2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
Infamous as the apostle who betrayed Christ, Judas was the son of Simon and was the only Judean among the Twelve. His surname is usually taken to mean that he came from Karioth, a town in Judea, but some argue that means he was a member of the Sicarii, a rebel Jewish group with a Latin name meaning murderers. The gospels provide neither a character study of the betrayer nor motive for his actions. John implies that his fellow apostle was greedy. Some speculate that Judas was unable to accept that the Messiah must suffer. Paid 30 pieces of silver, Judas kissed Jesus and signalled which man was to be arrested. Having repented of his action, he tried to return the money, which was used to buy a potter's field, the field of blood. He committed suicide: Matthew says that Judas hanged himself, and Peter says in the book of Acts that Judas' viscera burst forth in a fall, an implication that he hurled himself down.
Judas is rarely depicted in Christian art, except as a participant in the Mystical (Last) Supper or as the betrayer of Christ. Romanos the Melodist composed a poem full of horror at the deed of Judas.
The lost apocryphal Gospel of Judas claims he was a good man. Islamic literature contains tales which tell of Judas' having lied to protect Christ, who was not crucified. Some even say that Judas took Jesus' place and was himself crucified. The II Century gnostic sect called Cainites venerated Judas because they saw the god of the Old Testament as responsible for evil and any who opposed him as good.
Karen Rae Keck
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