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
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