I read the same article, Valis, and found it quite interesting. Here it is in its entirety, for those of you who are interested:
Judas: The Backstabber?
By SUSAN HOGAN/ALBACH / The Dallas Morning News
The Bible says Jesus chose fishermen as apostles.
Some Christians say he also chose a terrorist.
He's Judas Iscariot, the disciple-turned-betrayer.
The Gospels saddled Judas with bestowing the kiss of death upon Jesus. Now, some Christians are portraying him as a knife-wielding assassin.
Judas the Terrorist has captured the imagination of many Christians in the aftermath of 9-11 and, now, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Biblical scholars have long debated the possibility that he was the most radical apostle.
|Enough to fill a book |
|Judas' betrayal of Jesus is hardly the only one in the Bible. Other examples: |
• Adam and Eve betray God's trust by eating the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3)
• Cain murders Abel in a jealous rage. (Genesis 4)
• Joseph's brothers sell him to an Ishmaelite caravan. (Genesis 37)
• Rebekah and Jacob trick Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of Esau. (Genesis 27)
• Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah instead of the fairer Rachel. (Genesis 29)
• Absalom plots to gain the throne of his father, King David. (2 Samuel 15)
• Ahithophel, counselor to King David, joins Absalom's revolt. (2 Samuel 15-17)
• David sets up his loyal soldier, Uriah the Hittite, to be killed, so he can marry Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 11)
• Delilah betrays Samson by having his hair, the source of his strength, cut. (Judges 16)
• Jezebel arranges to have Naboth falsely accused and stoned to death. (1 Kings 21)
Susan Hogan/Albach and Jeffrey Weiss
"Judas was like the terrorists of today in his overconfident mind and his overzealous heart," said Andrea Seek, a lay leader at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational in Massachusetts. She has preached on the subject.
Judas always garners renewed attention as Christians enter Holy Week, commemorating the final days of Jesus with Palm Sunday, Last Supper and Good Friday services.
The terrorist theory holds that Judas was part of a guerilla movement working to overthrow Roman occupation in the Mideast. The thinking is that he believed Jesus would physically liberate the Jews, as Moses had done during the Exodus.
"Judas may well have been trying to precipitate an insurrectionist movement by forcing Jesus into a posture of action," said Dr. William Ritter, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Mich.
The theory comes down to interpretation of a single word: "Iscariot."
Is it a surname? A hometown? Or, as some believe, a corruption of the Latin word "sicarius," referring to a dagger carried by terrorists known as the Sicarii.
Scholars say the Sicarii were Jewish assassins – the most violent and fanatical of the political resistance groups. Judas presumably followed Jesus believing he was the Messiah who would return Jews to power in their homeland.
Only after the arrest and crucifixion did he realize that Jesus wasn't that kind of Messiah. Instead of a worldly kingdom, Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God.
"That's a legitimate theory to try to explain the situation," said Dr. Dennis Smith, who teaches New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa.
But he doesn't buy it. Some other leading New Testament scholars also discount the terrorist theory, though not entirely.
"There's an outside chance it's true – 25 percent at the most," said Dr. N.T. Wright, a scholar in England who has written several books on the New Testament.
Part of the problem is that the exact etymology of "Iscariot" isn't known.
"Iscariot sounds like sicarius, but it's not the same word," said Dr. Sean Martin, a biblical scholar at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis.
He says the Sicarii didn't reach their peak until the decades after Jesus was crucified, making it unlikely that Judas was one of them.
Another possible meaning of Iscariot: "Man from Kerioth," a town many scholars believe to have been in the territory of Judah, based on a reference in the Book of Joshua. That would mean Judas wasn't a Galilean like the other apostles, but an outsider.
However, some scholars doubt the existence of Kerioth, which terrorist theorists say adds to their argument that "Iscariot" wasn't a reference to a location, but a militant group.
The movement to portray Judas as a terrorist – an even more sinister betrayer than he is in Scripture – goes against recent efforts by some scholars to rehabilitate him.
Instead of a villain, they say he's misunderstood.
Instead of betraying Jesus, they say he handed him over to authorities with Jesus' consent, setting into motion the chain of events needed to fulfill what many Christians regard as scriptural prophecies of salvation through Jesus' crucifixion.
Some also say Judas is probably in heaven – because he "cooperated" with Jesus and was remorseful for the outcome. Dante's Inferno, on the other hand, depicted Judas in the far echelons of hell.
"It's accurate to say he's been unfairly demonized," said Dr. Sheila McGinn, an early Christianity scholar at John Carroll University in Ohio.
But she believes the rehabilitation movement has gone too far, producing theories that exceed the evidence.
For example, a few years ago, artist Laurence Whistler created a stained-glass window depicting a hand reaching down from heaven to pull Judas out of the hangman's noose.
"It is a way to illustrate that God's mercy can reach even to the remotest corners of the human heart," Dr. McGinn said. "On the other hand, as a betrayer, Judas isn't a sympathetic character."
Some of the modern charity toward Judas reflects a shift in the theology about suicide, she said. Christians who committed suicide used to be denied church burials because their deaths were considered egregious sins.
But greater psychological understandings of depression and mental illness have made many churches more compassionate.
"A lot of people who commit suicide are not what the average person would call in their right mind," she said. "When they are driven to that ultimate point of self-destruction, does God punish or show mercy?"
Many Christians today lean toward mercy. That complicates their view of Judas.
Another factor: Only the Gospel of Matthew says Judas committed suicide. In the Acts of the Apostles, he died a different way entirely – by falling on his head, causing his insides to gush out.
"Remember, the Gospels were written to tell the story of Jesus," Dr. Martin said. "Every other figure who appears is secondary to that primary purpose."
In other words, Judas remains a mystery because the Gospel writers weren't interested in telling his story.
Dr. Daryl Schmidt of Texas Christian University has another theory: Judas never existed. Rather, he says, Judas was a composite character, created to serve the anti-Semitic purpose of early Christians who blamed Jews for killing Jesus.
In fact, he suspects that most aspects of what the Gospels said ultimately happened to Jesus were borrowed from the Old Testament. The story of Jesus, dubbed the "king of the Jews," parallels the story of King David, he says.
As further evidence, he points to the story of Ahithophel, David's betrayer, told in the Second Book of Samuel. When Ahithophel realizes the folly of his actions against the king, he commits suicide – an act later mirrored by Judas.
Another parallel, Dr. Schmidt says, is that there were 12 tribes in ancient Israel and Jesus chose 12 apostles. Judas sounds "suspiciously" like the name of the tribe Judah.
He says the Gospel writers took liberty with history to make important points about Jesus.
"What you've got is people telling the stories after the fact," said Dr. Schmidt, a biblical scholar. "And they're saying it's the Jew who was the traitor who betrayed Jesus."
St. Augustine, one of history's most influential theologians, declared the name of Judas to be symbolic of the Jewish people as a whole, fueling anti-Semitic bias among Catholics. During the 1960s the Vatican officially renounced the view that Jews were responsible for Jesus' death.
Other Christian denominations have made similar declarations.
Figure or figment?
So is Judas fact or fiction? Good guy or bad?
And if he did betray Jesus, what was his motive?
Some Gospels suggest money, but 30 pieces of silver was hardly a fortune.
So was it jealousy?
Did he hope to force Jesus to rise up against the Roman authorities? Or did he become disillusioned when Jesus didn't inspire a political revolution?
"What you find in reading the Gospel literature is that there is very little attention to motive," said Dr. Charles Talbert, a professor of religion at Baylor University.
While the Gospels portray Judas as the biggest disappointment among the apostles, he was hardly the only one. He betrayed Jesus, Peter denied him, and Thomas doubted him.
And the Gospels are filled with ample other examples of the apostles failing to understand Jesus.
"The double tragedy of Jesus is that he was forsaken by everyone around him," said Dr. Phillips of Tulsa. "Then, on the cross, he cries out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"
The Rev. Jon Lee, pastor of King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas, says the story of Judas is as poignant as ever in light of the current landscape of religious extremes.
"There are people who want faith entirely privatized, and those who want to impose their views on everyone else – by force, if necessary," he said, adding that Judas is an example of the latter.
Judas raises the question of where to draw the line between faith and fanaticism, said Ms. Seek, the lay leader from Massachusetts.
"I would imagine that people who blow themselves up for some cause think like Judas," she said. "They're so convinced of the rightness of their cause that killing people seems the greater good."