Saturday, March 02, 2019

Judas and Jesus

In my experience, Judas is a neglected evidence for the historical Jesus. He figures in all four Gospels as the betrayer of Jesus. But why would the Gospel writers invent such a character? Or why would primitive Christian tradition invent such a character, whom the Gospel writers then incorporate into their narratives?

Sure, betrayal is a common theme in fiction. A classic example is the consigliere who has the goods on the crime boss, and turns state's evidence.

Even if, for argument's sake, Gospel writers might invent a fall-guy as a plot device, what would motivate them to make the him a member of Christ's inner circle? Wouldn't that invite the suspicion that Judas knew something damaging about Jesus? 

So Judas is the ultimate example of hostile testimony. He's not somebody the Gospel writers have any incentive to fabricate. Not a fictional character. It satisfies the criterion of embarrassment. 

1 comment:

  1. One way to measure how problematic the Judas accounts were to Christianity is to look at the responses of the early opponents of the religion. Similarly, we should look at how the early opponents of Christianity responded to the unfaithfulness of leaders other than Judas, such as Peter and his triple denial of Christ and his behavior in Galatians 2. These issues come up over and over again in interactions between the early Christians and their enemies (e.g., John Cook, The Interpretation Of The New Testament In Greco-Roman Paganism [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002], 48, 158-59, 210-12, 247, 315-16). Here's a post I wrote on the subject several years ago. It discusses Jewish, pagan, and heretical views of the apostles. We should keep in mind that even though ancient heretical groups claimed to be Christian, they often rejected one or more of the apostles (e.g., Marcion's acceptance of Paul while rejecting the other apostles). So, the weaknesses of somebody like Peter would often be used against traditional Christianity even by groups that claimed to be Christian.