Friday, April 26, 2013

Judas Fish, Part 3: The Kiss of Death

The Disciple Judas secretly met with the Chief Priests, conspiring to have Jesus arrested. Later, during the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of the Disciples. This incredibly shocking display of humility is amazingly only recorded by the Gospel of John.

Also during that supper, Jesus revealed that He knew that one of the Disciples (possibly Judas) would betray Him. This (may have) caused Judas to leave the gathering. Then, or before that, Jesus symbolically shared His body and blood with His Disciples; represented as bread and wine. Sometime around then, Jesus revealed that Peter would thrice deny knowing Jesus that night. According to Luke, Jesus then told the Disciples to prepare for His absence by buying swords. Then, either before or after going to the Mount of Olives, and possibly going to Gethsemane, Jesus prayed His last prayer before His arrest.

If it seems that the order of events is a little confusing, that is only because we are following the Gospels, taking it on faith that they are accurate. ;-).

This is Part 3 of a four part series entitled "Judas Fish." The series entries are:

Judas Fish, Part 3: The Kiss of Death
In the Christian world, Judas represents the epitome of treachery; a sin so vile that Dante reserved it for the ninth and final circle of Hell, with Satan in its center and Judas occupying the realm just before the center. Perhaps what makes Judas' sin stand out even more, besides betraying his companion and Savior, is the way in which he did it; with a kiss. Or did he? Let us take a closer look at the account of the betrayal made manifest.

In Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:2-12, you will find the accounts of Judas leading the squad and the arrest of Jesus. Let us again start with Mark, one of the primary sources for Matthew and Luke.

According to Mark 14:43-52, it went down like this:
As Jesus was scolding the three sleepy Disciples, Judas arrived with men to arrest Jesus. Judas identified Jesus to the arresting party by kissing Him. Jesus was seized. A follower of Jesus, with a sword, struck the High Priest's servant's, cutting off his ear. Jesus scolded the arrest party for not arresting Him while He was teaching them in the Temple, but relented that the Scriptures must be fulfilled. All of Jesus' followers fled, including one man who fled naked when they seized his garment. (My Paraphrase)
Betrayed with a kiss!?!? How wicked! How vile! How... highly dubious. It does not take much consideration of the story before it all falls apart. What do I mean?

Well, for starters, we are informed that Judas had arranged to identify Jesus with that kiss, and we are even provided a quote of Judas' words from when he made the arrangement (Mark 14:44). No Disciple (other than Judas) would have been an eyewitness to this arrangement. This means that someone must have created Judas' words for him... In other words, someone wrote fiction, like the record Jesus' prayer which He made alone.

Then we have to wonder how Judas managed to find Jesus and the group that evening, since presumably he was not with them as they went to Gethsemane. (We will see this objection answered in a moment by Luke and John.)

Next we have the curious fact that the man who lost his ear was the High Priest's servant. How likely is it that the servant of the High Priest, the type of servant that the High Priest obviously had to take care of business for him, had never seen Jesus, and therefor needed Jesus to be identified by Judas.

(Furthermore, why was the guy who cut off the ear not arrested?)

(By the way, this ear-less servant probably did exist, because the fact that he was ear-less would have been used as evidence to support the story. We will discuss this a little more later.)

Yet the main objection comes from Jesus' own objection. In Mark 14:49, Jesus began the verse with "Every day I was with you...". With "you"... as in with them... as in with the people who were arresting Him at that moment. Even if the High Priest's servant did not know Jesus from Adam, it sure seems as though Jesus had been speaking to some people of the arresting party based on His words, some people who knew precisely who He was, and therefor would not have needed any help identifying Him. The kiss is pointless.

Then, of course, there is the soft, circumstantial evidence against the episode from the Epistles. In Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, and 1 Peter 5:14, you will find a call for fellow believers to greet each other with a kiss. That just seems a little strange if Jesus was betrayed by a kiss, no?

Scholars think that most of the Epistles were written before the Gospels, meaning that these commands for kiss-greetings were established within the Christian community prior to the Gospels being written. Neither Jesus nor the Disciples are recorded as having kissed anyone in the Gospels, at least until you see this act by Judas. With the precedence of kiss-greetings already set in the community, the act of betrayal with a kiss would appear all the more repugnant, as if included by an author for the purpose of evoking a strong emotional response... On the other hand, if the Judas-kiss was in the story first, then greeting each other with a kiss would be like constantly acting out Jesus' betrayal. Which order seems more reasonable to you?

Now, on to Matthew 26:47-56, where you will find that Mark's account has been repeated largely repeated, even word-for-word in some sections. Yet there are differences. In keeping with Matthew's skill of aggregation, the differences are largely additions.

In Matthew 26:50, we have Jesus' added replied to Judas after the kiss, telling him to do what he came to do, which is odd because Judas had just done what he had come to do!

After the High Priest's servant's ear was cut off, in Matthew 26:52 we have an added rebuke, where Jesus scolded the sword user, and claimed that "all who draw the sword will die by the sword." That appears contradictory to the recent study of Luke, where Jesus told His Disciples to buy swords for their protection.

Matthew 26:53-54 directly appends the sword verse; having Jesus sort of bragging about the power at His disposal, and, at the same time, implicitly emphasizing His choice not to use that power, and the reason given for not using that power is so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. Of course, this makes Jesus' earlier prayer about getting out of His fate slightly awkward and contradictory.

Plus, with Matthew's addition, we have a redundant reference to Scripture needing to be fulfilled in this same anecdote, as Matthew followed this up with Jesus' rebuke of the arresting party not arresting Him earlier, and yet needing to fulfill Scriptures (Matthew 26:55-56). Perhaps this is evidence of Matthew attempting to reconcile two different accounts of the betrayal, but he was not willing to drop the details from either one, given that he did not know for sure which one was true.

Matthew's only other change of significance is dropping the naked man running away, but that was not really important anyway! ;-)

On to Luke 22:47-53, where you will find evidence of Luke's editing expertise. Luke made many changes, which resolved many issues in the other two accounts. For starters, back in Luke 22:39, Luke recorded that the path Jesus and His Disciples took that evening was part of a normal practice, making it completely reasonable for Judas to have known where to look for Jesus.

In Luke 22:48, Jesus stopped Judas from kissing Him, thereby keeping the sacrament of the kiss-greeting pure, even at the cost of contradicting Matthew and Mark. In the process of that revision, Luke also dropped the reference to Judas establishing the kiss as the signal with which to identify Jesus.

What about that unsightly scene of the ear lopping? Well, in Luke 22:49-51, Jesus told His followers to stop their aggression, and then Jesus healed the man's ear on the spot! That certainly makes Jesus seem more Jesus-like than bragging about His power, but it is probably not true. Why? Well, first, none of the other three Gospels mention this miracle, and second, Luke records absolutely no reaction by either followers or those in the arresting party to this miracle, which just seems rather strange again. Plus, if Jesus healed the ear, the reference to the High Priest's servant is no longer as important, because he could not be pointed to for an easy, visible "proof" of the encounter.

Finally, Luke 22:52-53 sort of fixed another oddity. Instead of Jesus scolding the arresting party for not arresting Him sooner followed by Jesus noting how an earlier arrest would have broken Scripture, in Luke's version Jesus did the same scolding but then explained that this was their hour. It is essentially the same message, but Luke's version is a little more polished, making the contradiction there much less noticeable.

What about John 18:2-12? His account is the same, and yet very, very different. There is no kiss, or any hint at one. Instead, it goes like this:
Jesus and the Disciples went to their usual hangout spot; an olive grove. Judas guided soldiers and officials there to arrest Jesus. Jesus presented Himself for arrest, which made the soldiers and officials fall to the ground. Jesus presented Himself again, and requested that the arresting party let His followers go because the arresting party only wanted Him. Simon Peter cut off an official's ear (who was named Malchus), but Jesus told Simon Peter to stop resisting because this was part of God's plan. Jesus was arrested. (My Paraphrase)
So in John, there is a reason why Judas could find Jesus, there is no kiss and instead has a scene of the arresting party falling to the ground, Jesus acted preemptively to save the others from arrest, and there was no scolding of the arresting party for not arresting Him earlier, but instead the we see Jesus completely accepting this turn of events as all being part of God's plan.

The fact that the High Priest's servant is named again suggests that there was a real servant of the High Priest who had lost an ear (and did not have it miraculously healed), and therefore could have been pointed to in order to add circumstantial evidence to this story.

And a story it is, because there is no way to truly reconcile the events described across these four Gospels exactly as described. This fact is obvious, not only due to the contradictions from one Gospel to the other, but also due to the internal logical contradictions within them, particularly Matthew and Mark.


  1. Nice read TWF.

    The whole Judas story is somehow in oddity with it self and other parts of the gospels. In Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30, Jesus have promised the 12 (Judas included) that they will reign and judge the 12 tribes of Israel along with him!

    How come that Judas, who will burn in Hell for his "betrayal" will reign with Jesus when the kingdom comes?

    Luke is the only one who have realized the problem though. He spends quite a time in Acts 1:12-26 to replace Judas with Matthias by casting lots.

    Luke makes Peter back this apostle replacement with a scripture, as usual, by squashing Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 in a single "prophecy" (that should sound an alarm by it self):

    “‘May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it,’

    “‘May another take his place of leadership.’

    But just looking at Psalm 69:25 you should see how Luke tempers with the old testament:

    "May their place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in their tents."

    THEIR place, NOT his place, and to dwell in their tents, not in it (his place).

    And the one whose leadership should be taken away from in Psalm 109:8 are "people who are wicked and deceitful" (109:2) against David referred as a whole, therefore also plural.

    It is the magic of foreshadowing and rationalization how all this plural to singular works for the folks, aside from the other absurdity.

    Kind regards.

  2. Thanks agema-makedonin. It is funny that you mentioned these psalm "prophesies", because yesterday I started preparing for the next post, which will wrap up this series, and was just reading through those verses. These types of NT prophesies never cease amaze me. Other than the Isaiah 53 references, which at least could somewhat work if you "massage" a few details and ignore the larger context, all of the others are blatantly cherry-picked out of their context, and often are used with altered text, such as how you describe the adjustment of plural-to-singular. It is just crazy, strange, and sad...

  3. Hey TWF,
    you definitely are right about the cherry picking of the "prophecies", taking them out of context and shamelessly editing them.

    Don't forget to consider Paul's resurrection account and where he claims Jesus appeared to the twelve, which makes him ignorant of any Judas betrayal ;))
    Interestingly Orthodox tradition has it that at Jesus resurrection, Jesus went down to hell and have saved Adam & Eve out of there into paradise. Maybe he took Judas too, which would reconcile Paul's appearance claim and the Judas betrayal, although the same tradition is silent about such thing ;)

    Keep up with the good work, definitely enjoy it ^^

  4. Thanks again agema-makedonin. I do not think that I knew about Paul's reference to the Twelve. I will have to check that out!

  5. Hi TWF,
    the reference is in 1 Corinthians 15:5, where he "appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve".

    Kind regards.

  6. Great post, I absolutely love the intro where you highlight the inconsistencies of the gospels.

    BTW, do you listen to the human bible? He talked about the kiss last week and the idea that it was necessary because Jesus was a shapeshifter :) He said it was a perspective that he had never heard before, but went ahead and deconstructed it anyway. It turned out to be pretty amusing.

  7. Thanks Hausdorff!

    No, I have not heard of the human bible. It sounds pretty cool! Maybe in about a month, when my schedule lightens up a bit, I will check it out!

    Argghghh. It has been a busy, busy spring.