Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Twelve Apostles (Part 13): Judas Iscariot

     Judas Iscariot was the son of a man called Simon (John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 26). Judas is always listed last among the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16), and his name is naturally omitted from the final listing in Acts 1:13. The Anglicized “Judas” is the Greek Ioudas from the Hebrew Yehûdâh (Judah), meaning “God is praised” (see Gen. 29:35).1 There are at least nine persons recorded in the New Testament known by this name.2 It was very popular among first-century AD Palestinian Jews presumably because of the lingering influence of Judas Maccabaeus, the leader of the second-century BC Maccabean revolution.3
     The significance of the attribution Iskariōth (Iscariot) is not certain. It could be based on the Hebrew Κ-Qrîyôth, meaning “man of Kerioth,” thus identifying where Judas or his family was from.4 Kerioth was a town in southern Judea (Josh. 15:25), about ten miles (16 km) south of Hebron. If the proposal is valid, then he was the only one of Christ’s original apostles who was not a native Galilean (cf. Acts 2:7). Another possibility is that the term is derived from the Latin sicarios (pl. sicarii) in reference to the radical band of Jewish assassins akin to the Zealots. The background of Judas would then be comparable to that of Simon the Zealot and perhaps also Thaddaeus Judas (a.k.a. Judas the Zealot).5 Other theories suggest a derivation of the name from various Hebrew or Aramaic root words, describing something about his character (‘liar’), his appearance (‘ruddy’), or his infamous deeds (‘deliverer’).6
     Judas served as the group’s treasurer (John 12:6; 13:29), responsible for the funds probably donated by those supportive of Jesus’ work (cf. Luke 8:3). Unfortunately Judas’ lack of integrity led him to embezzle money for his own selfish gain (John 12:6b). He was the textbook hypocrite. He preached repentance (Mark 6:12) while he himself was unrepentant (John 12:4-6). He administered baptism (John 4:2) but neglected the cleansing of his own soul (John 13:11). He healed the physically sick (Luke 9:7) as his own spiritual health declined (Matt. 26:14-16). He cast out demons (Mark 6:13) yet allowed Satan into his own heart (Luke 22:3).
     Judas was afforded privileges and opportunities available only to a select few. He was welcomed into the Lord’s immediate circle of companions. He received special training and instruction. He traveled with Jesus and ate with Jesus, and they worshiped and prayed together. Jesus was humble enough to wash Judas’ dirty feet (John 13:5) and gracious enough to call him “friend” (Matt. 26:50). At the final meal they ate together, in an environment of intimacy and trust (cf. Psa. 41:9), Judas was close enough to the Lord to share the same dipping bowl (Mark 14:17-20).
     When Judas slipped away from his brethren that fateful night (John 13:30), he missed out on all the promises and exhortations and prayers of John 13:31–17:26. He sold out his Master for the price of a lowly slave (Matt. 26:14-15; cf. Ex. 21:32). He was remorseful but not penitent, and after hanging himself, his bloated corpse eventually fell and burst open as a sickening and degrading testimonial of a wasted life (Matt. 27:3-5; Acts 1:18). His treasonous wages were then used to purchase a potter’s field called Akel Dama or “field of blood” for burying strangers (Matt. 27:5-10; Acts 1:18-19). Judas traded his immortal soul for a handful of coins he could not keep. He never saw the risen Christ, he did not receive the Holy Spirit, and he missed out on experiencing the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1, 31; John 7:39). Worst of all, he forfeited his eternal home in heaven (John 14:3; 17:12).
     Evidently the Lord considers even a dishonest hypocrite deserving of a chance, and Judas was given more chances than most. The only reason Satan was able to enter Judas’ heart is because Judas made room for him (Luke 22:3; cf. Jas. 4:7-10). Consequently, Judas Iscariot will forever be remembered as “a devil” (John 6:70) and “the son of perdition” (John 17:12). In contrast, his eleven colleagues went on to give the remainder of their lives in faithful service to Christ, securing not only an abiding legacy but ultimately an everlasting inheritance.
     What are you doing with the precious opportunities the Lord has afforded you?
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 The Hebrew Yehûdâh (Judah) is the name of the fourth son of Jacob and Leah (Gen. 29:35) and the designation of the tribe and land of Judah (Josh. 15:20) and the southern part of the divided kingdom (1 Kings 12:23). Variants of the term were applied to the Jews (Ezra 4:12) and to the Roman province of Judea (Matt. 2:1, 22). See also Hebrew.
     2 Beyond the patriarch Judah, the name was also worn by two other ancestors of Jesus (Luke 3:26, 30, 33), a brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55), Judas Iscariot (Matt. 10:4), Judas not Iscariot (John 14:22), Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), Judas of Damascus (Acts 9:11), and Judas Barsabas (Acts 15:22). This assumes that Judas son of James (Luke 6:16) and Judas not Iscariot (John 14:22) are the same person and that the Lord’s brother Judas is the author of the NT epistle of Jude.
     4 Some manuscripts of John 6:71 have interpreted Iskariōtou as apo Karuōtou (“from Kerioth”) in relation to Judas’ father Simon. See B. M. Metzger, Textual Commentary (2nd ed.) 21, 184, 204, 205; cf. 201.
     6 See BAGD 380-81; B. M. Metzger, Textual Commentary (2nd ed.) 21; L. Besserman, “Judas Iscariot,” DBTEL (1992): 418-20; “Judas Iscariot,” Wikipedia, <>.

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