This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Monday, 26 November 2012
The Gospel Of St Judas
Give a dog a bad name and hang it.
Re-reading the Bible, I was reminded of an object lesson in unfairness and bias.
Now, no one can accuse me of taking the Bible seriously or treating any religion (as distinct from thereligious, some of whom I can sometimes tolerate) with anything more than contempt. But since there is one man, but for whom the whole fictional rigmarole of the Bible falls flat on its ass, and that man is passed off as its principal villain, I thought I might try and put things right...in what little way I can.
The man is, of course, Saint Judas Iscariot.
Why was he a saint? Let's just go over the novel called the Bible again.
Imagine. Here we have a story of a man, called Yehua or Iesus or Jesus, born of a virgin, who is simultaneously the Son of God, who comes from carpenter's stock which is descended from the father's side from King David (yeah, right, and how did it matter anyway, since the father was not the father?). He performs miracles like multiply loaves and fishes, walks on water, heals lepers, turns water into wine, raises men from the dead, withers fig trees for the crime of not bearing fruit out of season specially for him (hah!), gathers a sect around him, creates a riot at the Temple, and is ultimately killed by crucifiction after being betrayed by one of his disciples. And then he rises from the dead and floats bodily up to heaven - apparently.
If you were a publisher, would you have published it? I think not.
Anyway - the whole structure of the Christian religion revolves round the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. (Let me point out something - crucifiction was not an honourable way to die. It was reserved for thieves, murderers, and the worst criminals, and was considered a shameful way to be executed, so much so that the early Christians preferred the fish as their symbol.) If Pontius Pilate, that honourable man (not half - Pilate was a blood drenched mass murderer who would have positively delighted in crucifying a Jewish prophet) of Gospel had followed his own instincts and released Jesus, crucifying Barabbas in his stead, where would the Saviour and his Sacrifice be? For that matter, where would the Christian religion be?
If Christ had not, in the normal course of events, ended on the cross, he would have to be got up there.
In fact he had got away already with a hell of a lot, including the dubious attentions of his own Nazarene people, who tried to throw him off a hilltop; the reaction of the Pharisees and Sadducees when he drove the moneylenders from the temple; the effects of a forty day fast in the desert. He got away with all that.
He had a trail of thousands following after him, praising his miracles, strewing palms before him as he entered Jerusalem riding on "an ass and a foal born of an ass" (riding both simultaneously???) in what looks suspiciously like a triumphal parade, laying about him with a whip made of cords to force moneylenders from the Temple, and still the powers-that-be did not know what he looked like. So, in fact, they needed to have him betrayed, and he had prior notice of who it was who would need to betray him. If he was not betrayed he would not be crucified. If he was not crucified he would not "die for our sins". So someone needed to betray him. It was essential.
Step forward Judas Iscariot.
Now one needs to read the Bible carefully here. Judas has hardly intruded on our consciousness before this except the scene where he asks, quite reasonably, why Christ should need perfume which could have been sold to feed the poor. He even comes in for criticism for this comment, that he said this only to appear falsely concerned for the poor. But anyone who reads the Bible looking for consistency will find Judas much more in line with Christian teaching than Christ himself ("The poor you have always with you; but me you have not with you always").
But then no one could ever accuse Christ of being consistent about anything.
Now, when he was supping with his followers, he predicted his betrayal, saying it would be the disciple to whom he would give the bread dipped in sauce. Then he took a piece of bread, dipped it in sauce, and gave it to Judas Iscariot. Note what happens next. According to Matthew 26.20-25; Mark 14.17 - 21 and Luke 22.21-23,as soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Therefore, Satan had not entered Judas until Jesus, knowingly and deliberately, gave him the bread. This would also seem to prove that Satan was a tool or at least an accomplice of Jesus, who himself was guilty of driving a man to sin. Remember all this was allegedly done to fulfill prophecy, so Judas did not even have free will. Poor guy.
I am truly amazed that most Christians do not seem to realise this. Or maybe they do not want to realise. There is no blindness so extreme as that which is deliberate.
(Of course, Nikos Kazantzakis, in that remarkable book The Last Temptation of Christ - is it any wonder it's banned in large parts of the world? My copy is probably smuggled in - has Jesus begging Judas to go and betray him in order to fullfil his destiny.)
What did Judas do? Even though Christ had said he would betray him, the other disciples let Judas go out. He went to the Jewish authorities and negotiated a betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Not being able to tell the monetary value of that amount at the time, I couldn't tell you if it was a lot or nothing much, but it sounds rather a token to me. He led the temple guards and some Roman soldiers to where Jesus was waiting for him, across the stream of Kidron; and Jesus openly said that he was Jesus. He said it twice, because, I assume because of his own miracle working, those priestly idiots did not know who he was! Judas may or may not have kissed Jesus - the accounts are contradictory. But kiss or not, Jesus seemed anxious to be caught.
Judas disappears thereafter as the absurd account of Jesus' trial unrolls. He may or may not have committed suicide; he may or may not have prospered. But by the Bible's own account, he was dupe, victim, and scapegoat, rolled into one.
Since the novel called the Bible is all about a victim and scapegoat (in the literal sense of one who takes on another's sin) who dies on the cross, it ought to at least acknowledge an even greater one, whose memory is poisoned through history.
If any of these people deserved to be called a saint, it was he.