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Related to Judas: Judas tree, Judas Maccabeus


Judas, in the Bible. 1 See Jude, Saint. 2 Judas Maccabeus: see Maccabees. 3 See Judas Iscariot. 4 See Judah (1) (of which Judas is the Greek form). 5 In the Acts of the Apostles, owner of a house in Damascus where St. Paul went after his conversion. 6 See Judas Barsabas. 7 In the Gospels, “brother” of Jesus.
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Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus'twelve disciples. The four accounts of Jesus' arrest given in the Gospels (the books of the Christian Bible that recount the life and teachings of Christ) state that it was Judas who handed Jesus over to the Jewish religious authorities, thus beginning the chain of events that led to Jesus' crucifixion (for more on crucifixion, see Cross). After sharing the Last Supper with Jesus and the other disciples, Judas slipped away from them and sought out the chief priests (for more on the Last Supper, see Maundy Thursday). He led their soldiers and servants to the place where Jesus and the other disciples had assembled after dinner. In three of the four stories of Jesus' arrest, Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss, a gesture which identified Jesus to the mob that had come to arrest him. In the Gospel according to John, Jesus boldly confronts the crowd and makes himself known to them.

Why did Judas betray Jesus? Three of the four Gospel accounts of this event note that Judas arranged the betrayal beforehand, and state that the religious authorities paid him for disclosing information that would lead to Jesus' arrest (see also Spy Wednesday). Although the Gospel according to John does not include this information, it does claim that Judas kept track of all the disciples' funds, and that he made a habit of stealing small sums from this group account (John 12:6). John's Gospel concludes that the devil inspired Judas to desert Jesus (John 13:2), a perspective echoed in the Gospel according to Luke (Luke 22:3). Some researchers interpret these remarks as indications that the real conflict lay between Jesus and the devil, rather than Jesus and Judas.

The preceding interpretations of Judas' actions paint him as greedy and treacherous. By contrast, a few Bible commentators have offered explanations for Judas'actions that imply that Judas remained loyal to Jesus. For example, some writers have suggested that Judas decided to notify the priests of Jesus' whereabouts after having been convinced that Jesus intended to die (Mark 14:4-11). Viewed in this light, Judas'act actually helps Jesus accomplish his own plan. Another viewpoint holds that Judas helped the chief priests because he believed that the encounter between Jesus and the religious authorities would inspire the common people to rise up in support of Jesus. This show of popular support would then force the priests to acknowledge Jesus' authority. Instead, however, the priests turn Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor, who decides to execute him. According to proponents of this viewpoint, shock and horror engulf Judas when he realizes that the events he set into motion were going to result instead in Jesus'torture and execution.

What became of Judas after Jesus had been taken away? The Gospel according to Matthew states that after Jesus had been arrested, Judas regretted his actions. He returned the thirty pieces of silver given to him by the chief priests. Then, in despair over Jesus' death sentence, he hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5). The Book of Acts describes Judas' fate in a different way. According to this text Judas used the money he got from the chief priests to buy some land. He didn't live to enjoy it, however. He fell down and burst open, spilling his entrails on the ground (Acts 1:18).

The Bible provides little other information on Judas'identity or his life before becoming one of Jesus' disciples. It gives his last name as Iscariot, a name whose meaning scholars debate. Many say that it comes from the Hebrew phrase, "man of Kerioth." If this is true, it signifies that Judas was the only one of Jesus'disciples from the land of Judea, the province in which the Jewish capital of Jerusalem was located. According to the Bible the other disciples came from a more remote region called Galilee. Other researchers claim that the name Iscariot bears a resemblance to the Greek word sikarios, which means assassin. Still others suggest that it means "man of Issachar." Yet another group contends that it comes from an Aramaic phrase meaning "man of the lie."

The story of Judas and Jesus has fascinated Christians for 2,000 years. Many have blamed Judas for Jesus' death, assuming that the faithless Judas failed to recognize Jesus as the true Messiah and turned him in to the religious authorities in exchange for a cash reward (for more on Messiah, see Jesus). Tragically, many folk traditions and religious leaders over the centuries have identified Judas as a symbol of the Jewish people. Interpreted in this way, the story of Judas'betrayal served as a powerful means of whipping up anti-Jewish sentiment and excusing the deeds of those who acted out this hatred. Today many responsible Christian leaders are proposing different interpretations of Judas' actions. Some, as mentioned above, have suggested that Judas acted in good faith, believing that an encounter with the high priest would further Jesus' cause. Others have suggested that Jesus himself asked Judas to arrange this encounter. Still others, while retaining the notion that Judas betrayed Jesus, interpret Judas' act as symbolic of the human potential for sin, that is, unloving and unethical behavior, a potential found in people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Further Reading

Brownrigg, Ronald. The Twelve Apostles. New York: Macmillan, 1974. Flanagan, N. M. "Judas Iscariot." In New Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 8. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. "Judas Iscariot." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Chris- tian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. Keck, Leander, ed. New Interpreter's Bible. Volume 9. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995. Klassen, William. Judas, Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996. Sheeley, Steven M. "Judas." In David Noel Freedman, ed. Eerdmans Dic- tionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. Stein, Robert H. "Judas." In Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dic- tionary. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002

judas, judas-hole, judas window

A small trap or hole in a door for peering or watching, as in a prison door.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. New Testament the apostle who betrayed Jesus to his enemies for 30 pieces of silver (Luke 22:3--6, 47--48)
2. a brother or relative of James and also of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). This figure, Thaddaeus, and Jude were probably identical
3. Hunting denoting an animal or bird used to lure others of its kind or lead them to slaughter
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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