Friday, May 3, 2013

Judas Fish, Part 4: The Aftermath

This background will run a little differently than most posts, focusing on the background of Judas Iscariot, as we wrap up his story and this series. It is a story which has been fishy from the beginning...

From the time when the Twelve Disciples/Apostles are introduced to us, Judas Iscariot was labeled a traitor (Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16). In the Synoptic Gospels, that is all you know about Judas until he actively began to betray Jesus, but in John, Jesus implied that Judas would betray Him long before that (John 6:70-71) and Judas was branded both a thief and a traitor when he was given the dishonor of being the one who complained about the waste of money in anointing Jesus with expensive perfume (John 12:4-6).

When Judas allegedly initiated the betrayal of Jesus with the Chief Priests, the Gospels are unclear as to whether he did so on his own, or was controlled by Satan, or was merely influenced by Satan. Even more suspiciously, the Gospel writers recorded more than they could have possibly known regarding the conspiracy, including timing and precise details of this clandestine meeting, as well as Satan's level of influence. Conspicuously, one of the known unknowables is the sum of money exchanged for the betrayal; a sum that conveniently tied into a prophesy. (As usual, this "prophesy" did not hold up to scrutiny when its context was considered.)

During the Last Supper, Jesus revealed that one of the Disciples would betray Him. According to Matthew and John, Judas was explicitly identified as the traitor, but only John records Judas leaving the dinner party at that point, while the other Gospels imply through silence that he stayed with them. Another prophesy referenced Jesus' betrayal by a trusted friend, despite the fact that, according to John, Jesus never trusted Judas. Also according to John, Satan entered Judas once he was identified as the traitor, and yet the other Disciples are portrayed as being clueless as to why Judas left the dinner.

When the hour came, Judas sprang into action, leading men to Jesus to arrest Him. For some strange reason, Judas needed to identify Jesus to the arresting party, despite all of Jesus' miracles and public teaching sessions, and he did so with a kiss... at least according to Matthew and Mark. Luke had Jesus stop the kiss from happening, and John has no reference of a kiss whatsoever, but instead has the arresting party fall down in reaction to Jesus' willingness to let Himself be arrested. In the scuffle, or lack thereof, one of the Disciples cuts an ear off of the High Priest's servant, but only in Luke is there a mention of Jesus miraculously healing of that ear, and Luke curiously neglects to provide any details of the reactions to that miracle.

Sorting through all of these inconsistencies makes the whole story of Judas as the evil traitor seem a bit fishy. Let us see what fleshes out as we follow the aftermath of this Pisces plot.

This is Part 4 of a four part series entitled "Judas Fish." The series entries are:

Judas Fish, Part 4: The Aftermath
Anyone who is familiar with Christianity knows the aftermath of Jesus' arrest; the trial, rejection by the crowd, hanging on the cross, death, and resurrection. However, not nearly as many people are familiar with the story of what happened to the man who betrayed Jesus; Judas. So, what did happen to Judas after the arrest? That depends on who you ask...

Do not "ask" the Gospels of Mark and John, because they do have an answer. And why should they? After all, if Judas was really a traitor, how and why would any of the Disciples know about his whereabouts and activities after the arrest? He was no longer with them. All that we know from Mark 14:21 (copied word-for-word in Matthew 26:24 and partially in Luke 22:22) is that his fate would not have been not good:
"The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." NIV
Of course, not knowing what happened to the man who was responsible for the death of the Savior is not satisfying to our sense of justice! How could Judas have turned against an innocent man and his Salvation?!?! Well, do not worry. Justice was served... possibly. That really depends on your idea of justice.

In Matthew 27:1-10, you will find one type of "justice". Seeing Jesus arrested finally made it all clear to Judas, as we discover from Matthew 27:3-5:
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."
"What is that to us?" they replied. "That’s your responsibility."
Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. NIV
Judas repented. That "evil" man had a change of heart, one that pained him so much that he would rather be dead than to live with memory of his incredible failing. It was the ultimate contrition, as in how Psalm 51:17 renders it:
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. NIV
Yet if we are to believe Jesus' words noted above about Judas' fate, God did despise Judas' repentant heart, despite the words of Isaiah 59:20:
"The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the Lord NIV
and Jesus' own words in Luke 15:7:
"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." NIV
To have Judas repent, but still be punished for his sins, does not mesh well with the message of Salvation. Matthew created quite a paradox in punishing a repentant sinner, even with a sinner as "vile" as Judas.

That is not the only issue Matthew created either. Matthew 27:6-10 records the dilemma the Chief Priests had with what to do with the money Judas had thrown at them. They chose to buy a field with it in which to bury foreigners which they called "The Field of Blood" as a reference to the blood money which bought it; an action which had greater significance than they realized, as Matthew 27:9-10 tells us:
Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me." NIV
If you search Jeremiah, you will not find this prophesy at all, nor in the entire Bible, yet Matthew quotes this as if it is in there. Matthew was likely using some corrupted version of the Scriptures. Yet even in that degenerate version, like we see in too many other NT prophesy references, Matthew ignores the verse's own context. The verse clearly states that they used the money to buy a field per God's command, but the Chief Priests were under no such direction!

The closest reference in the "legitimate" version of Jeremiah is Jeremiah 32:6-9, where someone is fulfilling a prophesy and buying a field for silver, but there is no blood money, no potter, and the price was seventeen silver pieces. The closest reference in all of the Bible comes from Zechariah 11:12-13
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So
they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
And the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-the handsome price
at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them
into the House of the Lord to the potter. NIV
Not surprisingly, this prophesy, too, misses the mark for many reasons, including the lack of a field purchase, but at least there is a potter, a thirty-piece silver payment, and those pieces of silver being thrown into the Temple.

So Matthew has issues, even without considering who was around to record Judas' conversation and money throwing. What about Luke? Luke does not actually mention anything in his Gospel about Judas' fate. Instead, we have to go to Acts, which he also had a hand in authoring.

In Acts 1:15-26, after Jesus went up into Heaven (Acts 1:9-11, because we all know that Heaven is "up", right?), the eleven remaining Disciples decide that the leadership gap left by Judas' departure should be filled. Acts 1:18-19 revealed Judas' fate:
(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) NIV
This is quite a different story than the one told by Matthew; one that drips with the blood of vengeance. Judas does not repent. Nor does he give back his ill-gotten wages, but rather uses them to buy a field. In a case of sweet irony, Judas tripped and fell in that same field, incurring a mortal injury in that "accident". Contrary to Matthew, Acts claims that it is Judas' blood, not Jesus' blood, which gives the field its name.

Why is the account in Acts so different than Matthew? Well, to fulfill prophesy, of course! We see in Acts 1:20:
"For," said Peter, "it is written in the Book of Psalms:
'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’
'May another take his place of leadership.'" NIV
Ah, we have two different prophetic verses to explore. What will we find?

The first one comes from Psalm 69:25. Psalm 69 is essentially a prayer request to God. Looking at Psalm 69:24-26 for more context, we find:
Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them.
May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt. NIV
First, let us consider that these verses are asking God to apply His wrath, not to change hearts and minds for Salvation.

Next, we see that there is a pronoun agreement error between Peter's version (his) and the actual psalm (their). Maybe that is acceptable if we include Judas as one of a larger group, but that is unlikely.

Even more significantly, we find that Peter changed the ending of the verse he quoted; from "in their tents" to "in it". People "in their tents" may refer to laborers, militia, or family. In other words, the prayer is about God making "them" less prosperous. Meanwhile, Peter's "in it" alters the intent, just making it about the land being barren.

Finally, it is amusing to note that the very next verse states that the reason God should apply His wrath to "them" has nothing to do with betrayal, but rather involves mocking those who God is hurting! Yes, God hurts people purposefully. The Father will spank you! ;-)

How about the next prophesy (using that term loosely)? It comes from Psalm 109:8. Psalm 109 is yet another prayer for wrath. Looking at Psalm 109:6-8 for expanded context, we find:
Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser [a.k.a. Satan] stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. NIV
Strangely enough, in Psalm 109:6, "an accuser" is called to oppose this target of wrath. That "accuser" is the same word you find interpreted as Satan. In other words, the prayer is for Satan to oppose this person; for to Satan oppose Judas, as if Satan is working for God... That is perfectly consistent with the Old Testament portrayal of Satan, but less consistent with Christianity. Anyway, Satan did not oppose Judas, but rather (possibly) spurred him on in the act of betrayal of Jesus.

The bulk of Psalm 109 is spiteful, and not at all consistent with turning the other cheek and offering forgiveness. For example, Psalm 109:10 calls for the man's children to become beggars, and Psalm 109:14 asks that his father and his mother also have their sins never forgiven them.

Speaking of spiteful, and of Judas' leadership opening being replaced, we see in Acts1:25 an interesting allusion:
" take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” NIV
Where exactly does Judas belong? As discussed previously, Luke was a firm believer in Hell, as in the fire-and-brimstone, eternal torture version. So, to Luke, that is where a traitor like Judas belongs.

At least, that may be somewhat of a fitting end for Judas if he had not repented, if his story had not been so inconsistent and self-contradictory, and if the referenced prophesies had not been cherry-picked out of context and altered. In other words, if we had any kind of notion of what the truth was back then, then maybe we could make a judgement of Judas' worthiness for Hell...

But, wait a moment. Maybe we do have some information. Maybe there was a Freudian slip somewhere in Scriptures to reveal a hint at the truth. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, we find:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born. NIV
Paul records that Jesus appeared to the Twelve after His resurrection, not the Eleven. Judas was with the other Disciples, which is exceedingly odd for a man who had hung himself prior to Jesus getting hung on the cross... unless the whole, rotten, fishy story of the betrayal was made up.

This makes me wonder: What if Judas' betrayal was not of Jesus, but of the Disciples? What if Jesus was never resurrected, but instead His Disciples came up with that idea, and at some later point Judas refused to go along with that scheme?

Or, what if an imposter claimed to be Jesus resurrected, and, while the other Disciples bought off on him, Judas remained skeptical? That latter suggestion actually has some strength to it, as the Disciples and others are recorded as having difficulty recognizing Jesus after the resurrection (Matthew 28:16-17, Luke 24:13-35, John 20:14, John 21:4). In other words, what if Judas was not as much a traitor than a whistle blower, who was killed mafia-style for becoming a threat to the "family" of believers? That sure makes more sense to me than what is being passed off as the "truth" here.


  1. Whoa! The fact that when Jesus came back he looked different has bothered me since I read the gospels about a year ago. Judas being the only one not going along with it and then being killed makes way too much sense. I love it :)

  2. Thanks! I am not really much of a conspiracy theorist, Hausdorff, but it really does make more sense to me too! :-) The way the story reads is more like a poor attempt to frame Judas than an actual history.

  3. TWF:

    Technically, it should be noted that 'Jeremiah' is reported as saying the LORD commanded "me"(that is the speaker).

    Two quotes by those offering solutions:

    "(x) According to Brown, Death, p. 651, ‘he most plausible [explanation] is that in 27:9–10 Matt is presenting a mixed citation with words taken both from Zech and Jer, and …he refers to that combination by one name’ Jeremiah 18–19 concerns a potter (18:2f; 19:1), a purchase (19:1), the Valley of Hinnom (where the Field of Blood is traditionally located, 19:2), ‘innocent blood’(19:4), and the renaming of a place for burial (19:6, 11); and Jer 32:6–15 tells of the purchase of a field with silver.

    "We accept solution (x), for not only was it common practice to substitute part of one verse for part of another, that is, to create conflated citations, but, in early Christian circles, such citations were sometimes attributed to one rather than two sources. Mk 1:2 attributes Mal 3:1 + Isa 40:3 to Isaiah. Rom 9:27 assigns Hos 2:1 + Isa 10:22 to the same prophet. Mt 2:5– attributes to ‘the prophet’ a quotation from Mic 5:2 + 2 Sam 5:2 = 1 Chr 11:2, and 21:5 prefaces its conflation of Isa 62:11 and Zech 9:9 with ‘the word through the prophet saying’ Mt 27:9–10 is one more example of this phenomenon. That Jeremiah is named rather than Zechariah (who is never assigned a quotation in the NT despite several citations) may be due to the prominence of the former or to his reputation as the prophet of doom or to Matthew's desire to call attention to what might otherwise be missed (whereas the use of Zechariah is obvious; cf. Senior). The effect in any event is to prod us to read Zech 11:13 in the light of Jer 18:1ff. (the allegory of the potter) and 32:6–15 (Jeremiah’ purchase of a field with silver). [International Critical Commentary]



  4. "While commenting on what happened to Judas Iscariot and his blood money, Matthew introduces a reference to the prophets as part of his favorite theme of the fulfillment of Scripture. He clearly cites Jeremiah as the prophet who gave the saying, but the saying itself is from Zechariah 11:12–13. Did Matthew make a mistake?
    The quotation is not entirely a quotation of Zechariah. The majority of the quotation does come from Zechariah 11:13, but there is a change from the first person singular (“I”) to the third plural (“they”). Furthermore, there is no field mentioned in Zechariah (in fact, in Matthew the NSRV follows the Syriac translation and has “the treasury” instead of “the potter” because Matthew clearly is not quoting Zechariah about the location). Finally, Zechariah does not include the phrase “as the Lord commanded me.”
    Second, Jeremiah is also involved with potters (Jer 17:1–11; 19:1–13—in this second passage he purchases something from a potter). Furthermore, Jeremiah purchases a field (Jer 32:6–15), although the price is seventeen pieces of silver rather than thirty. Finally, Jeremiah 13:5 has the phrase “as the Lord commanded me” (RSV) (which also has to do with a purchase).
    In the first century the Old Testament did not come as a bound volume with chapters and verses. Instead, the work was a series of scrolls. Shorter books were often put together on a single scroll. For example, Zechariah would be part of “The Book of the Twelve,” a single scroll containing all twelve minor prophets. There were paragraph divisions, but they were not numbered. It would be after A.D. 1500 before chapter and verse divisions and numbering were introduced. That means that Jesus in Matthew would have cited an Old Testament passage simply by the name of the author.
    When it came to interpreting the Old Testament, it was common to bring passages together based on words they had in common (this is the second of Hillel the Elder’s seven rules of interpretation). In this case, it is clear that Jeremiah and Zechariah have several words in common, especially potter and shekel. Probably potter is the key term. As even the English reader might suspect from the information above, the quotation in Matthew is really Zechariah mixed with several phrases taken from Jeremiah. Again, we need to remember that while this may not be an acceptable way of citing Scripture today (although it is still done by accident!), it was a perfectly acceptable technique in the Palestine of Matthew’s day. (Matthew was probably written in Syria or northern Palestine; he is certainly focused on the Jewish community. Thus he reflects the usage of Scripture in such communities.)
    What we have, then, is Matthew pulling together at least two texts in Jeremiah with one text in Zechariah to show that there was a type of biblical prefiguring of Judas’s actions, down to the amount of blood money and the fact that it was given to a potter and was used for the purchase of a field. While the logic of this type of exegesis is strange to the modern Western way of thinking, it would have been viewed as quite normal in Matthew’s time. Likewise it was normal for Matthew to cite the more important prophet, Jeremiah, despite the fact that most of his material came from Zechariah. Thus judged by first-century standards, Matthew is quite accurate and acceptable in what he does." [Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (pp. 399–400). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.]

    I think that they are appealing to Midrashic combinations of Scripture. That said, on one point there is backing for "the prophets" reading being original. Nevertheless, given that Matthew is regarded as the "Jewish Gospel" such would be sensible therein.

    May all be well with you,
    Felix Zamora

  5. TWF:

    Here's something related to the whole "fulfilled" thing from a random internet user that explains the general understanding of the alternative form better than I.

    BroRog is offline Coffee Break

    Join Date
    May 2008
    under the pain of the wish

    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    I'm not sure I'm following what you're saying.
    It's basically the way Astro described. The Lord, through the prophets, gave both predictions and promises. And many of the predicted events were given to lend credence to the promises.

    Let's look at an example.

    Matthew 2:13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord ^appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. [This was] to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son."

    In this case, we have no predicted event at all. The verse comes out of Hosea 11:1, which is not a prediction of a future event, but rather it looks backward to the Exodus. Matthew says that Jesus' trip to Egypt and subsequent return is a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. What does he mean "fulfill" in this case in which it is clear that Hosea 11:1 wasn't a statement about the future, but a statement about the past? The answer, it seems to me, is that Matthew sees a lose, incidental connection between calling the sons of Jacob out of Egypt during the Exodus, liberating Israel from slavery, and God's preservation of the savior of Israel by sending him into Egypt in a bit of irony. But he also sees a strong connection between the Exodus story and God's supernatural protection of the savior of the world. In this case, Matthew is using the term "fulfill", to mean "bring to completion". When we read the word "fulfill" we often understand it to mean, "That which has been foretold has come to pass." But Matthew uses the term to mean, "Here is another case in which God has brought his promises to a fuller completion."

    Something like that anyway."

    Sorry for the many posts,
    Felix Zamora

  6. TWF:

    I'm fairly certain the reconciliation of the text runs like this:
    1.) Judas betrays Jesus and receives payment
    A.1.) Judas buys a field (the potter's field)
    M.1) Judas sees that Jesus was condemned
    M.2) Judas returns the money
    L.2) Judas hangs himself
    L.3) Judas falls headlong
    M.3) The scribes buy the same field (possibly implied to be Judas's or at least a known one as it is "the" potter's field
    --or M.3), L.2), L.3)
    2.) The fact that the field was bought with blood money and was also the site of the gruesome after-effects of suicide result in it gaining the name of the field of blood. I think I've read that the fact that Judas "burst open" implies post-mortem bloating and such, and might even be necessary for the whole spilling

    On the Zechariah comment, the borrowing from Jeremiah might be intended as a "clarifying" quotation. That is to say, what is to be understood by the saying that money was thrown to the potter. The insertion of "the children of Israel" might be considered a [bracketed] insertion to explain who the they were. I think the latter is a fair insertion based on the source text as leaders are regarded as the representative of a people.

    May all be well with you,
    Felix Zamora

  7. Hi Felix,

    That is some interesting and alarming information. I am not sure how else to describe it. We are trying to figure out the truth here, right? I suspect that is ever more impossible if we consider it permissible to remove not only one, but multiple verses from their context, and mash them together into one conglomerate. I am fairly certain that we could make the Bible tell us nearly anything we wanted to, and support nearly any proposition or purpose that we had, given such liberty.

    I find the comment that "Thus judged by first-century standards, Matthew is quite accurate and acceptable in what he does." a bit ironic, given that Jesus allegedly railed against several practices of the Pharisees which were viewed as "accurate and acceptable" back then. And why did He do so? Because it wasn't in God's word, just like these conflated quotes are not in God's word.

    I mean, doesn't that give you pause? How can you stand by passively against such corruption of the text, even if it is an attempt to support your case? Shouldn't you demand that your truth be unadulterated?

    As for the fulfillment of non-fulfill-able scriptures, well, I will leave you to discern if that is the right thing to do or not. It is a well argued position, but, to paraphrase George Carlin, language is a tool used by and large to conceal the truth.

    Do you remember the post-resurrection account where Jesus enlightened the Disciples about how throughout the Scriptures there were prophesies about Him? Do you think that these are the kinds of rather weak connections He made? Surely there was something better than that.

    Best wishes to you,