« PreviousContinue »
Iscariot may have found mercy with that Master whom he so intensely wronged, when we find him saying in Matt. xxvi. 24, 'Woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed, it had been good for that man if he had not been born?' It must be borne in mind that we are not endeavouring to lessen the culpability of Judas Iscariot, but simply to develop the true meaning of texts of Scripture that bear on his case. Christ was a Jew, spoke the Aramean language, then current among the Jews, and among other parts of the language he has often introduced expressions that had become proverbial among that people in that
age. His whole discourses are full of incidental illustrations of this point. It is, then, from the writings of Jews near that age that we are to look for the force of many of our Saviour's epithets and proverbial utterances. Look then at the following quotations from Schoettgen for confirmation of our opinion of the possible, nay, the probable force of our Lord's words as related in the last quotation from Matthew. In Chagigah, fol. 11, 2, it thus occurs : “Whoever considers these four things, it would have been better for him if he had never come into the world; viz., that which is above, that which is below, that which is before, and that which is behind.' Also, “Whoever does not attend to the honour of his Creator, it were better for him had he never been born. In the Shemoth Rabba, sect. xl. fol. 135, 1, 2, it is remarked : • Whoever knows the law and does not do it, it had been better for him had he never come into the world.' In the Vayikra Rabba, sect. xxxvi. fol. 179, 4, as well as in Midresh Coheleth, fol. 91, 4, it is thus written: 'It were better for him had he never been created, and it would have been better for him had he been strangled in the womb, and never have seen the light of this world. And in Sohar Genes, fol. 71, col. 282, it is observed, “If any man be parsimonious to the poor, it had been better for him had he never come into the world;' and in the same treatise, fol. 84. col. 333, we find, “If any performs the law not for the sake of the law, it were good for that man had he never been created. Now these cases show the proverbialness of the heavier part of the expressions of our Lord, which are supposed to be so fatal to the case of Judas. In the above quotations from Rabbinic authorities, the cases of the supposed sinners, with the exception of the first, of which we can make no sense, is confessedly bad, but sinners of those classes are perpetually saved, and are now in a salvable state. Thus far, then, the case of Judas Iscariot does not look as immitigably deplorable as most preachers represent it to be. All that we can say is, so far as we can see, the case of Judas presents nothing that can be fairly construed into u proof that his sin was one of doomed impenitence, but there may have been in his case an amount of real and idiosyncratic culpability of which the evangelic records contain no evidence. The lightest censure that can belong to Judas is the having committed highly immoral actions which can never be repeated or paralleled, which even though forgiven, may have justified it being said of him, “it were good if he had never been born;' for who can say what it must be to have earned an eternity of bad pre-eminence among the members of all churches and all times, and to have merited
that his name should stand in the catalogue of human criminals, of whom there can never rise one to approach him in universal infamy, he the black first !
The case of Judas Iscariot is, however, earnestly assailed by the au. thority of the apostle John, who, chap. xii. 6, says, 'Why was not this perfume sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor? This he (Judas) said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. His expressions are,
Οτι κλέπτης ήν, και το γλωσσόκομον είχε, και τα βαλλόμενα εβάσταζεν. These words, if taken in their apparent signification, present the case of Judas in one of its most forbidding features; but it must be confessed, meantime, that John is the only one of the evangelists who gives this strong view of Judas' previous dishonesty. Not that we would invalidate any sacred author, whose authority alone is the sanction of a record, but it must, in the nature of things, be less than where it is supported by other evidence. This view of the question is borne out by the expression proračev, which occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament, fourteen of which happen in the four Gospels, and in five places in John's Gospel, yet out of all these instances there is no one in which the meaning is to take away by stealth or to steal. The whole of the difficulty is not here, for John distinctly calls Judas a KAETTns, or a thief, who is so because he steals; and it must be confessed that this term, as used in the New Testament, means nothing else than one who is guilty of purloining. Considering that the Gospel of John was not written till late in his own life, when the Christian maturity of his character was attained, and the charity that covereth a multitude of sins' was obvious in his epistles, we can only take the meaning of adenons in its natural sense of dishonesty. if John had not been an inspired man, we might have thought that his imputation of this crime to Judas had been the effect of prejudice and zeal in behalf of his Master's name. But we fear the case is made out by this single text against the fallen apostle. Let us, then. admit at once the force of the whole accusation against Judas; does it amount to this, that no man who had defrauded his brethren, and robbed the poor in his office of treasurer, upon repentance never found mercy with that God who has sworn that he delights not in the death of a sinner? When repentance was once induced in the soul of Judas it is probable that it extended to all his previous conscious iniquities It is true, the sacred record makes no specific mention of the repentance of the traitor extending to all his previous iniquities; but in every case of sincere repentance of how few of the forbidden acts of which conscience and memory keep the true history does any observer, however keen, ever become aware ?
But the question may be urged, Was not Judas a suicidist? Before we can answer this point, we must carefully look at the evidence as far as it is presented to our inspection. Some writers affirm that Judas hanged himself, and that the rope having broken, he fell, and his bowels gushed out. Others, that having hung himself, he was thrown on the dunghill, where the violent emotions that preceded his death miglit have caused his bowels to burst. Or, as some imagine, that he projected himself from the top of a house, and thus falliny headlong, his bowels obtruded. Dr. Lightfoot, who generally advocates ultra opinions, be
. lieved that Satan carried Judas into the air and flung him to the earth. Others believe that his extreme anguish suffocated him; this opinion is defended with great learning by the late critic Wakefield; while some writers regard the account of Judas' death as simply figurative. To the latter opinion, those who adopted it adhere, because they say Judas fell from the high rank of apostle and treasurer to the lowest degradation, and, seized with preternatural anguish for his crime and its consequences, his bowels gushed out. It is also affirmed by some authors, propitious to our general dogmata of Judas, that an analogous punishment is found in the death of Jehoram, 2 Chron. xxi. 18, 19: • The Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease, and that after the end of two years his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness;' or, that the remarkable visitation of Herod, which is recorded Acts xii. 22, bears a resemblance to the death of Judas. They may, indeed, be thought to add light to the subject, but it must be confessed that the diseases in these two instances are far from identical, if for the moment we admit that the betrayer of his Lord did not hang himself, as our translation seems so positively to affirm. Nor are two cases mentioned by Josephus more definite; that of Aristobulus, whose soul was constantly disturbed at the thoughts of what he had done till his very bowels being torn to pieces by the intolerable grief he was under he threw up a great quantity of blood.' &c.—(Wars, b. i. c. 3.) The other instance refers to Zenodorus, and is related in Antiq. b. xv. c. 10, 53; "for the belly of Zenodorus burst, and a great quantity of blood issued from him in his sickness, and he thereby departed this life at Antioch.' Matthew's terms are very graphically
descriptive of the end of Judas, c. xxvii. 5 : "and having flung down , the pieces of money in the Temple, he departed, and went and hanged
himself. The ditliculty lies in reconciling the only other account that we have of the traitor's death in the words of Luke, Acts i. 18: • Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. This translation is, indeed, scarcely correct, as, instead of falling headlong,' we have apnvis yevópevog éyakhoe pécoc-being prone, he burst asunder in the midst. But it is Matthew only who uses the word árnyEuro, which our version renders 'banged himself.'
It cannot be denied that the word employed by Matthew does sometimes, indeed, mean to hang one's self, but its inore definite sense, at least in classical writers, is to strangle, to choke, or to throttle. Even, however, if we admit that Judas did, in the incomparable terror of his conscience, destroy himself, and thus become, in addition to all his other crimes, a suicidist, it would not inevitably follow, unless it could be shown that all such cases are not the results of insanity, that Judas must therefore be regarded as a sinner for whom no mercy was in reserve.
Our limits do not permit a further investigation of the
force of the term which the English version gives as 'hanging himself,' but we refer the intelligent reader to an express dissertation by Perizonius, in his “ De Morte Judæ et Verbo ánarxeolwi;' or to the chapter in the work of Jac. Gronovius, 'De Casu et Pernicie Proditoris Judæ. See also Elsner's Com. in Matt. xi. p. 296, et seq. We may add that Matt. xxvii. 5 is the only place in the New Testament where the word occurs.
It is also often controverted whether Judas Iscariot was present with the disciples at the institution of the Lord's Supper. We will lay before the reader the whole evidence on this question :
MATT. xxvi. 25-28.
MARK xiv. 21-26.
LUKE xxii. 19-22.
JOHN xiii. 1, 2.
the 21st verse thus fol- hour was come that he
Then Judas, which The Son of Man in- [In the 19th and 20th Now, before the feast betrayed him, answered deed goeth, as it is verses is an account of of the Passover, when and said, Master, is it I? written of him: but woe the Lord's Supper, but Jesus knew that his He said unto him, Thou to that man by whom hast said. the Son of Man is be- lows:-)
should depart out of And as they were eat- trayed! Good were it But, behold, the hand this world ing, Jesus took bread, for that man if he had of him that betrayeth Father, having loved his and blessed, and brake, never been born.
me is with me on the I own which were in the and gave to the dis- And as they did eat, table : and truly the world, he loved them ciples, &c. &c.
Jesus took bread, and Son of Man goeth, as it unto the end.
of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray
him. So far as we know, these four quotations contain all the real evi. dence that bears on the question whether Judas received the Lord's Supper or not. Matthew either omits after the 25th verse the movements of Judas, and the other acts of Christ; or if he have omitted nothing, then his text is favourable to the opinion that Judas was present. Mark, after the 21st verse, is either chargeable with similar omission, or his text must also be received as favourable to the theory of Judas' presence, though it ought to be confessed as mnch less favourable than Matthew's, as the text of the latter writer depones to the presence of the traitor, which Mark's does not. There can be no doubt that Luke all but asserts the participation of the betrayer, as the 21st and 22nd verses affirm positively his presence after the supper had been exhibited. Nor can the concluding words of our Lord's censure be applicable to Peter; for Judas is the only one of the disciples of whom Christ ever employed that form of expression. We can only introduce John's testimony on this subject with some measure of doubt as to its meaning, if it be at all applicable; for, in the 1st verse of his 13th chapter, he is evidently referring to an indefinite period, towards the close of our Saviour's life. And, of the 2nd verse, there is nothing but the occurrence of the name of Judas which could give the quotation an eucharistic bearing. But if any one should maintain that the supper' mentioned by John was the Passover Supper, or one before it, how could we confidently gainsay his position? At all events, even it • the supper' in verse 2 could be yielded as referring to the Eucharist,
it does not determine whether Judas was present or not at its first exhibition, for it merely declares the supper being ended.'
It may be of minor importance to notice the opinion of some of the biblical critics who have devoted their attention to this individual act in the life of the traitor. Till within a few years past the great bulk of interpreters were of opinion that Judas was among the participators of the Lord's Supper, but we imagine that a majority of living theologians are not now on that side. The author of the Apostolic Constitutions,' St. Hilary, Innocent III., Victor of Antioch, Abbot Rupert, Theophylact, among the ancients, were all definitively opposed to the belief that Judas received the supper. They all, meantime, admit that his feet were washed by Christ, and that he ate the Passover Supper with his co-disciples, and their Lord; and that it was while he was so engaged that Christ introduced the topic of his betrayal by the exclamation, 'One of you shall betray me. And when Judas, the last to interrogate the Saviour, 'Lord, is it I ?' had been assured that he was the person who would thus develop the insincere state of his heart towards his Master, ‘he went immediately out,' after having received the sop given to him by Christ, which he had dipped in the bitter mass which formed a part of that religious ceremony. It seems, also, in favour of our opinion, that the traitor did not receive the Lord's Supper, that Christ exclaimed, as soon as he was gone, evidently relieved from the torture of an apostate presence, “Now is the Son of Man glorified; and John, in his Gospel, though he omits the eucharistic narrative, proceeds to add some other particulars which we know transpired at its institution.
There is one thing more on which we would venture an observation in reference to the circumstances of our Lord's capture. Matthew thus relates it :—While Jesus yet spake to Judas, one of the twelve came, and with him a great multitude, with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.' And Judas betrayed his Master just after that memorable agony in the garden with a kiss ! Why thus add hypocrisy to betrayal ? Could the apostate believe that his Master did not know his heart? As great an agony of soul as is conceivable must have preceded that kiss, if there were any of the loftier and better sentiments of humanity yet in that evil heart of Judas. Christ might be unknown to the brazen emissaries of the priesthood, and therefore Judas must initiate them into this horrid employment by osculating his illustrious victim. Well might he say,
Hold him fast!' He remembered how the Lord had often paralysed mobs of his enemies aforetime, and eluded their grasp by gliding out of their way. The scene of Nazareth had evidently left its impression on this fallen man's memory; or, perhaps, he might imagine that when Christ was under the grasp of his captors, he would instantly develop his
power, and awe them by some sign from heaven. If this were one of the expectancies of the apostate, he that was so often to be deceived was deceived then; for Jesus merely replied, 'Acquaintance,' not friend (traipe), ‘on whom art thou come? These were the last words that Christ is reported to have addressed to Judas. No