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Why Jesus Was Betrayed by Judas Iscariot

March 15, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Once one of Jesus’s most trusted disciples, Judas became the poster child for treachery and cowardice.

From the moment he plants a kiss on Jesus of Nazareth in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot sealed his own fate: to be remembered as history’s most famous traitor.

But by identifying Jesus to the Jewish authorities, Judas set into motion the series of events that became the foundations of the Christian faith: Jesus’s arrest, his trial, his death by crucifixion, and eventually his resurrection, known collectively as the Passion of Christ.

Given how little we actually know about him from the Bible, Judas Iscariot remains one of the most enigmatic—and important—figures in Jesus’s story. In recent years, the discovery of the long-lost Gospel of Judas, a Gnostic text originally dating to the second century, has led some scholars to reconsider his role, and even to ask whether he might have been unfairly blamed for betraying Jesus.

READ MORE: in 2006. “Almost since the death of Christ, Judas has been held up by Christians as a symbol of the Jews: their supposed deviousness, their lust for money and other racial vices.”

The historical tendency to identify Judas with anti-Semitic stereotypes led, after the horrors of the Holocaust, to a reconsideration of this key Biblical figure, and something of a rehabilitation of his image. Professor William Klassen, a Canadian biblical scholar, argued in a 1997 biography of Judas that many of the details of his treachery were invented or exaggerated by early Christian church leaders, especially as the church began to move away from Judaism.

The Gospel of Judas

In 2006, the National Geographic Society announced the discovery and translation of a long-lost text known as the “Gospel of Judas,” believed to have been originally written around A.D. 150, then copied from Greek into Coptic in the third century. First alluded to in writing by the second-century cleric Irenaeus, the Gospel of Judas is one of many ancient texts discovered in recent decades that have been linked to the Gnostics, a (mostly) Christian group who were denounced as heretics by early church leaders for their unorthodox spiritual beliefs.

Rather than denounce Judas as Jesus’s betrayer, the author of the Gospel of Judas glorified him as Jesus’s most favored disciple. In this version of events, Jesus asked Judas to betray him to the authorities, so that he could be freed from his …read more


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