Judas Iscariot

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Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century The-Last-Supper-large.jpg
Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century
The Kiss of Judas (between 1304 and 1306) by Giotto di Bondone depicts Judas' identifying kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane Giotto - Scrovegni - -31- - Kiss of Judas.jpg
The Kiss of Judas (between 1304 and 1306) by Giotto di Bondone depicts Judas' identifying kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane

Judas Iscariot ( /ˈdəsɪˈskærɪət/ ; Biblical Hebrew: יהודה, romanized: Yehûdâh, lit.  'God is praised'; Greek: Ὶούδας Ὶσκαριώτης) (died c.30 – c.33 AD) was a disciple and one of the original Twelve Disciples of Jesus Christ. According to all four canonical gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him and addressing him as "rabbi" to reveal his identity to the crowd who had come to arrest him. [1] His name is often used synonymously with betrayal or treason. Judas's epithet Iscariot most likely means he came from the village of Kerioth, but this explanation is not universally accepted and many other possibilities have been suggested.

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is a translation of a text done by translating each word separately, without looking at how the words are used together in a phrase or sentence.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3500 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Disciple (Christianity) followers of Jesus, Christian perspective

In Christianity, disciple primarily refers to a dedicated follower of Jesus. This term is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and Acts. In the ancient world a disciple is a follower or adherent of a teacher. It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.


The Gospel of Mark, the earliest gospel, gives no motive for Judas's betrayal, but does present Jesus predicting it at the Last Supper, an event also described in all the later gospels. The Gospel of Matthew 26:15 states that Judas committed the betrayal in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. The Gospel of Luke 22:3 and the Gospel of John 13:27 suggest that he was possessed by Satan. According to Matthew 27:1–10 , after learning that Jesus was to be crucified, Judas attempted to return the money he had been paid for his betrayal to the chief priests and committed suicide by hanging. The priests used the money to buy a field to bury strangers in, which was called the "Field of Blood" because it had been bought with blood money. The Book of Acts 1:18 quotes Peter as saying that Judas used the money to buy the field himself and, he "[fell] headlong... burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." His place among the Twelve Apostles was later filled by Matthias.

Gospel of Mark Book of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Mark is one of the four canonical gospels and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb – there is no genealogy of Jesus or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker. Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret, concealing it in parables so that even most of the disciples fail to understand. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.

Jesus predicts his betrayal

Jesus predicts his betrayal three times in the New Testament, a narrative which is included in all four Canonical Gospels. This prediction takes place during the Last Supper in Matthew 26:24-25, Mark 14:18-21, Luke 22:21-23, and John 13:21-30.

Last Supper Final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion

The Last Supper, also known as the Passover meal, is the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is commemorated by Christians especially on Maundy Thursday. The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as "Holy Communion" or "The Lord's Supper".

Due to his notorious role in all the gospel narratives, Judas remains a controversial figure in Christian history. For instance, Judas's betrayal is seen as setting in motion the events that led to Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection, which, according to traditional Christian theology, brought salvation to humanity. The Gnostic Gospel of Judas  – rejected by the mainstream Church as heretical  – praises Judas for his role in triggering humanity's salvation and exalts Judas as the best of the apostles. Since the Middle Ages, Judas has sometimes been portrayed as a personification of the Jewish people and his betrayal has been used to justify Christian antisemitism.

Resurrection of Jesus Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion

The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion as first of the dead, starting his exalted life as Christ and Lord. In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's parousia. For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by spirit, as described by Paul and the Gospels, that led to the establishment of Christianity.

Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:

Gnosticism variety of religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish Christian milieux

Gnosticism is a collection of ancient religious ideas and systems which originated in the first century CE among Jewish and early Christian groups. These various sectarian groups, labeled "gnostics" by their opponents, emphasised personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) over faith in orthodox teachings and ecclesiastical authority. They were regarded as heretics by the Fathers of the early church. Influenced by sources such as Hellenistic Judaism and Middle Platonism, Gnostic beliefs flourished in the Mediterranean world until the second century, after which a decline set in. In the Persian Empire, Gnostic ideas spread as far as China via Manichaeism, while Mandaeism is still alive in Iraq.


Although Judas Iscariot's historical existence is generally widely accepted among secular historians, [2] [3] [4] [5] this relative consensus has not gone entirely unchallenged. [3] The earliest possible allusion to Judas comes from the First Epistle to the Corinthians 11:23-24 , in which Paul the Apostle does not mention Judas by name, [6] [7] but uses the passive voice of the Greek word paradídōmi (παραδίδωμι), which most Bible translations render as "was betrayed": [6] [7] "...the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread..." [6] Nonetheless, many biblical scholars argue that the word paradídōmi should be translated as "was handed over". [6] [7] This translation could still refer to Judas, [6] [7] but it could also instead refer to God metaphorically "handing Jesus over" to the Romans. [6]

First Epistle to the Corinthians Book of the Bible (Letter)

The First Epistle to the Corinthians, usually referred to as First Corinthians or 1 Corinthians is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Sosthenes, and is addressed to the Christian church in Corinth. Scholars believe that Sosthenes was the amanuensis who wrote down the text of the letter at Paul's direction. It addresses various issues that had arisen in the Christian community at Corinth.

Paul the Apostle Early Christian apostle and missionary

Paul the Apostle, commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus, was an apostle who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. Paul is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age and in the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences.

In his book Antisemitism and Modernity (2006), the Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby suggests that, in the New Testament, the name "Judas" was constructed as an attack on the Judaeans or on the Judaean religious establishment held responsible for executing Jesus. [8] [9] In his book The Sins of Scripture (2009), John Shelby Spong concurs with this argument, [10] [11] insisting, "The whole story of Judas has the feeling of being contrived ... The act of betrayal by a member of the twelve disciples is not found in the earliest Christian writings. Judas is first placed into the Christian story by the Gospel of Mark (3:19 ), who wrote in the early years of the eighth decade of the Common Era." [10]

Hyam Maccoby was a British scholar and dramatist specialising in the study of the Jewish and Christian religious tradition. His grandfather and namesake was Rabbi Hyam Maccoby (1858–1916), better known as the "Kamenitzer Maggid", a passionate religious Zionist and advocate of vegetarianism and animal welfare.

John Shelby Spong American bishop

John Shelby "Jack" Spong is a retired bishop of the Episcopal Church. From 1979 to 2000, he was the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. A liberal Christian theologian, religion commentator and author, he calls for a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief away from theism and traditional doctrines.

Most scholars reject these arguments for non-historicity, [4] [12] [13] [14] noting that there is nothing in the gospels to associate Judas with Judeans except his name, which was an extremely common one for Jewish men during the first century, [12] [15] [7] and that numerous other figures named "Judas" are mentioned throughout the New Testament, none of whom are portrayed negatively. [12] [15] [7] Positive figures named Judas mentioned in the New Testament include the prophet Judas Barsabbas (Acts 15:22-33), Jesus's brother Jude (Mark 6:3; Matt 13:55; Jude 1), and the apostle Judas the son of James (Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13; John 14:22). [12] B. J. Oropeza argues that Christians should not repeat the historic tragedy of associating Judas Iscariot with the Judeans but regard him instead as an emergent Christian apostate, and hence, one of their own. [12] His betrayal over a sum of money warns auditors against the vice of greed. [12]

New Testament Second division of the Christian biblical canon

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.

Judas Barsabbas was a New Testament prophet and one of the 'leading men' in the early Christian community in Jerusalem at the time of the Council of Jerusalem in around 50 A.D.

Brothers of Jesus four men (James, Joseph/Joses, Judas, Simon) described as brothers of Jesus, along with unnamed sisters; in Christian denominations teaching the perpetual virginity of Mary, rationalized as half-siblings or other relatives

The New Testament describes James, Joseph (Joses), Judas (Jude), and Simon as brothers of Jesus. Also mentioned, but not named, are sisters of Jesus. Some scholars argue that these brothers, especially James, held positions of special honor in the early Christian church.


Name and background

Judas Iscariot (between 1886 and 1894) by James Tissot Brooklyn Museum - Judas Iscariot (Judas Iscariote) - James Tissot.jpg
Judas Iscariot (between 1886 and 1894) by James Tissot

The name Judas (Ὶούδας) is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Judah (יהודה, Yehûdâh, Hebrew for "God is praised"), which was an extremely common name for Jewish men during the first century AD, due to the renowned hero Judas Maccabeus. [15] [7] Consequently, numerous other figures with this name are mentioned throughout the New Testament. [12] [15] [7] In the Gospel of Mark 3:13-19 , the earliest of all the gospels, which was written in the mid 60s or early 70s AD, Judas Iscariot is the only apostle named Judas. [7] Matthew 10:2-4 follows this portrayal. [7] The Gospel of Luke 6:12-19 , however, replaces the apostle whom Mark and Matthew call "Thaddeus" with "Judas son of James". [7] Peter Stanford suggests that this renaming may represent an effort by the author of the Gospel of Luke to create a "good Judas" in contrast to the betrayer Judas Iscariot. [7]

Judas's epithet Iscariot (Ὶσκάριωθ or Ὶσκαριώτης), which distinguishes him from the other people named Judas in the gospels, is usually thought to be a Greek rendering of the Hebrew phrase איש־קריות, (Κ-Qrîyôt), meaning "the man from Kerioth". [15] [7] [16] This interpretation is supported by the statement in the Gospel of John 6:71 that Judas was "the son of Simon Iscariot". [7] Nonetheless, this interpretation of the name is not fully accepted by all scholars. [15] [7] One of the most popular alternative explanations holds that Iscariot (ܣܟܪܝܘܛܐ 'Skaryota' in Syriac Aramaic, per the Peshitta text) may be a corruption of the Latin word sicarius, meaning "dagger man", [15] [7] [17] [18] which referred to a member of the Sicarii (סיקריים in Aramaic), a group of Jewish rebels who were known for committing acts of terrorism in the 40s and 50s AD by assassinating people in crowds using long knives hidden under their cloaks. [15] [7] This interpretation is problematic, however, because there is nothing in the gospels to associate Judas with the Sicarii, [7] and there is no evidence that the cadre existed during the 30s AD when Judas was alive. [19] [7]

A possibility advanced by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg is that Iscariot means "the liar" or "the false one," perhaps from the Aramaic אִשְׁקַרְיָא. [20] Stanford rejects this, noting that the gospel-writers follow Judas's name with the statement that he betrayed Jesus, so it would be redundant for them to call him "the false one" before immediately stating that he was a traitor. [7] Some have proposed that the word derives from an Aramaic word meaning "red color," from the root סקר. [21] Another hypothesis holds that the word derives from one of the Aramaic roots סכר or סגר. This would mean "to deliver," based on the LXX rendering of Isaiah 19:4 – a theory advanced by J. Alfred Morin. [20] The epithet could also be associated with the manner of Judas's death, i.e., hanging. This would mean Iscariot derives from a kind of Greek-Aramaic hybrid: אִסְכַּרְיוּתָא, Iskarioutha, "chokiness" or "constriction." This might indicate that the epithet was applied posthumously by the remaining disciples, but Joan E. Taylor has argued that it was a descriptive name given to Judas by Jesus, since other disciples such as Simon Peter/Cephas (Kephas "rock") were also given such names. [20]

Role as an apostle

Calling of the Apostles (1481) by Domenico Ghirlandaio Ghirlandaio, Domenico - Calling of the Apostles - 1481.jpg
Calling of the Apostles (1481) by Domenico Ghirlandaio

One of the best-attested and most reliable statements made by Jesus in the gospels comes from the Gospel of Matthew 19:28 , in which Jesus tells his apostles: "in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne, you will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." [22] New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman concludes, "This is not a tradition that was likely to have been made up by a Christian later, after Jesus's death—since one of these twelve had abandoned his cause and betrayed him. No one thought that Judas Iscariot would be seated on a glorious throne in the Kingdom of God. That saying, therefore appears to go back to Jesus, and indicates, then, that he had twelve close disciples, whom he predicted would reign in the coming Kingdom." [22]

Although the canonical gospels frequently disagree on the names of some of the minor apostles, [22] all four of them list Judas Iscariot as one of them. [22] [7] The Synoptic Gospels state that Jesus sent out "the twelve" (including Judas) with power over unclean spirits and with a ministry of preaching and healing: Judas clearly played an active part in this apostolic ministry alongside the other eleven. [23] However, in John's Gospel, Judas's outlook was differentiated - many of Jesus' disciples abandoned him because of the difficulty of accepting his teachings, and Jesus asked the twelve if they would also leave him. Simon Peter spoke for the twelve: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," but Jesus observed then that although Judas was one of the twelve whom he had chosen, he was "a devil." [24]

A 16th century fresco depicting Judas being paid the 30 pieces of silver 6852 les deniers de judas.JPG
A 16th century fresco depicting Judas being paid the 30 pieces of silver

Matthew directly states that Judas betrayed Jesus for a bribe of "thirty pieces of silver" [25] [26] by identifying him with a kiss – "the kiss of Judas" – to arresting soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas, who then turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate's soldiers.

Mark's Gospel states that the chief priests were looking for a way to arrest Jesus. They decided not to do so during the feast [of the Passover], since they were afraid that people would riot; [27] instead, they chose the night before the feast to arrest him. According to Luke's account, Satan entered Judas at this time. [28]

According to the account in the Gospel of John, Judas carried the disciples' money bag or box (Greek : γλωσσόκομον, glōssokomon), [29] but John's Gospel makes no mention of the thirty pieces of silver as a fee for betrayal. The evangelist comments in John 12:5–6 that Judas spoke fine words about giving money to the poor, but the reality was "not that he cared for the poor, but [that] he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it." However, in John 13:27–30, when Judas left the gathering of Jesus and his disciples with betrayal in mind, [30] some [of the disciples] thought that Judas might have been leaving to buy supplies or on a charitable errand.

Ehrman argues that Judas's betrayal "is about as historically certain as anything else in the tradition", [2] [15] pointing out that the betrayal is independently attested in the Gospel of Mark, in the Gospel of John, and in the Book of Acts. [2] [15] Ehrman also contends that it is highly unlikely that early Christians would have made the story of Judas's betrayal up, since it reflects poorly on Jesus's judgement in choosing him as an apostle. [2] [31] Nonetheless, Ehrman argues that what Judas actually told the authorities was not Jesus's location, but rather Jesus's secret teaching that he was the Messiah. [2] This, he holds, explains why the authorities did not try to arrest Jesus prior to Judas's betrayal. [2] John P. Meier sums up the historical consensus, stating, "We only know two basic facts about [Judas]: (1) Jesus chose him as one of the Twelve, and (2) he handed over Jesus to the Jerusalem authorities, thus precipitating Jesus' execution." [32]


16th-century fresco from Tarzhishte Monastery, Strupets, Bulgaria, showing Judas hanging himself as described in Matthew 27:1-10 Judas Iscariot from Tarzhishte Monastery.jpg
16th-century fresco from Tarzhishte Monastery, Strupets, Bulgaria, showing Judas hanging himself as described in Matthew 27:1–10

Many different accounts of Judas' death have survived from antiquity, both within and outside the New Testament. [33] [34] Matthew 27:1–10 states that, after learning that Jesus was to be crucified, Judas was overcome by remorse and attempted to return the 30 pieces of silver to the priests, but they would not accept them because they were blood money, so he threw them on the ground and left. Afterwards, he committed suicide by hanging himself. [35] The priests used the money to buy a potter's field, which became known as "the Field of Blood" because it had been bought with blood money. [35] Acts 1:18 states that Judas used the money to buy a field, [35] [36] and "[fell] headlong... burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." [35] The field became known as Akeldama, which means "the Field of Blood" in Aramaic, because it was covered in Judas's blood, [35] and it was used to bury strangers. [35] In this account, Judas' death is apparently by accident [35] and he shows no signs of remorse. [35]

The early Church Father Papias of Hierapolis (c. 60–130 AD) recorded in his Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord, which was probably written during the first decade of the second century AD, that Judas was afflicted by God's wrath; [37] [38] his body became so enormously bloated that he could not pass through a street with buildings on either side. [37] [38] His face became so swelled up that a doctor could not even identify the location of his eyes using an optical instrument. [37] Judas' genitals became enormously swollen and oozed with pus and worms. [37] Finally, he killed himself on his own land by pouring out his innards onto the ground, [37] [38] which stank so horribly that, even in Papias' own time a century later, people still could not pass the site without holding their noses. [37] [38] This story was well-known among Christians in antiquity [38] and was often told in competition with the two conflicting stories from the New Testament. [38]

According to the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which was probably written in the fourth century AD, Judas was overcome with remorse [39] and went home to tell his wife, who was roasting a chicken on a spit over a charcoal fire, that he was going to kill himself, because he knew Jesus would rise from the dead and, when he did, he would punish him. [39] Judas's wife laughed and told him that Jesus could no more rise from the dead than he could resurrect the chicken she was cooking. [33] Immediately, the chicken was restored to life and began to crow. [37] Judas then ran away and hanged himself. [37] In the apocryphal Gospel of Judas, Judas has a vision of the disciples stoning and persecuting him. [40]

The obvious discrepancy between the two radically different accounts of Judas's death in Matthew 27:1–10 and Acts 1:18 has proven to be a serious challenge to those who support the idea of Biblical inerrancy. [39] [38] [41] This problem was one of the points leading C. S. Lewis, for example, to reject the view "that every statement in Scripture must be historical truth". [42] Nonetheless, various attempts at harmonization have been suggested. [38] Generally they have followed literal interpretations such as that of Augustine of Hippo, which suggest that these simply describe different aspects of the same event – that Judas hanged himself in the field, and the rope eventually snapped and the fall burst his body open, [43] [44] or that the accounts of Acts and Matthew refer to two different transactions. [45] Some have taken the descriptions as figurative: that the "falling prostrate" was Judas in anguish, [lower-alpha 1] and the "bursting out of the bowels" is pouring out emotion. [lower-alpha 2]

Modern scholars reject these approaches. [46] [47] [48] Arie W. Zwiep states that "neither story was meant to be read in light of the other" [38] and that "the integrity of both stories as complete narratives in themselves is seriously disrespected when the two separate stories are being conflated into a third, harmonized version." [38] David A. Reed argues that the Matthew account is a midrashic exposition that allows the author to present the event as a fulfillment of prophetic passages from the Old Testament. They argue that the author adds imaginative details such as the thirty pieces of silver, and the fact that Judas hangs himself, to an earlier tradition about Judas's death. [49]

Matthew's description of the death as fulfilment of a prophecy "spoken through Jeremiah the prophet" has caused difficulties, since it does not clearly correspond to any known version of the Book of Jeremiah but does appear to refer to a story from the Book of Zechariah [50] which describes the return of a payment of thirty pieces of silver. [51] Even writers such as Jerome and John Calvin concluded that this was obviously an error. [lower-alpha 3] Modern scholars however have usually explained apparent discrepancies of this sort as arising from a Jewish practice of citing the Major Prophet in a scroll group to refer to the whole content of the scroll group, including books written by minor prophets placed in the grouping. [52]

More recently, scholars have suggested that the Gospel writer may also have had a passage from Jeremiah in mind, [53] such as chapters 18:1–4 and 19:1–13 which refer to a potter's jar and a burial place, and chapter 32:6–15 which refers to a burial place and an earthenware jar. [54] Raymond Brown suggested, "the most plausible [explanation] is that Matthew 27:9–10 is presenting a mixed citation with words taken both from Zechariah and Jeremiah, and ... he refers to that combination by one name. Jeremiah 18–9 concerns a potter (18:2–; 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 32:6–5 tells of the purchase of a field with silver." [55] Randel Helms gives this as an example of the 'fictional and imaginative' use by early Christians of the Old Testament: "Matthew's source has blended Jeremiah's buying of a field and placing the deed in a pot with Zechariah's casting of 30 pieces of silver down in the temple and the purchase of the Potter's Field." [56]


Betrayal of Jesus

The Betrayal Peter raises his sword; Judas hangs himself. Illumination from a western manuscript, c. 1504 The Betrayal Peter raises his sword; Judas hangs himself (f. 45v) Cropped.jpg
The Betrayal Peter raises his sword; Judas hangs himself. Illumination from a western manuscript, c. 1504
The Kiss of Judas Iscariot, coloured engraving, 15th century. Le baiser de Judas Heures Charles d'Angouleme XVe.jpg
The Kiss of Judas Iscariot, coloured engraving, 15th century.

There are several explanations as to why Judas betrayed Jesus. [57] In the earliest account, in the Gospel of Mark, when he goes to the chief priests to betray Jesus, he is offered money as a reward, but it is not clear that money is his motivation. [58] In the Gospel of Matthew account, on the other hand, he asks what they will pay him for handing Jesus over. [59] In the Gospel of Luke [60] and the Gospel of John, [61] the devil enters into Judas, causing him to offer to betray Jesus. The Gospel of John account has Judas complaining that money has been spent on expensive perfumes to anoint Jesus which could have been spent on the poor, but adds that he was the keeper of the apostles' purse and used to steal from it. [62]

One suggestion has been that Judas expected Jesus to overthrow Roman rule of Judea. In this view, Judas is a disillusioned disciple betraying Jesus not so much because he loved money, but because he loved his country and thought Jesus had failed it. [57] Another is that Jesus was causing unrest likely to increase tensions with the Roman authorities and they thought he should be restrained until after the Passover, when everyone had gone back home and the commotion had died down. [63]

The Gospels suggest that Jesus foresaw (John 6:64, Matthew 26:25) and allowed Judas' betrayal (John 13:27–28). [41] One explanation is that Jesus allowed the betrayal because it would allow God's plan to be fulfilled. Another is that regardless of the betrayal, Jesus was ultimately destined for crucifixion. [64] In April 2006, a Coptic papyrus manuscript titled the Gospel of Judas from 200 AD was translated, suggesting that Jesus told Judas to betray him, [65] although some scholars question the translation. [66] [67]

Judas is the subject of philosophical writings. Origen of Alexandria, in his Commentary on John's Gospel, reflected on Judas's interactions with the other apostles and Jesus' confidence in him prior to his betrayal. [68] Other philosophical reflections on Judas include The Problem of Natural Evil by Bertrand Russell and "Three Versions of Judas," a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. They allege various problematic ideological contradictions with the discrepancy between Judas' actions and his eternal punishment. Bruce Reichenbach argues that if Jesus foresees Judas' betrayal, then the betrayal is not an act of free will, [69] and therefore should not be punishable. Conversely, it is argued that just because the betrayal was foretold, it does not prevent Judas from exercising his own free will in this matter. [70] Other scholars argue that Judas acted in obedience to God's will. [71] The gospels suggest that Judas is apparently bound up with the fulfillment of God's purposes (John 13:18, John 17:12, Matthew 26:23–25, Luke 22:21–22, Matt 27:9–10, Acts 1:16, Acts 1:20), [41] yet "woe is upon him", and he would "have been better unborn" (Matthew 26:23–25). The difficulty inherent in the saying is its paradox: if Judas had not been born, the Son of Man would apparently no longer do "as it is written of him." The consequence of this apologetic approach is that Judas' actions come to be seen as necessary and unavoidable, yet leading to condemnation. [72] Another explanation is that Judas' birth and betrayal did not necessitate the only way the Son of Man could have suffered and been crucified. The earliest churches believed "as it is written of him" to be prophetic, fulfilling Scriptures such as that of the suffering servant in Isaiah 52-53 and the righteous one in Psalm 22, which do not require betrayal (at least by Judas) as the means to the suffering. Regardless of any necessity, Judas is held responsible for his act (Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22; Matt 26:24). [73]

Erasmus believed that Judas was free to change his intention, but Martin Luther argued in rebuttal that Judas' will was immutable. John Calvin states that Judas was predestined to damnation, but writes on the question of Judas' guilt: "surely in Judas' betrayal, it will be no more right, because God himself willed that his son be delivered up and delivered him up to death, to ascribe the guilt of the crime to God than to transfer the credit for redemption to Judas." [74] The Catholic Church has no view on his damnation. The Vatican only proclaims individuals' Eternal Salvation through the Canon of Saints. There is no 'Canon of the Damned', nor any official proclamation of the damnation of Judas.

It is speculated that Judas's damnation, which seems possible from the Gospels' text, may not stem from his betrayal of Christ, but from the despair which caused him to subsequently commit suicide. [75]

In his book The Passover Plot (1965), British New Testament scholar Hugh J. Schonfield suggested that the crucifixion of Christ was a conscious re-enactment of Biblical prophecy and that Judas acted with the full knowledge and consent of Jesus in "betraying" him to the authorities. The book has been variously described as 'factually groundless', [76] based on 'little data' and 'wild suppositions', [77] 'disturbing' and 'tawdry'. [78]

In his 1970 book Theologie der Drei Tage (English translation: Mysterium Paschale ), Hans Urs von Balthasar emphasizes that Jesus was not betrayed but surrendered and delivered up by himself, since the meaning of the Greek word used by the New Testament, paradidonai (παραδιδόναι, Latin : tradere ), is unequivocally "handing over of self". [79] [80] In the "Preface to the Second Edition", Balthasar takes a cue from Revelation 13:8 [81] (Vulgate: agni qui occisus est ab origine mundi, NIV: "the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world") to extrapolate the idea that God as "immanent Trinity" can endure and conquer godlessness, abandonment, and death in an "eternal super-kenosis". [82] [83]

Role in apocrypha

Judas has been a figure of great interest to esoteric groups, such as many Gnostic sects. Irenaeus records the beliefs of one Gnostic sect, the Cainites, who believed that Judas was an instrument of the Sophia, Divine Wisdom, thus earning the hatred of the Demiurge. His betrayal of Jesus thus was a victory over the materialist world. The Cainites later split into two groups, disagreeing over the ultimate significance of Jesus in their cosmology.

The Syriac Infancy Gospel

The Syriac Infancy Gospel [84] borrows from some the different versions of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. [85] However, it adds many of its own tales, probably from local legends, including one of Judas. This pseudepigraphic work tells how Judas, as a boy, was possessed by Satan, who caused him to bite himself or anyone else present. In one of these attacks, Judas bit the young Jesus in the side; and, by touching Him, Satan was exorcised. It further states that the side which Judas supposedly bit was the same side that was pierced by the Holy Lance at the Crucifixion. [86]

Gospel of Judas

First page of the Gospel of Judas (Page 33 of Codex Tchacos) Codex Tchacos p33.jpg
First page of the Gospel of Judas (Page 33 of Codex Tchacos)

During the 1970s, a Coptic papyrus codex (book) was discovered near Beni Masah, Egypt. It appeared to be a 3rd- or 4th-century-AD copy of a 2nd-century original, [87] [88] relating a series of conversations in which Jesus and Judas interact and discuss the nature of the universe from a Gnostic viewpoint. The discovery was given dramatic international exposure in April 2006 when the US National Geographic magazine published a feature article entitled "The Gospel of Judas" with images of the fragile codex and analytical commentary by relevant experts and interested observers (but not a comprehensive translation). The article's introduction stated: "An ancient text lost for 1,700 years says Christ's betrayer was his truest disciple." [89] The article points to some evidence that the original document was extant in the 2nd century: "Around A.D. 180, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon in what was then Roman Gaul, wrote a massive treatise called Against Heresies [in which he attacked] a 'fictitious history,' which 'they style the Gospel of Judas.'" [90]

Before the magazine's edition was circulated, other news media gave exposure to the story, abridging and selectively reporting it. [65]

In December 2007, a New York Times op-ed article by April DeConick asserted that the National Geographic's translation is badly flawed: For example, in one instance the National Geographic transcription refers to Judas as a "daimon," which the society’s experts have translated as "spirit." However, the universally accepted word for "spirit" is "pneuma"—in Gnostic literature "daimon" is always taken to mean "demon." [91] The National Geographic Society responded that "Virtually all issues April D. DeConick raises about translation choices are addressed in footnotes in both the popular and critical editions." [92] In a later review of the issues and relevant publications, critic Joan Acocella questioned whether ulterior intentions had not begun to supersede historical analysis, e.g., whether publication of The Gospel of Judas could be an attempt to roll back ancient anti-semitic imputations. She concluded that the ongoing clash between scriptural fundamentalism and attempts at revision were childish because of the unreliability of the sources. Therefore, she argued, "People interpret, and cheat. The answer is not to fix the Bible but to fix ourselves." [93] Other scholars have questioned the initial translation and interpretation of the Gospel of Judas by the National Geographic team of experts. [66]

Gospel of Barnabas

According to medieval copies (the earliest copies from the 15th century) of the Gospel of Barnabas it was Judas, not Jesus, who was crucified on the cross. This work states that Judas's appearance was transformed to that of Jesus', when the former, out of betrayal, led the Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus who by then was ascended to the heavens. This transformation of appearance was so identical that the masses, followers of Christ, and even the Mother of Jesus, Mary, initially thought that the one arrested and crucified was Jesus himself. The gospel then mentions that after three days since burial, Judas' body was stolen from his grave, and then the rumors spread of Jesus being risen from the dead. When Jesus was informed in the third heaven about what happened, he prayed to God to be sent back to the earth, and descended and gathered his mother, disciples, and followers, and told them the truth of what happened. He then ascended back to the heavens, and will come back at the end of times as a just king.

This Gospel is considered by the majority of Christians to be late and pseudepigraphical; however, some academics suggest that it may contain some remnants of an earlier apocryphal work (perhaps Gnostic, Ebionite or Diatessaronic), redacted to bring it more in line with Islamic doctrine. Some Muslims consider the surviving versions as transmitting a suppressed apostolic original. Some Islamic organizations cite it in support of the Islamic view of Jesus.

Representations and symbolism

A red-haired Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss in a Spanish paso figure. Beso de Judas.png
A red-haired Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss in a Spanish paso figure.

The term Judas has entered many languages as a synonym for betrayer, and Judas has become the archetype of the traitor in Western art and literature. Judas is given some role in virtually all literature telling the Passion story, and appears in numerous modern novels and movies.

In the Eastern Orthodox hymns of Holy Wednesday (the Wednesday before Pascha), Judas is contrasted with the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume and washed his feet with her tears. According to the Gospel of John, Judas protested at this apparent extravagance, suggesting that the money spent on it should have been given to the poor. After this, Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus for money. The hymns of Holy Wednesday contrast these two figures, encouraging believers to avoid the example of the fallen disciple and instead to imitate Mary's example of repentance. Also, Wednesday is observed as a day of fasting from meat, dairy products, and olive oil throughout the year in memory of the betrayal of Judas. The prayers of preparation for receiving the Eucharist also make mention of Judas's betrayal: "I will not reveal your mysteries to your enemies, neither like Judas will I betray you with a kiss, but like the thief on the cross I will confess you."

Judas Iscariot is often shown with red hair in Spanish culture [94] [95] [96] and by William Shakespeare. [96] [97] The practice is comparable to the Renaissance portrayal of Jews with red hair, which was then regarded as a negative trait and which may have been used to correlate Judas Iscariot with contemporary Jews. [98]

In the Church of St John the Baptist, Yeovil, one stained glass window depicts Judas with a black halo. Judas Iscariot in Stained Glass Depiction.jpg
In the Church of St John the Baptist, Yeovil, one stained glass window depicts Judas with a black halo.

In paintings depicting the Last Supper, Judas is occasionally depicted with a dark-colored halo (contrasting with the lighter halos of the other apostles) to signify his former status as an apostle. More commonly, however, he is the only one at the table without one. In some church stained glass windows he is also depicted with a dark halo such as in one of the windows of the Church of St John the Baptist, Yeovil.

Art and literature

Cathedrale Saint-Lazare, Autun. Judas hangs himself Autun cathedrale chapiteau pendaison de Judas.jpg
Cathédrale Saint-Lazare, Autun. Judas hangs himself

Judas is the subject of one of the oldest surviving English ballads, which dates from the 13th century. In the ballad, the blame for the betrayal of Christ is placed on his sister. [99] In Dante's Inferno , Judas is condemned to the lowest circle of Hell: the Ninth Circle of Traitors, also known as the frozen lake, Cocytus. He is one of three sinners deemed evil enough to be doomed to an eternity of being chewed in the mouths of the triple-headed Satan (the others being Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar). Dante writes that Judas – having committed the ultimate act of treachery by betraying the Son of God Himself – is trapped in the jaws of Satan's central head, said to be the most vicious of the three, by his head, leaving his back to be raked by the fallen angel's claws. [100] In art, one of the most famous depictions of Judas Iscariot and his kiss of betrayal of Jesus is The Taking of Christ by Italian Baroque artist, Caravaggio, done in 1602. [101]

In Memoirs of Judas (1867) by Ferdinando Petruccelli della Gattina, he is seen as a leader of the Jewish revolt against the rule of Romans. [102] Edward Elgar's oratorio, The Apostles , depicts Judas as wanting to force Jesus to declare his divinity and establish the kingdom on earth. [103] In Trial of Christ in Seven Stages (1909) by John Brayshaw Kaye, the author did not accept the idea that Judas intended to betray Christ, and the poem is a defence of Judas, in which he adds his own vision to the biblical account of the story of the trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas. [104]

In Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita , Judas is paid by the high priest of Judaea to testify against Jesus, who had been inciting trouble among the people of Jerusalem. After authorizing the crucifixion, Pilate suffers an agony of regret and turns his anger on Judas, ordering him assassinated. The story within a story appears as a counter-revolutionary novel in the context of Moscow in the 1920s–1930s. [105] "Tres versiones de Judas" (English title: "Three Versions of Judas") is a short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It was included in Borges' anthology, Ficciones , published in 1944, and revolves around the main character's doubts about the canonical story of Judas who instead creates three alternative versions. [106] On April 17, 1945, the radio program Inner Sanctum broadcast the story "The Judas Clock", in which the cursed title object, a 16th century Italian marble longcase clock, is unable to run without the thirty silver coins of Judas being placed in its hollow weights. The episode's main character, played by Berry Kroeger, recites the fate of Judas from Matthew 27:5 (King James version) at the episode's conclusion.

The 1971 novel I, Judas by Taylor Caldwell and Jess Stearn ( ISBN   978-0451121134) was one of the first published novels to portray Judas in a more sympathetic light. In Martin Scorsese's 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ , based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, Judas' only motivation in betraying Jesus to the Romans was to help him accomplish his mission by mutual agreement, making Judas the catalyst for the event later interpreted as bringing about humanity's salvation. [107] In the film Dracula 2000, Dracula (played by Gerard Butler) is revealed in this version to be Judas. God punishes Judas, not only for betraying Jesus, but attempting suicide at dawn, by turning him into the first vampire, and making him vulnerable to silver for taking 30 pieces of silver as payment for his betrayal, and his suicide attempt at dawn also tries to explain a vampire's violent reaction to sunlight. [108] In The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (2005), a critically acclaimed play by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Judas is given a trial in Purgatory. [109] In C. K. Stead's 2006 novel My Name Was Judas, Judas, who was then known as Idas of Sidon, recounts the story of Jesus as recalled by him some forty years later. [110]

In September 2017, Boom Studios announced a four-issue comics Judas, written by Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka. [111] In March 2018, BBC Radio 4's 15 Minute Drama broadcast Judas, written by Lucy Gannon, in 5 episodes with Damien Molony in the title role. [112] In the March 2018 film Mary Magdalene , written by Helen Edmundson, Judas is played by Tahar Rahim. [113]

Judas is a lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar . The rock opera depicts Judas as somewhat of a tragic figure who is dissatisfied with the direction in which Jesus is steering his disciples. Various actors and singers who have played the role include: Murray Head (original concept album), Ben Vereen (original 1971 Broadway production), Carl Anderson (1973 film adaptation), Roger Daltrey (1996 BBC Radio 2 production) [114] , Zubin Varla (1996 London revival), Jérôme Pradon (2000 film adaptation based on the 1996 revival), Tony Vincent (2000 Broadway revival), Corey Glover (2006 "new" A.D. tour), Tim Minchin (2012 Arena Tour), and Brandon Victor Dixon (live 2018 televised concert).

See also


  1. The Monthly Christian Spectator 1851–1859 p.459 "while some writers regard the account of Judas's death as simply figurative ..seized with preternatural anguish for his crime and its consequences his bowels gushed out."
  2. Clarence Jordan The Substance of Faith: and Other Cotton Patch Sermons p.148 "Greeks thought of the bowels as being the seat of the emotions, the home of the soul. It's like saying that all of Judas's motions burst out, burst asunder."
  3. Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2004), p. 710; Jerome, Epistolae 57.7: "This passage is not found in Jeremiah but in Zechariah, in quite different words and a different order" "NPNF2-06. Jerome: The Principal Works of St. Jerome - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Archived from the original on 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2008-09-05.; John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, 3:177: "The passage itself plainly shows that the name of Jeremiah has been put down by mistake, instead of Zechariah, for in Jeremiah we find nothing of this sort, nor any thing that even approaches to it." "Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke - Volume 3 - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Archived from the original on 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2010-03-15..

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  1. Matthew 26:14 , Matthew 26:47 , Mark 14:10 , Mark 14:42 , Luke 22:1 , Luke 22:47 , John 13:18 , John 18:1
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ehrman 1999, pp. 216–217.
  3. 1 2 Gubar 2009, pp. 31–33.
  4. 1 2 Stein, Robert H. (2009). "Criteria for the Gospels' Authenticity". In Paul Copan; William Lane Craig (eds.). Contending with Christianity's Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group. p. 93. ISBN   978-0805449365.
  5. Meier, John P. (2005). "Criteria: How Do We Decide What Comes from Jesus?". In Dunn, James D.G.; McKnight, Scot (eds.). The Historical Jesus in Recent Research. Warsaw, Indiana: Eisenbrauns. pp. 127–28. ISBN   978-1575061009.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gubar 2009, p. 29.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Stanford 2015.
  8. Maccoby, Hyam (2006). Antisemitism And Modernity. London, England: Routledge. p. 14. ISBN   978-0415553889.
  9. Gubar 2009, p. 27.
  10. 1 2 Spong, John Shelby (2009). The Sins of Scripture. New York City: HarperCollins. ISBN   978-0060778408.
  11. Gubar 2009, pp. 27–28.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Oropeza, B.J. (2010). "Judas' Death and Final Destiny in the Gospels and Earliest Christian Writings". Neotestamentica (44.2): 342–61.
  13. Tropenza, B.J. (2011). In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities Volume 1:The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade/Wipf & Stock. pp. 149–50, 230.
  14. Gubar 2009, p. 28.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Gubar 2009, p. 31.
  16. Bauckham, Richard (2006). Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 106. ISBN   978-0802874313.
  17. van Iersel, Bastiaan (1998). Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary. Danbury, Connecticut: Continuum International. p. 167. ISBN   978-1850758297.
  18. Roth bar Raphael, Andrew Gabriel-Yizkhak. Aramaic English New Testament (5 ed.). Netzari Press. ISBN   978-1934916421.; Sedro-Woolley, Wash.: Netzari Press, 2012), 278fn177.
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  20. 1 2 3 Taylor, Joan E. (2010). "The name 'Iskarioth' (Iscariot)". Journal of Biblical Literature . 129 (2): 367–383. doi:10.2307/27821024. JSTOR   27821024.
  21. Edwards, Katie (March 23, 2016). "Why Judas was actually more of a saint, than a sinner". The Conversation . Melbourne, Australia: The Conversation Trust. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  22. 1 2 3 4 Gubar 2009, p. 30.
  23. See Mark 6:6; Matthew 10:5–10; and Luke 9:1
  24. John 6:67–71
  25. These "pieces of silver" were most likely intended to be understood as silver Tyrian shekels.
  26. Matthew 26:14
  27. Mark 14:1–2
  28. "BibleGateway.com – Passage Lookup: Luke 22:3". BibleGateway. Archived from the original on 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  29. John 12:6 andJohn 13:29
  30. John 13:2, Jerusalem Bible translation
  31. Gubar 2009, pp. 31–32.
  32. Gubar 2009, p. 33.
  33. 1 2 Ehrman 2016, pp. 28–29.
  34. Zwiep 2004, pp. 16–17.
  35. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Zwiep 2004, p. 16.
  36. Ehrman, Bart D. (1 October 2008). The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed. Oxfordshire, England: Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN   978-0-19-534351-9. Archived from the original on 3 April 2017.
  37. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Ehrman 2016, p. 29.
  38. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Zwiep 2004, p. 17.
  39. 1 2 3 Ehrman 2016, p. 28.
  40. Gospel of Judas 44–45 Archived 2011-09-11 at the Wayback Machine
  41. 1 2 3 Zwiep, Arie W. (2004). Judas and the choice of Matthias: a study on context and concern of Acts 1:15–26. Heidelberg, Germany: Mohr Siebeck Verlag. ISBN   978-3161484520. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2008.
  42. Letter to Clyde S. Kilby, 7 May 1959, quoted in Michael J. Christensen, C. S. Lewis on Scripture, Abingdon, 1979, Appendix A.
  43. Zwiep, Arie W. Judas and the choice of Matthias: a study on context and concern of Acts 1:15–26. p. 109.
  44. "Easton's Bible Dictionary: Judas". christnotes.org. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-26.
  45. "The purchase of "the potter's field," Appendix 161 of the Companion Bible". Archived from the original on 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  46. Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 114.
  47. Charles Talbert, Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Smyth & Helwys (2005) p. 15.
  48. Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary, Eerdmans (2004), p. 703.
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  50. Zechariah 11:12–13
  51. Vincent P. Branick, Understanding the New Testament and Its Message, (Paulist Press, 1998), pp. 126–28.
  52. James R. White, The King James Only Controversy, Bethany House Publishers (2009) p. 213-215, 316.
  53. Donald Senior, The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Liturgical Press, 1985), pp. 107–08; Anthony Cane, The Place of Judas Iscariot in Christology (Ashgate Publishing, 2005), p. 50.
  54. Menken, Maarten JJ (2002). "The Old Testament Quotation in Matthew 27,9–10'". Biblica (83): 9–10. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008.
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  56. Helms, Randall (1988). Gospel Fictions . Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN   978-1615922932.
  57. 1 2 Green, Joel B.; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, I. Howard (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. pp. 406–407. ISBN   978-0-8308-1777-1.
  58. (Mark 14:10–11)
  59. (Matthew 26:14–16)
  60. Luke 22:3–6
  61. John 13:27
  62. John 12:1–6
  63. Dimont, Max I. (1962). Jews, God & History (2 ed.). New York City: New American Library. p. 135. ISBN   978-0451146946.
  64. Did Judas betray Jesus Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, April 2006
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