Term Paper: Judas Iscariot (Outline

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[. . .] Spong points out a pattern of similarity in fact that deserves some attention. In the Hebrew work Zechariah, there is an account of the betrayal of the "shepherd king of the Jews" in exchange for silver. In another work, the story of Ahithophel there is the story of an individual who betrays the "Lord's anointed and after, hangs himself. Still another story, the story of Joab, recounts the tale of a kiss of betrayal and the disembowelment of Amasa. Spong goes on to recount yet another similarity from Psalm 41, where a friend becomes an enemy after breaking bread and eating together, much like the story told in the Last Supper (Spong, 270). Spong argues that the creation of the Judas story is a "midrashic" creation, "midrash" meaning interpretation or book of the Jewish scriptures (Spong, 270). One could argue however, that the story must have occurred because it is presented and told, granted in many a different way, but told nonetheless in Hebrew and Christian works. However, it is also feasible and worthy of consideration to consider that the story of betrayal was a story made up to teach a lesson of the wrong of evil, betrayal and suicide. As Spong argues, the scriptures, Hebrew or Christrian, Torah or Bible were meant as symbolic manifestations to be interpreted as lessons for life, but not meant to be interpreted literally.

When considering the story of Judas Iscariot as representative of symbolic imagery meant to teach a lesson, one might look at the proposal of Robert Barry. Mr. Barry claims that the suicide of Judas Iscariot was told to promote the idea that suicide was not evil or punishment, but rather an appropriate and justifiable means of repentance in biblical times (Barry, 1). However, this idea is more easily challenged than the ideas of Spong, for almost every interpretation of the Bible and Scriptures goes on to say that suicide was condemned. As stated in Genesis 9:6, "He who sheds man's blood, shall have his blood shed by man, for in the image of God man was made." (Barry, 1).

Larry B. Stammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune supports the idea that the archetype or image of Judas Iscariot as the shear definition of traitor is indeed false, and says that Judas in fact may be a centuries long representative of Christian ant-Semitic emotions. He like many scholars, including Spong points out the changing stories in the Gospels of the actual tale of the Betrayal of Jesus. He goes on to say that the Christian account of the story of Judas is put together from the bits and pieces relayed in the New Testament (Stammer). Stammer also points out that Judas Iscariot is not mentioned at all in the letters or epistles, the earliest of Christian Writings. Stammer argues that the Gospels were written in a time when the Jewish sect of the church was not yet a separate religion, and their was much internal strife and disagreement among Church leaders (Stammer). He states that the tale of the traitor Judas may have been created to differentiate the Christians from the Jews of the time, both of whom were arguing over the doctrine of the church. Stammer goes on to point out the following in his work:

The Judas story "was exploited as anti-Jewish polemic in dramatic literature and art, depicting Judas with grossly exaggerated Semitic features and generalizing his love for money," wrote the late Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown, whose two-volume study, "The Death of the Messiah," is considered to be among the most authoritative published" (Stammer, 2000).

However, one must also remember that anti-Semitism is actually condemned by the Christian church and the Vatican. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has declared that the Jewish people are "closest to God" (Stammer). Perhaps Stammer points out, the critics and scholars have tuned in to the idea of the story of Judas as anti-Semitic only to raise awareness and be certain that the last vestiges of any anti-Semitic feeling are completely erased from the Christian church (Stammer). This in fact, is a very plausible idea supported by some religious leaders.

Some translators of biblical work have actually defined Judas as not a traitor, but an "agent of divine will" (Stammer). One of these is William Klassen, who argues that the appropriate translation for some of the text in the Gospels does not actually interpret to betray, but rather "hand over" (Stammer). According to Klassen:

Corinthians 11:23-24) - a passage from which the Christian Eucharistic service takes its words - Paul used the word "paradidomi." The traditional translation is to hand over "... The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' " (Stammer, 2000).

Klassen suggests that Paul's interpretation means that Jesus was not in fact betrayed by Judas Iscariot, but rather simply handed over, as was the divine will of the Lord Jesus, so that he may save the people (Stammer). This is an interesting point to note, and also contradicts the idea that a disciple of Jesus who would betray or hand him over, depending on your interpretation, was in fact mentioned in the early Christian writings. This interpretation of the story of Judas has lead many scholars to believe that the story of Judas in fact has a higher purpose, and was written to "link Jesus with the "suffering servant" mentioned in the prophecy of Isaiah who was despised and rejected by others and gave up his life for his friends. The emphasis was on God's action. The human agent's role was incidental." (Stammer, 2000). Close examination of further texts in the New Testament actually support this idea. The Greek word for "handing over" is used in fairly recent versions of the New Testament. Some have even gone as far as to argue that Jesus and Judas had pre-arranged the "handing over" to authorities, that is was the will of Jesus that the events that occurred happened to teach and save the people of the world (Stammer). This interpretation might lead some to see Judas as actually carrying out the diving will of the lord, not betraying him.

Many of these interpretations of the life and meaning of Judas Iscariot stretch the mind and have caused some great amount of discomfort and unrest in the religious community. Regardless of ones interpretation of the meaning of Judas, whether he was a real character of historical value or a mythological character created to make a group of people more hated, he is nonetheless a critical figure important to biblical study and religious scholars. The story of Judas can be interpreted as one that teaches us a lesson. Perhaps it is a lesson of the evils of betrayal or of suicide, or a lesson that not everything should be interpreted literally, and there are in fact many different ways to tell a story as noted in the Gospels.

References

Barry, Robert. The Biblical Teachings on Suicide. Issues in Law & Medicine, 1998.

Judas Iscariot. Columbia Encyclopedia, Seventh Edition: January, 2002

Lattin, Don. NEW LOOK AT JUDAS: IS HE AN ANTI-SEMITIC MYTH? SCHOLAR CALLS

HIM 'LATE-DEVELOPING LEGEND. St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 1999.

Maccoby, Hyam. Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil. New York: Macmillan

Press, 1992.

Paffenroth, Kim. Judas: Images of the Lost Disciple. London: John Nox Press, 2001.

Spong, John. Liberating the Gospels. Harper San Francisco, 1996.

Stammer, Larry. Scholars revisit betrayal of Judas: Studies of old texts. Minneapolis Star Tribune: April 29, 2000.

OUTLINE

Judas Iscariot: An Introduction

Who was Judas?

Judas Iscariot: Common Interpretations

Gospels according to Mark, Matthew, John

Different Interpretations or false stories?

Judas Iscariot: The Product of anti-Semitic… [END OF PREVIEW]

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