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Judas' motivation

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posted on Apr, 14 2006 @ 02:04 PM
Some modern Bible scholars question the gospel account of Judas' motivation for betraying Jesus. The subject has surfaced again with the "launch" of the Gospel of Judas.

Specifically, church tradition claims that at least part of the reason Judas betrayed Jesus was because he was guilty of emblezzlement, and was about to be caught:

John 12: 4-6 (niv)

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Indeed, the amount paid by the chief priests was only 30 denarii, basically only a couple of months' salary, at most.

So why then would Judas have betrayed his best friend over such a trifling amount? Modern scholars doubt that imbezzlement was reason enough to set Jesus up--they argue that Judas could merely have fled.

I want to make a comparison with modern US culture, though. Specifically, Latino Pop-culture.

The Latina songstress Selena is a pivotal figure for Mexican-American identity. She was the US born daughter of Mexican Immigrants, and English was her first language. Yet she embraced her Latina roots, and forged an identity that embraced the Hispanic ideal of women that dress provocatively, but remain demure and virtuous.

Selena tribute site

I mention Selena because of the nature of her death. She was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar, the founder of the Selena fan club, and the financial manager of Selena's mushrooming fashion empire.

Yolanda was widely considered to be one of Selena's inner circle, who felt left out and ignored when Selena hit the big time. She later explained her embezzling as taking what she deserved for all the hard work she put in before Selena had become famous.

Selena's family became aware of Saldivar's financial misdeeds, and insisted that Selena fire her one-time confidant. Selena at first refused to believe the evidence, but eventually agreed to confront Yolanda and fire her.

When they met, Yolanda was crushed, and seems to have flown into a psychotic rage, less because of the money than because of her own shame at her betrayal of a best friend. Yolanda produced a gun and fatally shot Selena, while simultaneously screaming that she loved Selena, and was her first and biggest fan.

Yolanda Saldivar at wikipedia

I bring up the example of Selena's betrayal as a way of pointing out that, despite the incongruity of Judas' traitorous act being tied to embezzling, a parallel drama has occured in recent history, and the victim was considered an icon of the underclass.

If Yolanda Saldizar could betray her best friend and turn her back on the 'movement' they had founded together, why couldn't Judas the bandit? (the term for bandits "sicarii," is one suggested origin of the title "iscariot.")

Just a bit of food for thought concerning the orthodox account of Judas.


posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 12:33 AM
This is an interesting angle to ponder upon...

This is my .02:

Thinking about the fact that Judas seemed to be the 'treasurer' for the band of disciples in their time of mentoring under Jesus--in a spiritually-oriented education that had, as one of its main premises, the shunning of all materially-focused and worldly concerns--makes me think that underneath the surface, Judas had a very different set of values and concerns contrasted with the other 11.

Another point I've considered is the increasing tension between Jesus and the Sanhedrin--any Jew in Jerusalem surely understood the penalties for blasphemy--and in those days of DIY Messiahs, those whose followers did not scatter and flee after the aspiring Messiah was punished (either corporally orcapitally) were just a heartbeat away from punishment, themselves. If (and on this one I am assuming, but certainly cannot say for sure), in the case of Jesus, the situation was one of a rare severity, in the eyes of the Sanhedrin--because of increasing turbulence in the masses--then it quite possibly have meant that those remaining after Jesus was executed had reason to be in fear for their own lives, as well. Reading about the 11's reaction, in the days following the crucifixion (they basically went underground and huddled together in fear), I think that probably these fears had at least niggled at them a bit in the days preceding the event.

I have often wondered why Judas followed Jesus--he just didn't seem to fit the bill of disciple; but of course, if a betrayer was required, he did live up to that role although I doubt that was his motive. Regardless, it seems that he did have a different agenda, but I don't think that anxiety from being suspect of embezzling the common funds drove him to sell out to the Pharisees. Certainly if he felt that Jesus's demise was imminent, there was little for him to fear as far as retribution for his crime, from anyone else.

But another fear, not unfounded, of the Sanhedrin's evaluation of his own involvement in opposition to their authority might have motivated him--immunity is often far more valuable than a sum equal to the cost of a slave.

[edit on 4/15/2006 by queenannie38]

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 12:43 AM
I left this out:

I find your perspective quite intriguing--although familar with Selena's story, I never once thought of such human emotions in regard to Judas. But I think it is a very valid theory--especially since it addresses the question of Judas's subsequent suicide.

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 06:36 AM

Originally posted by queenannie38

But another fear, not unfounded, of the Sanhedrin's evaluation of his own involvement in opposition to their authority might have motivated him--immunity is often far more valuable than a sum equal to the cost of a slave.

[edit on 4/15/2006 by queenannie38]

All of us are driven by multiple impulses, some of them contradictory. History, particularly important history like that of faith or country, tends to "flatten" the characters and make them seem like cartoons. I'm sure that all of the the people involved in the story were emotionally complex, from Caiaphas ( de facto co-high priest with his nephew, in violation of scripture), down through the woman warming herself by the fire who recognizes Peter when he's trying to hide.

As far as redeeming himself in the eyes of authority, we have an example from a half-century later: Flavius Josephus. He was a general in the Jewish army of rebellion. When he realized that the cause was pretty much lost, he switched sides in return for his own life. While his "Antiquities of the Jews" is a critical text of non-biblical ancient history, the reader has to remember that it was written by one of history's most prominent traitors.

I think the idea that Judas believed the end of the movement was near is completely believable as motivation.


[edit on 15-4-2006 by dr_strangecraft]

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 07:23 AM

Originally posted by dr_strangecraftAll of us are driven by multiple impulses, some of them contradictory. History, particularly important history like that of faith or country, tends to "flatten" the characters and make them seem like cartoons.

I agree; often the historical narrative is conveyed less for the purpose of education than some flavor of partisan devotion.

But humans are beautiful, to my eyes, largely because we are complex juxtapositions which are in a constant state of evolvement, personal and social...

As far as redeeming himself in the eyes of authority, we have an example from a half-century later: Flavius Josephus.

As I was mentally forming my first reply, that particular example came to my mind, too!

It occurred to me that, in present times, there is an idea of not wanting to do
what is wrong (or perhaps more accurately 'getting caught' doing wrong, as evidenced by the opinions about Judas's choice that are found in christian tradition, that you mentioned in your initial post); but in the days of Judas and Josephus, there was more concern applied toward not finding one's self on the 'wrong' side.

Because, usually, if a person was on the 'wrong side', they nearly had 'the whole world' against them.

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 09:24 AM
I have also wondered about various interpretations of Judas' last name.

Iscariot is often attributed to "Issachar," one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Of course, Issachar was one of the 10 in the north that were carred away by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC, and became one of the "Lost tribes." So unless the surname was picked applied as a sort of tribute to the "golden age" of Israel, it would be hard to explain.

Unless of course, Jesus chose 12 disciples, one for each of the original tribes, and Judas "drew" that one.


Another possibility is that "Issachar" is a cognate with "Sicarri" the term Flavius Josephus uses for bandit/revolutionaries. I don't have a Greek text handy, but I think it occurs in scripture at Jesus' trial before Pontius Pilate. The crowd shouted for the release of Barabbas. "Now Barrabas was a robber."

Did Judas decide that Jesus had "sold out the revolution?" Did he have too many friends like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and Nicodemus, the powerful member of the Sanhedrin? Was Jesus becoming over-commericalized celebrity?

That's certainly the tack Rice and Weber took in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Judas: "And all the good you've done
will soon get swept away
you've begun to matter more
than the things you say."

At least as probable as any other explaination, I think.

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 05:19 PM
The Gospel of Judas

"The Cosmic Drama of Christ would be impossible to represent without the role of Judas; this apostle is then the most exalted Adept, the most elevated amongst all of the apostles of the Christ Jesus." - Samael Aun Weor (1973)

..."Please, I beg the brethren that are listening to me, to comprehend what I am stating here: Do not be scared; I sense that some of you who are listening at this moment due to prejudices and fear based on some erroneous information from some dogmatic priests, offer resistance to these statements.

All of us in childhood received a certain type of education, thus, erroneous, absurd negative and harmful ideas were inculcated within us.

We were told that Lucifer was a terrible devil that gave orders over all the Earth, that takes our souls to an orthodox hell in order to torture us in containers of fire, etc., etc.

I want you, my friends, to comprehend once and for all that such a devil of orthodox religions does not exist; but the true devil is the one that each of you carries within your interior"...

[edit on 15-4-2006 by Tamahu]

posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 07:00 PM
Well . . . . good for you, then.

I've reached the conclusions I choose to adhere to after years of careful study. I guarantee you I'm every bit as convinced of the correctness of my paradigm as you are of yours. But a sincere thanks for putting your views out in the marketplace, for the rest of us to sample.

How about this possibility.

Choice C:

Judas was a total believer that Jesus was the promised messiah and the literal son of God. Judas believed the scripture that "angels would guard the Lord's annointed, so that his foot will not dash against a stone."

But Judas couldn't figure out why Jesus, with legions of angels to command, didn't expel the Romans from Judea and set up his own throne, and "rule with a sceptre of iron" in the words of Isaiah.

Suppose Judas believed he was helping the messiah, by forcing him into a position where the angels would be forced to kill some Romans. Then all the Jews, indeed, all the nations, would flock to the throne of "Iesovs Rex, Imperator."

If this was the case, imagine Judas' shock when Jesus is led away in shackles, and scourged with hooks on little cords until he nearly bleeds to death, but no angels intervene. Ample reason to end his own life, and sufficient cause to proclaim his motto in the canonical gospels: "for I have betrayed innocent blood."


posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 08:26 AM
Oh wow...
you are coming up with some really good brain-nuggets, Dr S!

This is also quite within the limits of logical feasibility (in the context of our discussion)--given such an attitude was not a rare one in those days--it seems everyone thought things were meant to turn out in a very different way.

And it wouldn't be the first time a soul grew impatient and felt compelled to do something to jig the hand of the LORD...

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