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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Judas Iscariot

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The only biblical reference to Judas Iscariot by name outside the Gospels is Acts 1:16-20; Acts 1:25, and there he is called neither ‘Iscariot’ nor ‘the traitor’ (προδότης, as in Luke 6:16), nor is his action spoken of by the term παραδιδόναι. He is described in Luke 6:17 as the one who ‘became guide (ὁδηγός) to them that arrested Jesus,’ and in Luke 6:20 as having ‘fallen away (παρέβη) from the ministry and apostleship to go to his own place’ (see Place). It is interesting, however, to note the other allusions to our Lord’s betrayal in the Acts and in the Epistles. (1) In Acts 3:13 St. Peter attributes it virtually to the Israelites themselves (δν ὑμεῖς παρεδώκατε κτλ.; cf. Acts 2:23), and so again (2) in Acts 7:52 does St. Stephen (τοῦ δικαίου οὗ νῦν ὑμεῖς προδόται καὶ φονεῖς ἐγένεσθε). (3) In Romans 4:25 St. Paul, quoting Isaiah 53:12 (Septuagint ), says less definitely that Jesus our Lord παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν; (4) but in 1 Corinthians 11:23 the very act and time of betrayal are alluded to in connexion with the institution of the Last Supper (ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ᾗ παρεδίδετο κτλ.). On the other hand, St. Paul three times describes the betrayal from the point of view of our Lord’s own voluntary submission, viz. (5) Galatians 2:20 : παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ; (6) Ephesians 5:2 : παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν; (7) Ephesians 5:25 : ἐαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ ἐκκλησίας (cf. 1 Peter 2:23 : παρεδίδου τῷ κρίνοντι δικαίως, and see John 10:17-18; John 17:19 etc.); and once (8) even of the Father Himself (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν πάντων παρέδωκεν αὐτόν, Romans 8:32).

As to Judas’s grievous end itself, as recorded in the Acts, it is not necessary here to compare it in detail with the account given in Matthew 27:3 ff.; it is sufficient to say that in the present state of our information the two accounts are well-nigh, if not quite, irreconcilable. But various points in the Lucan record remain to be reviewed.

(a) St. Peter in his opening address at the election of St. Matthias infers that the inclusion of the traitor in the number of the apostles and his obtaining a share in their ministry was a mysterious dispensation by which was fulfilled the prediction of Psalms 41:9, so recently quoted by our Lord Himself (John 13:18), together with its necessary consequences as foreshadowed in two other Psalms (Psalms 69:25; Psalms 109:8): that is, if John 13:20 be an original part of St. Peter’s speech, and not, as is possible, a part of the Lucan (or later) elucidation of the passage contained in John 13:18-19. In any case, all three quotations, but specially for our purpose now, the last two, are of interest as illustrating the free use made of the text of Scripture and its secondary application. In Psalms 41:9 the actual wording bears little likeness to the Septuagint , being a more literal rendering of the Hebrew, while its original reference is to some treacherous friend (e.g. Ahithophel, the unfaithful counsellor of David). In Psalms 69:25 the text is more exact, but the original figure employed (ἡ ἔπαυλις αὐτῶν, not αὐτοῦ) suggests a nomad encampment of tents rendered desolate because of the cruel persecutions which their occupants had practised, while Psalms 109:8 has in view one particular official, like Doeg or Ahithophel, who has been false to his trust, and therefore it is, to our modern notions, more appropriately and with less strain transferred to the case of Judas.

(b) The passage John 13:18-19, with or without John 13:20 (see above), would seem to be an editorial comment inserted in the middle of St. Peter’s address either by the author of the Acts himself or, as has been thought, by some later glossator or copyist. Of the latter view there is, we believe, no indication in the history of the text. If, as is more likely, therefore, it is due to St. Luke, he has here adopted an account of the traitor’s grievous end which is independent of, and in some details apparently irreconcilable with, St. Matthew’s (Matthew 27:3 ff.), but to a less extent, we are inclined to think, than is sometimes held. For it is not out of keeping with eastern modes of treating facts for St. Luke to speak of the ‘field of blood’ being acquired by the traitor himself with the price of his iniquity (qui facit per alium, facit per se), which St. Matthew more accurately says was actually purchased by the chief priest, whilst the horribly graphic description of his suicide is little more than a conventional way of representing St. Matthew’s simple ἀπελθὼν ἀπήγξατο.

(c) For the title Akeldama and its interpretation see separate article, s.v.

It remains to remark that St. Peter’s expression, as recorded in his address, and the apostolic prayer of ordination, for which he was probably responsible and the mouthpiece, breathe much more of the spirit of primitive Christianity in their restrained and chastened style than the more outspoken and almost vindictive statements of John 13:18-19, so that one would not be altogether surprised to find that the latter are, as has been suggested, a less genuine tradition of a later age.

C. L. Feltoe.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Judas Iscariot'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/j/judas-iscariot.html. 1906-1918.

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