Gospel of Judas

This’ll be a hard sell: good news about Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the Roman authorities. The standard text is from Matthew 26:

14Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Now, here comes the first translation of a “Gospel of Judas,” one that portrays Judas as, perhaps, in the words of the translator, Charles Hedrick as follows:

“Judas is not a bad guy in this text,” Hedrick said in an interview. “He is the good guy, and he is serving God.”

The Washington Post story in today’s edition may be found here, although the basic story has been around at least since last December (e.g. this Christian Century story).

Actually, the basic story has been with us since Judas first betrayed Jesus. Not having read the alleged Gospel of Judas, I can’t make any specific comments, and the only thing I’ll take (great) exception to is any depiction of Judas as a “good guy”. I’ve always believed that Judas was a necessary agent of God, in order to fulfill the Father’s salvation plan, most definitely requiring the atoning sacrifice of His Son.

In other words, if not Judas, it would have been someone like Judas. In reality, isn’t it all of mankind that betrayed Jesus by rejecting His message? Or, as we were told in catechism, “for your sins He bleeds.” Judas was merely an agent, and God used him.

So, am I saying that Judas is, somehow, off the hook because if God willed this role for him, what choice did he have? Not at all. Judas remains a bad guy; a man who could not resist Satan and chose to betray the One who could. From John 13 we see that Jesus knew full well the who, what, when, and why of His betrayal. And, that the proximate agent was Satan:

26Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

Judas played a necessary role in salvation history, but not one that should be celebrated as in any way “good.”

Necessary, yes. Good, no. Unless one takes an entirely too-philosophical point of view that calls everything needful “good.” I prefer an old-fashioned definition of good as the absence of evil. And it’s certain that the betrayal of Jesus was the evil act of a sinful man, Judas.

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