Luke 22.1-6 (etc.) What to say?

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, known as Passover, was approaching; and the chief priests and doctors of the law were trying to devise some way of doing away with him; for they were afraid of the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve; and Judas went to the chief priests and officers of the Temple police to discuss ways and means of putting Jesus into their power. They were greatly pleased and undertook to pay him a sum of money. He agreed, and began to look out for an opportunity to betray him to them without collecting a crowd.

— — — — — — —

Matthew 26.1-12:

When Jesus had finished this discourse he said to his disciples, “You know that in two days time it will be Passover; and this son of Adam is to be handed over for crucifixion.”

Then the chief priests and elders of the nation met in the palace of the High Priest, Caiaphas; and there they conferred together on a scheme to have Jesus arrested by some trick and put to death. “It must not be during the festival,” they said, “or there will be rioting among the people.”

Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, when a woman came to him with a small bottle of fragrant oil, very costly. And as he sat at table she began to pour it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw it. “Why this waste?” they said. “It could have been sold for a good sum and the money given to the poor.”

Jesus was aware of this, and said to them, “Why must you make trouble for the woman? It is a fine thing she has done for me. You can always give to the poor; but you won’t always have me.

“When she poured this oil on my body it was her way of preparing me for burial. I tell you this, wherever in all the world this gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as her memorial.”

Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me to betray him to you?”

They weighed out thirty silver pieces.

From that moment he began to look for a good opportunity to betray him.

—- —- —- —- —-

Mark 14.1-11

Now the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread were only two days off; and the chief priests and the doctors of the law were trying to devise some cunning plan to seize him and put him to death. “It must not be during the festival,” they said, “or we should have rioting among the people.”

Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. As he sat at table, a woman came in carrying a small bottle of very costly perfume, oil of pure nard. She broke it open and poured the oil over his head.

Some of those present said to one another angrily, “Why this waste? The perfume might have been sold for thirty pounds and the money given to the poor,” and they turned upon her with fury.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why must you make trouble for her? It is a fine thing she has done for me. You have the poor among you always; and you can help them whenever you like; but you will not always have me.

“She has done what lay in her power; she is beforehand with anointing my body for burial. I tell you this; wherever in all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as her memorial.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray him to them. When they heard what he had come for, they were greatly pleased, and promised him money; and he began to look for a good opportunity to betray him.

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9 responses

  1. Ah, Judas. Do you know the work of Hyam Maccoby? A Jewis scholar who has specialized in countering Christian anti-Semitic theology. I am thinking here of Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil, the opening sentence of which is something like, “It is no accident that the name of the man who betrayed Jesus is the name of the Jewish people. Like Robert Graves in his remarkable book, The Nazarene Gospel Restored, Maccoby makes a case for Judas Iscariot being Judas the brother of Jesus, brother also of James the Just, another brother of Jesus. This Judas was the leader of the Jewish Jesus movement for a while after the crucifixion—either before or after James– and was apparently a faithful but conservative follower who rejected Paul’s Gentile mission.

    1. I’ve read one of Maccoby’s books, found much of it reasonable & extremely illuminating. His conjecture that Jesus comes to Jerusalem during (for) the Festival of Tabernacles — when the King is supposed to visit the Temple and read Deuteronomy — makes more sense than the usual chronology, despite the implication that Jesus then spends months holding forth in the outer Temple court while the chief priests can only grit their teeth, wait for him to slip. (But it’s certainly possible to read a long frustrating wait into these passages here.)

      Hoping to reread that book, I find that it’s vanished from the library catalog. (The one you mention, about Judas, is still in stock; and I’ve just now put a hold on it. A lot of good old stuff just isn’t valued enough…)

      “Judas” is also a perfectly good name for a Jewish patriot, would-be insurrectionist (“Judas Iscariot” == perhaps something like “Judas the Daggerman,” “Judas the Knife” etc) likely named after Judas Maccabee, and/or Judas the Galilean.

      Real man vs legend? — really an open question. If Jesus has been retiring to the same secret place for months, then a specific betrayer is really not needed to explain the Temple police eventually finding him.

      I was happy to see that Graves had concluded, as I did, that Jesus must have been anointed by John the Baptist during their well-attested encounter. But he had many other fictional conjectures I found far less plausible…

      Jesus betrayed by a (half?-) brother who then becomes head of the church? “He told me, ‘It’s a tough, ugly job, but somebody’s got to do it’.”? Too weird.

      That element of collusion between betrayer & betrayee does seem implied a little later on… & hard to say how much was written in later, in response to questions like “What kind of a prophet is this, who doesn’t know when he’s being set up?”

      Somewhere I’ve got a flawed-but-powerful poem about this– or maybe I’ll have to someday try to rewrite it from scratch?

      1. I can think of exactly one way that Maccoby’s Judas-as-Jesus’-brother scenario might have been psychologically possible: Jesus comes back from his crucifixion, and tells everybody: “I made him do it!”

  2. Anyway, Maccoby has a lot to say about the Judas theme, some of which at the time I found quite convincing. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of it, and I’m attending New York Yearly Meeting summer sessions, so I can’t get to my library. I highly recommend all of Maccoby’s work: he has a book on Jesus, one on Paul, and one on the role that human sacrifice anthropology plays in Christian theology, especially involving Judas, of course. He argues that mythical human sacrifices, like that of Iphegenia, Abel (of Cain and Abel), Romulus (or was it Remus who was sacrificed, Isaac (in reverse, of course), and finally Jesus—that the sacrificer—in this case, Judas—always ends up receiving a conflicted sacred status: cursed for the crime, but ‘appreciated’ for the blessing that the sacrifice confers (usually the founding of a new civilization). Agammemnon gets his war, Romulus founds Rome, Abraham founds a blessed sacred lineage for being willing to make the sacrifice, Cain founds the Kenite tribe, which was the tribe that brought the iron age to Palestine. Jesus of course founds a new religion. But poor Judas gets totally dissed by only being cursed, literally in the gospel of John, even though someone had to sacrifice Jesus in order for him to save humankind.

    Wish I could get to my library . . .

  3. I don’t really care for that ‘sacrifice’ theme, think it says more about the way human beings think than about the way God actually operates… Whether Jesus bought into it (as Paul did) I don’t know. “Sacrifice” as in chess makes some kind of sense.

    Likewise, Abraham. Many subsequent Jewish sons have had doubts about this noble example, not particularly enjoyed the story.

    Given the many strange (and still not necessarily known or understood) customs of preBiblical times, I’m inclined to think, for example, that Abraham was initially prepared ‘to do the right thing’ by contemporary standards — and that the ‘faith’ involved was really his eventual willingness to listen to God and not carry through.

    Evidently founding ‘a new religion’ was an outcome God may have intended — or one compatible with God’s intentions — but it isn’t something that occurred anytime soon after Jesus’ own life. It doesn’t seem to be what his followers thought they were doing. More along the lines of: ~’This is what Judaism should look like.’

  4. So the question on my mind is: “What’s the motive?”

    Judas may or may not have been an exemplary disciple (though the legend that he was holding the money suggests a degree of trust, maybe). There are no stories or paintings that I know of, on ‘The Calling of Judas,’ for example.

    Jesus just made a bad choice because he needed one? Judas just insisted on being included because he loved what he thought Jesus was doing — and something disillusioned him?

    In two of these three stories, there’s this intervening incident with the oil. (In Luke, ‘Simon’ is Jesus’ host much earlier, with a different theme to the story, and the oil wiped on his feet rather than his head, by an allegedly ‘bad’ woman. And Jesus’ status as ‘a prophet’ is an issue.) Suppose this woman is, herself, an unacknowledged prophet. Even in traditional Judaism there are one or two such women…

    Either Judas suddenly changes his mind about something in this incident (?) or it suddenly gives him a solid accusation to bring back to the people he’s been secretly working for all along: “Jesus has just let himself be anointed King of Israel,” for example. Maybe the fact that the agent is a woman was a source of offense…

    Does [Hmmmm!] the woman herself, in some way, symbolize Israel? [Which was, after all, previously compared to a promiscuous hussy by several well-known prophets.]

    1. Another possibility: Judas sets up the incident, in hopes that it will push Jesus into accepting the honor & running with it. When Jesus declines, saying instead: “She’s just prepared my body for burial,” Judas reacts out of deep disappointment.

      1. Gra es makes much of Jesus telling the disciples to go out and buy swords during the Last Supper, which they do, according to one of the gospels. And then, of course, Peter uses one of them at the arrest. Graves contends that Jesus had intended to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah related to the passage that talks about the bad shepherd, which has him killed by his own people. He contends that he was essentially expecting Judas or one of the twelve to kill him with that sword to fulfill the prophecy and Judas just couldn’t do it, so Judas set him up instead, thinking that there was no way he would end up really being executed. When he realized how badly he had judged the situation—and that he had failed his master in his master’s original intentions—he killed himself.

        None of this really works for me. But it’s interesting. Judas remains a bit of a mystery.

        1. That bit is in Luke, coming up!

          I’m trying to get that poem back; my last copy may be somewhere in the archives of Quaker-l. I don’t know that it solves the mystery, but it’s about Jesus giving him all his cues.

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