The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Origen and the Salvation of Judas Iscariot

Here’s something I thought might interest some of you .

Some years ago I read Gary Armiault’s essay on the salvation of Judas over at Tentmakers which you can find here -

In this Gary states that -
‘’Many in the 2nd and 3rd century taught Judas hung himself to get to Hades ahead of Jesus and meet Him there because he knew He (Jesus) had entered His Kingdom through death. (Origen, Theophanes, Theophylact, etc.)’’

Well, Theophanes the Confessor ( c. 758/760 – March 12, 817/818) and Theophaylact of Ochrid (ca. 1050/60-ca. 1108) were high Byzantine far latter than the 2nd and 3rd century (although I have seen the part of Theophylact’s Commentary on Matthew and he certainly alludes to the tradition that Judas handed himself so that he could beg forgiveness of Jesus in the world to come (although he doesn’t condone this).

But what of Origen? I have a translation of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel and looked in vain for the tradition that Gary alludes to. I’d read some very interesting bits about Judas in Origen’s Dialogue ‘Contra Celsum’/Kata Kelsou – but sitll no mention of the ttradition about Judas seeking forgiveness. Then recently I read an essay by Samuel Laechuli ‘Origen’s’s Interpretation of Judas Iscariot’ written in 1957 (available to view for free at Justor). This essay was writer before the recent cutting edge scholarship on Origen – but the writer is very scrupulous in drawing upon the full range of sources he has available to him. And from this essays found out that the Greek text of Origen’s commentary on Matthew (of which I have a translation) is incomplete. The tradition about Origen proceeding to the other world to beg Christ for forgiveness is extant in the late Latin translation (which according to Laechuli is fairly reliable because it accords with the other key texts in which Origen speaks of Judas that are extant in the Greek – that is the Commentary on John and the Kata Kelsou. This tradition is included in Sermon 117 (that the wiki article refers to as Tract XXXV without proper referencing for some reason).

So I’ve tracked the tradition down at last. Does this mean that Origen taught/originated a tradition that Judas and Christ were reconciled? It seems that it’s not that simple – nothing ever is. So I’m I’ll give you a précis of Origen’s Judas tradition to provide the context:

Origen accepts the charge that Judas was a lover of money but unlike that later Augustine he is at pains to point out that Judas was not always bad and when his capacity for evil took him over there were still traces of goodness in him. He argues from scripture for example that when James and John asked for places of honour in the Kingdom and the other ten disciples rightly rebuked them Judas was amongst the other ten who understood rightly at this point. He is also suspicious of how – of Judas was always an obvious villain – how at the last supper when Jesus tells the disciples that one will betray him they don’t know at this point that he is referring to Judas. He is also aware that Matthew’s account is the most sympathetic in not overdoing the picture of Judas as betrayer before the act – and he finds this credible. So Judas for Origen must once have been a good disciple and loved by his Master. (And Origen – especially in his dialogue with Celsus – is also at pains to argue that Judas was always free to choose otherwise and God’s foreknowledge of the betrayal did not in any way constrain him to be the betrayer, and the awareness that Judas was the betrayer only dawned gradually on Jesus).

Origen considers Judas’s covetousness as ‘weakness’ rather than the reason for his betrayal and he also speculates that when according to John’s Gospel Jesus put Judas in charge of the collective purse he did so out of compassion to help him overcome his weakness rather than as a trap. For Origen Judas weakness gives Satan the opportunity to take over Judas rather than being the actual motivation for betrayal. Judas thinks of the treachery before the last supper but it is when he accepts that blessing of the morsel of bread while still harbouring treacherous thoughts that the blessing Jesus intends turns back upon him as a curse and Stan fully takes him over. After this he is completely controlled by Satan – well Origen does contradict this assertion in the Gospel commentaries in Celsus where he tells Celsus that the Judas kiss was full of some genuine affection as if the image of God was not completely obscured in Judas.

Then Origen argues that once Jesus is in captivity Satan leaves him and he comes to his senses. His act of repentance – as described by Matthew – is real and heartfelt repentance. Origen suggest that the perhaps it was the power of Christ resurrection or the thought of the once predicted resurrection that Origen also sees the detail that he throws the blood money into the Temple as Judas being aware from the Cleansing/ Judgement on the Temple that he had understood Jesus teaching that the Temple had become polluted by greed – and further evidence that his Masters teachings still have a place in his soul.

Origen does not condone Judas’ suicide as an appropriate repentance but rather sees it as an imperfect repentance – for God does not desire that death of a sinner and there was no need for Judas to die in this way. God’s mercy was never withheld from him in the first place. It was Satan that overwhelmed him with an exorbitant sadness – which Judas did not reject – and caused him to kill himself. However, he does not for a moment suggest that the suicide was an indication of Judas damnation. This comes later with Augustine. (Before the time of Augustine suicide was not counted virtuous as such by Jews or Christians – but there are examples of exceptions made for suicide in extremis by Christian martyrs. It is only with Augustine that suicide in itself becomes a sign of damnation (and Augustine in The City of God sees Judas as the exemplar of suicides who is damned because he despairs of God mercy in his wickedness). It is noteworthy that Augustine was the opponent of the Donatist heretics – Christians who were dismayed at the marriage of Church and State and actually encouraged suicide in their zeal. So Judas becomes a heretic Donatist for Augustine.)

So that’s my summary. I’ll post a little analysis – as much as I am capable of – later :slight_smile:.

:sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses:

I can’t find the quote but Pope John Paul II says that the Judas issue doesn’t necessitate eternal damnation. In fact Von Balthasar was his favorite theologian. If someone with the mind of Balthasar says we can hope in universalism I trust him. For one he was big on the subject of art, theology, science, and beauty. For another, I simply can’t live with eternal punishment. I find more peace in hoping for the eternal salvation of the world. Indeed, it’s common sense that hoping and praying for the salvation of the world is a more loving and compassionate thing then eternal torment

Catholic theology might have changed since 1999, when the New York times article Hell Is Getting A Makeover From Catholics; Jesuits Call It a Painful State But Not a Sulfurous Place came out. It appears they are approaching a view similar to either the Eastern Orthodox or the Protestants who give some type of P-Zombie or exile view.


Well at my Catholic church we go by Bishop Barron. He’s a hopeful universalist. Until he changes and my church changes I’ll stick with Barron. He was just recently appointed as Bishop. That article of yours was written in 1999.

Origen does paint a very sympathetic picture of Judas in his writings – and is always at pains to emphasise that Judas never completely lost his humanity except for the time when he was taken over by Satan – between when he was offered the bread at the Last Supper and when he Jesus was in the hands of the authorities at which point Satan left him although Satan in the end persuaded him to kill himself – and Judas gave in to this temptation. When he decided to kill himself this was because he hoped to beg forgiveness of Jesus in the world to come – but this was at Satan’s instigation; Judas did not need to kill himself. This is Samuel Laechuli’s synopsis of the relevant writings by Origen – all done with scholarly apparatus citing the sources. So it seems that the tradition that Judas planned to beg forgiveness in the world to come does come from Origen. But the idea that the implication here is Universalist seems to be wide of the mark.

I have a few observations to make here. Laechuli was writing in the late 1950’s and he appears to doubt that Origen was actually a Universalist . He talks about how it is a mistake to judge ‘Origen only from Peri Archon (that is ‘De Principiis’ in Latin) and its dubious fragments from the time of Justinian’. Obviously since the time when Laechuli was writing Scholarship in the field of Origen has made great strides and, as many of us know, the research of Illaria Ramelli has demonstrated that Origen most certainly was not only a universalist but the first to give a systematic exposition of Christian universalism. But why is there no apparent hint of Judas’ salvation in the commentaries. I can only hazard a few guesses and an expert would be needed to confirm or deny any of these.

First we know that Origen does not always affirm universal salvation in his writings and that he considered this a doctrine for the ears of spiritually mature Christians. So it makes perfect sense that Origen would not trumpet this doctrine to the pagan Celsus. Regarding the relevant surviving commentaries, chiefly the early one on John and the late work on Matthew, I wonder what the intended audience for these was. Were they for mature Christians or were they intended as a preaching resource for al Christians at all stages of maturity. If the latter is the case then an affirmation of Judas’ salvation would not be appropriate to express openly in these. Laecheli remarks that in the Commentary on John Origen does not even hint at Jesus’ reconciliation with Judas (which one would expect from the author of De Principiis’): ‘To be sure, he does not claim damnation or future penalty. All he says is: Judas , having had, after the worst act, a chance at repentance, did not take advantage of it but became his won judge. Beyond this Origen does not dare to make any statement’. And of course this means that Origen does not state that Judas is damned.

Second, in the Commentaries Origen also shows himself as an astute textual scholar – I’ve gathered this much without being an Origen scholar. He does not simply harmonise the Gospels but also comments on their individual character. For example he notes how different John is from the Synoptics and calls it the ‘Spiritual Gospel’ as opposed to the literal one (John’s purpose was to begin out the spiritual meaning of the story told by the Synoptic). And he famously discusses the placing of the cleansing of the Temple at the start of Jesus ministry in John as not to be taken as literal truth –it is so obviously at variance with the literal/historical truth of Synoptics. He obviously also seems to understand that Matthew gives the most sympathetic portrayal of Judas. I say this because Leacheli includes a long footnote – number 60 – about Origen’s connection that Judas’s repentance was inspired by him thinking on the Resurrection. Apparently at this point the Latin text becomes confused – maybe because a universalist heretical passage has been covered over, Perhaps Origen did suggest that Judas despite committing suicide through the promptings of Satan, did meet the resurrected Christ who forgave him. Leachelli makes this hypothesis and then discounts it because the Commentary on John that we have in the full Greek original text makes no suggestion of Judas’s reconciliation. But it might be that in the Commentary on John Origen is doing an exegesis of John’s portrayal of Judas – that is not at all sympathies – whereas in his Commentary on Matthew he’s drawing other conclusions from Matthews’ largely sympathetic narrative and did express universalist thoughts that were edited out. It’s a long shot but it would be good to know what a contemporary Origen scholar thinks of this.

Third I really wish that I could see a translation of Sermon 117 from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew. I’ve read an article – which was not reliable because no quotations were given – that in this Origen cites a tradition that in fact all of the disciples betrayed Jesus and not Judas alone; and this is a point made by many contemporary exegetes on several grounds(including Barth apparently)– and it would be good to know for certain if Origen got there first ( intriguing if true).

Fourth, by the time that Origen was writing popular literature demonising Judas was readily available – the writings of Papias of Herapolis (ca 100AD) with their horrible account of Judas’s survival of hsi attempted suicide only to become so swollen with enormous genitals that he split open – were doing the rounds and this literature started to associate the demonic figure of Judas with the Jewish race and develop into grotesque persecution texts soon after Origen’s time To this great credit Origen will have none of this and doesn’t even bother to consider Papias’s account (at least not in his Commentaries that have survived – his Commentary on Luke/ Acts is only extant in small fragments; but I do note in this connection that Eusebius who praised Origen in his History of the Early Church discounted Papias as a credulous and ignorant man . A possible reason for Origen’s ‘enlightened’ attitude that occurs to me is that Origen by his own admissions - confirmed by the Eusebius - had studied with Jews and been friends with them in the course of compiling an authoritative Hebrew text of the Hebrew scriptures for the Church and his close contact made him questions the stereotyping of Jews that was already in ascendancy in the Church of his day.

Fifth obviously Origen’s emphasis that Judas was not completely depraved is important for the idea of freewill that is central to his theology. However, the sympathy with which Origen proceeds in his portrayal of Judas also seems to suggest his universalism. In this connection I have one disagreement with Leucheli who gives the impression that Origen’s clear view always is that when Satan possessed Judas his humanity was left behind – I corrected this in my summary because I know that Origen in ‘Contra Celsus’ sees his humanity reasserting itself in the kiss in Gethsemane thus –
Origen, ‘Against Celsus’, from Chapter XI

‘…For be that betrayed Him gave to the multitude that came to apprehend Jesus, a sign, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, it is he; seize ye him,”–retaining still some element of respect for his Master: for unless he had done so, he would have betrayed Him, even publicly, without any pretence of affection. This circumstance, therefore, will satisfy all with regard to the purpose of Judas, that along with his covetous disposition, and his wicked design to betray his Master, he had still a feeling of a mixed character in his mind, produced in him by the words of Jesus, which had the appearance (so to speak) of some remnant of good. For it is related that, “when Judas, who betrayed Him, knew that He was condemned, he repented, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the high priest and elders, saying, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to that;”–and that, having thrown the money down in the temple, he departed, and went and hanged himself. But if this covetous Judas, who also stole the money placed in the bag for the relief of the poor, repented, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, it is clear that the instructions of Jesus had been able to produce some feeling of repentance in his mind, and were not altogether despised and loathed by this traitor. Nay, the declaration, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,” was a public acknowledgment of his crime. Observe, also, how exceedingly passionate was the sorrow for his sins that proceeded from that repentance, and which would not suffer him any longer to live; and how, after he had cast the money down in the temple, he withdrew, and went away and hanged himself: for he passed sentence upon himself, showing what a power the teaching of Jesus had over this sinner Judas, this thief and traitor, who could not always treat with contempt what he had learned from Jesus.’

Sixth the tradition that Judas hanged himself in order to beg forgiveness of Jesus has a history after Origen. In the Coptic late apocryphal text – the Acts of Paul and Andrew – which dates from the eight century Judas is forgiven for his treachery and given a second chance. He is taken to the desert to combat Satan but succumbs again; and when Jesus empties Hades in his Descent, Judas is the one soul that has to remain there. However, in the fourteenth century the Dominican preacher Vincent Ferrar – not to my knowledge a universalist in any other sense – takes that tradition and turns into a narrative of Judas’s salvation –

‘He said in his heart, ‘’since I cannot get near Christ with my corporeal feet, at least I shall meet him on Calvary by journeying in my mind, and once there I shall humbly beg pardon of him’’; and that he did this by hanging himself with a noose, and his soul flew thence to Christ on Calvary aforesaid, and therefore he begged for pardon, which Christ granted at once; and that from thence Judas rose with Christ into heaven where his soul is blessed with those of the other elect’.

Seventh and final - regarding the attitude to suicide in the Early Church, I don’t have expert knowledge but note the following from the little I have found out:

‘’Although none of the Jewish-Christian Apostles left teachings relating to suicide it is apparent that the early church took over Jewish traditions in its contrary attitude towards the sacredness of life and the excusability of suicide for religious.

However, martyrdom was highly regarded by the early church and the boundary between it and suicide proved to be a narrow one. A similar attitude seems to have been the case amongst Jews – suicide was condemned however in cases of extremis could be seen as a form of martyrdom following the example of Samson)

Tertullian addressing Christians in prison who were awaiting martyrdom, encouraged and strengthened them by citing the example of famous suicides including Lucretia, Dido and Cleopatra. Chrysostom and Ambrose both applauded Palagia, a girl of 15 who threw herself off the roof of a house rather than be captured by Roman soldiers. In Antioch, a woman called Domnina and her two daughters drowned themselves to avoid rape, an act which, as in the case of the Jews, was venerated.

Jerome also approved of suicide for religious reasons and did not condemn austerities which undermine the constitution and which might be regarded as slow suicide. He recounts, with the greatest admiration, the life and death of a young nun named Belsilla who imposed such penalties on herself that she died. Martyrdom eventually became so popular amongst the more fervent believers such as the Donatists that it threatened the credibility and, in places, the very existence of the church. How to respond to this fervour was a difficult task for leaders of a religion founded on Jesus’s voluntary submission to death and whose early leaders had all been slain in the course of duty.

It was Augustine who finally rose to the challenge and who is credited with clarifying Christian thinking on this subject… In `The City of God’ he carefully weighed up the various arguments for and against suicide, concluding that suicide was always wrong, that it was a violation of the sixth commandment and never justified even in religious extremis. By the 5th century suicide was regarded by the church as sinful in all circumstances.’’

Augustine’s total condemnation of suicide seems to be part of his opposition to the fanatical anti-Imperial Donatist sect who courted martyrdom and self starvation, refused to forgive those HCirstinas who recanted under the final Imperial persecution, and employed fanatical suicide troops in their wars against Imperial Catholic Christianity. The Church historian Frederick van der Meer gives the following, and uncharacteristically funny description of an incident related by Augustine in one of his letters -

‘He tells of a Catholic man who was accosted by a group of zealous Donatists. They threatened to kill him if he refused to “martyr” them. Thinking quickly, he agreed to kill them, but only if they first allowed him to bind them with rope to make his work easier. They consented, and when he had them secured he took a large stick, beat them soundly, and walked away.’’

Suffice to say that since Augustine’s time Judas’ suicide has been seen as evidence that his repentance was false and a sign only of damnable despair. Here is the key passage from ‘City of God’ –

Chapter 17.-Of Suicide Committed Through Fear of Punishment or Dishonor.
… Do we justly execrate the deed of Judas, and does truth itself pronounce that by hanging himself he rather aggravated than expiated the guilt of that most iniquitous betrayal, since, by despairing of God’s mercy in his sorrow that wrought death, he left to himself no place for a healing penitence? How much more ought he to abstain from laying violent hands on himself who has done nothing worthy of such a punishment! For Judas, when he killed himself, killed a wicked man; but he passed from this life chargeable not only with the death of Christ, but with his own: for though he killed himself on account of his crime, his killing himself was another crime.

It seems to me that we shouldn’t read Augustine’s attitude towards Judas’ suicide back into Matthew’s narrative because attitudes towards suicide were more nuanced before Augustine. Yes it was nearly always seen as a bad thing – but not as such a sign of damnation in itself (I’m not suggesting that Judas could ever be seen as a martyr – just that it was not completely condemned and therefore even bad instances of it would not be seen as evidence of damnation before Augustine)

Guys – I wasn’t for a moment suggesting that Origen believed in the damnation of Judas. I was just trying to think through the best evidence that I’ve some across – since I don’t have the skill to read the Latin translation of Origen I’ve relied on the only essay I could find - and think about how Origen differs from say Augustine on this matter, and also why as a universalist he doesn’t seem to explicitly assert the salvation of Judas (although everything suggests to me that he does not deny it). 

Sorry Dick! :smiley:

No need to say sorry :slight_smile: :laughing:

And when I’d found the essay I wanted to pass the info on to Jason :slight_smile:

Good to hear from Old China again. :smiley:

Thanks Dave – lovely to hear your welcoming voice again old China :slight_smile: I remember long ago reading Gary Armiault’s article. This is no criticism of Gary – to make the case for historical universalism he’s had to rely on grasping the big picture through a reading of secondary sources – often from the nineteenth century histories written by members of the American Universalist church which, for all of their strengths, were reliant on evidence that has since been sifted thoroughly as new evidence comes to light and a more accurate picture has emerged.

As I say the issue of the tradition of Judas repentance and suicide leading to reconciliation with Christ in Hades has been on the back burner in my mind since reading Gary’s article – and lo and behold I have just come across a scholarly discussion of this. I thought I must post what I’ve learnt here – because this is the one and only place where people would be interested in the nuances. It seems that Origen himself certainly didn’t see the suicide of Judas as related by Matthew are Judas assured passport to reconciliation. However, the hint that the thought of Christ resurrection lead him to an imperfect repentance and the difficulty of interpreting the text at this point – because it is unclear and may well have been tampered with - may hint that in the resurrection Christ and Judas were reconciled :slight_smile:

+1. :mrgreen:

I thought you’d interested Jason :smiley: And one last thought occurs to me – regarding what Origen has to say about Judas’ kiss in Gethsemane. I’ve heard Universalist type homilies on this incident – of Christ absorbing the wicked kiss of betrayal with forgiveness. However Origen’s reading is subtly different. He knew Greek and the original dialogue with Celsus was written in Greek. He knew that the word Matthew uses for the kiss is the same word Luke uses for the kisses of the penitent woman who anoints Jesus feet in the house of Simon. The word is not the one used for a kiss of formal and polite greeting. Rather it indicates a kiss of loving friendship and affection (and you’ll know all about this Jason ). So it seems for Origen that rather than Christ simply absorbing a wicked, treacherous kiss with forgiveness – at the moment that Judas kisses Christ – whatever the original intention behind the kiss – Origen’s humanity/God image is rekindled to some extent. There is a subtle nuance here regarding how to read this narrative I think.

While it doesn’t come from Origen, I think there’s a strong but subtle argument that one of the things Jesus was trying to prepare the apostles for in GosJohn’s final discourse, was not only Judas’ betrayal (which in John’s narrative the apostles still aren’t expecting aside from the Beloved Disciple) but for forgiving Judas. Because even though the Son of Man had to be betrayed by Judas so that the scriptures would be fulfilled, Jesus was still given all things by the Father in order to give eonian life to all that the Father had given Him and that includes Judas. Consequently, the new commandment to be loving each other would be an unexpected commandment to be loving Iscariot – which the apostles didn’t pick up on (not picking up on hints being typical for them, including quite demonstrably in John’s Last Supper and Final Discourse material, and also in the Synoptic Last Supper material).

That would mean the Church succeeds or fails from the outset based on how well they (and we) love Iscariot despite his treachery.

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Yes Jason that’s a really good point. Thank you. It is a tragedy that the Church – arguably apart from Origen and the tradition of Origen– did not forgive Judas; because this so quickly became such a source of hatred towards the Jews (and it is dispiriting to read about how this happened and how quickly). I have to admit that I find it very hard to harmonise what the Gospels have to say about Judas, Mark is sparse and minimal – why Judas goes to the priests is left enigmatic because it is they that suggest the fee and not him.

Matthew seems to me to give the most sympathetic account of him – and I think we’d agree on this. As I see it unlike John’s Gospel Jesus does not announce the betrayal and the doomed betrayer far in advance. IN the incident at the House of Simon with the penitent woman it is all of the disciples who are united in rebuke of the woman and of Jesus action in accepting her anointing – and not Judas alone. And although the same is true of Luke he doesn’t place this incident crucially in the week of the Passion so it does not seem to have the same implication about being a cause for the disciples all falling away at this point. The idea that you allude to that they all misunderstand Jesus and want him to conform to their expectations of triumphant Messiah; not one who is going to suffer and die and one who will confer especial favours upon them in his Kingdom of victors; which is one reason why they fall away after Jesus’ arrest. I note that all of the Synoptics have the disciples once again bickering about who will be the greatest in the Kingdom once again at the Last Supper – an issue that Matthew has Jesus rebuke James and John and their mother for raising far earlier in his account and resurfaces again. I wonder whether the enigmatic sign of the woman who washes Jesus feet – obviously offensive to the disciples because of her status as an unclean sinner and perhaps an act that they even at this moment are unconsciously aware signifies his death – is also offensive because of its humility. She washes Jesus’ feet and one day later he gives the same sign to the bickering disciples at the Last Supper. I also wonder a the disciples exclamation ‘Is it I?’ at Jesus announcement of the impending treachery. Were they at some level aware that it might be any one of them given the tensions at this point? Were they looking at each other in bickering accusation as they did so – ‘I know it’s not me = but it you?’ to the person seated to their right say?

Of course Matthew’s Judas does repent and tries to return the money and is mocked by the same authorities that officiate over rites of atonement for sin in the Temple – and Origen makes a fair point that his throwing of the money back into the Temple suggest that he understood Jesus’ judgement upon it and that the mockery of the Priests confirms this. And Judas is the first to confirm that Jesus’ blood is innocent which must be significant – although Origen does not seem to comment on this. Also here Judas does not purchase the field of blood himself but rather the priests do by way of some sort of money laundering scheme that makes them technically innocent. (I understand the argument is that they buy the field for him knowing that he has no heir and so the moment reverts to the Temple when he dies)

We don’t have the same rounded picture that we have of Peter emerging from Matthew’s account of Judas – but we do seem to glimpse his humanity. The kiss in Gethsemane that Jesus receives with the word ‘Friend’ and the eventual repentance – however imperfect – have the pathos of recognition scenes that remind me of Peter’s recognition when the cock crows. Judas does emerge as forgivable and I think you are right that at least for Matthew the words of Jesus quoted in the other Synoptic – ‘it would be better for this man if he had not been born’ do not refer to any future punishment but to the terrible remorse that will overcome Judas; and that the words echo Job and Jeremiah in lamentation and can be interpreted sympathetically.

When it comes to Luke I’m not so sure that the author and the tradition the author represents has forgiven Judas. Jesus greets Judas attempt to kiss him with a rebuke – and it would seem that the rebuke deflects that kiss. Luke has Satan leave Jesus in the desert after the Temptations with the ominous words that he will return again in a season – and in Luke this return is when Stan takes possession of Judas. In Matthew the return of Satan appears to be more evenly spread because Jesus her rebukes Peter as Satan for denying that he will suffer and die.

I’ve seen those who argue for the damnation of Judas say that Matthew obviously – with Judas hanging himself – is calling down the curse form Deuteronomy (the one is curse who hangs upon a tree). They can’t seem to see the irony that Jesus becomes a curse by hanging on a tree and overcomes the curse by defeating death and rising. I can see that Origen’s suggestion is a strong one here – that thoughts of the resurrection prophecy understood for the first time were the inspiration for Judas’s repentance – or at least that portion of his repentance that was good. And this opens that way for his salvation even if he did eventually give into the promptings of Satan.

I’ve always found it very difficult to harmonise Peter’s words about the death of Judas in Acts I with Matthew’s sympathetic account (apparently C.S. Lewis did to. I know that there are ways of harmonising the outward details – Judas hanged himself is not contradicted by Peter’s contention that he fell headlong and his bowels gushed out. There are several ways I have seen:

The rope broke, Judas fell headlong and his bowels gushed out (I think that was Augustine’s solution)

Judas hanged himself but the branch was weak and broke.

Judas hanged himself and his body remained hanging as an offence against Sabbath purity law and it became bloated and burst open.

Judas hanged himself, was left hanging and the earthquake that Matthew says happened at Easter bust his body open.

Judas hanged himself and when his body was eventually cut down it was thrown headlong into the valley of Hinnon where it burst asunder (Josephus tells of bodies being throw from the City Walls into the valley when the siege of Jerusalem was tightened in 70 A.D. as a prophylactic measure and this has been used to construct the hypothesis).

Judas did not die by hanging but was cut down and lived bur swelled up and burst open (that’s Papias’ grisly solution).

Perhaps any one of these or a combination might be true. But what I find difficult in this harmonisation enterprise is that Peter - or Luke reflecting on Peter’s speech – then adds Psalm 109 as commentary on what has happened. And this is the most vengeful of Psalms that came to be known as ‘The Judas Psalm’. And I find all of this hard to reconcile with the sympathy of Matthew’s account – it appears to be very different in spirit. And I can see why this bursting asunder later became seen as evidence of the devil leaving Judas body having taken his soul.

John – when I read him – doesn’t seem to give any impression of Judas humanity. He simply seems to be the one associated with the darkness that attempts to overcomes the light – down to the retelling of the story of the penitent woman where Judas alone stands against her because he covets the money as the duplicitous keeper of the purse. The drama at the fin al supper is no longer one in which all of the disciples are implicated with their misunderstanding and squabbling –

John 6:70
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”

John 13:18
"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’

Judas does seem to be a marked man, set apart from the start as ‘un-chosen’.

I can see that when Jesus in John says ‘I will draw all men to me’ that must include Judas and I can see how this coupled with the passage you have cited does. But against this people do cite:

‘’I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12"While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 13"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.… ‘’John 17:12

I wonder what you make of this? If Jesus in John is expecting forgiveness of Judas the rhetoric of other passages seems to tend in another direction (as far as I can see – and I can’t see very clearly)

Perhaps the disciples had difficulty not only with the memory that one of them betrayed Jesus but also with their feelings about deserting Jesus so that they had to project this pain and guilt back upon Judas. I don’t why Matthew should be the exception – but I do know that we must as it were forgive Judas and hope for Judas; and Matthew gives us the resources to enable us to do so in a way that Luke and John alone don’t. Well that’s my muddled thought son this one Jason 

John 17:12 only means what it says: that Jesus kept everyone from being killed, except for Iscariot, so that the scriptures would be fulfilled. Everyone still abandons Jesus, so it isn’t only Iscariot the son of destruction (it’s a pretty standard word for destruction, as in Romans 9 the vessels adapted for destruction carried with much makrothumia, saving patience, by God) who betrays Jesus.

(As a side note: quite arguably, Iscariot is the one who lets Peter into the Annas family complex for the pre-trial meeting! The disciple who does so is notably not called the beloved disciple, and while Nicodemus or JosArim might count there’s only one disciple we know of who was certainly at the arrest and who would be let into the house no questions asked by the gatekeeper. From a harmonization standpoint, it’s also interesting that Jesus hints about Iscariot dying here, and yet nothing at all comes of it in GosJohn per se. If we didn’t have GosMatt and/or Acts, we wouldn’t have any confirmation he died!)

But 17:12 isn’t mutually exclusive to the prophetic intention at the start of the chapter. Iscariot is necessarily included among the all flesh given to the Son by the Father so that the Son may be giving eonian life to everything given to Him. Just as one scripture was being fulfilled, so will Jesus’ declaration about the Father’s purpose in giving all creatures to the Son. That Iscariot will die does not prevent the Resurrection and the Life Himself from raising Iscariot and giving him eonian life eventually.

Granted, I’m doubtful John (who likes to comment so much about what has been said and done, that sometimes we can’t tell for sure whether he or Jesus is speaking!) understood the implications himself. But again for historical apologetics, when there’s evidence that the storyteller didn’t understand the point of what he’s presenting as being historically said, that’s evidence (although not deductively decisive) that the author isn’t making up things but passing along what he thinks actually happened. (A subtly different claim from whether he’s being accurate on the reportage, which has to be evaluated on other grounds. This characteristic wouldn’t weigh in favor of accuracy, since someone could misunderstand what he wrongly believed to have been said or done.)

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Thanks Jason - that’s an excellent reply :slight_smile:

Jason 

It’s really interesting what you say about Peter and Judas begin the only one that could get him access to Annas’s house Jason. John seems to be very accurate when dealing with the hearings at night as if he has eyewitness accounts – and this detail that seems a probable one further implicates Peter in collusion.

I don’t think that the Gospel writers made things up – as John Spong argues against the Judas tradition. But as Richard Beck has argued I do think there is evidence that whereas in Mark and Matthew Judas emerges as the betrayer from within the community of the twelve – and I would add that he seems to emerge from a dynamic of misunderstanding and being scandalised by Jesus shared by the other disciples – in Luke and John he is a man set apart from the beginning (and the speculation is that this may reflect inter-religious hostilities between Christians and Jews and/or Jewish and Gentile Christians. That’s not the same as anti-Semitism. This comes later and one of the mistakes of John Spong in my view is to read back later anti-Semitism into this. At this point the Early Christian sect was actually persecuted by Temple Judaism and viciously so; it wouldn’t surprise me if this was reflected in the partial understanding of the later Gospel writers in some degree; and if it is this shows that they had not yet fully grasped Jesus message.

I may be completely wrong but this is how I see Peter’s account of Judas’ death in Acts 1. It can’t be an account of his death as such – it’s an account of what happened to Judas’ body after his death (and perhaps an allegory too of someone falling pell-mell and the seat of their emotions being eviscerated – which is also what happens to Judas). However, I am prepared to think that Peter did not really understand Jesus message of forgiveness when he spoke thus. His ‘conversion was a slow and painful process. And perhaps if it is Luke that appended the reference to Psalm 109, Luke didn’t; understand fully either.

The thing about the account in Acts 1 as far as I can see is that it robs Judas of any humanity – he is reduced to spilling guts and it was this tradition that was taken up and exaggerated by Papias and fuelled the full blown anti-Semitism from the fourth century onwards. (It also reminds me of the Babylonian Talmud’s peculations about Jesus boiling in excrement in Gehenna – and that was written by a Jewish community still in control). And I think that one of the reason why we must ‘forgive’ Judas is that the best of all stories of unlimited forgiveness just cannot have an unforgiven protagonist – because the unforgiven one so easily becomes the whipping boy of self righteous projections with terrible results. But I note that Origen said that Judas was an inexhaustible mystery in some way and will take that as a lesson.

Origen got right about not holding up Judas suicide as such as the mark of complete repentance – yes it was not what God ever desired for Judas; but it does not preclude his forgiveness in the resurrection. I’m really glad to have tracked that down and I hope Illaria Ramelli takes a look at the Sermon on the death of Judas form Origen’s Commentary on Matthew one day and gives us a considered opinion  Happy Easter to you and to all 

Spong gets a looooooottttt wrong in his super-bizarre argument against the very existence of Judas Iscariot. I wrote an extended series on his argument several years ago for the Cadre, the start of which can be found here: … ariot.html

That’s just kind of an aside.:slight_smile: