12 January, 2006

Judas gets a makeover

Woah! After 2000 years, the Vatican is apparently softening its view on Judas.

Two things to think about here:

One is the simple theological question, which is a major one for Christianity. It's remarkable that such important questions should still be open questions after so many years. You'd think God would have made his perfect plan a little less ambiguous.

Anyway, my favorite statement of the problem of Judas comes from Borges, who wrote a little "short story" about it called "Three Versions of Judas", which are:

  • Judas is the tool of Satan. This has backing in the Gospel according to Luke, which says "Satan entered him", and John, which says the same. Problematic, since it means Satan was doing what God wanted after all.

  • Judas was only fulfilling God's plan; Christ had to die and thus had to be betrayed. This is an oft-favored viewpoint, popular amongst liberal types. See "Jesus Christ Superstar" or "The Last Temptation of Christ". Problematic, since the Bible clearly has Judas being punished and makes him out as a villain.

  • Finally, Borges farcically proposes that since Christ's suffering was brief, and mankind's sin is endless, surely it was not enough to redeem us. Therefore the true messiah should be someone who is still suffering in Hell on our behalf, viz., Judas.

It should also be noted that Judas has historically been a standard card played by anti-Semites; in art he has often been portrayed with red hair, stereotypically associated with Jews in medieval Europe. So there's clearly good political reason to revise the role of Judas. But as I'm fond of saying, political imperative does not necessarily coincide with the truth. The Gospels are without a doubt documents written to be antagonistic to Jews. The early Christians surely had many adversaries within the Jewish community; the majority, even. So it shouldn't surprise us to see that what's been handed down through history plays well in generating anti-Semitism. This is more a call to abandon the Gospels than anything else. Attempting to reconcile it with current mores is needlessly futile.

(Via CT)


those 3 don't mutually exclude. also the centrality of temptation and betrayal itself calls into question the faultlessness of the storytelling, meaning that if #3 were "true," we'd never know it. 

Posted by david

Probably a matter of interpretation, but you'll have to clarify how those three aren't mutually exclusive to you. Either Judas is God's instrument or he is Satan's. Or Satan isn't really the Enemy, opposing God's plan. (I find such absolutes absurd anyway, but never mind that.) 

Posted by saurabh

it seems easy to describe satan as either a facet of god or as having independence for the specific purpose of foiling plans - there's just no way that satan couldn't be stopped cold if desired. this world today seems good evidence that god engages in contradictory behavior. it's very egotistical to assume that divine thinking runs along only one track. 

Posted by david

i'm speaking metaphorically in a way. i have retained no major religions to represent my beliefs at this time.

it seems easy to describe satan as either a facet of god or as having independence for the specific purpose of foiling plans 

there's the whole ineffability bit, as described by gaiman and pratchett.  

Posted by Saheli

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