The following is a guest post by David Blocker – an interesting article on the Last Supper. It is a long article, especially if you include the footnote material, which by the way also has a lot of interesting material.
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This is an amended version of an article originally published in The Journal of Higher Criticism, Spring 2005, and an essay posted from 2/28/06 until October 26, 2009 on Yahoo Geocities.
(Revision 13 published in Journal of Higher Criticism, Spring 2005).
(Revision 14.0 posted on Internet (Yahoo Geocities) from 2/28/06 to 9/2009).
The Traditional Translation and
Interpretation of the Last Supper:
Betrayal of the Original Text
(Revision 26: 2011, 08)
The events of the Last Supper were of sufficient importance to the early Christians that they canonized the episode. They memorialized the Last Supper by regularly re-enacting it as a sacramental ritual. Traditionally, the Last Supper is regarded as a celebration of the Passover (a Seder). However, it has been proposed that the Seder did not come into existence until after the Roman destruction of the JerusalemTemplein 70 CE (). This calls for a re-evaluation of the underlying historical significance of the Last Supper ().
Alternative translations of the canonical Gospel accounts of the Last Supper will be presented here. The new translations lead to an interpretation of the events surrounding the Last Supper that is consistent with Jesus’ historical context and which is not theologically motivated. They demonstrate that Jesus chose Judas to act as his messenger to the Judean authorities. Judas did not betray Jesus. Instead, Judas facilitated Jesus’ voluntary surrender to the High Priest.
The redactors of the canonical Gospels subtlety altered their sources to create a tale of betrayal and desertion in order to discredit Jesus’ followers and obscure the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ activities. This was but one of the changes in the Jesus legend that permitted an insular Judean sect to evolve into a universal Hellenistic religion.
The incidents leading up to the Last Supper in the Gospel attributed to John differ from those in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Johannine Gospel, Jesus repeatedly provokes the Judean authorities () (). They respond by trying to capture him or summarily stone him, just as they would stone his brother a generation later (). Jesus’ altercation in theTemple (John 2:13-17) and his actions atBethany captured the public’s attention (John 11:1-45) and incurred the enmity of theTempleEstablishment (John 11:46-53). When Jesus enteredJerusalem, he attracted a mob of supporters (John 12:11-15), which would have been of concern to both the Judean hierarchy and to the Roman authorities.
According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ final public demonstration at Passover led to his arrest (). He staged a processional entry into Jerusalem (), attacked the financial agents of the Temple, and spoke out against the continued existence of the Temple () (11). He appears to have seized control of the Temple courtyard for three days ().
The Temple demonstration, no matter when it occurred during Jesus’ career, or what form it took, was a challenge to the legitimacy and authority of the Roman appointed High Priest (). This action also questioned the right and ability of the Romans to exert control over Judean religion and politics (). Jesus’ demonstration either received less support from his fellow Judeans than he had anticipated, or did not neutralize the Roman garrison inJerusalem. Consequently, Jesus had to be concerned about the Roman response to his act of overt defiance to the secular and sacerdotal establishment.
According to the Johannine Gospel, the High Priest stated that Jesus’ arrest would stave off Roman reprisals against the citizens of Judea(). In fact, after the Romans seized Jesus, they did not take their usual wide spread reprisals (). According to the canonical gospel accounts the Romans seemed content with making an example out of Jesus alone, and did not hunt down or arrest any of his immediate followers ()
The traditional English language translation of John Chapter 13 v. 21-30 is given below. It is followed by two new alternative translations using definitions from Liddell and Scott’s Classical Greek-English Lexicon (). The alternate word choices have just as much, if not more validity, than the traditional word choices.
The Traditional Translation of John 13 (NIV) ()
JN 13:21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
JN 13:22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.
JN 13:23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
JN 13:24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
JN 13:25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
JN 13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the bowl.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.
JN 13:27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him ().
“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him,
JN 13:28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.
JN 13:29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.
JN 13:30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
Two alternative translations based on the Greek text are given below. These translations use word choices that are determined by context, not by orthodox theology. A brief explanation accompanies each new translation.
The First Proposed New Translation of John 13 based on the Greek Textus Receptus ():
JN 13:22: The disciples were disturbed by what he had said, and (they) looked at one another.
JN 13:23 One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining (leaning) against him.
JN 13:24 Simon Peter then nodded at this one and said to him: “Tell (us) who it will be. From whom does he demand this ()?”
JN 13:25Then falling back against the chest of Jesus, that one asked him: “Lord, who will it be?”
JN 13:26 Jesus replied as follows: “It is the one for whom I shall dunk a morsel (of bread).
JN 13:27 And after the morsel (), Jesus thereupon told him: “Do what you must do and do it immediately.”
JN 13:28 But of those reclining, no one understood what he had demanded of him (),
According to this translation, Jesus had decided to turn himself over to the TempleHierarchyand chose Judas to be his emissary. Sharing food from his plate was the final blessing he bestowed on Judas before sending him on an abhorrent and dangerous mission. Sharing food with Judas, with the other disciples as witnesses, demonstrated Jesus’ particular love and trust for Judas () and showed that he bore him no ill will.
Another possible translation of John 13 has Jesus performing a well-documented Judean practice used to facilitate decision making.
The disciples were disturbed by what he had said and (they) looked at one another.
One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining (leaning) against him.
Simon Peter then nodded at this one and said to him: “Tell (us) who it will be. From whom does he demand this?”
Then falling back against the chest of Jesus, that one asked him: “Lord, who will it be?”
After drawing out the fragment, he took (it) and presented it to Judas the relative () of Simon Iscariot.
But of those reclining, no one understood what he had demanded of him. Some thought that since Judas held the purse, Jesus had asked him to buy the things we () need for the feast, or that he should give something to the poor. Therefore after accepting the fragment, that one immediately went out, and night fell.
This translation depicts the drawing of lots to determine who would approach the TemplePriestson Jesus’ behalf. Judas was selected to be the emissary who would negotiate Jesus’ surrender to the TemplePriestsand their Roman overlords. In this context, Psomion (fragment) describes not a piece of bread but a shard of pottery or other small object that could be used as a marker for drawing lots.
The Tanak (Torah) contains precedents for casting lots to make decisions and to determine the outcome of elections (). There are also New Testament examples of Judeans and Romans casting lots to make important decisions (). The Jewish historian Josephus (b. 36 CE – d. c. 96 CE), a near contemporary of Jesus, recorded several examples of Jewish revolutionaries who drew lots in order to make decisions ().
Neither of the above interpretations of the Last Supper is driven by orthodox Christian theology. Each is based on a literal translation of the Greek New Testament Textus Receptus. Both translations offer consistent explanations of the events associated with the Last Supper and are congruent with the customs and political situation then current inJudea.
Both of the new translations imply that Jesus realized his coup attempt had failed. Instead of fleeing into the wilderness surrounding Jerusalemor committing suicide () Jesus decided to hand himself over to the Temple Authorities (). He sacrificed himself rather than subject his followers and the people of Jerusalem to Roman retribution (). Jesus selected Judas, either deliberately or by lot, and ordered him to perform the onerous task of turning his leader over to the authorities. Following Judas’ departure, Jesus gave his followers his final instructions and then went outside the city walls to await his arrest () ().
The Johannine Gospel preserves the most complete, but still heavily, edited account of the Last Supper (). The authors of the Synoptic Gospels subjected their sources to more extensive modification.
The gospels attributed to Mark, Matthew and Luke follow a similar sequence after Jesus’ announcement that he must be handed over to the authorities. First the Eucharist is inserted into the narrative, Jesus questions the disciples’ devotion, and then predicts Peter will deny his association with him ().
The Markan account of the Last Supper parallels the Johannine account up to the point where Jesus’ disciples protest his announcement. Jesus still states that he is to be turned in but his interaction with Judas has been omitted. Instead, Jesus merely announces that someone sharing his bowl would turn him over. The Markan author does not even make it clear whether it is a bowl for hand washing or a bowl of shared food. The text makes it appear as if Jesus was making a prediction and not deliberately selecting an emissary. The Markan Gospel has Judas act on his own without authorization from Jesus. The text presents him as a traitor.
In the Johannine Gospel, the selection of Judas is followed by Jesus’ final discourse instructing his disciples about what to expect and do after his death (). This sermon is not in the Markan text. The Markan redactor removed the discourse and inserted the Eucharist () in its place. This is followed by Jesus’ departure for the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26). While waiting for Judas to lead the authorities to him, Jesus questioned Peter’s steadfastness (Mark 14:30) and reprimanded the disciples for selfishly napping during his time of foreboding and distress (). These deviations from the Johannine text make the rest of the disciples appear as unfaithful as the traditionally depicted Judas.
The Traditional Translation of Mark 17 v. 14-20 (NIV) ()
MK 14:17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
MK 14:18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.”
MK 14:19 They were distressed, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
MK 14:20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
MK 14:21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
The Translation of Mark 14 v. 17-20 Without Theological Bias
He arrived with the twelve when evening came.
While they lay down and ate, Jesus said: “I must honestly tell you that one of you eating here with me must turn me in.”
They began to protest, and one by one they said to him: Not me!
Then he said to them: (It is) one of the twelve, the one immersing (his hand?) with me in the bowl. I will do what is expected of me, but misfortunate will be upon that man who delivers me up. It would have been better for him had he never been born.
The gospel attributed to Matthew, like Johannine text, preserves the disciples’ objections to Jesus’ announcement that one who had shared a bowl with him would turn him over to the authorities. The Johannine account of Jesus’ active selection of Judas was deleted from the Matthean text. Judas’ denial (Matthew 26:25), which was challenged by Jesus, echoes and amplifies the other disciples’ questioning of Jesus’ judgment (Matthew 26:22). Judas was dismissed without either the benefit of a blessing from his leader (the Blessing Hypothesis), or the consolation of knowing that he had been “chosen by God” (the Lottery Hypothesis). The Matthean text vilified Judas by presenting him as a lying traitor rather than a faithful servant.
The Traditional Translation of Matthew 26:20-25 ()
MT 26:20 Now when the even was come, he sat down MT 26: with the twelve.
MT 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
MT 26:22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
MT 26:23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the bowl, the same shall betray me.
MT 26:24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him (): but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.
MT 26:25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
An alternate and more literal translation of Matthew 26 v 20-23 follows. It must be kept in mind that the original Greek manuscripts did not have any punctuation or spaces between words.
The Translation of Matthew 26:20-23 Without Theological Bias:
And eating with them he said: In all truth, I tell you that one of you must hand me over.
They were extremely upset, and each one told him: Not I, Lord!
I will do what is expected of me, but unfortunate will be the man who must hand me over. He would have been better off had he never been born.
And Judas, the one to turn him in, said:” Not I (literally: “Not I am ()”), Rabbi.”
He replied: But you have stated (admitted) it.
If anything, this new translation is even more damaging to Judas’ reputation than the traditional translation since Judas is presented as a deliberate liar.
In the gospel attributed to Luke, Judas was characterized somewhat differently, though in the end, he is still vilified.
The Lucan redactor had shifted the Johannine statement “Satan entered into Judas ()”, from the Last Supper account, to a much earlier meeting with the chief priests (). In the traditional Lucan account, Judas’ actions were premeditated, not spontaneous. Judas had been bribed and demonized well in advance of the Last Supper
The gospel attributed to Luke (), unlike the two other Synoptic texts, places the account of the Eucharist (Luke 22:19-20) before Jesus’ announcement of his impending “betrayal” (Luke 22:21-22). In the other Synoptic accounts, Mark and Matthew, Judas departs before Jesus reveals the mystery of the Eucharist to the remaining disciples. In these texts, Judas is cut off from fellowship with the Christian community since he left before the revelation of Christianity’s most important ritual.
In the Lucan story, Judas’ initial act of disloyalty (Luke 22:1-6) took place before his participation in the fellowship ceremony of the Last Supper (Luke 22:19-20). Therefore, Judas not only betrayed his master, but also his comrades and all the subsequent generations of Christians who reenact the Last Supper through the ritual of the Eucharist.
The Lucan redactor did not retain the Johannine text where Jesus selects Judas as his emissary. The Lucan redactor also expunged the protests of the disciples from his Last Supper account. Unlike the other canonical texts, the disciples do not object when Jesus offhandedly announces that he will be turned in (). Instead they squabble among themselves about who would do it (), and who would succeed Jesus once he was gone (). They appear unconcerned about their master’s fate and only interested in themselves.
Following the disciple’s quarrel, the Lucan story has Jesus predict that Peter will disavow him ().
Finally, where the Matthean redactor has a remorseful Judas return the 30 silver pieces to the Temple before committing suicide (Matthew 27:3-5), the Lucan redactor has the unrepentant, and therefore irredeemably evil, Judas struck dead by a vengeful God (Acts 1:18).
In addition to demonizing Judas, the Lucan gospel utterly discredited the other disciples. They are depicted as being inconstant, cowardly (), and selfishly concerned about their own welfare and personal status (). The Lucan Gospel was written as the prelude to Acts of the Apostles, which presents Paul as a new and improved cosmopolitan apostle who will replace the inadequate original Galilean disciples.
At the beginning of this essay, two hypotheses about what actually happened at the Last Supper were proposed. The first hypothesis has Jesus offering Judas a morsel of food from his bowl as a final blessing before sending him out to be his emissary to theTempleauthorities. The second hypothesis proposes that Judas was chosen by lot. Each hypothesis represents a more authentic translation of the Johannine account than the traditional interpretation. The only difference between the two hypotheses is whether Judas was chosen deliberately or by chance. This has no significant effect on the narrative sequence of the reinterpreted Last Supper account.
In spite of the canonical gospels having undergone considerable redaction, the original Last Supper narrative can be recovered. The reconstruction of the Last Supper is presented below.
Jesus and his followers seized control of theTemplecourtyard (according to the Synoptic Gospels) or otherwise provoked a confrontation with the authorities (according to the Johannine Gospel).
Jesus and his immediate followers retreated from public view to a private room after their attempt to take over theTemplefailed (Synoptic version), or after Jesus realized he had failed to win significant popular support after enteringJerusalem(Johannine version).
He announced to his inner circle that one of them must turn him over to the authorities.
They protest this announcement and each asks not to be chosen for this task.
Jesus pulled either a token or piece of bread from his bowl and then announced that he had selected Judas to approach the authorities on his behalf.
He told Judas to carry out his assignment quickly and Judas departs.
Jesus then discussed who was to succeed him and left the city to await his arrest ().
The Johannine Gospel implies that Jesus deliberately turned himself over to the authorities who were growing increasingly worried about both his activities and the growing number of followers (). The rationale for Jesus’ self sacrifice was first stated in a speech attributed to Caiaphas () and then reiterated () after Jesus was taken into custody.
The Johannine gospel twice states that Jesus saw to the safety of his followers (), by taking individual responsibility for his actions () and handing himself over to the authorities. However, this was phrased in oblique language, so that casual or unsophisticated readers would think that Jesus was acting to fulfill a prophecy, rather than taking deliberate action to save his followers at the expense of losing his own freedom and life.
Each of the Gospels has an account of Jesus’ capture. Jesus leaves Jerusalemwith his disciples () and awaits his arrest outside the city walls. The historical precedent for the so-called “Agony in the Garden” is suspect since this incident appears only in the Synoptic gospels () () ().
The Johannine Gospel clearly states that Jesus was arrested by a Roman tribune leading a cohort accompanied by Jewish auxiliary troops or minor Templeofficials (). The Synoptic gospel writers make no mention of any Roman involvement in Jesus’ arrest (). The Synoptic texts make the arrest the responsibility of the major Judean religious and political factions ().
In the Johannine Gospel, Judas plays no role in the arrest, other than to tell the authorities where they can find Jesus. Jesus identifies himself to the arresting party (), and then utters the Tetragrammaton in order to overpower them, before allowing himself to be arrested (). The author of the Gospel of John was trying to show his readers that Jesus’ surrender was entirely voluntary. He wanted to demonstrate that, Jesus had the supernatural ability to subdue his captors. The Johannine Gospel is the only canonical gospel where Jesus clearly stated that he surrendered in order to assure his companions’ freedom ().
The Synoptic Gospels all have Judas play an active role in the arrest by specifically identifying Jesus with a kiss of greeting (), thus sealing his perfidy. The Synoptic Gospels contain no indication of Jesus being able to protect himself by using the Tetragrammaton. Judas’ actions become the central mechanism of Jesus’ arrest.
All four canonical gospels show Peter did not accept his leader’s decision to not resist his arrest. Peter lashed out at the High Priest’s representative (). In spite of this act of violent resistance neither Peter, nor any of the other disciples were taken into custody. Only Jesus was taken away. This implies some prior agreement with the arresting party. This also suggests that the arresting party was under the command of Romans. The Romans had no interest in intervening in a scuffle between Judeans once they had Jesus in their custody.
Jesus’ attempt to seize the Temple() ended in abject failure. When a Judean messianic leader failed to achieve his goals, his disillusioned followers usually disbanded since they believed that they no longer had divine sanction (). They were often hunted down and exterminated by the Romans (). In the case of the Jesus movement, neither of these outcomes occurred.
The foregoing arguments suggest that the canonical Gospels’ Last Supper narrative was based on earlier source material that did not contain an act of betrayal. Instead, Jesus sacrificed himself rather than allow his followers and the citizens ofJerusalemto fall victim to Roman reprisals after his failed coup.
The citizens ofJerusalemwere forgiven their trespasses against Roman law and spared from death when Jesus handed himself over to the Romans.
Judas, far from being a traitor, acted honorably. He carried out his leader’s onerous command that he contact theTempleauthorities and negotiate Jesus’ surrender to them.
Jesus was transformed from a defeated insurrectionist and failed messianic pretender into a paradigm of noble behavior and heroic self-sacrifice. His family, led by his brother Jacob, took control of the post-crucifixion Jesus sect (). The sect experienced posthumous growth, since Jesus’ martyrdom gained the admiration of those who had initially rejected him. Rather than dwindling away, the Jesus sect started to gain more adherents ().
Following the crushing defeat of the Zealots in 70 CE, the Hellenized adherents of the Jesus sect had to distance themselves from its revolutionary Judean origins. The Jesus sect had to disguise its revolutionary origins in order to survive. Its adherents could no longer afford to be seen as members of a Judean sect that venerated a man who had challenged the Roman Empire. The Jesus sect became less Judean and more like a Hellenic mystery cult ().
One of the first steps in this process was to revise its foundation legends and create a new set of sacred texts. In the new texts, Jesus was not the leader of a liberation movement opposing the Romans and their quisling High Priest (). Instead, he was presented as a peaceful philosopher who was deserted by his feckless disciples and succumbed to Judean duplicity.
While the dating of the Gospels is controversial, it is generally agreed that the synoptic gospels were written after the first Jewish Revolt ended in 70 CE. They were written in Greek for the Hellenized populace of theRoman Empire, and drew on Aramaic source material (52). The Gospel writers wanted to present Jesus in a favorable light to an audience that was still harboring anti-Judean feelings from to the war thatRomehad recently waged against the Judean separatists.
The canonical texts were designed to distance Jesus from his Judean environment and downplay any anti-Roman opinions he may have harbored. The Hellenized Gospels had the additional task of supplanting any texts that the messengers (Greek: apostles) from militant Messianic or Zealot sects had been circulating in Diaspora Judean communities before and during the Jewish Revolt. In all likelihood, the authors of what were to become the canonical gospels wrote hastily. They probably used texts already in circulation as models, and did not expect their efforts to become examples of timeless prose or the foundation documents of a world religion.
The canonical gospel texts, particularly the Synoptic gospels, used the Last Supper as the basis of an anti Judean polemic. Their principle subtext is the disciples’ lack of understanding, their short sighted ambitions, and their betrayal and desertion of their leader () (). Roman participation in the capture and execution of Jesus was minimized, and responsibility for the act was shifted to the Judeans.
Jesus’ disciple, Judas, is depicted as a traitor. The High Priests, when they called for Jesus’ execution, were presented by the canonical gospels, as acting on behalf of the Judean populace (), rather than on behalf of the Roman administrators who appointed them and kept them in power. The Gospels conceal the fact that the High Priests were actually agents of the Roman government (). Only the Johannine Gospel addressed the High Priest’s fear of being deposed by the Romans if Jesus fomented a major disturbance (). The intense strife between religious factions and socio-economic classes that characterized 1st century CE Judea in the works of Flavius Josephus was downplayed by the canonical gospels.
The redactors of the new gospels created a tale about Judas the traitor () (). Each subsequent version of the canonical gospels, from John to Luke, increased the harshness of the character assassination of Jesus’ closest followers. The so-called betrayal in the canonical Gospels was a fiction created by its pro-Roman authors. The tale of Judas being bribed with 30 pieces of silver was created by the authors of the Synoptic gospels in order to provide an Old Testament precedent (Zechariah 11:12-13) they could claim as fulfilled prophesy.
The author of the Gospel attributed to John had no knowledge of Judas accepting a bribe. In order to vilify Judas and provide Judas with a motive for betraying Jesus, a later redactor inserted verse 13:27 into the text of the Johannine gospel. This actually removes much of Judas’ personal responsibility for the “betrayal” of Jesus since an external force was supposedly influencing him. The so-called betrayal was not a conscious premeditated act but the result of a last minute supernatural Satanic intervention. The Synoptic Gospels correct this narrative and polemical defect by stating that Judas had been corrupted by men and gave into greed well before the Last Supper.
The gospel stories about Judas’ death were created to draw attention away from his subsequent career. The only individual associated with Jesus named Judas in the early non-canonical literature is Judas (or Jude), his brother (). While there are discrepancies between the surviving stories about this Judas, most state that he was executed for causing civil unrest ().
The original Last Supper narrative recorded by the earliest members of the Jesus sect commemorated the self-sacrifice of their leader who saved them from Roman wrath and celebrated Judas’ loyalty and obedience to Jesus. The political significance of the Last Supper story was altered and given an eschatological meaning when the Messianic Judaism of the Jesus sect was supplanted by the Hellenized Pauline version of Christianity.
(My thanks to Roger Viklund who provided editorial assistance for this revision.)
) Jonathan Klawans, Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?; Biblical Archeology Review, Vol. XVII Number 2, Oct 2001, p. 24.
) Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John’s account of the Last Supper dismissed the actual supper with a short phrase (John 13:4, “got up from supper”), and did not record any events that can be associated with Jewish Passover rituals.
It was the events that followed the supper, the foot-washing episode (John 13:4-12), the announcements that he was to be “betrayed” (John 13:21 et seq.) and that Peter would deny him (John 13.38), and the “Final Discourse” (John 14-17) that were recounted by the Gospel of John, and later passed into popular legend or were mined for their theological significance.
It was the events peripheral to the supper, not the supper itself, that were preserved by the Gospel of John.
) Jesus’ increasingly provocative actions and hostile confrontations with the Judean leadership that lead to his arrest are summarized below.
Jesus fled to Galilee after being marked for death in Judea (John 7:1).
At the feast of Suhkot (late Fall) (John 7:2), Jesus slipped back into Judea (John 7:10) and returned to theTemple, where he was surrounded by crowds.
He debated with hostile and threatening adversaries (“Why do you seek to kill me?” John 7:20). These adversaries appear to be orthodox Judean authorities (not the theologically unsophisticated crowds of common people, i.e. the am ha-eretz)) since he is debating the fine points of religious observance with them (John 22-23). Jesus continued to hold forth in the Temple (John 7:28-29). He was threatened with arrest but managed to avoid seizure (John 7:30).
Possibly the following day, the temple authorities sent their guards to take Jesus captive (John 7:32), but they cannot approach him because of the crowd surrounding him (John 7:43-44).
The council of authorities were dismayed by his mob of supporters (John 7:49). Nicodemus stood before the council and voiced his objection to the attempted arrest and death sentence because of their doubtful legality without a proper prior hearing (John 7:50-51). Nicodemus is accused of being Jesus’ fellow traveler (John 7:52). The council adjourns for the day (John 7:53).
Jesus continued to hold forth at the Templethe next day (John 8: 1-2). His audience wondered if Jesus has a death wish (John 8:22). Jesus acknowledged that his opponents want to kill him (John 8:40). Jesus continued to provoke the orthodox religious authorities (John 8:41 to John 10:41).
He returned to the Templeat the Feast of Dedication (winter) and continues to confront the authorities (John 10: 22-23). He was threatened with stoning on the Temple precincts (John 10:31), presumably by Priests or Levites. Jesus demands that they justify their decision to stone him (John 10:32). He escaped (John 10:39) and again fled from Judea to go to the far bank of the Jordan River (John 10:40) where he attracts more followers (John 10: 41, “Many came to him…” NRSV).
Jesus returned to Judea, and went to Bethanyjust outside the city of Jerusalemimmediately before Passover ((Spring). (John 11:7. “He said to his disciples,… “Let us go toJudea again.”…”).
The Roman appointed High Priest had enough of Jesus. A council of Priests and religious authorities condemned Jesus in absentia (John 11:47-57). Jesus was declared an outlaw who is to be denied safe haven (John 11:57) and arrested wherever found.
Jesus stages a “triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalemand is attended by huge crowds (John 12 9-12)
Jesus went into hiding (“…When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” John 12:36)
Jesus had a final meeting in Jerusalemwith his disciples (John 13:1), and left the city (John 18:1). When separated from the crowd that had previously surrounded and protected him, a large group of Roman soldiers and Temple functionaries arrest Jesus (John 18:3).
) In the following texts, Jesus lead an attack on theTemple, was captured and then rescued by his followers. He returned toJerusalem at a later time and was re-captured and finally executed.
Various versions of the Toldoth Jesu:
Samuel Krauss, Das Leben Jesu, Berlin. 1903.
J. P, Osier, L’Evangile de Ghettoe , Berg International Editeurs, Paris, 1984.
The Samaritan Chronicle (The Kitab al Tarihk of Abu Fath, translated into English with notes by Paul Stenhouse, MSC, Ph.D, Mandelbaum Trust, University of Sydney 1985, ISBN No. 0 949269 75 1, p. 147).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus caused a disturbance in the Temple (John 2:13-17, “The Cleansing of the Temple”), then later returned to Jerusalem causing a second disturbance (John 12:9-12) which was one of the factors that led to his arrest and execution.
) Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1.
) The Romans and their client kings had very little tolerance for any one who attracted large crowds, encouraged demonstrations or fomented rebellion.
John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed because he appealed to large crowds. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation, 18.5.2.
The Samaritan Prophet’s messianic demonstration at MountGerizimwas brutally suppressed by Pontius Pilate’s cavalry. Ibid.,18.4.1-2.
Theudas’ demonstration outside of Jerusalemwas broken up, and many were killed or captured. Theudas was executed. Ibid., 20,5,1.
An Egyptian “false prophet” lead a mob against Jerusalem. The mob was dispersed, and many were killed or captured. Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Whiston Translation, Book 2, Chapter 13.
) Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, Matthew 21:1-11.
) Mark 13:1-4, Matthew 24:1-3.
) Mk 11:15, Mk 14:49, Lk 19:45, Lk 19:47, Mt 21:12, Mt 21:23.
) After the Hasmoneans were deposed, the High Priest was appointed by Herod the Great, then by his sons and then by the Roman administrators of Judea. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation; Book 20 Chapter 10, 274-251.
Herod and then the Romans (except for the period when Vitellius was governor) maintained control over the Templecult by holding the High Priests vestments hostage in the Antonia Fortress. Ibid., Book 18, Chapter 2.1-3.
Quirinius, the governor of Syria, and the procurators of Judeawho followed him, deposed and appointed the High Priests at will. Ibid., Book 15, Chapter 4.
S.G.F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, Charles Scribner’s Sons New York, 1967, p. 67-68. Summarizes early procurator’s history of appointing and deposing high priests.
With the onset of Roman occupation and Herodian rule of Judeain 37 BCE, both the legitimate Zadokite High Priests and the Hasmonean usurpers were deposed. The High Priests were subsequently selected from a small group of aristocratic families. During most of this time the Romans exerted further control over the Templecult by storing the High Priest’s vestments in the Antonia fortress and only letting the High Priest take temporary possession of them during festivals. The High Priest derived his powers from the sacred vestments, which the Romans kept hostage. Joachim Jeremias; Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus; Part 3, Chapter 8. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969.
There is also a tradition that the position of High Priest had become a commodity that could be purchased from the Roman governors of Judea. See Haim Cohn, The Trial and Death of Jesus, Konecky and Konecky, Old Saybrook, CT, undated; ISBN 1-56852-502-8; p. 22 and p. 343, footnote 9.
) The Clementine literature suggests a possible rational for the assault on theTemple. Jesus wanted to drive out the Roman appointed high priests and eliminate the sacrificial cultus, which the Romans used as a tool to controlJudea.
Clementine Recognitions, Book 1, Chapter 37:
“… by these things they might be taught that a people who offer sacrifices are driven away and delivered up into the hands of the enemy, but they who do mercy and righteousness are without sacrifices freed from captivity, and restored to their native land. But it fell out that very few understood this; for the greater number, though they could perceive and observe these things, yet were held by the irrational opinion of the vulgar: for right opinion with liberty is the prerogative of a few.” *
Clementine Homilies, Homily 3, Chapter 56:
“But to those who affirmed that He was in the temple, He said, ‘Swear not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet.’ And to those who supposed that God is pleased with sacrifices, He said, ‘God wishes mercy, and not sacrifices’ —the knowledge of Himself, and not holocausts.”
* John 8 31-36 has Jesus debating the nature of truth and freedom in rather obscure terms with the “the Jews”. His opponents seem to be members of a group who support the status quo, and are benefiting from the Roman occupation. They deny being anyone’s slaves (John 8:33). The passage in John might be an obscurely rewritten reference to a debate about gaining freedom from outside domination of theTemple.
) John 11:50, John 18:14.
The TempleHierarchyalso had to balance their fear of Roman reprisals against their fear of the Jerusalemmob (Mk 14:1-2).
) Varus crucified 2000 rebels, while quelling the Judean revolt that followed the death of Herod the Great. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation; Book 17, 9-10.
“They (the Romans) make a desert and call it peace”; Caius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55-c.117); Agricola, sec. 30.
) The canonical gospels contain hints of violent disturbances both in the Temple (Luke 13:1) and elsewhere in the city of Jerusalem (Luke 13:4, Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19). The release of Bar Abbas suggests some participants in the disturbances were amnestied, though the amnesty may not have been universal. Jesus was crucified alongside “robbers” (Greek: Lestai, Mark 15:27). Flavius Josephus applied this term (Lestai) to revolutionaries (for a discussion of the vocabulary used to describe Judean revolutionaries, brigands and bandits see S.G. F Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, NY, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967, Chapter 2).
) A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon. Oxford, Impression of 1963.
) Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips; The New International Version/ INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation, p. 426-427;Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.
) The phrase “Satan entered him” can be deleted from the text without affecting its narrative sense. The implication that Judas is a traitor is thus removed from the narrative. This short passage might be an interpolation into the original text.
) The alternative translation was written using the INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT as a template.
The New International Version/ INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation. Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips.Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.
) The word used in the Greek text is Martyr: to bear witness, to testify or declare, to witness that a thing is. A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon. Oxford, Impression of 1963, p. 426. The use of the word in the sense of being “sacrificed for a cause”, i.e. a martyr (a victim) is a later usage.
) “declared and stated” is redundant. Doubling is a common Semitic usage. Its use in a Greek text suggests the Greek was translated from a Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) source.
) Semitic doubling suggesting the Greek text was translated from an Aramaic or Hebrew text.
) To Betray vs To Hand Over.
The word paradosei (paradidomi) is used in the sense of “hand over” in the majority of the places it appears in the Koine Greek text of the New Testament. It typically does not have the pejorative connotation of “betray”.
With but two exceptions, the word paradidomi is translated in the standard English versions of the gospels as “to betray” or “betrayer” only in the passages that deal with Judas Iscariot or the arrest of Jesus. (R.E. Whitaker and J.R. Kohlenburger III; Wm. B The Analytical Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament; p. 67. Grand RapidsMichigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 2000).
The exceptions occur only in the Gospel of Matthew; i.e. Mat 10:21: “ Brother will betray brother to death” and Mat 24:10: “ …will fall away and betray one another.” (See below, Footnote (A)).
In the first instance the text could be satisfactory translated as “Brother will hand over brother to be put to death”, and in the second instance the text could have just as well been translated as ”…will draw apart from each other and hand over one another.”
Both translations of paradidomi as arrest refer to John the Baptist (Ibid. p. 39). Both Mark 1:14 (Now after John was arrested…) and its parallel Matt 4:12 (Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested…) refer to John being handed over to Herod. There is no tradition of John having been betrayed and there is no justification to translate paradidomi as betray in this context (See below, Footnote (B).
Paradidomi is translated as ripe in Mark 4:29. “As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it…” (Ibid. p. 520).
This is adequately translated “As soon as the ripe grain is handed over (to the workman), he puts the sickle to it”.
Paradidomi is translated as risked in Acts 15:26: ”…who have risked their lives.” (Ibid. p. 520).
In this context “…who have surrendered their lives” or “…who have given up their lives” are more appropriate translations than “risked their lives”.
Paradidomi is used twice in Mark 10:33. The New American Standard Bible translates the verse as “saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles…”. The King James Version, New American Bible and New Revised Standard Version also translate both occurrences of paradidomi as “to deliver” or “to hand over”. On the other hand, the New International Version translates the passage as “ “…and the son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles…” “
Paredidou is used in Acts 8:3, where Saul hands his prisoners over for imprisonment.
Each appearance of paradidomi and how it is translated into English in the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament is given below. (Ibid. p. 766).
Hand over: 43 times
Give up: 8
Hand on: 6
Give over: 1
Pass on: 1
Turn over: 1
The word paradidomi is translated in the majority of its appearances in the New Testament as “to hand over”. Only in the context of the arrest of Jesus is paradidomi translated as “betray”. This usage is based on tradition and is not demanded by the context in which the word appears. Even in the context of Jesus’ arrest paradidomi can be and should be understood as “handed over”.
A strictly literal translation of paradidomi rather than one owing to tradition changes the nature of Judas’ deed. Judas becomes a reluctant but faithful messenger instead of being an avaricious traitor. John 13:2 (”…the devil having now put it into the heart of Judas of Simon Iscariot, to betray him.”) is probably a later interpolation designed to vilify Judas. The text’s redactors did not go far enough and did not replace the original paradidomi (hand over) with prodotes (betray) (See below, Footnote (C)), allowing the reconstruction of the original meaning of the text.
This line (John 13:2) also leads to the conclusion that Mark 14:10-11 and its Synoptic parallels Luke 22:3 and Matthew 26:14-16 were not in the original source material. The passages about Judas going to the high priests before the Last Supper are late polemical insertions into the texts. There was no reason for Judas to make an approach theTempleAuthorities, until after he had been selected to arrange Jesus’ surrender.
In John 19:30 the verb paredoken must be understood in the sense that Jesus gave up his spirit or handed over his spirit (to God), and not that he betrayed himself.
Paul, writing within a generation of Jesus’ execution, is unaware of any early tradition of Jesus being betrayed. Instead, in Ephesians 5:2, and by implication in Romans 8:32, he writes that Jesus gave himself up (paredoken) for the good of the community.
The most blatant example of translator bias occurs in 1 Corinthians 11:23. In most translations (See below, Footnote (D)), the Lord “delivered to Paul”, and in turn Paul “delivers”, but Jesus was “betrayed”. This in spite of the fact it is different tenses of the same Greek word that are being translated.
In Luke 24:20, the word is used in the sense of “deliver” and not betray. “…our high priests and overlords delivered him up to a death sentence and crucified him.”
The New Testament usage of paradotheise that is least likely to be interpreted as “betray” occurs in Jude 3: “I had a necessity to write to you, exhorting you to earnestly contend for the faith which was once entrusted (delivered) to the saints.” (NIV)
Flavius Josephus in his writings uses the word παραδίδωμι (paradidomi) with the meaning “to give up”, “deliver” or “hand over”. It is not used in the sense of “betray”. An example is given below.
Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 (200). “With Festus dead and Albinus only on his way, Ananus thought he had now a good opportunity to act on this. He assembled a judiciary Sanhedrin and brought before them James, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, and some others, and after condemning them as lawbreakers, gave them over (παραδίδωμι: handed them over) to be stoned.”
Footnote (A): Mat 10:21 and Mat 24:10 might contain a veiled reference to Judas’ relationship to Jesus. The context of the word paradidomi implies a connection to Judas.
Footnote (B): The text of the Du Tillet manuscript of Hebrew Matthew 4:12 contains no sense of John’s having been betrayed. The Textual Nature of an Old Hebrew Version of Matthew, George Howard, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 105, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 49-63, p. 59.
Footnote (C): Josephus used the word prodotes (Traitor, betrayer) in reference to his own actions when he betrayed his fellow revolutionaries at Jotapata and joined the Romans. “I willingly surrender to the Romans and consent to live; but I take thee to witness that I go, not as a traitor (prodotes), but as thy minister” (War III, 354). Josephus did not merely “turn himself over” to the Romans, he deceived his compatriots by engineering their murder, and then turned against his nation in order to preserve his own life. He justified his actions to himself and to his readers by claiming he was following God’s will.
Footnote (D): The KJV, Rheims New Testament, NASB, NIV, and New Revised Standard Version translations all contain an inconsistent and pejorative translation of paredidoto in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Only the New American Bible translation translates the word using neutral language: “For I received (parelabon) from the Lord what I also handed to (paredoka) you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was handed over (paredidoto), …”
) The New Testament translations contained in the volumes cited below consistently use “hand over” when referring to Judas, instead of labeling his act a “betrayal”.
The difference in vocabulary makes Judas seem like the victim of satanic possession, or a weak willed individual who succumbs to the priest’s bribes, since a less pejorative term is used to describe his actions. Given that he is not called a traitor, he appears more like an opportunistic victim of circumstance and becomes the passive conveyor of Jesus person who is acting with Jesus’ complete fore knowledge or implicit permission.
The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect, otherwise called Sahidic and Thebaic , Vol. 1 to 7, George William Horner, Oxford at the Claredon Press, 1911.
The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Northern Dialect, otherwise called Memphtic and Boharic, Vol. 1 to 4, George William Horner,Oxford at the Claredon Press. 1898.
Paula Fredriksen, a mainstream Christian apologist, admits that paredidoto is incorrectly translated as “betray” by modern translators “in deference to the Judas story”. (Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000, p. 118.) This strikes me as sanctioning a deliberate falsification, since she uses indirect language and fails to condemn the translators for their bias.
) Another phrase doubling.
) Wine was the beverage which was most likely present at a feast day meal.
) The Greek text does not make Judas’ relationship to Simon clear. The Gospels have deliberately obscured this information. Most translators assume that Judas is Simon’s son, but there is no reason to rule out his being a brother. Coincidentally there was a Jude or Judas and a Simon among Jesus’ brothers (Mk 6:3; “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James (Jacob) and Joses (Jesus?) and Judas and Simon.”).
) The phrase “Satan entered him” can be deleted from the text without affecting its narrative progression. This eliminates the insinuation that Judas is a traitor from the narrative. This phrase might be an interpolation. However, the Greek author could have placed it as a warning to the reader that he was to understand “paradidomi” as betray and not in the standard sense of “to deliver”.
) The passage: “Jesus thereupon told him: “Do what you must do and do it immediately.” But … no one (else) understood (knew) what he had demanded of him…”, suggests a prior arrangement between Jesus and Judas. Judas already knows what he must do, presumably based on a prior discussion with Jesus that was not included in the canonical narrative. The other disciples had no knowledge of the task assigned to Judas.
) The fact that Judas was the group’s treasurer, implies that they considered him to be particularly honest, reliable and trustworthy. This in itself would make him an unlikely candidate to be a traitor. If he had the ability to abscond with all of the group’s funds, why would a small bribe from the high priest persuade him to betray his leader? It would have been safer and more profitable to be a thief.
) Note that the use of the first person pleural in the Greek Textus Receptus implies that a first person narrative was used as a source. This portion of the text might be related to one of the sources of Acts of the Apostles, the so-called “we document”.
It is also possible that most or all of the verse John 13:29 is an interpolation intended to vilify Judas. The entire verse can be deleted from the text without disrupting the chapter’s narrative sequence.
) Jerome uses the word “buccelam”, (Latin: small mouth-full) to translate psomion in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Greek New Testament. Jerome understood this text in the same sense as my first hypothesis, that Jesus gave Judas a bit of bread probably dipped in wine. Jerome’s Latin translation of “after the mouthful” can be interpreted that Judas ate the piece of wine dipped bread that Jesus had proffered him.
Note the similarity of Jesus offering Judas a bit of food dipped in wine to the Eucharist where the officiating priest offers a congregant a bit of bread dipped in wine.
Was the Eucharist originally a re-enactment of Judas’ loyalty and unquestioning obedience to his leader, instead of the mystical rite of symbolic cannibalism that Paul later promoted?
) “that one”
In the original Greek text of Jn 13:30 Judas was referred to as “that one” (Greek: εκείνος), instead of by his name or the pronoun “he”. The unnamed disciple leaning against Jesus was also referred to as “that one” in the Greek text of Jn 13:25.
) A similar practice is still current among Hasidic Jews led by a charismatic rabbi. At the end of a communal meal the rabbi bestows his blessings on his favored followers by giving them bits of food from his plate. Robert Eisenberg, Boychicks in the ‘Hood, Travels in the Hassidic Underground,NY,NY: HarperSanFrancisco/HarperCollins, 1996; p. 128-129.
) Martyr: to bear witness, to testify or declare, to witness that a thing is. A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon, p. 426. Oxford, Impression of 1963.
) “Declared and stated…”. A doubling or Semitism.
) A text doubling.
) See Footnote (22) above for a discussion of the translation of paradidomi as betray or hand over.
) Psomion: Diminutive of Psomos: A morsel, a crumb. Psomos: A bit, morsel, especially of meat of bread. A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon, p. 799. Oxford, Impression of 1963.
Psomion: a diminutive of psomos, a morsel, denotes a fragment… John 13:26 (twice), John 27.30. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 1064. Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1997).
Psomion: Dim. of Psomos, a morsel a crumb. Psomos , a bit , a morsel a scrap,… The Classic Greek dictionary in two parts,New York City,NY: Hinds and Noble Publishers, Cooper Institute; 1901).
) Draw out: A translation of Bapto. Bapto (Greek): dip in, dip under, immerse, to fill by dipping in (Author’s note: as in: “to fill my hand with”). “to draw out (i.e. scoop out,) and present to him”. From Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon.
This translation assumes that the Greek text was originally translated from an Aramaic original. The Greek redactor either did not fully understand what was occurring or wanted to disguise what was occurring from his Hellenic readers. He translated the Aramaic word for drew or pulled out with the more neutral Greek word for dipped. He may have done the same with the word psomion, selecting a neutral word for small piece often associated with foodstuff, rather than using a word like chip or shard (i.e. ostrakon) to indicate that Jesus was drawing a marker out of the bowl.
) The Greek text does not make relationship of Judas to Simon clear. The Gospel authors have obscured this information. Most translations presume that Judas is Simon’s son, but there is no reason to rule out his being a brother. There was a Jude or Judas and a Simon among Jesus’ brothers (Mk 6:3; “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James (Jacob) and Joses and Judas and Simon.”). Acts 1.13 refers to Judas as “Judas of James”, i.e. James, the other brother of Jesus and Simon. No Joses ever appears as an individual in the New Testament narrations. Joses is only a name on a list (Mark 6.3) or used to describe Mary (Mark 15.40 and Mark 15.47). Note that in written Hebrew and Aramaic Joses and Jesus are indistinguishable since written Semitic languages at this time did not have written vowels. In the Gospel attributed to Matthew, which was written after Mark, Joses has been replaced with Joseph on the list of Jesus’ brothers (Matt.13.55).
Judas Iscariot (Matt. 10:4, Matt. 26:14, Mark. 3:19, Mark. 14:10, Luke. 6:16, Luke. 22:3, John. 13:2, John. 12:4) and Simon Iscariot ((John 6:71, John 13:26, also Simon the Cananaean (Matt 10:4 and Mark 3:18), and Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13)) are both called “Iscariot”, suggesting the term is either a descriptor or represents their affiliation.
The homonym Sicariot immediately springs to mind. The Greek speaking authors of the New Testament texts could have mispronounced or misspelled a Latin word (sica, Latin for curved dagger. Sicarri, dagger-men, i.e. thugs) and added the suffix iot to produce Iscariot. Unlike the earlier text of Mark, Matthew and Luke did not make any attempt to conceal Simon’s Zealot affiliation.
) At this point in the Greek text a verb is needed to either describe how Jesus handed over the “morcel” to Judas, or what Judas did with it. Since the verb is missing it is unclear if Jesus “handed over” something to Judas, or if Judas swallowed a morsel of bread or pocketed (or more properly pursed or pouched) an ostrakon. The omission of the verb may have been the deliberate action of an early redactor or copyist who wanted to keep what originally transpired at the Last Supper hidden from later readers who had not been fully initiated into the Christian mysteries.
) The phrase “Satan entered him” can be deleted from the text without affecting its narrative progression. The sense of Judas being a traitor is then removed from the narrative. This short phrase might be a later interpolation into the text.
) Note that the use of the first person pleural in the Greek Textus Receptus implies this text was derived from a first person narrative. This portion of the text might be related to the so-called “we document”, one of the sources of Acts of the Apostles.
It is possible that part or all of the verse John 13:29 is an interpolation intended to vilify Judas. The entire verse can be deleted from the text without disrupting the chapter’s narrative sequence.
) Nicholas Rescher, Luck, the Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life, p, 115; New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux; 1995; citing Thomas Gataker, Of the Nature and Use of Lots, 1619. Gataker’s book contains an extensive discussion of the role chance and use of drawing lots in the Torah.
The daily priestly duties in the Templewere assigned by drawing lots. M Yom ii. 1-5, Tamid 1, 2; 2, 5; 3, 1; T. Yoma 1, 10 .
The ritual objects “Urim and Thummin” attached to the High Priests breastplate (Exodus 28:30) were used to perform divination (cast lots in order to determine God’s will) (Levitcus 167:10, Numbers 26:55, Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 14:41).
The High Priest selected the goat of Azazel on Yom Kippur by casting lots (Leviticus 16:7-10).
) Three examples of drawing lots in the New Testament texts:
1) Choosing a priest to burn incense. Luke 1:8-10. ”..according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. ( New American Standard Bible (©1995))”
2) The division of Jesus’ garments by the Roman soldiers guarding him. Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19: 23-24.
(Note the significance of the “seamless tunic”:
Jesus’ tunic was described as being seamless (John 19:23) which was a requirement for the High Priest’s tunic (Exodus 28:31-32, Exodus 39:27-31 and Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.7.4)
The High Priest’s ritual garments were held hostage by the Roman garrison in Jerusalemand only released to the High Priest during festivals (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation; Book 15, Chapter 4).
If John 19:23 is from an original source rather than a later interpolation, it implies that Jesus had usurped the sartorial privileges of the High Priest. This was a declaration that he was replacing the Roman appointed High Priest, and that he was freeing theTemple cultus from the Romans who held the priestly vestments hostage.)
(From Suetonius (ca. 70 CE- after 130 CE), The Twelve Ceasars, The Divine Augustus, 94: “… When Augustus was assuming the gown of manhood, his senatorial tunic was ripped apart on both sides and fell at his feet, which some interpreted as a sure sign that the order of which the tunic was the badge would one day be brought to his feet. …” (underlining added for emphasis.) This is but one of many text parallels between the canonical gospels and the The Twelve Ceasars. This is a topic which begs for additional investigation.)
3) A new apostle was selected by drawing lots. Acts of the Apostles 1:23-26.
Since Judas, according to my analysis, was not a traitor, he most likely did not commit suicide shortly after Jesus was executed, and therefore did not need replacement (see footnote (88)). The author of Acts may have been trying to hide the real reason Jesus’ survivors performed an election by lot: they were choosing a new leader. “Luke’s” intended audience may have heard of an election so it had to be included in the narrative, but its rationale was disguised.
A further example of drawing lots, this time from a non-canonical Christian text, “The Acts of Thomas”:
“…-and we portioned out the regions of the world, in order that each one of us might go into the region that fell to him, and to the nation which the Lord sent him. By lot, then, Indiafell to Judas Thomas, also called Didymus. …“ The Acts of Thomas, Chapter 1. Sources for this text include ”, M.R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxfford, Claredon Press, 1924”, and “ Wilhelm Scheemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha:Writings Related to the Apostles, Apocalypses and Related Subjects, John Knox Press, Louisville, 1992, p. 322-411.
Note that lots were drawn both to promote fairness and to determine God’s will in apportioning the world to the apostles.
) 1) Josephus and his companions, when besieged by Vespasian’s troops, drew lots to determine the outcome of a suicide pact. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, translated by William Whiston, Book 3, Chapter 8:3.
2) After they wrested control of the TempleMountfrom the Roman appointed High Priest in 66 CE, the Zealots used a lottery to “elect” a new High Priest. Phineas was one of a group of priests eligible for the High Priesthood. Phineas was “elected by God” to serve as the revolutionaries’ High Priest when his lot was drawn. Ibid., Book 4, Chapter 3:7.
3) According to Josephus the defenders ofMasadacommitted mass suicide rather than let themselves be taken alive by the Romans. They drew lots to choose the men who would slay their companions. Ibid., Book 7, Chapter 9:1.
The archaeologist, Yigel Yadin, claims to have discovered the ostrakons used by the defenders to draw lots. Yigel Yadin, Masada, Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots Last Stand; p. 201. NY,NY: Welcome Rain; 1998.
) Flavius Josephus claimed that Judeans and Zealots would rather commit suicide than violate their principles or allow themselves to be captured by the Romans:
Phasaelus commited suicide rather than submit to the indignity of torture. Antiquities of the Jews 14. 13, 6-9; War of the Jews , Whiston Translation, Book 1, Chapter 13, Section 6-8.
TemplePriestsallow themselves to be slain rather than protect themselves and cease the performance of Templerituals. War of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 8, Section 5, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 14 chapter 4, Section 3.
A Revolutionary throws his sons out of a cave and then leaps to his death. War of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 16, 4.
Survivors of the siege of Jotapata kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be killed or captured by the Romans. Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 7, Section 35 ( Line 331).
Josephus enters a suicide pact. Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 8, Section 7.
Some of the inhabitants of Joppa commit suicide rather than drown or face Roman soldiers. Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 9, Section 3 (425).
Mass suicide at Gamala rather than submit to Romans. Ibid, Book 4, Chapter 1, Section 10 (79-80).
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalemthrew themselves off the Templewall to escape the Idumeans. Ibid. Book 4, chapter 5, Section 1 (311-312).
Captured Judeans prefer to submit to torture and die rather than violate their principles. Ibid. Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 3.
Judeans trapped on roof of the Templecloisters throw themselves to the ground rather than surrender to the Romans. Ibid. Book 6, Chapter 5, Section 2 (284).
Suicide pact at Masada. Ibid. Book 7, Chapter 9.
Simon, son of Saul, killed his family and then himself, rather than be taken by the citizens of Scythopolis. Antiquities of the Jews, 18,22,4.
) Matthew 20:28. Mark 10:45. These passages should be read literally and not as religious allegory.
) The Roman response to rebellion was harsh:
Carthagerazed in 146 BCE. Polybius, The Histories, Books XXXVI-XXXXIX
Mass crucifixion of rebellious slaves following Third Servile War in 71 BCE. Encyclopedia Britannica, see entry on Spartacus.
Pompey’s army kills 12,000 Judeans and captures Jerusalemin 63 BCE. Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Whiston translation; Book 1, Chapter 7.
After quelling the Judean revolt following the death of Herod the Great, Varus crucified 2000 rebels. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation, Book 17, 9-10.
King Agrippa’s arguments against rebellion against Rome. Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, Translated by G.A. Williamson and revised by E.M. Smallwood, p. 156-162. Penguin Books; 1981.
“They (the Romans) make a desert and call it peace”; Caius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55-c.117); Agricola, sec. 30.
) John 14 through 17, John 18:1.
) The narrative sequence describing Jesus’ surrender can be expanded to include John 13:1-17, where Jesus washed his follower’s feet.
The foot washing can be seen as Jesus’ apology to his followers for setting himself above them, and failing to achieve his objectives at theTemple.
After this apology, he picks the man who will turn him over the authorities, and gives his immediate followers final instructions. He then left the city he recently tried to seize, to await his arrest outside its gates (John 14 through 17, John 18:1).
A full discussion of the apologetic significance of the foot-washing (John 13:1-17), is beyond the scope of this essay.
) This assumes that the Gospel of John preserves the earliest account of the Last Supper.
The passages that deal with the Paraclete (Greek: Parakletos, English: Comforter) in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John 14:17 to 16:17) suggest that an Aramaic text predating the end of the Jewish Revolt underlies the Gospel of John.
Paraclete is a literal translation into Greek of the Hebrew name Menahem (English: Comforter). The passages about the Paraclete make concrete sense if they refer to Menahem, the Sicariot leader, who seized control of Jerusalem at the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt in 66 CE (Josephus, The Jewish War; Translated by G.A. Williamson, revised by Mary Smallwood, Penguin Books, 1981, p. 166-168. From The Talmud: Lam. 1:16 and Per. 2:4 4a; Lam.R. 1:16 51, quoted by “The Book of Legends”, Bialik and Ravnitzky,; p. 197-198; English Translation, Schocken Books Inc; NY; 1992. First published in Hebrew,Odessa 1908-1911).
Jesus allegedly stated that his successor Menahem/ The Paraclete/Comforter would bring justice to his enemies, i.e. those who do not believe in him (John 16:8-9, 11), and continue teaching as he did (John 14:26, 15:26,).
Menahem slaughtered Roman soldiers who had already surrendered, killed members of the priestly family that had presided over the execution of Jesus and the assassination of Jesus’ brother Jacob, and promulgated Sicariot doctrines. Menahem was killed when he tried to legitimize his messianic claims by entering the Templedressed as a king (Josephus, The Jewish War; translated by G.A. Williamson, revised by Mary Smallwood, Penguin Books, 1981, p. 166-168.).
The passages about Menahem in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse appear to be a prophecy after the event inserted into an Aramaic language precursor of the Gospel of John. The interpolation must have been done by Menahem’s Sicariot followers during the brief period Menahem was ascendant in Jerusalem. It was propaganda designed to recruit members of the Jesus sect to the Sicariot cause by demonstrating that Menahem was a legitimate successor to Jesus. The Aramaic text was later literally translated into Greek. After additional redaction, it was distributed as the Gospel of John.
) Luke 22:34, Matthew 6:34, Mark 14. 30.
) John 14 through 17. Had Jesus actually been prescient and able to foresee his resurrection, these detailed instructions would have been unnecessary. He would have known that he could resume teaching following his post-mortem return.
) Eukarist Parallels and Origins
The officiating priest at the Eucharist giving the communicant a bit of bread dipped in wine parallels Jesus giving Judas a bit of bread dipped in wine. This suggests that the Eucharist commemorates the blessing Jesus gave Judas as a reward for his unquestioning loyalty and obedience and for the steadfastness required to hand his leader over to the hated authorities.
Paul took the Last Supper events out of their Judean context and turned Jesus’ blessing into a symbol of blood sacrifice like those found in Mithraic and other pagan rituals. The Pauline usurpers of the Jesus sect did not adhere to the Judean dietary tradition (See sub footnote a). The symbolic consumption of Jesus’ blood and living flesh would be a direct affront to Judean sensibilities since their sacred texts and traditions prohibited the consumption of blood, the blood of sacrifices or flesh torn from animals (i.e. flesh containing blood) ( See sub footnote b).
These dietary prohibitions were adhered to by Jesus’ immediate successors and were a prerequisite for converts to the Judean Jesus sect but not Paul’s break away cult (See sub footnote c).
Paul created a religion for non-Judeans that deliberately excluded observant Jews from its ranks. The symbolic consumption of blood would prevent Jews from participating in Christianity’s central ritual.
The foregoing argues in favor of the Blessing Hypothesis as the correct explanation of the Last Supper.
If the Lottery Hypothesis is correct, the creation of the Eucharist ritual from the Last Supper events requires an additional step. First the drawing of lots was disguised as the handing over a morsel of food when the text was translated from Aramaic to Greek. Next the act of dipping the morsel in wine was added in order to introduce symbolic blood sacrifice.
I originally wrote this essay with only the Lottery Hypothesis in mind. When I later conceived the Blessing Hypothesis extensive rewriting of the introductory portion of the essay was required. While the Lottery Hypothesis is still an attractive explanation, I now tend towards the validity of the Blessing Hypothesis since it offers a simpler explanation of how the Eucharist ritual evolved.
a) Galatians 2:12.
I Corinthians 8:8.
b) Genesis 9:4 “But the flesh which is the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
Leviticus 17:12-15. “12 … No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood … ”
Deuteronomy 12:15, 16, 23-25.
Acts 15:18-20. “18 Known to God from eternity are all his works, 19 therefore I judge that we should not trouble those among the Gentiles who are turning to God 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled and from blood.”
c) Galatians 2:12.
) Mark 14:33-41. This episode which further denigrates the disciples has no counterpart in the Johannine gospel.
) Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips; The New International Version/INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation, p. 202-202. Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.
) Ibid., p. 118-119.
) Note the similarity of Matthew 26:24 to John 13:27. In John 13:27 Judas has been ordered to do what his leader expects of him without delay. In Matthew 26:24 Jesus says he will do what is expected of a messianic claimant who wishes to fulfill the demands of prophetic texts. Both passages occur in the same place in the Last Supper narrative and both refer to someone being expected to carry out his obligations. In the current Matthean text the sentence is awkwardly split into two clauses, one about Jesus meeting his obligations, the other about Judas being cursed for his actions.
It is possible that there was prototype text where the entire passage referred sympathetically to Judas, which would result both in a smoother text and one which is in better agreement with John 13:27.
The hypothetical Matthean prototype text would read as follows “Do what you have been told to do and do it expeditiously. Unhappy is the man (or have pity on the man) who must hand me over.” The text was later altered to meet the demands of orthodox Christian polemic.
) Either to share food from the bowl or to place his marker for drawing lots in the bowl.
) Translation based on drawing lots: “The one dipped by my hand from the bowl will be the one who must turn me in.”
) The Greek text of Judas’ reply is even more damning than can be expressed in a grammatical English translation. The Greek text reads “Not I am” which is both a denial of being a traitor and a denial God’s name (Exodus 3:14). In one phrase the Matthean redactor has Judas doubly damn himself. The reader sees that he is both a liar and a blasphemer who negates God’s name.
) John 13:27. This might be a later interpolation of a marginal gloss into the body of the text.
) Luke 22:1-6.
) Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips; The New International Version/INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation, p. 336-339. Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.
) Luke 22:22.
) Luke 22:23.
) Luke 22:24. “And there was also strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” They were arguing about who was to succeed Jesus.
) Luke 22:34.
) Luke 22:34.
) Luke 22:24. Matthew 20:20-28. Mark 10:35-45.
) This narrative sequence could be expanded to include John 13:1-17, where Jesus washes the feet of his followers. The foot washing can be construed as Jesus’ admission of defeat and his apology to his followers for setting himself above them, putting them at risk and then failing to achieve his goals.
) John 11:48. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
This passage voices the very real concerns of Jesus’ contemporaries who had managed to accommodate themselves to the Roman occupation ofJudea. They viewed Jesus as a political subversive who threatened the status quo and increased the risk of the Romans using force to re-establish their authority.
In 66 CE, the Judeans who wanted independence from Romefinally managed to seize the Temple, slaughter the Roman garrison and appoint their own High Priest. They initiated a four year long war that resulted in the destruction of the temple cult and made Judeathe personal property of the Imperial Flavian family. See Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War.
) John 11:49-50. “…consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not….”
) John 18:14. “Now Caiaphas was he which gave counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”
) John 17:12, John 18:9 (…of them which thou gavest me I have lost none…), and possibly John 6:39.
) John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
John 18:8 “I told you that I am he, so, if you seek (want) me, let these men go (free).” (Additional words in parenthesis added by author of this essay to clarify the translation from the Greek.)
The Gospel of John, to a much greater extent than the Synoptic Gospels (see this and the four preceding footnotes), emphasizes that Jesus turned himself over to the authorities in order to protect his followers. In Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 Jesus stated that he would give his life as a “ransom for many”. The context of this passage has been spiritualized to the point that it is difficult to tell if the phrase “ransom for many” was once to be taken literally. There is no parallel passage in the Gospel attributed to Luke.
It is noteworthy that in the preceding verse (Mark 10:42, Matthew 20:25), Jesus made an ironic and derogatory remark about Gentile rulers’ usurpation of power, which the Lucan text (Luke 22:25) turns into an offhand compliment: “…those in authority over them are called benefactors”.
) Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32, Luke 22:39, John 18:1.
) Mark 14:35-36, Luke 22:44, Matthew 26:37-39. Luke presents the most elaborate and dramatic account of the “Agony in the Garden”. Most early manuscripts do not contain Luke 22:43-44 (a) suggesting it is a late interpolation into the canonical texts.
(a) From footnote F483, NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, The Lockman Foundation, PO Box 2279, La Habra, CA 90631, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.
) “to defend the law with their own blood and with their noble sweat in the face of sufferings unto death” (4 Macc 7:8) might be the literary inspiration for Luke 22:43-44.
) There is a remarkable literary resemblance between the “Agony in the Garden” (Luke 22:44) and the arrest of Jesus, the failed Messiah (Luke 22:50), and the “Agony in the Palace” and the arrest of Vitellius the failed Emperor (see below: Tacitus, Histories, 3. 84. See also: Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Vitellius 16-17).
Both suffer misgivings and fear after their enterprises fail, both are eventually deserted by their followers, both are captured by a tribune leading a cohort. One of their captor’s has his ear cut off. Jesus one-ups the Roman Emperor by rebuking the assailant and healing the ear. Both Jesus and Vitellius were stripped of their clothing and then lead away to be mocked and killed. Jesus was crucified between two “thieves”. Vitellius sees where two prior claimants to the Imperial throne died. Both Vitelllius and Jesus summon up a final dignity and die with a memorable quotation on their lips.
This suggests a Lukan redactor was trying to address two audiences. An unsophisticated audience would hear only of Jesus’ noble suffering, while a sophisticated Roman reader would see the deliberate parallel drawn between the ignominious capture of Vitellius and the arrest of Jesus. Was this a subtle warning to well read members of Roman society that some Christian anecdotes were literary fictions rather than historical reports?
From: Tacitus’ Histories:
[3. 84] When the city had been taken, Vitellius caused himself to be carried in a litter through the back of the palace to theAventine, to his wife’s dwelling, intending, if by any concealment he could escape for that day, to make his way to his brother’s cohorts at Tarracina. Then, with characteristic weakness, and following the instincts of fear, which, dreading everything, shrinks most from what is immediately before it, he retraced his steps to the desolate and forsaken palace, whence even the meanest slaves had fled, or where they avoided his presence. The solitude and silence of the place scared him; he tried the closed doors, he shuddered in the empty chambers, till, wearied out with his miserable wanderings, he concealed himself in an unseemly hiding-place, from which he was dragged out by the tribune Julius Placidus. His hands were bound behind his back, and he was led along with tattered robes, a revolting spectacle, amidst the invectives of many, the tears of none. The degradation of his end had extinguished all pity. One of the German soldiers met the party, and aimed a deadly blow at Vitellius, perhaps in anger, perhaps wishing to release him the sooner from insult. Possibly the blow was meant for the tribune. He struck off that officer’s ear, and was immediately dispatched.
[3.85] Vitellius, compelled by threatening swords, first to raise his face and offer it to insulting blows, then to behold his own statues falling round him, and more than once to look at the Rostra and the spot where Galba was slain, was then driven along till they reached the Gemoniae, the place where the corpse of Flavius Sabinus had lain. One speech was heard from him showing a spirit not utterly degraded, when to the insults of a tribune he answered, “Yet, I was your Emperor.” Then he fell under a shower of blows, and the mob reviled the dead man with the same heartlessness with which they had flattered him when he was alive.
) Centuries of received orthodox interpretation and the subsequent mistranslation of the Greek Johannine text into vernacular texts concealed the Roman participation in the arrest of Jesus. The terms used to refer to Roman commander and cohort are unequivocally translated when they appear in the Book of Acts. Furthermore, the context clearly shows that the Romans are being referred to.
In most English versions of the Gospels, these words have been translated using ambiguous synonyms which conceal the participation of a Roman tribune and cohort in the arrest and imply a greater degree of Judean involvement.
John 18:12. “Then the band (speira)(Footnote (A)) and its captain (chiliarchos) (Footnote(B)) and the officers (huperetes)(Footnote (C)) of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.”
In Acts 21:31 (…a report went up to the commanders (chiliarchos) of the cohort (speira)…) the same italicized Greek words unequivocally refer to the Roman garrison inJerusalem’s Antonia fortress.
Acts 23:10,15,17,19,22,26; 24:7 uses Chiliarchos to refer to a leader of a cohort.
The word speira is used in Matthew 27:27, Mark 15:16, Acts 10:1, and Acts 27:1 to describe a Roman military unit.
Based on the usage above and the definitions below, John 18:12 is more accurately translated as follows:
“Then the cohort and its Tribune and its Judean servants (assistants/underlings) took Jesus and bound him” or
“Then the cohort and its Tribune and its Judean auxiliary troops took Jesus and bound him.”
(A) speira: a body of soldiers, the Roman Manipulus,= two centuries: but also a cohort. Liddell and Scott GREEK_ENGLISH LEXICON abridged, 25th edition, p. 664. Chicago,Illinois: Follett Publishing Co.; 1934.
(B) chiliarchos: the commander of a thousand men, used to translate the Roman Tribunus militum, a legionary tribune. Liddell and Scott GREEK_ENGLISH LEXICON abridged, 25th edition, p. 783.
(C) huperetes: Any laborer: an assistant, servant, inferior officer… 2. The servant who attended each heavily armed soldier. Liddell and Scott GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON abridged 25th edition, p. 736.
Artemidorus lists different kinds of slaves in what appears to be in order of ascending status: servers (theraontes), underlings or helpers (huperetai), stewards (oikonomoi) and financial managers (hoi kata ton oikon tamias). (The interpretation of dreams (Artemidorus Oneirocritica, 1.74), as cited by Dale B Martin in Slavery as Salvation, the metaphor of slavery in Pauline Christianity, p. 34.New Haven: CTYaleUniversity Press; 1990).
The Jews who accompanied the cohort that arrested Jesus were therefore not of high status.
The only other literature with any claim to antiquity that contain a detailed description of Jesus’ capture is the assortment of documents lumped under the name “Toldoth Jesu” (Generations of Jesus). There is not enough space here to join in the acrimonious debate about the origin of these texts. The Toldoth Jesu texts attribute the capture of Yeshu to Jews acting at the behest of the “elders” or priests.
If these Jewish texts are early (compiled prior to the Christianization of the Roman Empire), their authors might have been trying to curry favor with their Roman overlords by showing how they took the initiative to remove a dangerous radical from their midst.
If the Toldoth Jesu is a late work, its authors would have drawn on Christian traditions which placed the responsibility for Jesus’ arrest on the Judean leadership. The author of the Toldoth Jesu was taking vicarious literary revenge on the nominal founder of the religion which was now oppressing him.
The Wagenseil text* of the Toldoth Jesu says: “The people ofJerusalem, who were armed and well-equipped, seized Yeshuh.” This is a veiled reference to Roman soldiers who had swords and armor. Ordinary Judeans were not allowed arms, and theTemple police only had staves.
*Joh. Christophorus Wagenseilius, ”Tela Ignea Satanae. Hoc est: Arcani et horribiles Judaeorum adversus Christum Deum et Christianam Religionem Libri anekdotoi” (Altdorf, 1681), 2 vols., containing six treatises, of which the last is ”Libellus Toldos Jeschu. English translations of this text are readily available.
) Matthew 26:47. “…a great multitude with swords and staves from the chief priests and the elders of the people.”
Matthew 26:55. “And in that same hour Jesus said to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief (See note A below) with swords and staves for to take me?”
Mark 14:43. “…a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
Mark 14:48. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?”
Luke 22:52. “…the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders which were come out to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief with swords and staves.”
The Synoptic authors did not remove all of the evidence of Roman participation in the arrest of Jesus from their texts. The description of the weaponry carried by the crowd implies Roman participation and a greater degree of discipline than the word multitudes or mob suggests.
The phrase “swords and staves” indicates a mixed force of Judean constabulary and Roman troops. The Romans were armed with swords. The Templepolice were equipped with staves (see note (B) below). Matthew, following Mark, left in both mentions of the crowd being armed with swords. The author of Luke removed the first mention of swords from his text, but left the second in place since he probably did not want to censor a saying attributed to Jesus.
(A) The New International Version translates as “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out…?” instead of “as against a thief/robber/bandit” as in other translations (KJV, NAS, NAB, NRSV). Rebel or bandit is probably the most accurate translation of the Greek text’s ληστην (lêstên).
(B) “…they are high priests and their sons treasurers (of theTemple) and their sons-in-law officers (captains of theTemple)!”
“And their servants (ie Templeconstables and bodyguards) come and beat us up with staves!” Tosefta, Menachoth 13.21; cf b. Pes 57a; see also t Zeb 11 16-17; y.Ma’as Sh 5:15.
Dio Cassius reported that during the Bar Kochba Revolt, the revolutionaries had armed themselves with defective weapons liberated from Roman armories. The Judeans could not otherwise obtain swords. The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 4, the late Roman-Rabbinic period, edited by Steven T. Katz, 2006, p. 108.
) Matthew 26:47. “…a great multitude with swords and staves from the chief priests and the elders of the people.”
Mark 14:43. “…a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
Luke 22:52. “…the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders which were come out to him…”
The Synoptic Gospels variously implicate the sacerdotal hierarchy, the Judean upper classes and their hired supporters. The Roman appointed High Priests, who had been granted control of theTemplecult, did not have popular support. They used their position to enrich themselves at the expense of the ordinary Judeans.
Josephus recorded that the High Priests appropriated the tithes intended to support the legitimate hereditary priesthood. The High Priests used the funds to curry favor with the Romans and to increase their personal hoards of money (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston translation, 20.9.2).
The Talmud contains similar memories of the Roman appointed High Priest’s malfeasance:
“At first did they bring the hides of holy things to the room of bet hap parvah and divide them in the evening to each (priestly) household which served on that day. But the powerful men of the priesthood would come and take them by force. They ordained that they should divide it on Fridays to each and every watch. But still did violent men of the priesthood come and take it away by force…Beams of sycamore were in Jericho and strong fisted men would come and take them by force, until their owners consecrated them to Heaven (i.e. donated them to the Temple).” T.Men. 13.18-19, cf. tZeb. 11:16-17, b Pes. 57a.
“Abba Saul ben Betnith and Abba Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem say:
— “Woe to me from the house of Boethus! Woe to me from their rods!”
— “Woe to me from the house of Qadros (i.e. Kantheros)! Woe to me from their pens!”
–“Woe to me from the house of Elhanan ( in Greek: Ananus or Annas)! Woe to me from their house of whispers!”
— “Woe to me from the house of Elisha! Woe to me from their pens!”
— “Woe to me from the house of Ismael ben Phiabi!
For they are high priests and their sons treasurers (of the temple) and their sons-in-law officers (of the temple)!”
“And their servants come and beat us up with staves!”. Tosefta, Menachoth 13.21; cf b. Pes 57a; see also t Zeb 11 16-17; y.Ma’as Sh 5:15.
For readily accessible English language translations of the Talmud see:
Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky, “The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from Talmud and Midrash, translated by Walter G. Braude”, B Pes. 57a. New York: Schocken books; 1992.
Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, editor, The Babylonian Talmud, translated into English with Notes, Glossary and Indices, Pesachim 57a, p. 284-285. London: Soncino Press; 1978.
Since the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate could be left out of the narrative, he was transformed into a weak willed pawn of the “Jewish mob” (Matthew 27:24, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:24, John 19:12).
The historical Pilate was actually a ruthless apparatchik who had no compunction about using his troops to massacre insubordinate Judeans.
The contemporary author Philo wrote that Pilate’s time in office was characterized by “his venality, his violence, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners and his endless savage ferocity” (Embassy to Gaius, 302).
The first century historian, Flavius Josephus, gave examples of Pilate’s willingness to use violence against his subjects:
Pilate used disguised cohorts to savagely quell a riot in Jerusalem(Jewish Wars 2.175-177 and Jewish Antiquities 18.60-62).
In 36 CE, Pilate ordered his infantry and cavalry to slaughter Samaritans who had gathered at the foot of MountGerzim. Lucius Vetellius (the governor of Syriaand father of Aulus Vitellius, one of the Roman Emperors of 69 CE) removed Pilate from office and sent him to Rometo answer for this excessive use of force (Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18: 85-89). This raises the question, “What was considered excessive force by a culture that considered the mass butchery of men and animals in the arena a routine entertainment?”
) John 18:4-5 (NAB). “Jesus…went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM”. Judas his betrayer was also with them.”
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, it was not necessary for Judas to identify Jesus, since Jesus stepped forward and volunteered his identity to the cohort.
) John 18: 6 (NAB). “When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground.”
Matthew 26:52-53. Without actually demonstrating his abilities, Jesus stated that he could have used his supernatural power to escape arrest, but chose not to.
) John 18:8-9 (NAB). “…So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.”
) The Kiss of Greeting.
Mark 14:45, Luke 22:47 and 48, Matthew 26:48 and 49.
There is no reference to a kiss of greeting in the Gospel of John.
In the Synoptic Gospel tradition, Judas’ kiss completes his betrayal of Jesus.
The early Christian community had a tradition of a kiss of greeting exchanged between members (1Peter 5:14: “Greet one another with a kiss of love.”).
Another early Christian community had a tradition that the resurrected Jesus greeted his brother Jacob with a kiss:
“(31,1-10) And the Lord appeared to him (Jacob). Then he stopped (his) prayer and embraced him. He kissed him saying, “Rabbi, I have found you! I have heard of your sufferings, which you endured….”
“(31-15, 32,1-10) The Lord said,”…Therefore your name is James (Jacob) the Just…Now since you are a just man of God you have embraced and kissed me.” The Nag Hammadi Library in English; James M. Robinson, General Editor; HarperSan Francisco; First Harper Collins Paperback edition 1990; The First Apocalypse of James, p 264-265.
This suggests that there was an early Christian custom of a kiss of greeting or recognition. Judas’ kiss in the Synoptic Gospels could be a satirical reference to this practice and a device used by the Synoptic authors to vilify him. It might also be a true record of Judas’ farewell to his leader and the origin of the Christian kiss of greeting.
Paul is aware of a “sacred kiss” and refers to it in his writings (Romans 16:16, 1Corinthians 16:20, 2Corinthians 13:12, 1Thessalonians 5:26).
The Toldoth Jesu, a sardonic rabbinical biography of Jesus, has Judas making “impure” contact with Jesus in order to render Jesus unclean and unable to pronounce the Tetragrammaton. The loss of Jesus’ magical powers, derived from knowing the vocalization of the Tetragrammaton, leads to his capture. Samuel Krauss; Das Leben Jesu nach Judischen Quellen; S. Calvary; Berlin, 1902.
The authors of the Gospel of John and the Toldoth Jesu, both knew of a tradition where Jesus derived his power from knowledge of the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declines to use his power and permits himself be arrested. In the Toldoth Jesu was defiled and his power taken from him so that he could be arrested. Jesus was not allowed the nobility of self-sacrifice in the satirical version of his biography.
) John 18:8-11. Jesus identifies himself to the arresting party, and asks that his followers be left alone. Peter attacks the High Priest’s representative. Jesus orders Peter to stop resisting, and states he (Jesus) has accepted his fate and will not contest his arrest. Jesus is bound and led away, and no further action is taken against the disciples.
Mark 14:43-47. Judas identifies Jesus to the arresting party so that “he may be led away safely.” One of the disciples attacks the high priest’s representative. The Gospel of Mark does not name Peter as the assailant. Jesus reprimands the arresting party for cowardice since it had not taken him into custody at an earlier time in a more public venue. The disciples are depicted as abandoning their leader and fleeing, when Jesus was taken away.
Luke 22:50. Jesus reprimands Judas for betraying him. The disciples ask if they should resist arrest. Without waiting for a reply, one of the disciples attacks a member of the arresting party. The Gospel of Luke does not name Peter as the assailant. Jesus is presented as showing his disapproval of this action by healing the wound inflicted by his disciple. Except for Peter who denies his association with Jesus, there is no further mention of the disciples’ actions.
Matthew 26:47-53. Jesus greets Judas when he arrives leading the arresting party. One of the disciples slashed a member of the arresting party without first asking Jesus for permission. The Gospel of Matthew does not identify Peter as the assailant. Jesus reprimanded the assailant and said that the fate of those who take up arms against the Romans or their representatives would be a violent death. Jesus is presented as disavowing armed rebellion and any disciple who resistedRome and her representatives. The Matthean author was distancing Jesus from Judean revolutionary parties. The disciples abandon Jesus and flee as Jesus is led away. Peter later disavows his association with Jesus.
Only the Gospel attributed to John identified Peter as the disciple who disobeyed Jesus and resisted the troops sent to arrest him.
Sequencing the canonical gospels John, Mark, Luke and then Matthew demonstrates a pattern of increasing vilification of the disciples and condemnation of resistance to Roman authority.
Evan Powell demonstrates a similar progression of themes dealing with supernatural mythologies, eschatology, and moral issues if the canonical gospels are ordered from John to Matthew (Evan Powell, The Unfinished Gospel; Chapter 7: Gospel Patterns. Westlake Village,CA: Symposium Books, 1994).
The Synoptic accounts of the arrest of Jesus, the man accused of being King of the Jews, bear a striking resemblance to the accounts of the arrest of Aulus Vitellius, the man who tried to be the Emperor of the Romans. This shows the Synoptic Gospels were composed after 69 CE, the year of three Emperors.
Vitellius was abandoned by his companions, experienced fear and misgivings, was initially not recognized by his captors and was mocked before his execution. (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Vitellius Chapter 16-17).
A member of Vitellius’ bodyguard cut off the ear of Vitellius’ captor, a tribune of the guards. (Tacitus, The Histories, Book 3, Chapter 84).
) Jesus’ “cleansing” theTemple was an attempt to unseat the Roman appointed High Priest. Presumably, Jesus planned to install a High Priest more to his liking, probably a Zadokite or a Davidite.
When Judean rebels seized the Temple in 66 CE, they replaced the Roman appointed high priest with one chosen by lot from among the Kahens (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, translated by William Whiston, Book 4/Chapter 3:7.
) The passages below all document the Judean assumption that a successful revolt indicates God’s approval, failure the lack of divine support. The disparity of the sources indicates that knowledge of this belief was widely dispersed.
Clementine Recognitions, Book 1, Chapter 65.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1.
) For examples of the Roman’s ruthlessness in eliminating native opposition to their rule see: Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, Translated by G.A. Williamson and revised by E.M. Smallwood, Chapter 7. London: Penguin Books; 1981.
) Clementine Homilies 11:35.
Clementine Recognitions 1:43 and 1:74.
Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 7:19 and 2:2.
Jerome, Illustrious Men 2.
Gospel of Thomas, Logion 12. Nag Hammadi Documents.
) Acts 5.14, 6.1, 6.7.
Clementine Recognitions Book 1, Chapter 43.
Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus, Whiston translation; Book 18 Chapter 3:3.
 ) The Lucan gospel and the Matthean Gospel appear to have been composed with different target audiences in mind.
The Lucan nativity was placed in an Arcadian setting. Jesus’ birth was attended by shepherds as is befitting a Greek wise man and miracle worker such as Apollonius of Tyana.
The Matthean gospel has Persian Magi attending the birth of Jesus. Jesus is proclaimed king. He is being imbued with the qualities of an Eastern demi-god such as Mithra.
This suggests that the Lucan Gospel was designed for a Hellenized audience. Jesus was presented in the familiar guise of a mortal philosopher who used his wisdom to acquire great powers. The Lucan redactor placed familiar Hellenic concepts into Jesus’ speeches. The similarities between materials in the surviving works of the Greek philosopher Epictetus to sayings attributed to Jesus in the Lucan text require further investigation.
The Matthean text was addressed to Greek speaking listeners familiar with Eastern or Persian traditions of powerful demi-gods. The Matthean text’s quotes from the Torah, while the Lucan gospel uses free quotations from the Greek Septuagint. The Matthean text appears to target a Greek speaking Jewish audience that was familiar with Eastern pagan beliefs. This describes the Jewish community inAlexandria.
Further investigation of this topic is left as an exercise for the reader.
) For an old, but still informative discussion about the relationship between Jesus and the revolutionary Judean sects see: S.G. F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967.
The Gospel of Mark goes to great lengths to show that during his lifetime Jesus distanced himself from any public statements about being a populist leader, messianic claimant or miracle worker (Mark 1:23-25, 1:34, 1:40-45, 5:43, 7:36, 8:26, 8:29-30). William Wrede proposed that the “Messianic Secret” was a myth created to explain why those close to him did not know of his miraculous deeds, or that he was the Messiah. William Wrede, The Messianic Secret, James Clark 1917 (original edition 1901).
On the other hand, the author of Mark may have felt it necessary to create the “Messianic Secret”, because he was responding to competing traditions or texts that presented Jesus as an aggressive messianic claimant. This would have placed Jesus in direct conflict with the Roman system that claimed only the Emperor wielded imperial power, and that the only legitimate kings where those the Emperor had appointed as his local representatives. “The Messianic Secret” was a device created to present a Greek speaking audience with an otherworldly modest and apolitical Jesus who had no intention of recruiting followers for a temporal army.
Jesus is presented as a reluctant messianic candidate in John 6:14-15, and in the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War.
John 6: 14-15 (NIV), “14… They began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
However, when the Jerusalemcrowds greeted Jesus as their king (John 12:12-13) he did not deny that he claimed kingship, and the belief that Jesus was a messianic claimant penetrated Jerusalem’s ruling class (John 12:42).
When he was interrogated by the High Priest, Jesus stated he did not conceal any of his teachings. John 18:20. “I have spoken openly to the world, I have always taught in the synagogues and in theTemple, where all the Jews come together, I said nothing secretly.”
From the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War:
“But it was his habit rather to remain in front of the city on theMount of Olives… *
And there 150 servants and a multitude of people joined him…
And many souls were aroused **, thinking that by him the Jewish tribes would free themselves of the Romans…
They bade him enter the city, kill the Roman troops and Pilate, and reign over them…
Later when news of this came to the Jewish leaders ***, they assembled to the chief priests and said. “We are powerless and too weak to oppose the Romans, like a slackened bow. Let us go and inform Pilate what we have heard; and we shall be free of anxiety; if at some time he shall hear of this from others, we shall be deprived of our property, ourselves slaughtered and our children exiled ****.”
And they went and informed Pilate *****. And he (Pilate) sent (soldiers?/horsemen?) and killed many of the people and brought in that wonder worker******.” H. and K. Leeming with L Osinka; Josephus’ Jewish War and its Slavonic Version; Brill,LeidenBoston, 2003; p. 261.
The above passage from the Slavonic version of Jewish War is not in the received Greek text. Jesus’ arrest was instigated by the “Jewish leaders” who betrayed him to Pilate. There is no mention of any betrayal by Judas. The Jewish leaders were responding to Jesus’ large following that attributed messianic ambitions to him, and their fear of being deposed by the Romans for not having kept Jesus under control.
The compiler of the Samaritan Chronicle (The Kitab al Tarihk of Abu Fath, translated into English with notes by Paul Stenhouse, MSC, Ph.D, Mandelbaum Trust, University of Sydney 1985, ISBN No. 0 949269 75 1) knew of Jesus and his capture by the Roman governor (p. 147) and a subsequent Jewish Revolt, but he had no knowledge of a Samaritan prophet who was attacked by Pilate. His account suggests that the Samaritans wereRome’s allies against the Judeans during the Jewish Revolt.
* John 11:18 and 12:12, Jesus atBethany, on the slopes of theMount of Olives.
** John 11:45, “…many of the Jews…put their faith in him.” John 12:11, “…many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”
*** John 11:46.
**** John 11:48, “…the Romans will come and take away our place…”
***** John 11:53, “…from that day on they plotted to take his life.”
****** The Slavonic Josephus’ Wonder Worker has a strong resemblance to the Samaritan Prophet whose uprising was quelled by Pilate’s troops (Flavius Josephus Jewish Antiquities 18:85-89).
) New Testament verses that denigrate Jesus’ disciples or his family.
The canonical gospels are full of material that is openly contemptuous of the people in Jesus’ immediate circle. Verse after verse describes the disciples’ individual ambitions, greed, selfishness, unreliability and stupidity. The canonical gospels also contain passages whose only apparent purpose is to discredit Jesus’ close relatives.
This is hardly the material one would expect in the foundation texts of Christianity, particularly when the first leaders and disseminators of the Jesus movement were his close relatives (Jacob, Simeon and Judas) and his disciples. The purpose of these texts is to discredit the relatives and original disciples of Jesus, and legitimize Paul as Jesus’ true inheritor.
The following is a lengthy but not all-inclusive list of the verses that denigrate Jesus’ close associates.
Luke 2:49-50. Jesus rebukes his parents for their ignorance.
Mark 3: 21. Jesus’ family attempts to keep him from public view because of his rumored insanity.
Mark 4:13. Jesus was exasperated by the disciples’ slowness to understand him.
Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:40, Luke 8:25. Jesus questions his disciples’ lack of faith in him. Mark 4:40. He accuses the disciples of cowardice.
Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21. Jesus rejects his immediate family.
Matthew 14:24-26, Mark 6:48-50. Jesus’ sudden appearance during a storm terrifies the panicky disciples.
Mark 6:52. The disciples do not understand what Jesus accomplished by multiplying the loaves and harden their hearts toward him.
Mark 8:4. “How can anyone provide all these people with bread in this lonely place?” The disciples have no faith in Jesus’ abilities in spite of already having seen him miraculously feed the multitudes (see above).
Mark 8:12. Jesus is annoyed by the Pharisees.
Mark 8:14. The disciples forget to take bread with them when setting off on a voyage.
Mark 8:17-21. The disciples’ stupidity and slowness once again frustrate Jesus.
Mark 8:32-33. Peter disagrees with Jesus, and is rebuked by Jesus; “Get behind me Satan.”
Mark 9:6. The disciples are terrified (Luke 9:33, Peter babbles stupidly).
Mark 9:18, Matthew 17:16, Luke 9:40. The disciples are impotent and cannot exorcise an unclean spirit.
Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6. Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.
Mark 9:32, Matthew 17:23, Luke 9:45. Another statement of the disciple’s fearfulness and ignorance.
Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 18:1-5, Luke 9:46-48. The disciples argue among themselves about which one of them is the greatest and ask Jesus to resolve the dispute. He chides them.
Mark 9:38-41, Luke 9:49-50. The disciples prevent a man from acting in Jesus’ name. Jesus rebukes them.
Mark 10:13-16, Matthew 19:13-15, Luke 18:15-17. The disciples are cruel to little children and their parents by not letting them approach Jesus. Jesus is pained and rebukes the disciples.
Mark 10:28-31, Matthew 19:27, Luke 18:28. Peter expresses doubt.
Mark 10:32. The disciples are bewildered and afraid.
Luke 12:40-48. Peter is yet again puzzled by a parable. Jesus subtly mocks him with a parable that implies his future leadership abilities may not be adequate.
Matthew 14: 28-33. Peter displays fear, doubt and lack of faith in his chosen leader.
Matthew 15:15-16. Jesus accuses Peter of stupidity and lack of understanding.
Matthew 16:8-9, Mark 8: 16-21. Further demonstration of the disciples’ inability to understand Jesus’ teachings.
Matthew 16:23. Jesus compares Peter to Satan, says he is a hindrance and understands only worldly affairs, not those of God. (See also Mark 8:33, for similar accusation though its phasing is slightly less vituperative.)
John 12:16. The disciples are slow in understanding.
Matthew 20:20-28. The other ten disciples are indignant when they learn that the Zebedee’s mother has demanded they be given special privileges.
Mark 10:35-45, Matthew 20:24-26. The other ten disciples are indignant when they learn that Zebedee’s sons have asked for special privileges.
Mark 11:20-25. Peter displays his obtuseness. / Matthew 21:20. Jesus addresses the disciple’s lack of faith.
Matthew 26:8-13. Jesus rebukes the disciples when they object to his having been anointed.
John 11:16. In a single phrase, the impetuous Thomas Didymus, shows his willingness to die a violent useless death (in contrast to Jesus’ later purposeful self sacrifice), and his utter incomprehension of Jesus’ intentions and abilities.
John 13:7-8. Jesus tells Peter of his current knowledge is deficient but might improve with time, then reproaches Peter for his recalcitrance.
Mark 14:29. Peter professes his loyalty (though the reader knows he will abandon Jesus)
Mark 14:31. Peter and the rest of the disciples swear their undying devotion to Jesus, though they will all abandon him in Mark 14:50-51.
Matthew 26:33-34, Mark 14:34, Luke 22:34. In spite of Peter’s protestations of loyalty, Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny being associated with him by morning.
John 13:38. Jesus predicts that Peter will disown him, but will later have the chance to redeem himself. This is a more sympathetic treatment of Peter than in the Synoptic Gospels.
John 14:5. Thomas demonstrates that he is ignorant and spiritually lost.
John 16:14-31. The disciples are very slow to comprehend what Jesus is saying to them.
Luke 22:24-30. The disciples argue among themselves about who is the most important, and presumably which one of them will succeed Jesus.
Matthew 26:40, 43, Mark 14:37 and 40. The disciples fall asleep and fail to keep watch with Jesus.
Matthew 26: 56, Mark 14: 50-52. The disciples abandon Jesus and flee.
Mark 14:51-52. That text specifically notes the fleeing young man wore a linen cloth. Linen was worn by the priests. This might have been a clue to his identity.
Matthew 26:70-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-62, John 18:17, 25-27. Peter denies his association with Jesus.
John 20:9. The disciples do not understand what is obvious to the gospel reader.
(Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11. The empty tomb. Petronius Arbiter’s story about the Ephesian Matron in the “Satyricon” may be a satire of the Christian account of the crucifixion and resurrection.)
Luke 24:11.”The story appeared to them to be nonsense and they would not believe.” The disciples reject the women’s story of the empty tomb.
Mark 16:7-8. The Marys and Salome are terrified by the messenger at Jesus’ tomb. They flee in terror and “said nothing to anyone”, thereby disobeying the messenger’s directive to carry a message to Peter and the disciples. This was probably written to discredit Mary and her followers.
John 20:13, 15. Mary Magdalene fails to recognize Jesus.
John 20:17. Jesus orders Mary not to touch him.
Mark 16:11. The male disciples do not believe Mary Magdalene’s report of having seen Jesus. This passage contradicts Mark 16: 8 where she said “nothing to anyone”, suggesting the “long ending of Mark” is a poorly reconciled later addition to the main body of the text.
Mark 16:13. Two male disciples reporting that they had seen Jesus are disbelieved by the remainder, demonstrating their lack of faith.
John 20:19-24. Ten mourning disciples, who meet, presumably to keep Kaddish, receive Jesus’ post-mortem Apostolic blessing. Thomas was not with them, an insult to his late master’s memory, and he did not receive the blessing.
Mark 16:14. The post mortem Jesus appears before the “eleven” disciples” while they are eating and rebukes them for their disbelief, and their hardness of heart for not believing the reports that he had risen. Note similarity to the “doubting Thomas” episode in the Gospel of John.
John 20:25. Obstinate Thomas.
John 20:29. Jesus subtly rebukes the Doubting Thomas (see note below*). Jesus gives his blessing to those who need no convincing of his return from the tomb, but still withholds it from Thomas. A topic for future research would be to determine the relationship between Thomas or Judas Thomas, and Judas Iskariot.
Matthew 28:17. Some of the disciples remain “doubtful” after seeing the resurrected Jesus.
Luke 24:37-45. The disciples were frightened by Jesus and required reassurance. In spite of all the time they had spent with him, he still has to open their minds so they could understand his Scriptural interpretations.
(*There is a similar episode in which a doubting disciple has to be convinced that his resurrected master is a palpable man, not a ghost, in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (8:12). Apollonius was an itinerant wonder worker who was a near contemporary of Jesus. Philostratus’ “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana” in two volumes, translated F.C. Conybeare, Loeb Classical library 16 (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press 1912).)
) Destroying the reputation of the disciple called “Thomas called Didymus (the Twin)”: An additional example of a New Testament text intended to denigrate Jesus’ disciples and family.
John 20:24-29 was designed not only to discredit the disciple called Thomas with orthodox Christians, but to render Thomas and his followers unacceptable to the Zealots and other disciples of Judas the Galilean (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.1, 18.1.6, 18.4.6, 20.5.2; Jewish War 2.8.1, and possibly Antiquities of the Jews 17.10.5; Jewish War 2.4.1)
In John 20:24-28, Thomas first expressed doubt about the resurrection. This was designed to cast doubt on Thomas’ loyalty to the Christ sect by demonstrating he initially did not accept its doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus. If the followers of Thomas inherited their leader’s doubts about the resurrection they would also be unacceptable members of the orthodox branch of Christianity.
Having been shown a “proof” of the resurrection, Thomas was made to exclaim “My lord and my god (John 20:28)”.
This formulation was unacceptable to the Zealots, Essenes and other Judean groups that advocated the independence of Judea fromRome.
According to Flavius Josephus, in 7 CE “a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, encouraged his countrymen to revolt, and accused them of cowardice if they paid taxes to the Romans, or accepted mortal men as their master (lord), having formerly served God alone. This deceiver had his own sect, which was quite different from the others.” (Jewish War 2.8.1)
The founder of the Judean succession movement taught that no man could be accepted as a supreme overlord, in contraindication to Thomas’ abject submission to Jesus. A Christian apologist might make an argument that Thomas was submitting to a god not a man, but the text of John 20 makes it clear that Thomas was submitting to a solid living breathing man, not a vision of an insubstantial god. If Thomas was declaring that Jesus was a god, in addition to being his human overlord, Thomas was then placing himself outside the tenants of Judean monotheism.
Flavius Josephus repeatedly confirmed that the Judean separatists would endure horrible privations and tortures rather than accept an alien master.
“Their (The Sicarii’s) courage, or perhaps we should call it madness, or the strength of their opinions, amazed everyone. For though all imaginable kinds of tortures and physical pain were used on them, none of them could be forced to yield and to confess, or even give the impression of confessing, Caesar as their master (lord), but in spite of all that was inflicted on them, they stuck to their own view, as if receiving these tortures, even fire itself, with bodies that felt no pain and a soul that almost was glad at it. Most astounding of all to the onlookers was the courage of the children, for none of them was so defeated as to call Caesar master. So far does the power of courage prevail over the weakness of the body.” (Jewish War 7.10.1 (417-419))
“But Judas, a Gaulonite from a city called Gamala, with the support of the Pharisee Sadduc, stirred them to revolt by calling this taxation nothing but an introduction to slavery and urging the nation to reassert its freedom. This would allow them to regain prosperity and retain their own property, as well as something still more valuable, the honour and glory of acting with courage. They said that God would surely help them to achieve their goals, if they set their hearts on great ideals and not grow tired in carrying them out. What they said was eagerly listened to and great progress was made in this bold project, so that indescribable troubles came on the nation as a result of these men.” (Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.1)
“Judas the Galilean was the originator of the fourth way of Jewish philosophy, which agrees in most things with the views of the Pharisees, but is intensely devoted to freedom and claims God as the only Ruler and Lord. They are prepared for any kind of death, and even accept the deaths of relatives and friends, rather than call any man lord. 024 Since their immovable resolve is well known to many, I shall say no more about it, nor do I fear that what I have said of them will be disbelieved. What I do fear is that I have understated the indifference they show in the face of misery and pain”. (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.6.1 (023-0240))
Writing in the 3rd century CE, Hippolytus reiterated Josephus’ contention that the Judean separatists refused to apply the formulation “Lord” to any ruler and adhered to their monotheism with a single minded intensity that did not allow room for a sold terrestrial manifestation of a man god.
Hippolytus further stated that the Zealots were not a separate group related to the Pharisees (See Antiquities of the Jews 18.6.1 and 18.23), but were instead a fanatically observant sect of the Essenes.
“The Essenes have, however, in the lapse of time, undergone divisions, and they do not preserve their system of training after a similar manner, inasmuch as they have been split up into four parties.
“For some of them discipline themselves above the requisite rules of the order, so that even they would not handle a current coin of the country, saying that they ought not either to carry, or behold, or fashion an image: wherefore no one of those goes into a city, lest (by so doing) he should enter through a gate at which statues are erected, regarding it a violation of law to pass beneath images.
“But the adherents of another party, if they happen to hear any one maintaining a discussion concerning God and His laws— supposing such to be an uncircumcised person, they will closely watch him and when they meet a person of this description in any place alone, they will threaten to slay him if he refuses to undergo the rite of circumcision.
“Now, if the latter does not wish to comply with this request, an Essene spares (him) not, but even slaughters (him). And it is from this occurrence that they have received their appellation, being denominated (by some) Zelotae, but by others Sicarii.
“And the adherents of another party call no one Lord except the Deity, even though one should put them to the torture, or even kill them.
“And so it is that they despise death, rejoicing when they can finish their course with a good conscience. If, however, any one would even put to the torture persons of this description, in order to induce any among them either to speak evil of the law, or eat what is offered in sacrifice to an idol, he will not effect his purpose; for one of this party submits to death and endures torment rather than violate his conscience.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chapter 21. Different Sects of the Esseni)
Hippolytus’ depiction of the Essenes supplying the membership of the Zealot movement provides an explanation of how one of the most notorious military leaders of the Judean revolt against Romecould have been an Essene (See Flavius Josephus, Jewish Wars 2.567; 3.11 et seq. for the military career of John the Essene). The Zealots were Essenes who were motivated by a particularly strict interpretation of their doctrines to reject pagan Roman domination of their homeland.
The formulation “no respecter of persons”, that appears in the New Testament and in the early Christian fathers, and may be a rephrasing of the Zealots avowal to “call no man Lord”
“For we (The Temple Authorities) and all the people bear thee (Jacob, aka James the brother of Jesus) testimony that thou art just, and art no respecter of persons.” From Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History II. 23, quoting Hegesippus’ Memoires.
“But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2.9)
“… God shows no personal favoritism to no man …” (Galatians 2:6)
“34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all): … (Acts 10:34-35)”.
This passage manages to combine both the Zealot dogma of withholding worship from mortal rulers and the conflicting Christian dogma of submission to Jesus the man who was made into a god.
The term “Lord and God” that the disciple Thomas allegedly applied to Jesus is the same term that the later Roman Emperors applied to themselves.
The second Roman Emperor Augustus, who preferred to be referred to as the “first citizen” ofRome, rather than as its absolute ruler rejected the appellation “Lord”.
“He (Augustus) always shrank from the title of Lord (Latin: Dominus) as reproachful and insulting. When the words “Oh, just and good Lord!” were uttered in a farce at which he was a spectator and all the people sprang to their feet and applauded as if they were said of him, he at once checked their unseemly flattery by look and gesture, and on the following day sharply reproved them in an edict. After that he would not suffer himself to be called Sire even by his children or his grandchildren either in jest or in earnest, and he forbade them to use such flattering terms even among themselves.” (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Augustus 53)
Dominus, “master or lord” (equivalent to the Greek Kyrie) in the time of theRomanRepublic indicated the relation between master and slaves.
Tiberius also shrank from having the word applied to him (Suetonius, Tiberius xxxvii). It was first adopted by Caligula and then by Domitian, and from the time of Trajan it became a standard title for an emperor.
Tiberius, Augustus’ successor also tried to minimize imperial pomp and prerogatives and during his lifetime did not want to be seen as a god.
“He (Tiberius) so loathed flattery that he would not allow any senator to approach his litter, either to pay his respects or on business, and when an ex-consul in apologizing to him attempted to embrace his knees, he drew back in such haste that he fell over backward. In fact, if anyone in conversation or in a set speech spoke of him in too flattering terms, he did not hesitate to interrupt him, to take him to task, and to correct his language on the spot. Being once called “Lord”, he warned the speaker not to address him again in an insulting fashion. When another spoke of his “sacred duties,” and still another said that he appeared before the senate “by the emperor’s authority,” he forced them to change their language, substituting “advice” for “authority” and “laborious” for “sacred”.”
Gaius was the first Roman Emperor to openly demand that he be referred to as a deity.
“After he (Caligula, The Emperor Gaius) had assumed various surnames (for he was called “Pious”, “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars”), chancing to overhear some kings, who had come to Rome to pay their respects to him, disputing at dinner about the nobility of their descent, he cried: “Let there be one Lord, one King.” And he came near to assuming a crown at once and changing the semblance of a principate into the form of a monarch. But on being reminded that he had risen above the elevation both of princes and kings, he began from that time on to lay claim to divine majesty …” (Suetonius, Gaius 22)
Caligula also ordered that a giant statue proclaiming his divinity be erected in the JerusalemTemple(Philo, Embassy to Gaius XXX 203, Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. XVIII.8.1).
The Emperor Domitian formalized “Lord and God” as an Imperial title.
“Just as arrogantly he (Domitian) began a letter, which his agents were to circulate, with the words: ‘Our Lord and God instructs you to do this!’ and ‘Lord and God’ became his regular title both in writing and conversation”. (Suetonius, Domitian 13)
“Lord and God” is identical to the appellation that Thomas supposedly addressed to Jesus. It is more than likely that the author of John 20:28 wrote it in response to Domitian’s edict that he be addressed as “My Lord and God” and by doing so was proposing Jesus as a rival to Roman Imperial divinity. John 20:28 was probably composed during or shortly after the reign of Domitian (81-96 CE).
In John 20:28 Thomas was portrayed as first expressing grave doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, and then applying a Imperial Roman title to Jesus and proclaiming Jesus a god, after implied contact with Jesus’ body.
The first would have damaged the reputation of Thomas and his followers among proto orthodox Christians who had unhesitatingly accepted Jesus’ resurrection and divinity as a valid religious doctrine.
The second would have offended the Zealots and their allies. Thomas had called a man his Lord or Master. The Zealots had vigorously rejected this act, even to the point of preferring death over accepting the domination or lordship of another man. Since Jesus had been executed, the orthodox Jewish Zealots would have believed that Thomas had incurred corpse impurity through contact with Jesus’ body (Numbers 2 19:4, 14 et seq.).
The disciple Thomas Didymus (Hebrew: twin, Greek: twin. The name is a tautology concealing his real identity) is a stand in for Judas. Elsewhere in the early Christian literature, Thomas Didymus and Judas Thomas appear to be the same person. Renaming Judas or Judas Thomas as “Twin Twin” is an act of literary obfuscation designed to prevent identifying Judas Iscariot the relative of Simon Iscariot (John 6:71, Matthew 10:4) with Judas, the brother of Jesus and of Simon (Mark 6:3 Matthew 13:55-56).
The gospel writers had to eliminate Judas from the narrative once they had accused him of being an ignominious traitor, instead of being a reluctant messenger from Jesus to theTemplePriests.
The final author of the Gospel of John was less successful in eliminating Judas from the post arrest narrative than were the authors of the Synoptic Gospels
He retained Judas as the nameless disciple who accompanied Peter to the High Priest’s palace and introduced Peter to the doorkeeper (John 18:16). The Johannine and Synoptic Gospels agree that Judas was the only disciple who had had an audience with the high priest prior to Jesus’ arrest (John 18:3, also Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22: 1-6, Matthew 26:14). Therefore, Judas unlike Peter, had a reason to have been known to the High Priest’s doorkeeper.
The Johannine writer eliminated Judas’ post arrest appearances from the narrative by concealing his name, but preserving his actions in the text. The Synoptic authors had Peter enter the High Priest’s court yard without an introduction or escort, thus eliminating the need for Judas’ presence in the story.
In John 20:24-29, Judas is brought back into the story as Thomas, the Judas part of his name having been dropped. The Johannine writer split Judas Thomas into Judas and Thomas Didymus, and may have even tripled him by adding the gloss “not Iscariot” to the mention of Judas at John 14:22.
The texts of the New Testament contain numerous passages designed to sully the reputations of Jesus’ immediate disciples and family members. In this case a specific disciple, Judas Thomas, who left influential traditions in the Eastern Church, had been targeted. If he had had a significant following after the execution of Jesus, and as a close associate of Jesus, possibly with Zealot leanings (hence the sobriquet Iscariot or sicariot), it would have been in the interest of the early Pauline church to discredit him by minimizing his appeal to both the Zealots and to potential Greek speaking converts to the Jesus sect.
The Gospel of John, by presenting the various literary manifestations of Judas as a traitor, as the skeptical and mistrustful disciple who required extra ordinary proofs of Jesus’ resurrection, as the denier of the Zealot ideal of calling no man Lord, and as someone who brought corpse impurity upon himself, succeeded in destroying the reputation of Judas and whatever doctrine he represented.
) John 19:6. As soon as the chief priests and their attendants saw him, they shouted. “Crucify, Crucify”.
) John 19:15. “Answered the Chief Priests, “We have no King but Caesar.””
This is a much different sentiment than that held by the Judean Patriots who recognized no authority but God: “…a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt, and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans and would after God submit to mortal men as their lords.” (Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, 2.8.1)
The Book of Acts also presents the secular leaders ofJudea, the pro Roman Herodian family, more favorably than they are depicted in other sources.
Paul has a meeting with Herod Agrippa II and his frequently married sister Berenice (Acts 25-27) and expresses his approval of their religious sensibilities. A reader of Josephus, or someone acquainted with Roman gossip would know that Berenice had an incestuous relationship with her brother Herod Agrippa II and later became the mistress of Titus, the heir to the imperial throne. A more detailed discussion is in “Josephus and the New Testament”, Steve Mason, Hendrickson Publishers, 1992, p. 99-100.
) John 11:48, ”…the Romans will come and take away our place … ”
) John 19:10-11. “10…Pilate said don’t you realize that I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You have no power over me except that given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you has a greater sin.” “
Jesus surrendered to the High Priest with the expectation that he would be tried under Jewish, not Roman law. The implication is that Jesus regarded the Priestly establishment as Quislings (they served the interests of the Roman occupation) and the Herodians, the foreign Idumean family, that the Romans had imposed on Judeaas its ruling elite, as usurpers. It was the High Priests who actually turned Jesus over to the Romans for judgment (John 18:28).
Luke 24:19-25 is a summary of Jesus’ career. There is no mention of a betrayal by Judas. It is the High Priest and Jerusalem Hierarchy who handed (“betrayed”) Jesus to his Roman executioners.
“The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, … Luke 24:20.”
) The “betrayal” of Jesus and the vilification of Judas were not part of the very earliest Christian traditions.
Matthew 19:28 includes Judas as one of the recipients of a heavenly throne.
Matthew 26:50 (Friend, do what you have come here to do) presents Judas not as a traitor, but faithful follower who has carried out his leader’s difficult orders.
Mark 14:44 (…take him and lead him away safely) has Judas acting not as a disinterested mercenary, but as a loyal follower still expressing concern about his leaders well being.
Paul was unaware of any betrayal or any scandal involving Judas in particular, or the disciples in general. (In Corinthians 15:5, Paul states the Twelve witnessed the resurrected Jesus. This implies Judas was still considered a disciple in good standing when Paul wrote his letters. Paul’s epistles were written before the canonical Gospels).
) Mark 6:3; “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James (Jacob) and Joses and Judas and Simon.”
) Additional information or myths about most of the personages in the canonical gospels can be found in non-canonical Christian texts, Josephus’ histories or the rabbinical literature.
However, there is a strange silence surrounding the “traitor” Judas Iscariot. It is as if he had no existence outside of the canonical gospels. His appearances in the canonical texts are brief. His character and motivation were never fully elucidated. The accounts of his death (Matthew 27 3-10; Acts 1:18-19) are contradictory suggesting that they are independent fictions.
There is a New Testament Epistle attributed to, and a rich non-canonical literature about, Judas the brother of Jesus (Mk 6:3) who was also known as Jude, Judas Thomas, Thomas Judas and Thomas. The Gospel attributed to John treats Judas and Thomas Didymus as separate individuals but vilifies both of them.
The Gospel of John might contain an additional mention of Judas.
In John 18:15-16 an unnamed disciple followed the captive Jesus and entered the High Priest’s palace, where this disciple was known to the high priest and his household staff.
Judas was the only disciple present at Jesus’ arrest, who had had face to face contact with the chief priests. He had met with them in order to arrange Jesus’ arrest (John 18:3, also Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22: 1-6, Matthew 26 14). Judas had been a member of the arresting party and could safely accompany its return to the high priest’s palace.
Josephus mentions that a Theudas (possibly a contraction of Th(omas J)udas) was executed for leading a revolt during the procuratorship of Fadus (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 20:97-99 (5.1)). Most of the legendary Judases were martyred during this period of time.
There has been too much loss, fragmentation and censorship of early Christian documents to ever allow indisputable conclusions to be drawn. It is not impossible that Judas, Jesus’ messenger to the authorities, was also his brother.
The identity of “Judas” is discussed at length by Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus; NY, NY: Viking, 1997; Chapter 24 and 26.
See also Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 39-41 for additional discussion of Thomas the Twin.