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Do we really know what happened to Judas Iscariot?

by Robert Randle  
6/17/2009 / Bible Studies

There is hardly a more infamous person in Holy Writ than Judas. He is even more notorious than 'Jezebel,' wife of King Ahab or the lovely and seductive 'Delilah.' The name, 'Judas' will be known throughout the annals of history and time as the ultimate act of 'betrayal,' selling out his Master and companions in the ministry for thirty pieces of silver. The bittersweet irony is that the expression of a 'kiss,' the usual sign of respect love, affection, and caring became the twisted act of the darkness of his heart in setting in motion a series of events, which ultimately brought Jesus to the Cross of Crucifixion. Nothing more is heard about Judas after Jesus was arrested and only in the book of MATTHEW is the fate which befell Judas finally revealed, but is that the whole story?

The following is of course conjecture, but let's look at a brief alternative scenario. Because of what Judas did, it would certainly not be safe for him to remain within the environs of Galilee or Judea ['Jerusalem'], so instead he leaves the region and settles in nearby Syria. Over the intervening years the followers of "Jesus the Nazarene" continue to grow and spread outside the area into neighboring countries, including Syria. There are Jewish communities throughout the land who are descendants of the original captives from the land of Israel who have been exiled there in Damascus, Syria (Cp. II Chronicles 28: 5a). The followers of the risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ say that they are of "The Way" ['Ha-Derekh'] and their faith practices come to the attention of a very zealous Jew who is also a Roman citizen, named 'Saul.'

This person launches a one-man crusade almost to the level of an obsessive madness to stamp out this perceived menace to the purity of the Jewish traditions, Law of Moses, and the teachings of the elders and rabbis. This vigilante pronounces a 'Jihad' ['Holy war'] on the new religion and essentially all those faithful believers are under a 'fatwa' ['Death sentence'], where they will be caught, sent to prison in Jerusalem, and even killed/murdered.

Saul received authority [documentation??] from the high priest in Jerusalem giving him permision to carry out this edict to round up, interrogate, and arrest those followers of Jesus; and on the way to Damascus ['Syria'] he had a life-changing experience where the Lord Jesus Christ was reveled to him in a burst of celestial radiance [light]. A now blinded Saul was led into the city by his companions ['enforcers'] and came to lodge at 'the house of Judas.' There was a disciple there in Damascus by the name of Ananias whom the Lord told, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the "house of Judas" for one called Saul of Tarsus [in 'Cilicia'], for behold he is praying."(Cp. Acts 9: 11)

Now the million dollar question is, could this be the 'One' of the "Twelve" and son of perdition ['destruction'], Judas Iscariot? Well, there are some interesting clues, nonetheless. Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon (Cp. John 6: 71a; 12: 4; 13: 26) is mentioned but which Simon is his father? MATTHEW and MARK refer to one of Jesus' disciples as Simon the Canaanite, which doesn't reveal much, but LUKE correctly identifies one of Jesus' disciples as Simon the Zealot (6: 15). Also, it might not be apparent at first, but "Iscariot" is derivative of 'sicari'/['Assassin'] and is a title, not a name as such . Remember that Jesus named James and John the sons of Zebedee, 'Boanerges' ["Sons of Thunder"], which was well deserved (Cp. Luke 9: 52-56). Jesus called Simon Peter, 'Cephas'["Rock"] in John 1: 42.

The Zealots and Sicarii vehemently opposed Roman rule in the region and waged war and instigated insurrection against their foreign overlords by either; brandishing swords in open combat or using small daggers to kill their victims by stealth. Now, putting all this together might result in the following: After this man ['Theudas'], Judas of Galilee (??) rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered (Cp. Acts 5: 37).

Judas was doubtless a native Galilean or at the very least, Judean; and it is doubtful that he or any of the disciples had any great love for the Romans. Matthew 11: 12 reads: And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. To whom or what aspect of the kingdom is Jesus referring to? Is it possible that there were some among His followers who were seeking to usher in an 'apocalyptic' "end-of-days battle between the forces of Darkness and Light" ['Good vs. Evil'] rather than bearing the olive branch or turning the other cheek?

In John 18: 10a it states: Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant. It is only in this account that the assailant is named whereas in the other versions the person is unknown or not revealed (??). In Peter's defense, there doesn't seem to be anything in his character as revealed in the Scriptures to indicate he would take this sort of action. James and John would be better candidates but Simon Peter is rather doubtful. One person who might be one of the sword-wielding disciples is of course, Simon the Zealot (John 6: 15; 18: 10-11; Matthew 26: 51-52; Mark 14: 47; Luke 22: 36-38). In this instance, the source used for the narrative in JOHN might have gotten it all wrong.

It seems that Simon Peter's interest centered on fishing(Cp. 5: 1-11; John 21: 1-11; esp. 15, "Simon do you love Me more than these {'fish'??}?") and not on becoming a revolutionary or insurrectionist. MATTHEW is the only narrative to record Judas' death by hanging for his act (Cp. Matthew 27: 3-10), and while he may have indeed hung himself, but it might not be for that reason. If he were indeed the leader of a revolt against Rome then taking his own life through hanging might have been the preferable way to die than endure the agony of crucifixion; which was the fate for criminals that Rome deemed a threat to her imperial power, to which 'Barabbas' was sentenced (Cp. Matthew 21: 16; Mark 15: 6-7; Luke 23: 18-19; John 18: 39-40).

It must be kept in mind that MATTHEW has a tendency to embellish or inflate some of his details with literary flourishes (Cp. Matthew 27: 51b-53; 28: 1-2). Lastly, whether the Judas in the Gospels is the same one in ACTS in purely hypothetical, but considering that these accounts were written at different times based upon the sources used, one should not necessarily dismiss it outright. Both could be right but it is just the placement in MATTHEW that seems to be a little odd and it would be interesting to read through the narrative without the passages being there. It just might be the editor's way to explain a most important concern for believers in future generations and where he placed the explanation of Judas' fate in the book was where he deemed it would fit best.

Adding this last point to the mystery of Judas Iscariot is the curiously revealing reference by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15: 5, where he states: And that He ['Jesus'] was seen of Cephas ['Simon Peter'], then of the "Twelve." Judas was always numbered among the Twelve Disciples, so if he killed himself during the immediate time period after Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection, there would only be eleven. Since the book of FIRST CORINTHIANS was dated around A.D. 50-55, earlier than any of the Gospels, then at least during this time Jesus appeared to the "Twelve" (including 'Judas'??) after His Resurrection and before His ascension back to heaven; and not just to eleven disciples as reported in the latter version contained within the Gospels.

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