A continuing series reflecting on the book: “The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed”, By Bart D. Ehrman (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, pgs.198) Chapter 9 & 10:
Chapter 9: Who Was Judas Iscariot?
Judas -The Historical Sources
In chapter 9, professor Ehrman launches a ‘quest for the historical Judas’. He does a survey of all of the earliest sources and tries to determine what we can really know about the man Judas. He has to admit that the NT Gospels are the earliest sources for any information about Judas.
However, he does not really believe that the Gospels are eye witness accounts and he contends that they definitely have an agenda, particularly when it comes to Judas. Ehrman continues to have a rather low opinion of the New Testament writings as historical accounts, and a bias against the Scriptures.
He goes out of his way to discount the NT Gospels then is forced to admit that they are the only real sources that we have from the first century. Except for the four Gospels, there really are no links to the real man called Judas. The later sources, including the Gospel of Judas and other Gnostic writing do not really record anything about the historical Judas.
The Name -Judas Iscariot
First he looks at the name Judas Iscariot. Ancient names usually give some clues about where the person came from. Judas or Jude was a common name and there were several others in the NT which shared the name including a brother of Jesus and another Apostle (not Iscariot). ‘Iscariot’ was the name used to differentiate this Judas from all the others. But what was meant by the term? We can really only speculate.
Some scholars have said that the term came from the Semitic words ‘isqa’re’ut which means: one who make money out of friendship. Others have put forth the idea that it meant that this Judas was from the region of Issachar, that Judas was an ‘Issachariot’. still others look for understanding in the Aramaic word for a person of ruddy complexion or a redhead- ” ‘isqar”.
Dr. Ehrman seems to favor the explanation that ‘Iscariot’ came from the Hebrew words: ” ish Kerioth” -meaning: a man from the village of Kerioth. Kerioth was a town in southern Judea. This possibility would explain why Judas didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the disciples who were all from northern Galilee. Those from the South were usually better educated, wealthier, and almost always looked down upon those from the North.
However in the end, Dr. Ehrman concludes that we can’t be really very certain about the actual meaning of ‘Iscariot’.
Judas -One of The Twelve
He then turns to the things that we can be fairly confident about. Judas was one of the chosen Twelve. He was one of the inner circle and even a leader in charge of the purse. His actions and ministry looked just like the rest of the disciples. When Jesus said that one of them was going to be a traitor, no one turned and pointed at Judas.
A Look at the Historical Jesus- Jesus as a Jewish Apocalypticist
In this section, Ehrman looks at Jesus and identifies him as an apocalypticist. That is, one who believes or teaches about the apocalypse -the end of the age. Where ever Jesus went he proclaimed that the ‘Kingdom of God’ was at hand and he referred to himself as ‘the son of man’, strait out of Daniel’s end-time prophecy. He then concludes that all of the followers of Jesus including Judas were proponents of this end time view.
Judas the Apocalypticist
Professor Ehrman concludes his search for the historical Judas in chapter nine by proclaiming that Judas was one of the twelve, following an apocalyptic leader and therefore an apocalypticist himself. He continues this line of thinking in chapter 10.
Chapter 10: What Did Judas Betray and Why Did He Betray It?
Dr. Ehrman explores the idea of Jesus and his followers were caught up in an apocalyptic expectation. That is, his disciples were expecting Jesus to become the long awaited Messiah and actually kick out the Romans and rule. They were also expecting to rule with him. In fact they were constantly battling among themselves over who was going to be number 2 in the Kingdom.
Ehrman builds a case in this chapter, that Judas probably betrayed Jesus because it finally became obvious that Jesus was following a different path and direction than what Judas and the rest of the disciples expected. Judas may have lost his patience waiting for Jesus to take the Kingdom.
He may have even acted to force the issue, though we don’t have enough real information to be certain of his motivations. We only know that Judas ended up betraying Jesus and supplying insider information that ended in his conviction and death.