There is little doubt that Judas actually existed

Following along in a series of lectures by Prof. Bart D. Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, I've come to his examination of the historical character of Judas.

Now Ehrman is certainly no fundamentalist: He is happy to point out many places in the New Testament where two or more stories are flat out inconsistent and cannot all be true. But he is a good historian, and knows how to use his historical sources to get at the most likely truth, rather than what best serves an axe one has to grind.

He notes that there are differing mutually incompatible accounts of Judas's death both in Matthew, in Acts, and several other early Christian sources. But he also notes that there are multiple attestations of Judas's existence, his discipleship to Jesus, and especially, of his betrayal of Jesus. The last, Ehrman notes, is most emphatically not something that early Christians would be likely to make up: That a rabbi's disciple would betray him is not a very strong recommendation of the rabbi. The correct historical conclusion is that this guy really did betray Jesus in some way.


10 comments:

  1. In the gospel of John, at least, the "betrayal" is portrayed as somewhat ceremonial -- Jesus appoints Judas to betray him, Judas tries to beg off, Jesus insists.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like Ehrman all right. I think he's intelligent and earnest. Not only is he not a fundamentalist, I suspect he is basically an agnostic, although as I recall he doesn't say so in so many words. I don't think he has an axe to grind, with one caveat: he doesn't want to be perceived as too much of a radical by the establishment in his field. Unfortunately, many of the scholars in the field of Christian Studies do have axes to grind: they're Christians, and some beliefs have a lot of emotional appeal to them.

    This type of logic is an example of Ehrman at his second-hand axe-grinding worse. I could just as well argue that for a king's wife to cheat on him with his best knight reflects poorly on that king; so who would make that up about King Arthur? None of the Gospel accounts about Judas make a great deal of sense, but they add melodrama. Moreover, they are part of the Gospels' consistent agenda of shifting blame for Jesus' death away from the Romans onto the Jews (in this case, the Jewish high priests and one of Jesus' Jewish followers); this being the case, it's probably not a coincidence that the name Judas means, "Jew" (although the "Iscariot" part befuddles me).

    What are the "multiple attestations" of Judas Iscariot's existence? Judas is in Mark. The other Gospels are based on Mark, so it's no secret where they got the idea for this character. That means it's one attestation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "it's probably not a coincidence that the name Judas means, "Jew"

      I've looked this up on multiple sites and everyone agrees:

      "The Biblical baby name Judas is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Judah and its meaning is praise."

      You don't have any idea what you are talking about, do you?

      Delete
    2. I should have said, "the name Judas is very similar to the word for 'Jew' and comes from the same source." In Greek, Judas is Ioúdas and Jew is Ioudaíos. The English and Greek words Jew/Ioudaíos come from the name of the Kingdom of Judah, which comes from the name of the tribe. In Hebrew, Judah does mean "praise" according to the Bible; although many of the name meanings that Genesis gives for the twelve tribes seem fanciful, I have no particular reason to doubt this one.

      Delete
    3. I should have said, "the name Judas is very similar to the word for 'Jew' and comes from the same source." In Greek, Judas is Ioúdas and Jew is Ioudaíos. The English and Greek words Jew/Ioudaíos come from the name of the Kingdom of Judah, which comes from the name of the tribe. In Hebrew, Judah does mean "praise" according to the Bible; although many of the name meanings that Genesis gives for the twelve tribes seem fanciful, I have no particular reason to doubt this one.

      Delete
  3. "With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) -- sources that originated in Jesus' native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind. " Bart D. Ehrman

    But why should I believe the word of a trained hstorian with 20 books to his credit, a PhD in the field, and a tenured position at a top University, When I can instead trust a cranky Internet amateur with no expertise in the field at all? You must be right, Master!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Assuming you have no additional sources of information, you would be wise to trust Ehrman's opinion over mine.

      However, in this passage, he's talking about independent accounts of Jesus' life. I asked you about independent accounts of Judas.

      btw, as far as I can tell, Ehrman's statement about Jesus that you quoted here is completely false. I don't expect you to believe that because I say so. Were you to be curious about it, I suggest looking into it yourself.

      I respect Ehrman's scholarship, so I assume he's not simply fibbing. I can only imagine he's getting a bit overenthusiastic and is exaggerating ideas that he explains with more nuance later. What are the "sources lying behind the Gospels" that he's talking about? Q and the Signs Gospel? But we don't have those: they're hypothetical documents. As far as I know, the only source for the Gospels that we have access to is Mark. As for the Pauline epistles, I can't tell if he's referring to the epistles themselves or some even more mysterious "sources lying behind the epistles". Paul's epistles contain strikingly sparse biographical information. Again, don't take my word for it, you'd have to read the epistles for yourself, but I believe they contain exactly one (oddly-worded) reference to Jesus being a Jew, one mention of meeting "the brother of the Lord", no explicit references to when Jesus lived, no references to where he lived, no references to anyone meeting him in person, and a tonne of references to his death but very little about who killed him. All of this constitutes nonzero evidence, but it really isn't very much evidence.

      Delete
    2. "btw, as far as I can tell, Ehrman's statement about Jesus that you quoted here is completely false."

      He's a liar as well, hey?

      Or perhaps you just know a lot less than you think you do, hey?

      Delete
    3. You'll never make a good Libertarian.

      Delete
  4. "he doesn't want to be perceived as too much of a radical by the establishment in his field"

    Also: Since you are intent on smearing Ehrman as an intellectual coward, you might explain why a tenured professor would possibly care about this? Think how much more attention his books would get if he declared "Jesus is all just made up!"

    ReplyDelete