Judas Iscariot

{joo'-duhs is-kair'-ee-uht}

General Information

Judas Iscariot was the Apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ to the authorities. According to Matthew 27:4, Judas, distraught over Jesus' condemnation, returned his reward of 30 pieces of silver and hanged himself. According to Acts 1:18, Judas bought a field with the money, but fell headlong in it, injured himself, and died. His surname may indicate that he belonged to the Sicarii, a radical political group.

Bibliography: Gartner, Bertil, Iscariot (1971); Schaumberg, E.L., Judas (1981).

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Judas Iscariot

Catholic Information

The Apostle who betrayed his Divine Master. The name Judas (Ioudas) is the Greek form of Judah (Hebrew "praised"), a proper name frequently found both in the Old and the New Testament. Even among the Twelve there were two that bore the name, and for this reason it is usually associated with the surname Iscariot [Hebrew "a man of Kerioth" or Carioth, which is a city of Judah (cf. Joshua 15:25)]. There can be no doubt that this is the right interpretation of the name, though the true origin is obscured in the Greek spelling, and, as might be expected, other derivations have been suggested (e.g. from Issachar).

Very little is told us in the Sacred Text concerning the history of Judas Iscariot beyond the bare facts of his call to the Apostolate, his treachery, and his death. His birthplace, as we have seen, is indicated in his name Iscariot, and it may be remarked that his origin separates him from the other Apostles, who were all Galileans. For Kerioth is a city of Judah. It has been suggested that this fact may have had some influence on his career by causing want of sympathy with his brethren in the Apostolate. We are told nothing concerning the circumstances of his call or his share in the ministry and miracles of the Apostles. And it is significant that he is never mentioned without some reference to his great betrayal. Thus, in the list of the Apostles given in the Synoptic Gospels, we read: "and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him". (Matthew 10:4. Cf. Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16). So again in St. John's Gospel the name first occurs in connection with the foretelling of the betrayal: "Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil? Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray him whereas he was one of the twelve" (John 6:71-2).

In this passage St. John adds a further particular in mentioning the name of the traitor Apostle's father, which is not recorded by the other Evangelists. And it is he again who tells us that Judas carried the purse. For, after describing the anointing of Christ's feet by Mary at the feast in Bethania, the Evangelist continues:

Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: 'Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?' Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein (John 12:4-6).

This fact that Judas carried the purse is again referred to by the same Evangelist in his account of the Last Supper (13:29). The Synoptic Gospels do not notice this office of Judas, nor do they say that it was he who protested at the alleged waste of the ointment. But it is significant that both in Matthew and Mark the account of the anointing is closely followed by the story of the betrayal:

Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, and said to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? (Matthew 26:14-5)

And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them. Who hearing it were glad; and they promised him they would give him money. (Mark 14:10-1)

In both these accounts it will be noticed that Judas takes the initiative: he is not tempted and seduced by the priests, but approaches them on his own accord.

St. Luke tells the same tale, but adds another touch by ascribing the deed to the instigation of Satan:

And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve. And he went, and discoursed with the chief priests and the magistrates, how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and convenanted to give him money. And he promised. And he sought opportunity to betray him in the absence of the multitude. (Luke 22:3-6)

St. John likewise lays stress on the instigation of the evil spirit: "the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him" (13:2). The same Evangelist, as we have seen, tells of an earlier intimation of Christ's foreknowledge of the betrayal (John 6:71-2), and in the same chapter says expressly: "For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him" (6:65). But he agrees with the Synoptics in recording a more explicit prediction of the treachery at the Last Supper: "When Jesus had said these things, he was troubled in spirit; and he testified, and said: Amen, amen I say to you, one of you shall betray me" (John 12:21). And when St. John himself, at Peter's request, asked who this was, "Jesus answered: He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped. And when he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the morsel, Satan entered into him. And Jesus said to him: That which thou dost, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew to what purpose he said this unto him. For some thought, because Judas had the purse, that Jesus said to him: Buy those things which we have need of for the festival day: or that he should give something to the poor" (12:26-9). These last details about the words of Jesus, and the natural surmise of the disciples, are given only by St. John. But the prediction and the questioning of the disciples are recorded by all the Synoptics (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22). St. Matthew adds that Judas himself asked, "Is it I, Rabbi?" and was answered: "Thou hast said it" (26:25).

All four Evangelists agree in regard to the main facts of the actual betrayal which followed so closely on this prediction, and tell how the traitor came with a multitude or a band of soldiers from the chief priests, and brought them to the place where, as he knew, Jesus would be found with His faithful disciples (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43; Luke 22:47; John 18:3). But some have details not found in the other narratives. That the traitor gave a kiss as a sign is mentioned by all the Synoptics, but not by St. John, who in his turn is alone in telling us that those who came to take Jesus fell backward to the ground as He answered "I am he." Again, St. Mark tells that Judas said "Hail, Rabbi" before kissing his Master, but does not give any reply. St. Matthew, after recording these words and the traitor's kiss, adds: "And Jesus said to him: Friend, whereto art thou come:" (26:50). St. Luke (22:48) gives the words: "Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?"

St. Matthew is the only Evangelist to mention the sum paid by the chief priests as the price of the betrayal, and in accordance with his custom he notices that an Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled therein (Matthew 26:15; 27:5-10). In this last passage he tells of the repentance and suicide of the traitor, on which the other Gospels are silent, though we have another account of these events in the speech of St. Peter:

Men, brethren, the scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was the leader of them that apprehended Jesus: who was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. And he indeed hath possessed a field of the reward of iniquity, and being hanged, burst asunder in the midst: and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: so that the same field was called in their tongue, Haceldama, that it to say, the field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take. (Acts 1:16-20. Cf. Psalm 68:26; 108:8)

Some modern critics lay great stress on the apparent discrepancies between this passage in the Acts and the account given by St. Matthew. For St. Peter's words taken by themselves seem to imply that Judas himself bought the field with the price of his iniquity, and that it was called "field of blood" because of his death. But St. Matthew, on the other hand, says: "Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? Look thou to it. And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and went and hanged himself with an halter." After this the Evangelist goes on to tell how the priests, who scrupled to put the money in the corbona because it was the price of blood, spent it in buying the potter's field for the burial of strangers, which for this cause was called the field of blood. And in this St. Matthew sees the fulfillment of the prophecy ascribed to Jeremias (but found in Zechariah 11:12): "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was prized, whom they prized of the children of Israel. And they gave them unto the potter's field, as the Lord appointed to me" (Matthew 27:9, 10).

But there does not seem to be any great difficulty in reconciling the two accounts. For the field, bought with the rejected price of his treachery, might well be described as indirectly bought or possessed by Judas, albeit he did not buy it himself. And St. Peter's words about the name Haceldama might be referred to the "reward of iniquity" as well as the violent death of the traitor. Similar difficulties are raised as to the discrepancies in detail discovered in the various accounts of the betrayal itself. But it will be found that, without doing violence to the text, the narratives of the four Evangelists can be brought into harmony, though in any case there will remain some obscure or doubtful points. It is disputed, for instance, whether Judas was present at the institution of the Holy Eucharist and communicated with the other Apostles. But the balance of authority is in favour of the affirmative. There has also been some difference of opinion as to the time of the treachery. Some consider that it was suddenly determined on by Judas after the anointing at Bethania, while others suppose a longer negotiation with the chief priests.

But these textual difficulties and questions of detail fade into insignificance beside the great moral problem presented by the fall and treachery of Judas. In a very true sense, all sin is a mystery. And the difficulty is greater with the greatness of the guilt, with the smallness of the motive for doing wrong, and with the measure of the knowledge and graces vouchsafed to the offender. In every way the treachery of Judas would seem to be the most mysterious and unintelligible of sins. For how could one chosen as a disciple, and enjoying the grace of the Apostolate and the privilege of intimate friendship with the Divine Master, be tempted to such gross ingratitude for such a paltry price? And the difficulty is greater when it is remembered that the Master thus basely betrayed was not hard and stern, but a Lord of loving kindness and compassion. Looked at in any light the crime is so incredible, both in itself and in all its circumstances, that it is no wonder that many attempts have been made to give some more intelligible explanation of its origin and motives, and, from the wild dreams of ancient heretics to the bold speculations of modern critics, the problem presented by Judas and his treachery has been the subject of strange and startling theories. As a traitor naturally excites a peculiarly violent hatred, especially among those devoted to the cause or person betrayed, it was only natural that Christians should regard Judas with loathing, and, if it were possible, paint him blacker than he was by allowing him no good qualities at all. This would be an extreme view which, in some respects, lessens the difficulty. For if it be supposed that he never really believed, if he was a false disciple from the first, or, as the Apocryphal Arabic Gospel of the Infancy has it, was possessed by Satan even in his childhood, he would not have felt the holy influence of Christ or enjoyed the light and spiritual gifts of the Apostolate.

At the opposite extreme is the strange view held by the early Gnostic sect known as the Cainites described by St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., I, c. ult.), and more fully by Tertullian (Praesc. Haeretic., xlvii), and St. Epiphanius (Haeres., xxxviii). Certain of these heretics, whose opinion has been revived by some modern writers in a more plausible form, maintained that Judas was really enlightened, and acted as he did in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Christ. For this reason they regarded him as worthy of gratitude and veneration. In the modern version of this theory it is suggested that Judas, who in common with the other disciples looked for a temporal kingdom of the Messias, did not anticipate the death of Christ, but wished to precipitate a crisis and hasten the hour of triumph, thinking that the arrest would provoke a rising of the people who would set Him free and place Him on the throne. In support of this they point to the fact that, when he found that Christ was condemned and given up to the Romans, he immediately repented of what he had done. But, as Strauss remarks, this repentance does not prove that the result had not been foreseen. For murderers, who have killed their victims with deliberate design, are often moved to remorse when the deed is actually done. A Catholic, in any case, cannot view these theories with favour since they are plainly repugnant to the text of Scripture and the interpretation of tradition. However difficult it may be to understand, we cannot question the guilt of Judas. On the other hand we cannot take the opposite view of those who would deny that he was once a real disciple. For, in the first place, this view seems hard to reconcile with the fact that he was chosen by Christ to be one of the Twelve. This choice, it may be safely said, implies some good qualities and the gift of no mean graces. But, apart from this consideration, it may be urged that in exaggerating the original malice of Judas, or denying that there was even any good in him, we minimize or miss the lesson of this fall. The examples of the saints are lost on us if we think of them as being of another order without our human weaknesses. And in the same way it is a grave mistake to think of Judas as a demon without any elements of goodness and grace. In his fall is left a warning that even the great grace of the Apostolate and the familiar friendship of Jesus may be of no avail to one who is unfaithful. And, though nothing should be allowed to palliate the guilt of the great betrayal, it may become more intelligible if we think of it as the outcome of gradual failing in lesser things. So again the repentance may be taken to imply that the traitor deceived himself by a false hope that after all Christ might pass through the midst of His enemies as He had done before at the brow of the mountain. And though the circumstances of the death of the traitor give too much reason to fear the worst, the Sacred Text does not distinctly reject the possibility of real repentance. And Origen strangely supposed that Judas hanged himself in order to seek Christ in the other world and ask His pardon (In Matt., tract. xxxv).

Publication information Written by W.H. Kent. Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


CHRYSOSTOMUS, Hom. De Juda Proditore: MALDONATUS and other commentators on New Testament; EPIPHANIUS, Haeres., xxxviii; Legend on death of Judas in SUICER, Thesaurus. Modern view in STRAUSS, Das Leben Jesu.

Judas Iscariot

Orthodox Information

(This information may not be of the scholastic quality of the other articles in BELIEVE. Since few Orthodox scholarly articles have been translated into English, we have had to rely on Orthodox Wiki as a source. Since the Wikipedia collections do not indicate the author's name for articles, and essentially anyone is free to edit or alter any of their articles (again, without any indication of what was changed or who changed it), we have concerns. However, in order to include an Orthodox perspective in some of our subject presentations, we have found it necessary to do this. At least until actual scholarly Orthodox texts are translated from the Greek originals!)

Judas Iscariot was originally one of the twelve apostles, but is known for his betrayal of Jesus Christ. The Wednesday fast commemorates the sorrow at this betrayal, and it is one of the events commemorated in the services of Holy Thursday. His place among the apostles was taken by Matthias after a vote. He was the son of Simon Iscariot; Iscariot refers to his place of birth, Judea. The other apostles were all from Galilee. He is not to be confused with the Apostle Jude, brother of James.


Plot against Jesus

Judas agreed with the chief priests of the Jews to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:1-6, John 13:2-3).

Mystical Supper

Jesus revealed at the Mystical Supper that Judas would betray Him, fulfilling the prophecy from the Old Testament. After the bread was blessed and broken, Judas left to fetch a guard to arrest Jesus (cf. Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:10-11, 18-29).


After Jesus and His apostles had eaten the meal, Judas came with an armed crowd and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Jesus allowed this because it was part of the burden He chose to accept (cf. Matthew 26:46-50, Mark 14:42-45, Luke 22:47-48, John 18:2-5).


There are two accounts of Judas' death.
Judas, remorseful, tried to return the money, but was refused, so he threw it into the temple. He hanged himself. The money was used to purchase a potter's field as a burial place for foreigners (cf. Matthew 27:3-10).
Judas bought a field where he fell and died (cf. Acts 1:18-19).

Theological meaning

The betrayal of Christ was foretold in the prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah and Zachariah.

In the services of Holy Wednesday, Judas is contrasted with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume (Matthew 26:6-13).

In the prayers of preparation before receiving the Holy Eucharist, he is contrasted with the the thief who confessed Christ on the cross: "I will not reveal your mysteries to your enemies, neither like Judas will I betray you with a kiss, but like the thief on the cross I will confess you: 'Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom.'"

External links

Great and Holy Thursday (GOARCH)
Bridegroom Services: Palm Sunday Evening through Holy Wednesday (GOARCH)
"The Twelve Apostles" by Rev. George Mastrantonis (GOARCH)

Judas Iscariot

Coptic Orthodox Information

Judas Iscariot was from the village of Kerioth in Judea. He was the only apostle who was not a Galilean. Judas' name means "Praise." It is thought because of this, that his unknown mother and his father, Simon Iscariot, were faithful Jews.

Judas was probably drawn to Jesus by the preaching of John the Baptist. His heart was prepared to receive the teaching of Jesus because John pointed the way to the coming kingdom and the Messiah. Along with the other apostles, Judas had been called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to share in his sufferings and self-denials. Judas, with the others, preached the kingdom, healed the sick, and cast out demons by the power of God's Holy Spirit. Judas was privileged to be constantly with his Savior for three and a half years. He witnessed the purity of Jesus' life and his loyalty and obedience to his Heavenly Father.

Characteristics of This Disciple

The other disciples and Jesus recognized in Judas a very good business sense and they placed him in charge of their treasury. Jesus and his full-time followers didn't have time to work at secular jobs. They needed to devote their entire time to preaching the kingdom, and so some of Jesus' followers voluntarily donated money for their financial support (Luke 8:1-3). Judas was probably very trustworthy at first in his responsibilities with the treasury and in his duties to go forth and preach the kingdom. All of the apostles had the same privileges and special guidance of the Holy Spirit, all were tested as to their loyalty to Jesus, and all but Judas were submissive to their testing. Judas had certain expectations of what his Lord would do to bring about the kingdom. Judas' love and devotion to Jesus was tested more and more, and soon the seed of pride and self-will took root. In time it took over his entire character. The more time went on, the more Judas became entrenched in his own will. Judas, no doubt, thought of the treasury as a means to also bring about his plans. He hoarded the purse of money as if it were his own. He became obsessed with the idea of money. Six days before Jesus was crucified, Judas was so concerned about money that he rebuked the Lord for allowing Mary to pour her precious ointment upon his head. He exclaimed, "What a waste! This ointment might have been sold for a year's wage and given to the poor!" How wrong it was for Judas to have criticized this sweet sacrifice of Mary. And how doubly wrong to criticize his Master in front of all his followers. He even got some of the others to join in the criticism. But Jesus rebuked him back saying, "Leave her alone for she anoints me for my burial!" Judas' pretended zeal for the poor was really greed for his purse (Matthew 26:7-12; John 12:3-8). The love of money ensnared Judas and his love for his Lord was in question (1 Timothy 6:10).

The final event of Judas' life proved that he no longer lived to serve his Lord Jesus, but he now lived to serve himself and his schemes. He no longer was inspired by his Lord Jesus, but was now inspired by the prince of evil, Satan (John 13:2). After the incident with Mary, Judas went to the chief priests who had already been plotting to rid themselves of Jesus, and he said, "What will you give me if I deliver Jesus to you?" They contracted to pay him 30 pieces of silver. This was prophesied in Zechariah 11:12-13. From this point on, Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16). So when the night of the Passover had come, Jesus said to the Twelve, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot. Even with all of the clues, the others still did not know of Judas' treachery (John 13:26-29). When someone shared a meal with another it represented a vow of trust and friendship. Judas did not belong at the Last Supper. It was after this that Jesus told Judas to leave and be about his evil business. Judas left and went straight to the chief priests. Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas led a multitude of priests, servants and elders to his Master. Judas came to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi," (Matthew 26:49) and then he kissed Jesus. Even then Judas thought of Jesus as his Master and probably thought of this whole event as a way to get Jesus to take control. But the group seized Jesus and led him away to be crucified. When Judas saw that he was wrong and that his plans had failed, he went back to the chief priests the next morning and said, "I have sinned for I have betrayed innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? That is your responsibility!" (Matthew 27:4-5). Judas threw down the pieces of silver, ran away and hanged himself.

Did Judas repent of his crime? From what we know, it doesn't appear so. In Acts we are told that another was selected "to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs" (1:25). The final determination concerning Judas is in the Lord's hands. All we can do is examine Judas' actions and apply lessons from his experiences to our own characters. Never did he cry out to his Master, "oh, Lord, forgive! I am sorry, I was so wrong!" No, instead he went to his accomplices in crime, the chief priests who could grant no forgiveness. His pride kept him from facing his brethren and seeking their forgiveness and their help to recover from his sins. When the Apostle Peter sinned by denying the Lord three times, he humbly returned to his brothers and repented. Judas acted pridefully to the end. In his mind he thought the only way out was to kill himself, for to turn back would have meant admitting to all that he was wrong. He didn't think of the special assistance of the Holy Spirit that he was provided. He selfishly ended his covenant to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus. Instead, he committed suicide.

In the case of Judas, Jesus offered many opportunities for Judas to repent. Jesus was of a gentle and generous spirit toward Judas right up to the very last act when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Judas still had a choice at that point to seek forgiveness from his Master.

We should take to heart the lesson of this gentle manner of Jesus when dealing with those who oppose us. We must keep in mind that we are not the judges of our brethrens' hearts. Both Peter and Judas opposed the Lord, but Jesus was loving and patient with them. He worked with them to help bring them back into harmony with God. God allowed Peter to stray far from faith for a time only to show Peter the lesson of his frail flesh. Some of our fellow Christians may stray far from the Lord as well, and, yet, there is still hope to the end. Judas Iscariot had every opportunity to be purified by the truth and be useful in the work of the Lord, but instead he became a servant of Satan. Jesus said that of the twelve apostles given to him by his Heavenly Father, "None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction" (John 17:12). Jesus also said, "But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24; John 6:70). Judas gave up his privilege as a faithful follower of Jesus: one who would be worthy to be called one of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. Though we learn lessons from the life of Judas Iscariot, we cannot claim him as one who is a firm foundation to the Church. Instead, the honored place he would have held as being part of the Messiah's work was filled by another.

The symbol for Judas is a bag and thirty pieces of silver. The moneybag reminds us that Judas was the treasurer of the disciples and that he helped himself to its contents (12:6). The thirty pieces of silver was his payment for betraying the Lord. Another symbol shows thirty coins above a rope in the form of a "J." Sometimes the symbol is totally blank indicating the traitor deserves no remembrance.

James F. Korthals

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