerioth” being a place name. (“Tripoli” means “three cities.” But even here, it’s understood that the generic name “Tripoli” is referring to three distinct sub-cities each with their own name. Any other examples? Los Angeles or Las Vegas I suppose, but the full name of LA is “the City of Angels” — “El Ciudad de los Angeles” where “Ciudad” is singular; “Las Vegas” gets its name because the air is very, VERY clear, and tons of stars are visible.)

          2) In the Talmud, all of the words in these names are clearly separated from each other with spaces. That is particularly vital with Talmud since the whole style of Talmud is so cursive in the first place, missing many words which have to be inferred from context or past experience. But “Iscariot” is connected. On top of which is the fact that in Hebrew/Aramaic words, MANY vowels are MISSING and have to be inferred.

          I want to state here a possible objection to my own theory, and it is an objection that Professor might address. It is this:

          In ancient manuscripts, how did writers separate words — or did they bother? I have read that Julius Caesar used to mark the ends of each of his words with little dots, but otherwise his texts looked like one incredibly long run-on sentence.

          I have looked at the fragment of Mark, a link to which Professor recently and kindly furnished, and I cant tell if spaces separate words or not, though Professor and others seem to separate words with spaces when they reproduce the Greek texts.


          But in short, I don’t buy that “Kerioth” is a place-name.

      • Avatar
        Stylites  June 4, 2018

        Thanks. Much appreciated.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

      I am a great fan of Maccoby. I believe Maccoby has the key to understanding the REAL, HISTORICAL Jesus.

      He says that Judas was a myth invented by latter-day Christians attempting to paint the entire Jewish people with the brush of betrayer.

      I disagree with him, and agree with Ehrman et al that Judas WAS real. But, Christianity has twisted Judas’ ACTUAL role and turned him into a betrayer — quite possibly for reasons which Maccoby suggests — when he was perhaps Jesus’ most loyal follower and disciple.

      See below.

  11. Avatar
    Cadfael  June 3, 2018

    When reading John’s account of the events leading up to the betrayal, I find it to be more of a planned event by Jesus. He tell them that one will betray him and the response is strange in that they all ask ”Is it I?” with no suggestion or outcry of rage indicated on their part. Later when asked again in a more intimate setting of eating, he responds by indicating it is the one he gives the sop to. Again no outrage against Judas to whom he has given it.. No reaction by the disciples, even the one asking the question, against Judas. It appears to be an assignment given to a trusted disciple. He then tells Judas to go and do what needs doing to carry out the plan. With the plan to intiate the coming of God’s kingdom, which Jesus saw as imminent, it also explains Mark’s cry from Jesus on the cross of ‘My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

      Correct. SOMEONE had to notify the authorities where to find Jesus, because Jesus SOUGHT the meeting.

    • Avatar
      balivi  June 5, 2018

      “With the plan to intiate the coming of God’s kingdom, which Jesus saw as imminent, it also explains Mark’s cry from Jesus on the cross of ‘My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

      No no:-) The correct reading of the sentence according to the eastern vowel traditions by the Pesitta:
      Eil, Eil, L’mana Shwaqthani.
      The word “l’mana” means: why, for what purpose.
      The meanings of Shwaqthani- verb: to keep, keep, leave, forgive, allow.

      Jesus said: “Why did you allow it?”

      • Avatar
        godspell  June 8, 2018

        Obviously we can’t know what he really said, only what people later reported him to have said. If he did say something on the cross, it would have been difficult to hear, and easy to misunderstand, so talking about the finer points of vowel pronunciation is probably not going to get us anywhere.

        The underlying meaning of the two phrases is about the same, in either event.

        And wouldn’t you feel forsaken, in his place?

        I feel forsaken if my bus is five minutes late.

  12. Rick
    Rick  June 3, 2018

    Professor, do we have any other (than gospel) sources on how frequently healthy observant 1st Century Galilean Jews actually journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover? If I recall Luke has Jesus going 4 times… The question bears on whether Jesus knew the ropes enough to have avoided really getting angry and blowing up about the Temple bazaar, attracting large crowds and generally egging on the Sadducee & Roman wrath vs. blundering into it naively.
    Many Thanx

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      No, nothing specifically on what Galilean Jews did. But to celebrate the entire Passover event it would take about three or four weeks out of one’s life (5-6 days to get there; you have to get there a week in advance for the necessary purification rituals; the entire festival is a week; 5-6 days to get back). Unless you were very wealthy, it was not something you could do every year, or ever.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  June 4, 2018

        One could also do it if one had a wealthy patron. Or, in the case of Jesus and his followers, a wealthy patroness, such as Mary of Magdala. If she didn’t fund the pilgrimage, someone had to.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

        And it wasn’t only for Passover. It was 3 times per year. Passover is one of the “shalas rogalim.” In Hebrew, literally, that means “three feet,” and refers to the act of making one’s way to Jerusalem via “shank’s mare” — on foot — to take part in the festival(s).

        The other occasions were Shavuot (the Jewish equivalent of Pentecost) and Sukkot, which is 6 months away.

        The Gospel of John mentions two occasions when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Passover, and states another occurrence of Passover when Jesus remained in Galilee. And states one occasion (“Tabernacles”) when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Sukkot. And as you know, I argue that the Triumphal Entry actually happened, but NOT before Passover as the gospels state, but during Sukkot (which would mean, John places Jesus in Jerusalem TWICE for “Tabernacles”).

        By giving us too many details and information of what happened on this occasion — trying to make a good story “gooder” — the evangelists undermine their own claim that this was a Passover event. Which, to me, in a weird way, actually verifies that the Triumphal Entry really happened. For it tells me that the evangelists took an already existing tradition, and massaged, altered, and perverted it for their own purposes. In other words, the evangelists didn’t themselves make up this tradition.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

        Professor Ehrman, are you familiar with Professor Sir Dr. Colin J Humphreys’ opinion about how Galileeans marked the occurrence of Passover?

        Humphreys has written a book which is an expansion of his original paper published in Nature in 1983 in which he argues that Jesus was crucified precisely on April 3, 33 AD. The name of his current book is The Mystery of the Last Supper (Cambridge University Press).

        Humphreys — whom I regard as a personal friend — has an astonishing theory about Galileean Passover which reconciles the APPARENT differences between John and the Synoptic Gospels. He says that before the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews regulated their seasons with a calendar they inherited and borrowed from Egypt which was based on the FINAL sighting of the OLD Moon before SUNUP. He says that when the Jews were hauled off to Babylon, they encountered the Babylonian system in which months commenced with the FIRST sighting of the NEW Moon after SUNSET, which is the current practice to this day, as well as in the Islamic world. Anyway, the Jews brought this back from Babylon, and that is why Judaism does it that way to this day.

        Humphreys says, the Jews in Galilee retained the old-style calendar. Given the astronomical differences between the two, all holidays will begin a couple of days early with the Galileean calendar than the “real” calendar.

        Humphreys says, Jesus celebrated the Passover on a Wednesday night, and for him, it WAS Passover, but for JERUSALEM, THEIRS didn’t commence until Friday evening.

        If Humphreys is correct, the problems between the gospels vanish.

        Humphreys is a retired Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Metallurgy Department at Cambridge U. He is a scientist of the first water, but not a trained theologian.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 10, 2018

          I don’t know his work, but I don’t think we have the kinds of details we need form our primary sources OR enough information about first century Palestinian Judaism to be able to set a precise date. Every attempt to do so has been and can be shown to be problematic.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 7, 2018

      It’s not Luke who has Jesus going in and out of Jerusalem several times, but John.

      John counts Jesus going in and out of Jerusalem SIX times.* The asterisk is needed there because it’s necessary to qualify two of the visits. One of the visits was to Bethany, I believe when Lazarus was raised from the dead. John doesn’t say that Jesus entered Jerusalem itself on this occasion, but since Bethany lies adjacent to Jerusalem, I count it as a visit to Jerusalem.

      The other time was when Jesus visited Jerusalem for “Tabernacles,” which is Sukkot, and falls in early autumn. Shortly after this visit, John has Jesus back again in Jerusalem, this time for “the Feast of the Dedication,” which today we know as Chanukah. Chanukah falls more than two months after Sukkot. While John doesn’t say that Jesus left Jerusalem after Sukkot and then returned in time for Chanukah, I’d say it’s likely, given all the commotion Jesus had raised during his Sukkot visit.

  13. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  June 3, 2018

    Is there any possiblity that Judas was a fictional character who was inserted into the narrative to polish the image of Jesus as a condemned criminal?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      Some have argued that, but it seems implausible. The tradition is attested independently in several sources, and does not appear to be the sort of thing ealry Christians would make up (that one of Jesus’ own followers turned him in). And if someone *invented* him, where did “Iscariot” come from?

  14. Avatar
    Tricia  June 3, 2018

    My conclusion, based a little on one remark of Jesus’, and a lot on what the Lord’s mission was, is that Jesus assigned Judas to betray him. Jesus orchestrated much of those last events in Jerusalem. He threw over the money changers to get the attention of the Temple priests. He returned to Jerusalem (against his disciples concerns) to heal Lazarus, something that occurred with a Jerusalem audience. And the high priest actually said, after Jesus had so visibly raised Lazarus from the dead, that their only course was to kill Jesus. Too many were following him and that weakened the Temple control of the community. Roman policy throughout the Empire was to allow the local enforcement structures to exist as long as they kept the peace.

    • Avatar
      Tricia  June 4, 2018

      John 11:45-50
      Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
      If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

      • Avatar
        Tricia  June 4, 2018

        John 11:45-50
        Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
        If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

      I regard that remark in John — it appears nowhere else — about the Temple authorities wanting to kill Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead — to be a myth.

      • Avatar
        Tricia  June 5, 2018

        I might question the idea except that the Jews participated in Jesus’ killing in order to protect the Temple. That they would protect the Temple at all costs. That the Romans wouldn’t allow them the small amount of autonomy they had if they allowed the people to be stirred up and causing unrest. That is the way the Temple and the Romans would have worked at that time. Nothing mythological about it.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

          I regard the whole story of the Jews baiting the Romans into crucifying Jesus as a myth. The Sadducee priest class may well have supported crucifying Jesus, but they were Roman lackeys and stooges. But it ends there. The evangellsts embroidered the rest.

          • Avatar
            godspell  June 10, 2018

            The evangelists may well not have known the rest, decades later, with no eyewitnesses to the events in question.

            If the Sadducees wanted Jesus dead–and had a large group of lackeys and hangers-on, as they must have had–couldn’t they have seeded the crowd (if there was a crowd) with people who would gin up sentiments against Jesus, make it sound like the mob wanted his blood? In this day and age, do we really need much persuading that this isn’t so very hard to do?

            Look at what’s being done right now in Palestine.

            All people have the potential to be both victim and victimizer.

            But you are only responsible for what you yourself did.

            ‘The Jews’ don’t exist, any more than ‘The Christians’ or ‘The Muslims.’

            There are good people and bad people. Sheep and Goats. Your choice.

  15. Avatar
    clongbine  June 3, 2018

    This subject has always baffled me. Why does Judas need to betray Jesus in the first place? If the leaders did not want to arrest him publicly couldn’t they just have someone follow him and report back? John the Baptist didn’t need a disciple to betray him. Could Judas have played some literary role instead? Like serving as a warning to those who do not continue in their faith? Or an Azazel-like scapegoat? A literary device in the manner of Jesus Barabbas (a type of anti-Jesus), who was the kind of figure some were hoping Jesus would be, symbolizing any of the myriad self-proclaimed Messiah’s at that time who wanted to physically fight and retake the Promised Land?

    Maybe it’s a little of both? Literary device based on a real event? Like Mark’s description of the arrest and beheading of John as foreshadowing Jesus’ own death? Maybe I’m over thinking it? Maybe I’m baffling myself?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      I think Judas betrayed the “secret.” Jesus was telling his disciples that he was the future messiah. That’s what got him crucified, calling himself the king.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

      If Jesus wanted to be arrested, why did he need Judas? Why could Jesus not simply turn himself in to the Temple authorities himself?

      As for Jesus Barabbas, what does “Barabbas” even mean? In Aramaic, it means “son of the father.” Which is what JESUS OF NAZARETH called himself.

      Maccoby argues that there was no separate Barabbas. He argues that Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Barabbas were the same person. In effect, Pilatus REALLY was offering the crowd — do you want me to release Jesus the Son of the Father, or do you want me to release Jesus the Son of the Father, this one happening to have lived in Nazareth?

      • Avatar
        godspell  June 7, 2018

        Because the arrest is better theater. I think there’s an excellent case to be made that the entire visit to Jerusalem was carefully stage managed–right down to the props (the donkey and her colt, the two swords they clearly weren’t supposed to use on anyone, and let’s not forget turning over the money changers’ tables in the temple courtyard.)

        If he turned himself in, they might assume he was just crazy. I don’t know if Jesus wanted to be crucified, but he certainly didn’t want to be laughed at (not that there isn’t evidence that happened as well).

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

          I argue in my first book that the reason for the TWO swords — NOT many swords, but NOT NO swords, either — if because Jesus was attempting to perform a miracle in the Garden. He was attempting to bring about the Great Day of the Lord as per Joel 3, with a miraculous victory over the Romans, thereby ushering in the Age of the Messiah, and an era of universal peace on earth.

          (And we KNOW this is what Jesus was up to because in Acts 2, Peter tells us that her PERSONALLY witnessed Jesus fulfill the Prophecy of Joel 3.)

          Jesus knew very well that it is the nature of miracles that when God performs them, it is HUMAN action which sparks the miracles, and then God does the rest. For example: In order to turn the Nile River blood-red, Moses had to dip his staff into the river; in order to get water from a rock, Moses had to strike the rock; in order to prolong the duration of daylight in the Valley of Ayalon, Joshua had to keep his arms raised to stop the sun. In all these and many other cases, human action catalyzes the miracle; then God performs the rest of the miracle.

          That is why the TWO swords. With TWO swords — which Jesus said would be enough — Jesus could launch the messianic revolution, and then God Himself would complete the miracle.

          But miracles are highly unusual by their very nature. Jesus was uncertain whether it would happen. That’s why he was praying so hard.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 9, 2018

          I disagree about the 2 swords.

          They — or one of them, anyway — WAS intended to be used — ONCE.

          Once would be all that was necessary. Once a man starts the miracle, God does the rest of the work. But man has to stat it. And given that the was the Battle of the Great Day of the Lord (Joel 3 and Zechariah), what man has to start is a battle.

          THAT is why 2 swords were brought — and were deemed to be ENOUGH.

          • Avatar
            godspell  June 10, 2018


            But I don’t think so.

            It doesn’t fit the overall pattern of behavior. Jesus rejected violence. Over and over.

            The point of the swords is that there is no point to the swords. To have them and not use them. If you don’t have the potential to fight back, there is no virtue in not fighting back.

        • Altosackbuteer
          Altosackbuteer  June 11, 2018

          I have to reply here since I have no link to the posting you made that I’m really replying to.

          You said, “Possibly (about Jesus having 2 swords).

          But I don’t think so.

          It doesn’t fit the overall pattern of behavior. Jesus rejected violence. Over and over.

          The point of the swords is that there is no point to the swords. To have them and not use them. If you don’t have the potential to fight back, there is no virtue in not fighting back.


          With regard to Jesus’ alleged non-violence — THERE’S ANOTHER topic for Professor! — I point out to you the following:

          * At least 5 of Jesus’ 12 innermost disciples were VIOLENT men. Simon “Cephas” aka Simon Peter — but we KNOW that Simon was ALREADY known as “Cephas” or “rock” even before he met Jesus, because John 1 tells us so. There are the two sons of Thunder (Boanerges) — a street name if I ever heard one. There is Simon the Zealot — and in the 1st century, to be known as a Jewish “zealot” was a loaded expression, like being known today as an ISIS jihadist. Josephus talks at GREAT length about the Zealots who revolted and fought against Rome. It is INCONCEIVABLE that any 1st century evangelist would EVER have called him “Simon the Zealot” without knowing EXACTLY what he was saying — that Simon was ONE OF THEM, the ZEALOTS. And above all there is Judas the Daggerman aka Judas Iscariot.

          That is VERY strange company indeed for a so-called “Prince of Peace” to be keeping.

          * Jesus used violence to chase the money-changers from the Temple.

          * Jesus AUTHORIZED carrying 2 swords into the Garden of Gethsemane.

          Your explanation — that there is no virtue in resisting the temptation to use violence unless one consciously brings weapons so that one can consciously refuse to use them.

          I find that INCREDIBLY WEAK. That is like saying, I have a weakness for hookers and cocaine, but if I resist these temptations, I get no credit in Heaven for resisting unless I place temptation literally into my pocket by carrying cocaine and actively seeking hookers for companionship — and only then, if I resist, do I then get great credit.

          It is a sin to place oneself in the proximity of sin. That is why the Catholic Church says, avoid the near occasion of sin. If I have a problem with alcohol, I ought not walk past a barroom on my way home; it might tempt me. Pirkei Avot aka Ethics of the Fathers says, “ya-asay siyug ha-torah” — “Build a fence around the Law.” In other words, do not do merely the minimum of what the Law requires; do MORE than it requires, for it keeps away the possibility of sinning.

          Subjecting oneself to near occasion of temptation in order to build one’s moral character is a BOGUS way to build character.

          • Avatar
            godspell  June 14, 2018

            You have not proven them to be violent men. They are (rarely) depicted as men capable of violence, but it’s clear that they endure all kinds of mockery and insult without responding in kind, when off on their own preaching. They are unlikely to have been unusually violent by the standards of their time (let alone ours).

            Jesus overturned a few tables in Mark. The whip of cords is a later addition. There is no record of Jesus ever laying hands on another person, except in sympathy, or as an act of healing. It’s unlikely a single money lender left the Temple courtyard in fear of one unarmed man who never laid hands on anyone. But he would have created a ruckus, aroused anger, and that was the point. To get noticed. To be seen actively confronting the Temple authorities. Denying their authority, which was the same thing as denying Rome’s authority. That alone might have been enough to ensure his crucifixion, but the swords would do the rest. They would never need to be used.

            You don’t have to agree with me, and I’m far from sure this is the correct explanation, but it makes more sense to me than yours, which is too convoluted and drawn from unreliable sources. And from your own confused emotions. I’m sure you’re a very rational person in your everyday life, and someone worth knowing. But you might want to read this.


  16. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 3, 2018

    I’ve thought of a number of possibilities.

    Perhaps Judas had believed in the coming “Kingdom,” but not in any kind of “Messiah.” If so, the “Messiah” business would have irked him from the start. But he could have just walked away; there had to be more.

    We know that what he “betrayed” was Jesus’s having called himself the future “King of the Jews.”

    Of course, it’s possible that he’d turned against Jesus for some other reason, and was *lying* when he told the Romans Jesus had said something that would be punishable by death.

    He might have had a different upbringing than Jesus, and been outraged when Jesus caused a disturbance in the Temple by railing at the moneychangers and overturning their tables.

    Or… Jesus was almost certainly born in Nazareth. Some people who expected a Messiah thought he’d be born in Bethlehem. Might he himself have claimed he’d been born there? Might Judas have been appalled by the lie?

    Or by another type of lie: Might Jesus have asked his disciples to spread the word – in Jerusalem – that he’d performed miracles in Galilee, when he really hadn’t?

    But if Jesus actually was calling himself a future “King,” and promising his disciples lesser “thrones,” that itself might have turned Judas against him! He might have thought *Jesus* was “betraying” what their movement had initially stood for. Helping to save their fellow Jews – from death, yes, but also from oppressive human rulers. And not seeking “rewards” from God (as if eternal life shouldn’t have been enough for anyone), but being humbly grateful for the trust the Almighty had shown in them.

    • Avatar
      godspell  June 4, 2018

      I think Jesus and his disciples all believed he’d performed miracles. They have certainly been enlarged and added to in the gospels, but there’s nothing unlikely about that. Wonder workers were well known throughout that time and region (and elsewhere). Even educated people believed in things like oracles.

      And therefore, there was no sedition in it–not if it was simply somebody reputed to have performed magical feats. Certain Jewish leaders might have thought Jesus was working wonders inappropriately–on the Sabbath, say. Or querying where the power to work such wonders came from. That all makes sense. But the Romans wouldn’t have cared, one way or the other, and only they had the power to crucify. I think we can rule that out as a motive for the crucifixion.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 7, 2018

        The Talmud makes it clear (Tractate Shabbat) that healing on the Sabbath not only was allowed; it was REQUIRED, and for the very reason Jesus gave — that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The health needs of man are more important than the laws of the Sabbath.

        Moreover, even if healing on the Sabbath were banned using ordinary means (which it was not), performing MIRACLES on the Sabbath was no violation of the Sabbath at all! One may and can perform all the miracles on the Sabbath that one desires to perform.

        The Gospels try hard to pin the Crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews, but even the Gospels are forced to admit, in the end, that Jesus was crucified, not for blasphemy but for SEDITION — he claimed to be the King of the Jews which, if true, meant the Romans had to relinquish control.

        The Gospels state that an inscription was tacked to the cross “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” and the acrostic for this — INRI — can be found on crucifices in every Catholic church in the entire world.

        • Avatar
          godspell  June 7, 2018

          That’s an excellent point–however, you can’t assume all Jews agreed about correct religious practice–then, or at any other time in history. In any event, it doesn’t speak to the main point.

          We have every reason to think that Jesus had many enemies among his fellow Jews in life, and that emnity remained after his death. And he bears at least some of the blame for that, because he was a confrontational personality, who believed God had chosen him to deliver a message to the Jews, and any gentiles who might listen–but the Jews first and foremost. You seriously think that’s not going to piss off a lot of religious leaders?

          It’s not about who deserves the blame for something Jesus may well deserve the blame for himself, if he really did orchestrate his own execution. It’s about understanding how people in that society saw him, and many Jews probably saw him as a heretic and blasphemer. Many others didn’t.

          No matter who is responsible for his death, you can’t accuse anyone other than the people who actually condemned and executed him. There is no way to draw up an indictment against an entire people.

          • Altosackbuteer
            Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

            Yet, this is precisely what the gospels attempt to do — blame an entire people.

            In the attempt, they actually blaspheme against God, by saying that God is bound by the word of an angry mob!

            Let’s say it’s TRUE that there was a mob that said, “Let his blood be upon us and all our children.” Why does God have to LISTEN or pay any heed to this CURSE?

          • Altosackbuteer
            Altosackbuteer  June 9, 2018

            When someone, ANYONE, displays literally inhuman abilities — clairvoyance, teleportation, bilocation, etc. — it is not only fair, but INEVITABLE to ask, WHERE did the powers come from? God? Or “sitra achra,” to use a kabbalistic expression — from “the other side”?

            This happened with Joan of Arc. The English assumed her uncanny abilities came not from God but from Satan, and they burned her at the stake as a result.

          • Avatar
            godspell  June 10, 2018

            Mark’s gospel doesn’t do that.

            Neither do Paul’s epistles.

            To be honest, I think if Jesus had never been born, the history of anti-semitism wouldn’t have been much different.

            But that doesn’t excuse those who perpetrate it in the name of a devout Jew.

          • Avatar
            godspell  June 14, 2018

            No, they burned her at the stake for being a woman who dressed in men’s clothing, led armies into combat, and won. They burned her at the stake for arousing French nationalism, which spelled doom for the English foothold there.

            Because she had this saintly rep, they needed to try and discredit her, for propaganda purposes. Maybe to some extent they talked themselves into it, but they had to do that. After all, nobody saw her perform any miracles. She never did perform any, nor did she claim to. She just claimed she heard the voices of saints and angels telling her what to do.

            And as Shaw phrased it–“The voices come from your imagination”–“Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.”

            It was comforting for them to think a woman couldn’t have done what she did without satanic assistance, but did they really believe it? I wonder.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 10, 2018

        Not QUITE.

        You said, there was no “sedition.” What is “sedition”? Surely it is, revolt against the ruling government, right?

        By performing miracles, Jesus was not violating the Sabbath, and not committing blasphemy.

        But by claiming to be a king, he WAS committing SEDITION, not against the local Jewish government, but against Rome itself.

        • Avatar
          godspell  June 14, 2018

          If he made that claim, publicly enough, and often enough. But don’t you think there were all kinds of crazy people making similar claims at that time, in that place? Did they all get crucified?

          You had to do something.

          Like overturn some tables in the Temple courtyard. Like get your followers to buy a few swords you never intended to use. Like make enemies of the Jewish authorities, who cared about this kind of thing (as the Romans never did). And let them go to the Romans, asking them to stop this troublesome preacher. Not ‘The Jews’–a handful of men appointed by the Romans to keep Palestine from breaking out into rebellion. Who knew their own lives would be forfeit if they failed.

          We get so obsessed over ‘Who killed Jesus’ when it’s increasingly obvious Jesus intended to be killed, and understood the politics in Jerusalem well enough to know how he could make that happen. Make himself the sacrifice that would bring both the Temple and Rome to an end.

          Well, that last part didn’t work out so well.

          • Altosackbuteer
            Altosackbuteer  June 15, 2018

            There were numerous Messiah wannabe’s in the 1st century. Acts 5 mentions two of them. Elsewhere in Acts someone called “the Egyptian” is mentioned.

            In the 2nd century, Shimon bar Kochba was proclaimed to be the Messiah by Rabbi Akiva, the leading rabbi of his time. After a bitter suppression of that revolt, Akiva and lots of others were crucified. Dunno about the ones mentioned in Acts.

            How do you KNOW that Jesus didn’t intend to use the swords from Luke 22? When one is known to possess weapons, the first presumption must be, he might well use them. As Holocaust survivors know very well, “When someone comes your way and says he hates you and wants to kill you — believe him.”

            If you think Jesus had the weapons without intention to use them, then you are saying, Jesus was a bluffer.

            I have already stated why (I believe) Jesus authorized the carrying of 2 swords — not “many” swords, but not “NO” swords, either. Jesus was a mystic. He believed in the power of God to performs miracles. And just as Moses could perform miracles by sparking miracles with his walking staff — turning the Nile blood-red, striking a rock with his staff to get water from it — so too did Jesus (as I and Maccoby argue) seek to spark off a miracle from God with one single sword strike.

            No other explanation makes any sense.

            I do not at all believe that Jesus INTENTIONALLY sought his own death. I hold that Jesus consciously RISKED death, but was hoping and praying for deliverance from death.

            Saying that Jesus WANTED to die is tantamount to stipulating that Jesus was the Son of God. But I somehow sense that you do not believe this, though I could be wrong.

            How could Jesus conceivably believe that throwing his own life away would bring down both the Temple and the Romans, unless it is true that Jesus was the Son of God?

            But if Jesus were the Son of God who wanted to sacrifice his own life, why then all the rigamarole in the Garden? Why Judas? Why not just present himself to the Temple authorities, or to the Romans at nearby Fortress Antonia, and say, “Here I am, boys; come ‘n get me!”

      • Avatar
        prestonp  June 13, 2018

        I think Jesus and his disciples all believed he’d performed miracles. They have certainly been enlarged and added to in the gospels, but there’s nothing unlikely about that.

        Can you be specific?

  17. galah
    galah  June 3, 2018

    So, who wanted Jesus killed, the Romans or the Jews? Both?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      Certainly the Romans — since they’re the ones who did it. Some Jewish leaders? Hard to say.

      • Rick
        Rick  June 7, 2018

        Only took one Roman…. Pilate, who a contemporary, Philo, described as vindictive, quick tempered, murderous cruel and inhumane…. Professor, not withstanding Philo’s familial ties to the Sadducees, Philo wrote more closely in time to the events of Jesus than even Josephus – and is likewise not subject to suspicion of Christian historical perversion. Why would his description of the Prefect in “On The Embassy of Gauis” not be reasonably conclusive evidence of Pilates likely approach to the “trial”?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 8, 2018

          Yes, Philo is a vital source of information for Pilate’s brutal character, something many NT scholars have not considered adequately. I deal with it in my book How Jesus Became God.

        • Avatar
          godspell  June 16, 2018

          Well for one thing, unlike Josephus, Philo lived hundreds of miles from Jerusalem, in Alexandria, and never witnessed any of the events he describes (did he ever even visit Jerusalem?) All hearsay, removed both in time and distance. Doesn’t mean we dismiss him, no doubt much of it is true, but we can’t take it all as (you’ll pardon the expression) gospel.

          But taking his description of Pilate as basically legitimate–what does it prove? What we can already guess. Pilate was trying to keep the Jewish population in line. Revolt was in the air. The Jews who didn’t want revolt were remonstrating with Pilate to stop cracking down so hard, or he’d cause the revolt he feared. Meaning they feared it as well. Meaning they’d worry about anyone who seemed to be a dissident voice in their community, anyone they couldn’t control.

          Why would Pilate focus on Jesus? What even brought Jesus to his attention? He clearly was more concerned with those who actively talked about rebellion, perhaps even engaged in small scale rebellion.

          I think Pilate doing it all by himself, with no involvement from any part of the Jewish community doesn’t pass the smell test. Jesus set out to make enemies among the Jewish authorities. There is no reason to think he ever directly confronted the Romans in any way. To him, they were irrelevant. The Son of Man would deal with them in due course. But the coming of the Kingdom might be delayed by the corrupt practices (as he saw it) of the Temple authorities. He’s going to be much more concerned with those of his own faith, and most of all those with power.

          And with the threat of a military crackdown looming over them at all times, those authorities are going to be more concerned with him than they might have been in calmer times.

          It’s not about who is to blame for the death of a man who probably came there courting death. It’s about what really happened. And Philo does give us some hints as to the tinderbox Jesus and his disciples walked into.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  June 14, 2018

      Depends on what you mean by “the Jews”. For sure Pilate wanted Jesus dead, because he’s the one who ordered his death. As for “the Jews,” I truly doubt even the most authoritarian Jewish authorities — such as the head priest and his courtiers — would have actually expressed a desire for Jesus’ death. If anything, they would have been indifferent to Jesus’ circumstance. As far as they would have known, Jesus was just another rabble-rousing insurrectionist executed by the Romans — only one of many, many that had come before him. I would think they couldn’t have cared less who Jesus was or why Pilate chose to kill him.

      The picture we get in the gospels of the Jews — any Jews — actively seeking Jesus’ death, that’s just a product of early Christian resentment and recrimination. It was terribly important for his followers to believe that Jesus was a somebody; and a somebody who is executed is only executed by important people. But Jesus was a nobody. And as a nobody he was of no concern to the important people. He was just another dead nobody hanging from a cross.

      • Avatar
        godspell  June 16, 2018

        We don’t know enough to really judge. Of course there would have been differences of opinion about Jesus, and many would have just ignored him. But when a member of your faith challenges your authority to oversee that faith, and interpret holy texts, you’re not going to take it lightly. Heresy is a serious matter, in any religion, and heresy, by definition, is somebody taking a different view on practice and belief.

        The mere fact that people were stoned–and there’s no reason to doubt that–shows this was not a tolerant culture. The Old Testament pretty clearly establishes it was not a tolerant culture. Individuals might be tolerant, and the Jewish diaspora in the west, threatened by religious intolerance on a daily basis, became a powerful voice for toleration and pluralism. These are not diasporic Jews, and probably if we want to know something about the behavior of their authorities, we should look less at American Jews and more at modern Israelis.

        Many of whom are wonderful people, but you know, it’s funny how people get less tolerant when they’re the ones who have to do the tolerating.

        Was Jesus tolerant? In the sense that he rejected violence, and preferred persuasion. And in that he believed God would send the Son of Man to separate wheat from chaff, sheep from goats. It would be less whether the people saved agreed with everything he said, and much more about how they behaved in their daily lives.

        There were just as many assholes in Palestine then as there are anywhere today. We can be sure of that. And assholes often gravitate to power. And the only way for a Jew to get powerful under Roman rule was probably to either work for the Romans or to have some role in administering the synagogues and the Temple.

        Jesus would not have had to look hard to find corruption there. Or anywhere else where people exist. I know, cynical, and I don’t think all people are like that. But there are people like that everywhere, and we shouldn’t make excuses because some of their descendants were maltreated by other assholes.

        Everybody has the potential to be both oppressed and oppressor. Rare are the ones who choose to be defenders of the oppressed. Because that job truly sucks.

  18. Avatar
    Lopaka  June 3, 2018

    I can’t remember if I heard it from you or someone else, but couldn’t Judas have been worried about getting caught and being found guilty by association with Jesus? Maybe he had doubts about Jesus and saw that the priests were upset and he squealed.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      Interesting idea!

      • Avatar
        gavriel  June 5, 2018

        That is exactly what I have suggested previously when this topic has been dealt with here earlier. If Jesus entered Jerusalem with a public display of messianic fervor, launching aggressive public speeches against the temple and its priesthood and doing other wild acts like kicking merchants’ tables, some of his followers could have started looking for a way out of the mess. But if so, why didn’t he just quietly sneak away from Jerusalem?

        • Avatar
          Lopaka  June 8, 2018

          Yeah, that occurred to me, too. He could have run if he was spooked. But if one is speculating, one could say that perhaps Judas was caught or threatened somehow by the Romans or priests and squealed about who Jesus said he was. Maybe he was a victim of circumstance and panicked… Anyway, it’s more plausible than saying the devil made him do it.

  19. Avatar
    rburos  June 3, 2018

    There’s so much apocalypticism in Mark, yet no divine guide to explain it all–even the Messianic Secret. Is this an outlier to the form, or does it not really matter? Could Mark be trying to discount messianic expectations? Well, yeah, I know he is, but it seems at the same time he’s strengthening them. Is Mark working against Judas?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      The divine guides appear mainly in apocalypses (Mark is not an apocalypse but a Gospel)

  20. Avatar
    4Erudite  June 3, 2018

    I read the Gospel of Judas several years ago and found it interesting but wondered why someone wrote it. Do you, or other scholars, know any reason why someone wrote such a different account of Judas? Do you know if it was widely circulated?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 4, 2018

      It’s a gnostic Gospel meant to explain the true insider knowledge that can lead to salvation. It was not *widely* known in antiquity.

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