Monday, December 25, 2006


(My book can be ordered by clicking on the picture at right.)

No rational person would take seriously the statements at Luke 22:3 and John 13:2,27 that the devil entered Judas as a serious piece of evidence against him. However, it is a piece of evidence that exists in these ancient texts (which otherwise have a lot of accurate historical information) and it deserves some thought. It is actually possible to form two rational conclusions from this particular piece of evidence — both of which stand in favor of Judas, not against him.

First, the worst thing you could possibly say about Judas, based on Luke 22:3 and John 13:2,27, is that somebody thought badly of him at the time Luke and John were written. But the good news respecting Judas is that no such statement appears in Mark and Matthew, the earliest Gospels. In fact, as I explained in the post just below this one, Mark has absolutely nothing unequivocally negative concerning Judas. Mark is strictly neutral about him, allowing for a positive interpretation as much as a negative one. (There is a rational explanation for why Mark does this and I provide it in the book.) So it would appear that demonizing Judas is a late development.

Second, what does "the devil entered Judas" really amount to? It means Judas' action was a mystery to them. They had no better explanation than the devil. And why was it a mystery? Because there was no evidence against Judas.

Even the person or persons who put it on the devil could not say exactly what the devil made Judas do (what disputes he had with Jesus, or what else motivated him, or what his fellow disciples had against him — it's all basically missing).

The only thing they knew for sure was that he had left the dinner table that night and came back with the authorities a little later. As I said in the post below, this could just as easily have happened for good reasons we never thought about before (i.e., good or positive as to what was going on between Jesus and Judas).

So even the attempt to demonize Judas backfires and speaks more in his favor than anything else. It reminds us how little we know about him.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


(The picture at right is a link to where my book can be ordered.)

The key point to remember is that the treachery of Judas is not a stated fact in the Gospels. It is an interpretation of the Gospels. It is a questionable interpretation, as Hans Josef-Klauck has said. It is based on very little, almost nothing, really.

What most people imagine (and it is only imagination) is that Judas had some serious disagreement with Jesus about something (like how to bring about the kingdom of God), that he was deeply disgruntled, that he snuck around behind Jesus' back, that he did not get along with the other disciples, that they were horrified by what he did, and that Judas was finally ashamed of what he did. The fact is that absolutely none of this is in the Gospels. There is not even a single hint in the Gospels unequivocally pointing to these things.

The truth is we read all this into the Gospels. We brand Judas a traitor by assuming he was a traitor and by assuming the Gospels should be read through this lens. There is nothing that is outright bad about Judas in the Gospels. Almost every single piece of evidence could easily be given a more positive spin.

By pointing this out, I am not saying anything new. Scholars have always known that if, for example, you look at Mark, all the details of a story of betrayal are missing. There is no motive given for Judas' act, no conflict with Jesus, no recriminations from other disciples, and, as everyone now admits, not even the word for betray is used. Mark tells a totally neutral story.

What is new is not my recitation of the facts and missing facts, but my asking a very simple question: By what rational means can you possibly pull a story of betrayal out of this? Does it make sense that Mark would tell the story of a traitor like this? Is there another more decent explanation for the way he tells this tale? Except for scholars like William Klassen and Hans Josef-Klauck, no one asks questions like these. Certainly, Ben Witherington III and not even Elaine Pagels (who is closer to the truth; see post below this one) want to entertain such questions.

We have convicted Judas on the basis of so little, practically nothing, and we have always assumed that his betrayal is the right way to interpret the innuendos. Thus, his suicide, reported only by Matthew, we take to be proof of his guilt. It's hardly proof. That suicide, if it really happened, could just as well be explained by the shame of being falsely accused of treachery. In my book, I go through almost every piece of evidence to explain this thoroughly and to arrive at the only logical explanation of the data we have in the Gospels.

When you come right down to it, there is only one major clue which is supposedly against Judas: He was at the supper table, then he leaves and reappears with the authorities. We have always assumed and only assumed that betrayal is the one true answer. But there could also be a very innocent explanation for this —I reveal it in my book and demonstrate that it makes sense of all the evidence, not just some of it.

Judas was a very innocent guy and Jesus' friend right to the very end. The explanation for what he was really doing on that last night is right there in the Gospels. We just never wanted to see it. I miss the original Judas. Let's bring him back. Read the book.

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