GOVERNMENT 13 - Judas Iscariot

How this study came about

When reading through Jesus’ passion in Matthew one comes across this verse: “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” (Mth 27:3-4). The translation says “repented”. Did Judas repent? If so, would he then not be forgiven? Was this a full-blown repentance that is an (only) condition to salvation? If so, why then did he kill himself? Having read through Deuteronomy 19 a little earlier, it jumps out that Judas (after repenting) actually followed the laws given there. Having always heard it preached that Judas is eternally damned, one wonders what then Judas’ repentance means. Also: Why is Judas repenting when he sees that Jesus is given a death sentence? That was his goal, was it not? These questions lead to the following study.

Word study on “Judas repented”

First is needs to be asked: is the word “repented” used in Mth 27:3, the normal Greek word used for repentance in the gospels?
There are two words in Greek that are translated “repent”: One word is G3340 μετανοέω metanoeō (used 34x in the New Testament), meaning to think differently afterwards, to repent, to reconsider, to feel compunction. The other word is G3338 μεταμέλλομαι metamellomai (used 6x in the New Testament), to care afterwards, to regret, to repent.
In Mth 27:3 the word is G3338, so the less used word. Now it needs to be asked: Does G3338 occur in the New Testament in context of repentance, faith and salvation? The answer is ‘yes’: See Mth 21:29 and Mth 21:32, where also G3338 is used. The situation is Jesus’ last week. The chief priests and elders have come to challenge, even trap Jesus. Jesus tells in answer the parable of the two sons, describing the unwilling son’s change of mind and subsequent obedience and acceptance (G3338 in Mth 21:29). Jesus continues his sore challenge: tax collectors and prostitutes entering the kingdom, but them not changing their minds (G3338 in Mth 21:32) and believing when seeing that. In both verses the connection is: repentance > faith > salvation, as for most verses where G3340 is used.
It is then a viable alternative to assume for a moment, that Judas did a full-blown repentance, and was forgiven by God for that. But does the story make any sense if we assume that? In order to answer this question, one needs to study all verses pertaining to Judas in the gospels. Here is a listing of these Scriptures, arranged in an approximate timeline:

Judas’ name and description                              Mth 10:4, Mrk 3:19, Luk 6:16

Judas was a good and common name. Judas is the New Testament form of Old Testament “Judah”, the 4th son of Jacob and leader of the tribe of Judah. His name gives rise to the geographic area called “Judah” (in the Old Testament) and “Judea” (in the New Testament) and the title “Jews”. Jesus had two disciples by that name (Luk 6:16, Jhn 14:22). Jesus has a brother by that name (Mth 13:55, Mrk 6:3). There is a later disciple by that name (Acts 15:22) …
Iscariot (Iscariotes, G2455 off H3063, probably: from the village of Kerioth). A Kerioth village is mentioned in Jos 15:25 together with Hazor (North), another Kerioth, a city of Moab, is mentioned in Jer 48:24, 48:41, Amo 2:2). Some say Judas was the only disciple from Judah, not from Galilee, placing Kerioth in Judeah, (source not found).
In the lists of the twelve disciples he appears in three gospels, as the 12th named, in pairing with Simon the Cananaean (Mth 10:4, Mrk 3:19) or with Judah, brother of James (Luk 6:16) putting the two Judases together.
Matthew and Mark describe him as “the one who betrayed him” (Mth 10:4, Mrk 3:19, H3860 paradidomi, surrender, yield up, entrust, transmit, betray, bring forth, cast, commit, deliver up, give over, give up). Luke calls him traitor (Luk 6:16, G4273 prodotes, give forward into enemy hands, surrender, betrayer, traitor).

Judas during Jesus’ Ministry years                      Jn 6:67-71

Immediate context: Great crowds (after the feeding of the 5000) are thinning and taking offense at Jesus’ teaching (‘I am bread of life’) > after popularity much opposition and rejection.

“So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.”

  • In the context of rejection and people turning away Jesus addresses his disciples for their choice and gives the first prediction of one disciple turning against him (all other predictions mentioned are during the last supper).
  • But why does Jesus mention it here? Is this when Judas first inwardly turns against Jesus and Jesus addresses it? Warns him? Letting him know that he can’t hide it? Letting him know that Jesus is reaching out to him in spite of it? Wanting to engage Judas in honest outward ‘processing’ rather than internal distancing?
  • Judas is not recorded to have reacted outwardly. He definitely doesn’t come forward with his growing doubts, disappointment or confusion.
  • What in the context would have caused Judas to turn inwardly from Jesus, or doubting him the first time? Maybe Jesus’ “hard teaching” (Jhn 6:60) is a great dis-appointment after the adrenaline rush of the ‘feeding miracles’. Judas must have been excited and more-than-ever-convinced that Jesus indeed was the Messiah, and was about to establish his kingdom in power. Therefore the “hard teaching” that thins the crowds and looses him popularity would have been all the more disappointing. Jesus is loosing momentum, why is he doing this quietly, even deliberately? > questions, doubts in Judas’ mind (and in the mind of the other, also).
  • What will he do now? See how it continues? Harboring thoughts inwardly? Trying to get out? Or rather trying to show Jesus what the Messiah needs to be?
  • Verse 71 is John later explaining to his readers that Jesus’ remark referred to Judas, but it is also seems that none of the disciples took it as to pertain to Judas at the time Jesus spoke it.
  • How would the other disciples have taken this remark? Jesus being tired? Discouraged? Morbid? Probably they took this comment of Jesus the same way they took all the ‘death prophecies’: alarm, confusion, but not really taking them serious.
After the anointing in Bethany Judas’ plan to betray

Jhn 12:1-8               Judas’ objection, stealing, Jesus’ death announced

“Six days before the Passover (crucifixion) Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money give to the poor? 6 He said this not because he cared about the poor; but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Mrk 14:3-9              anger at waste, defense of woman, death announced

“While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than thee hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish 8 But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what the could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
  • John explains that Judas was holding the common purse used to routinely steal from it. How does he know? Hindsight? Jesus explaining things after the resurrection? It is clear from Jhn 13:28-29 that none of the disciples knew or suspected this at the time.
  • Why did Jesus give him the common purse to handle in the first place? Jesus is all-knowing (or at least has insight by the Holy Spirit into Judas’ betrayal), so why no prevention of stealing? No rebuke of stealing? Setting him up for temptation to steal?
  • Maybe this office was given by normal talents and skill (no disciple seems to have a problem with it even though they jockey for rank in other matters). Maybe this is no more temptation than any other temptation, like the power to do miracles (which is definitely higher).
  • The instruction in Mth 10:8 not to take money for bringing the gospel and doing miracles shows that this temptation is inherent. The temptation to abuse power given is never absent, whatever power, position or role. Even in the disciples idea of becoming powerful figures in Jesus’ kingdom (Mth 20:20-27, Mrk 10:35-45) clearly implies temptations higher than that of holding a common purse.
  • Maybe then this is not a set-up any more than any authority, power or role is a set-up. In the real world temptations will exist and they need to be learned to be resisted and overcome.
  • Once Judas has started stealing, why doesn’t Jesus rebuke him? Either Jesus wasn’t given this information by the Holy Spirit or he knows and doesn’t do anything about it. Yet still the same: There will never be immediate accountability for all things for any authority, power or influence given. Need for integrity out of one’s heart, not dependence on air-tight accountability systems.
  • Why does Judas start to steal? Maybe their was an initial ‘personal emergency’ that triggered it, but even so: he doesn’t trust God with it, doesn’t address Jesus or ask for help for it.
  • What needs to be in his heart to start stealing? He would have to not believe or doubt Jesus’ all-knowing or guidance by the Holy Spirit (which has been displayed in Mrk 2:8 etc). He would have to choose against conscience and established Old Testament,  against Pharisaic and against Jesus’ teaching.
  • What would the starting of stealing have done to Judas’ heart? Once he steals and ‘gets away with it’ and if he denies conscience the feeling of smartness, smugness comes automatically, as well as a sense of superiority over others, a disdain for others, coldness, calculation, hiding, deceiving … continual violation of conscience.
  • Making money lord, giving into greed then becomes a way of thinking, therefore the annoyance and anger at the ‘waste’ of Mary’s extravagant giving and act of love. Mark says ‘some people’ objected, John let’s us know that Judas was the one leading the complaint, though others around him seemed to think the same. Mark points out that they say this among themselves, rather than asking an honest question for understanding or an open debate.
  • Judas knows and cares about the value of the gift given, 300 denarii, a year’s labor, truly a generous gift. He suggests it should have been given to the poor, clearly a way to justify his negative comment and ‘spiritualize’ his annoyance and anger. This also betrays his disdain for Jesus, he doesn’t think him worthy of the gift.
  • It could be understood as simply a slip of the tongue betraying his inner thought world of greed, disdain and calculation.
  • But both Matthew and Mark say that the planning of the betrayal follows immediately after the anointing in Bethany, linked with a “then”, implying that the anointing was one further thing that ‘pushed Judas over the edge’.
  • But what about this event gets him? Is it Jesus for the first time showing some indulgence? Is it the loss of ‘financial privileges’ this would have brought? Is it the further prediction of his coming death (burial) that convinces Judas that Jesus is not the Messiah but rather ‘losing it’?
Judas agrees with chief priests to betray Jesus

Mrk 14:10-11

“Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.”

Mth 26:14-16

“Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.”

Luk 22:2-5

“The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; 4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. 5 They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.”
  • Judas, being a natural at ‘politics’ and ‘power games’ understands well what the chief priests & scribes want, and that he can ask for a price for it.
  • Again greed as motivation, but probably not main motivation, he could probably get more money by keeping the common purse longer. Or is he making his long planned exit more profitable?
  • What is Judas hoping to achieve?
  • Maybe by now he is convinced that Jesus is not the Messiah and therefore a deceiver probably in league with the devil (Pharisees’ point of view) and needs to be executed. Yet Mth 27:3 seems to indicate that he did not think this would mean the death penalty, so what then is he hoping to achieve?
  • Jesus getting a spanking? A reality check? Rebuked? Threatened? Smartened up politically? Mistreated enough to start a hoped-for rebellion movement in earnest? Provoking a showdown where Jesus will have to come out as the Messiah with power (if that’s what he is indeed). Is this Judas calling for an all-or-nothing proof of Jesus’ messiah-ship? Or his misguided and self-willed ideas of ‘helping the Messiah along’?
  • Luke mentions Satan entering into Judas here, John in 13:2 Satan is putting betrayal thoughts into Judas’ heart before the supper and in 13:27 Satan entering into him when Judas takes the piece of bread from Jesus during the supper. Clearly it has been a long process of rejecting conscience and accepting the wrong thoughts, or hiding inward doubts and refusing to come forward. All this now coming to fruition with a choice to do an underhanded attack on Jesus.
Judas at the last supper

Jhn 13:2                    beginning of foot washing and last supper

“The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.”

Mth 26:21-25           announcement, questions, warning, Judas asking

and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied: “You have said so.”

Mrk 14:18-21           announcement, questions, dipping bread, warning

“And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

Luk 22:21-23             announcement, warning, questions

“But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23 Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.”

Jhn 13:21-30              announcement, questions, dipping bread, release

“After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking…. 25 “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some through that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “But what we need for the festival”’ or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.”

  • Matthew, Mark and Luke mention Jesus’ sentence about the coming cross being as the Scriptures predicted, but woe by whom he will be betrayed. Double message:
    • 1 Assurance of God’s total control over and Jesus perfect obedience in the coming ordeal (‘I really am the Messiah!’ ‘I do as I need to’ ‘This is going where it needs to go even though you don’t understand!’) > a call to come back. The fact that Judas feels he can fool Jesus would have been proof in his mind that Jesus can’t be the Messiah.
    • 2 Warning: though Scripture foretells it this doesn’t take away individual human choice within it and: woe! It is a capital and fearful mistake to betray him.
  • Judas, having so long played a game of deception, not sadly finds it easy to keep playing the part: “Surely not I, Rabbi?” as the others are also asking, not sticking out.
  • Why does Jesus say this? To call out to Judas yet again, to try to lead him to repentance, to let Judas know his heart is revealed, his deceiving, smartness, stealing and betraying is all known and yet still Jesus reaches out to him.
  • Jesus by the woe and the dipping bread in the dish is giving Judas clear signals (though not understood by all the others) that he does know and yet hopes him to change his mind. Jesus doesn’t give the bread to derail him and have Satan enter him, rather he looks Judas in the eye, fully knowing, revealing that he knows, warning, calling, wooing and basically asks, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ By taking the bread Judas chooses not to open up, not to confess, not to repent but to keep playing the game and not draw attention … and he successfully fools the disciples around him.
  • Jesus comment: “do this quickly” is only after Judas makes a final rejection of conscience, the final decision to betray Jesus (though he displays supernatural knowledge), taking the bread (though Jesus makes a last initiative of grace), Satan entering into him (Luke).
  • Maybe shedding light on the issue of demon-possession? Only after Judas’ accepting lies and entertaining lies, sinning over a long period of time, embracing violence and some pivotal final rejection of conscience can Satan “enter into him”.
Judas in Gethsemane

Jhn 18:2-3               place, detachment, Jesus answering, Judas there

“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?’ 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas who betrayed him, was standing with them. … 8… So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”

Mth 26:47-50           detachment, sign, kiss and greeting, Jesus’ answer

“And while he was yet speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying. “The one I will kiss is the man: arrest him.” 49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.”

Mrk 14:43-46           detachment, sign, kiss and greeting

“Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.”

Luk 22:47-53           detachment, kiss, violence, healing & rebuke

“While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48 Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” … sword … 51 But Jesus said “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had some for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

  • Matthew and Mark mention the agreed sign, and also the phrase “at once” … maybe indicating that it took Judas all his conviction to go through with the betrayal, so the quicker the better, lest he change his mind.
  • Luke records the last miracle of Jesus healing of the high priest’s slave’s ear (a message of benevolent use of power till the very end), as well as Jesus’ rebuke about the stealthy manner of his arrest (a standing up against the falsehood of the process).
  • Matthew records Jesus ensuring that his disciples can leave the place, a last act of kindness and selflessness.
Judas at Jesus’ trial and his suicide

Mth 27:3                 repents, confesses & tries to make restitution, suicide

  • Context: High priest has condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy > to Pilate, Roman government, who holds power over death sentences.
“When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 8 But the chief priests … buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.”
  • It seems that Judas is present at the trial, it say he “saw”. Why is he here? Is conscience kicking in? Is he paralyzed? Is this still his misguided idea of Jesus now proving himself the Messiah with power and becoming what Judas hoped him to be all along? Or is there no way to ‘not hear the news’?
  • It seems that the full-blown condemnation to a death sentence is not what Judas intended (in spite of being politically savvy his judgment is off), or what at least shakes him up to the reality of what he did.
  • Maybe he now sees Jesus’ predictions of death and his last reaching out to Judas in a different light: not weakness, not stupidity, not wrong ideas about what to do but gracious gracious behavior. In the Jewish mind the fact that a Messiah-claimant is defeated and dies proves that he is not the Messiah. Yet Judas here seems to draw the opposite and true conclusion. Or is he just getting pangs of conscience about betraying a friend (though not thinking him Messiah but deluded)? He says he betrayed ‘innocent blood’.
  • Conscience is speaking again to Judas, in spite of a (probable) demon-possession. And he acts on conscience, though now the price is much higher: an acknowledgment that all he has believed the last year or so is a self-made lie.
  • Judas follows through, he has understanding what repentance means: to not only acknowledge guilt to oneself, but to confess it publicly to a spiritual leader, to attempt restitution (gives back money), to attempt the undoing of the consequences of his act (going to the chief priests, not to a private counselor, possibly in the hope that they can reverse something), or if not hope then at least an act of humility.
  • The chief priests & elders are cruel: they have reached their goal, they have no concern about the pangs of conscience of the person they used, no concern about his spiritual welfare, no attempt even at soothing his pain or assuring him he did the right thing, cold, unconcerned: “What is that to us? See to it yourself”.
  • Judas would know (now that his thinking is possibly clearer) that to betray innocent blood or to be a false witness bringing about a false death sentence constitutes murder according to the law (Deu 19:19), which requires the death penalty (Deu 5:17).
  • In that sense he is courageous to confess to the chief priests, according to the law they would have to execute a death sentence on him now (Deu 19:19). Of course that is not likely since it implies them in wrongdoing as well, yet Judas goes and confesses, evidence that his conscience is speaking.
  • He throws down the money in the temple. Why? Since he can’t make restitution to Jesus any more who will soon be dead, he tries to give it to the priests, obeying Num 5:8. The priests refuse the money, so he throws it in the temple. He is acting because of conscience, trying to undo what can be undone. Probably he loathes his own greed now that so derailed him, and contemplating suicide he no longer needs money.
  • Judas departs and hangs himself. This could be utter depression and hopelessness, a fruit of his demon-possession, or also a deliberate act of self-judgment. They won’t execute the sentence, so he will, judging himself.
  • Traditionally we are sure, that Judas eternally damned, he rejects and betrays Jesus, he is demon-possessed and he ends his life doing a forbidden thing: suicide. Traditionally all suicides are understood to be eternally damned.
  • I think the story as it is recorded may possibly allow for more hope: Judas does repent (the condition for forgiveness), he does seek to do the right thing at personal cost (fruit of repentance). Or he may do it simply to silence conscience. But the fact that conscience still speaks is a good sign, because that usually means that somebody is not yet beyond redemption (unlike Pharaoh in Exodus). It could also be Satan just taunting his victim, yet still Judas acts on this conviction.
  • Judas killing himself could be simply an act of total hopelessness, but it could also have the nature of a self-execution to establish some justice. “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deu 21:23), maybe Judas is aware of this law and ‘curses’ or ‘judges’ himself intentionally. Also he could be intentionally paralleling his self-judgment-death with that of Jesus, who will ‘hang on the tree’ shortly, as he now knows as the likely death penalty.
  • The chief priests and elders are ‘all correct and lawful’ again, and make sure this money doesn’t end up in the temple treasury. Their solution is smart and lawful and feels good to them: unclean money for unclean things > a field to bury foreigners.
After Judas’s death the Field of Blood

Acts 1:15-25           Money used to buy burial ground

“Peter … and said, 16 Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus – 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.“ 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) … Joseph and Matthias … 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place”

  • This is a ‘summarizing account’. It shows how the Bible uses language freely: ‘this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness’, whereas from Matthew we know the detail of the chief priests and elders buying the field.
  • How to understand the two different accounts of Judas’ death, ‘hanging oneself’ and ‘falling headlong bursting open in the middle with bowels gushing out’?
  • A possible explanation (Fruchtenbaum, basing it on Rabbinic writings): Judas hanged himself on a high feast day, the Passover day, making the city of Jerusalem ceremonially unclean. According to Rabbinic writings this required for the sacrifices to be stopped from continuing, so traditionally corpses were quickly thrown over the city boundaries into the Valley of Hinnom, an unclean place. A corpse falling headlong bursting open is likely.
  • Since we do not know what went on in the hearts and minds of people described in the Bible unless it is described, we cannot say anything for certain concerning Judas. It is possible, though, that he really repented.
  • God, being ever gracious to any repentant person, would have forgiven Judas if given any grounds to act on.
  • His death could be something other than demon-possession and utter hopelessness, it could be a follow-up of a true repentance, an act of self-justice.
  • However we will read this story, it is a sombre and sore warning to us to never act against conscience, to ever be watchful of self-deception, pride, willful thinking and greed, all of which sears our consciences and hardens our hearts.