Judas Iscariot Redux

About Judas, perhaps it has been a big misunderstanding. One argument seems to hinge on one word: “betray”. It would seem that what was actually written was “hand over”, or even “deliver”, which are not quite as wickedly charged. There are several theories about his innocence that are scripturally based, but really, if you want to see that Judas was ultimately innocent, you must hold that part of the Bible is, in fact, wrong. Especially the Gospel According to John, the last one to be written, decades after the Lord had ever graced the Earth. One clue that Judas may not have been, in fact, on the wrong side, is when the Lord proclaimed he would be turned over, they did not all go, “No, not ever!” but instead, “Is it I?” So maybe there are mixed messages coming from the Gospels.

I once had a conversation with my neighbor, who is a pastor and who wrote a book about the Bible, whether Judas could have been innocent. He only went as far as Judas being likened to Pharoah (of Moses fame), whom God hardened his heart so that His glory could be revealed. To my neighbor, the Bible is the final word on all things. Which, in fact, cannot be the case, not as we live today. If you say to a believer about the parts that contradict other parts, they will come back with something about putting it in context. And that is what most people who would read the Bible will most undoubtedly lack: the proper context.

If instead, they were to say that the book is so holy that whatever interpretation you use, it will do the right thing for you, one could just as easily posit that it contains human error, but God (who is the root of holiness) will put those errors to work to His purpose. And, if you believe you think it has special meaning even placed into the context of the modern day, that’s basically what you’re saying. So here’s a question: if it took divine revelation to write the Bible, does it take divine revelation to read it, too? We seem to be going around that corner. But that seems a very sparse offering, what it seems has been given this world. We only have opinions, n’est-ce pas?

Bible advocates fear to say that there is anything in error within the entirety of the volume (or two volumes, or sixty-six or so volumes). If one part is wrong, does the whole thing come crashing down like a house of cards? I’d like to think that the works sanctioned by God to be more resilient than that. My opinion, then: the Bible was made by human beings, capable of error in whatever they attempted. The Bible is holy, again in my opinion, because it contains the two most important names of God: God is the I AM, and God is love. Therefore it is profitable to seek holy wisdom from those pages.

If all your faith relies on the Bible being without error, my words will not penetrate enough to change your mind, correct? Yet it is spiritual baby food to have faith in that. If you want to try the solid offerings, try accepting that errors did get into that book. Believe instead that it is instead that Jesus Christ is what does not err. For he was more than human: he was God. And see if it is true, that if you chop open a piece of wood, he will be there. See if you have accepted the Holy Sprit, and so the Lord is in your heart. Even then, your heart will err, but he will make something of all that you do and feel, even the sins. Let divine inspiration in, and you may understand clearly.

Do not expect to understand all the Bible lays out, or even why some things happen in those pages. And do not think that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. God deserves better. 1) We do not understand at least parts of the Bible. 2) The proper context for understanding some parts are a matter of history, which includes a lot of things which are debatable. 3) And once again, if you think it is applicable to today, you are putting it into a new context, and you, who do this (as Bible thumpers will quickly opine themselves), are a fallible creature, prone to error. So we come back to needing the Holy Spirit guide you to the proper meaning, especially as it might apply today.

What about holy men and women of today? Can we not rely on their interpretations? Prophets these day are mostly false, unfortunately (has it ever been different?). If they seek after money or power, then you will know them to be false. And almost all of the rest of them are just crazy. That’s the sort of situation we find ourselves in. Try instead to light your own candle to find your way. Not to say we shouldn’t research things ourselves. This is to say to research even what other people say, not just what you may understand of it.

So, what does this have to do with Judas? Perhaps I’ll give them this inch, the infallibility of the Bible folks: everything in the holy book (or books) serves a higher purpose, even the mistakes. Yeah, that’s not even an inch, I guess, maybe half an inch. For I have come to believe that the part where the Bible calls Judas Iscariot a son of perdition—that this is in error. Or that he was a devil. I believe Christ never said such things, and I even believe that Judas comes before Peter in the ranking of saints.

I’m not the first to think this, though maybe the most extreme in doing so, putting him before Peter, but there it is. Look at the case of Mary Magdalene: she was put in the light as a prostitute by the powers that be (a Pope, in the line of St. Peter), though she never was such a thing. But the unintended consequence was that she became the de facto patron saint of all prostitute. See? God sometimes works with the error. And I’m sure Ms. Magdalene would rather it had gone this way. Why are we bothering ourselves with trivialities, when the task at hand is to save a soul?

With that in mind, let it end like so: there was a purpose in the Bible including the error of Judas Iscariot. As some faithful will tell, there is evidence—some very well reasoned—that he betrayed his master and friend. In first, believing the Bible as divinely inspired by God, can our faith grow large enough to thing that that Word can be trumped by the Logos that is Christ? Another term for Logos might be called, Holy Reason. Can we pray to be able to see the truth, and then can we stand up for that truth? For the clues of Judas’ innocent are there, to be put together. This is the next level. And to those who are worried about what is from God, and what is the deception of the Devil, is it full of compassion and forgiveness? Or is it all judgment and damnation? Just saying.

Judas Iscariot

Let us say that the Gospel According to John is correct, and the other Gospels, too; but John especially, for that is where Judas Iscariot is most vilified. Let us remember what the Lord said, that did he not choose the twelve and one of them is a devil? Yet he did choose that one, too, the one who would hand him over to the authorities to be crucified. At the Last Supper, John writes that when the Lord picks out Judas as the one who would hand him over, that Satan enters him—and it would appear that Satan orchestrates the events that follow. Where Judas goes and collects his 30 pieces of silver and leads a contingent who will know which one Jesus is by a kiss of greeting. All well and good, Judas is evil and a betrayer, no?

But here’s the thing: after Judas finds out that Jesus will die due to his handing him over, he goes to the priests, throws back his 30 pieces of silver, and says he is guilty of an innocent man’s blood. Is it not plain, then? This is called both repenting and confessing his sin! Even if he had been evil, right up this point, this is where he turned it all around. Because we have someone now who repents and confesses his sin while Satan is still inside him. And at that point, knowing nothing but violence against an enemy, Satan torments him so severely that Judas hangs himself. Satan torments not he who is of the evil one’s house. With so severe a torment, in this case, that it would have seemed better not to have been born. This, Jesus foretold: that in the way of his own death, there would only be one who was lost, so that scripture would be fulfilled. For turning over the Son of God is sure to have its consequences.

And perhaps it is revealed when Jesus said about choosing twelve and one has a devil, what that was about. It was going in the opposite direction that Judas travels, from how everyone thinks he goes: not from apostle to betrayer, but from evil to good. The Lord chose someone wicked that he would, at his last, turn to good. It took the final act of handing his Savior over to ultimately find the light. Right on time, just before he himself goes into the next world. That the son of perdition is he no longer: that that is the miracle of the grace of Jesus Christ. We were lost, but now we are found. Were blind, but now we see.

The Story (3)

What if pain were not a creation of the Most High? And the Most High God is not the cause of destruction? That Lucifer, the greatest of all beings besides God, could actually have had that much effect on the world at large? Like Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden so that they would not eat of the Tree of Life, Satan and his angels were thrown from Heaven so that they would no longer have access to the inner gears of the cosmos. Their sin was pride.

A clue to why God takes responsibility for all that goes wrong is in the Book of Job. At the end, God sort of appears before Job and asks him where was he when He measured out the dimensions of the world, that sort of thing. That he cannot fathom why things happen as they do. Nowhere does God say, Satan did it to him, don’t blame Me. But the fact of the matter is, throughout the universe, it is due to the War in Heaven that there are calamities great down to the most trivial of injuries. Lucifer from his station in eternity threw a wrench in the whole works.

And so it was that Lucifer out of pride sought his own way, his own Logos, and so made that which was not of love, outside of all good, to become the avatar of Evil. And from Evil came Sin, which is also called Error, which is also called Pain; and from Evil and Sin was begotten Death: and this was enough. Before they could cause irrevocable damage to the pillars of creation, they were hurled from Heaven. With their exile the part of Heaven now in ruins was torn from the main of Eternity and cast free into the earth, as the abode in the outer darkness for Satan and his angels, who were now subject to time.

War in Heaven

If myths are lies that tell the truth, what is a myth that turns out to be true? For there are various myths in the book we call the Bible: the story of creation, the son of slaves who frees his people, the God-man who died and rose from the dead. The bulk of the Bible is people doing things, sometimes epic, sometimes quite ordinary; or even sometimes the way God Himself got involved in the world. But there is one drama that seems to be pure myth, otherworldy, and it is in the last book in the Bible, briefly mentioned:

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

[Revelation 12 KJV]

It has been written of in extra-biblical texts, but other than the above, the only other mention of it in the Bible is when Jesus Christ said that he saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. So there, we get what happened straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. It was something that is rooted in such Truth as the Son of Man represents. There have been secondary sources about just what might have transpired, notably Milton’s Paradise Lost. There is also, curiously, something written by J. R. R. Tolkien: the Ainulindalë, or “the music of the Ainur”—a creation myth. In it, Melkor, the greatest of the Ainur, rebels against Ilúvatar, who is God. Which sounds familiar, do you not believe? One imagines that Tolkien took the Lucifer myth to heart, but in elaborating on what had been written, the War in Heaven—the actual one—seems to have some curious commonality with what he wrote as fantasy. It turns out the world out there is the way it is because of how this singular thing, this war in eternity, was fought, and won (but being a war in eternity, is still going on). And perhaps you can do something yourself, to see it end as it should, in you.

You can read about my experiences in the War in my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.