Giotto / Wikimedia Commons

Some of Jesus’ apostles aren’t well known, but everyone remembers three of them: Paul, Peter, and Judas Iscariot. Judas, the apostle who ultimately betrayed Jesus to religious authorities and made Jesus’ death possible, is one of the Bible’s most notorious figures. A lot of legends and speculation have formed over the centuries about Judas, but most people don’t take the time to look at what the Bible says about him.

Who was Judas Iscariot?

Judas was one of many people who followed Christ and is listed as one of the 12 men that Jesus made His disciples in Matthew 10, specifically in Matthew 10:1. The same lists can be found in Luke 6:12-16 and Mark 3:16-19. The list is the same in these three Gospels, but none of them tells us a lot about any of the disciples. We know that some of them were related to each other. For example, James was a “son of Alphaeus,” and Andrew was Peter’s brother. We also learn about Matthew’s profession, which is a tax collector. The only disciples we get any particular details about are Simon and Judas. Given that Judas becomes a central figure in Jesus’ death, it’s fascinating to see that he’s the only one this list gives this kind of detail about.

The Gospels are discerning in what they tell us about people. We get very few details about Jesus’ childhood or His teenage years and almost no details about what the apostles did before Jesus found them. However, here are some things we know about Judas.

His last name tells us where he was from.

“Iscariot” may sound harsh and odd to an English-speaking audience. Since the Gospels don’t bring up any second or last names of the other apostles, and we see Judas as a sinister figure, you would think his name has some dark meaning. However, most scholars believe the name means “man of Kerioth,” a Judean town.

Jesus gave Judas spiritual authority.

According to Matthew 10, Jesus gave spiritual authority to all 12 of His apostles, which allowed them to perform miracles and cast out demons. Mark 3:14 tells us that they also preached, and in Luke 9:54, we learn that John and James offered to call down fire from heaven, which indicates that at least some of the apostles gained other spiritual abilities or gifts on top of these callings and gifts.

Judas was in charge of finances.

Numerous passages in the Gospels suggest that Jesus and His disciples got money from donors like Salome. In John 12, we read that Judas was in charge of the disciples’ money, suggesting there was a communal bag the group used to cover their expenses. John 12 also says that Judas stole money from the communal bag. Knowing that Matthew was a tax collector, a job associated with extortion and theft, it’s slightly ironic that someone besides Matthew turned out to be untrustworthy with finances.

The other disciples never suspected him.

John 12 says that Judas stole from the bad he was put in charge of, but it’s worth noting that when Jesus announced that one of his apostles would betray Him at the Last Supper, they were all surprised and asked Jesus if it was them, as explained in Mark 14:19. This means that Judas didn’t have a reputation that made them implicate him immediately.

Why did Judas betray Jesus?

In the Gospels, Jesus says several times that He knew someone would betray Him and predicted His death twice, with different Gospels referencing the same two predictions. He used the word “betrayed” instead of “arrested” or “being handed over” in some of these predictions. In John 6, after Jesus gave a teaching about people eating His flesh, most of His disciples left and Jesus asked the 12 apostles if they would leave too. Peter replied, asking where they would go because Jesus has eternal life, and they’d come to believe and know that He was the Holy One of God. In John 6:70, Jesus said He’d chosen them but called one of the apostles a devil.

Jesus also hinted that He knew Judas’ plans in the occurrences before and during the Last Supper, even before the moment when He singled Judas out, and Judas left. When He finished cleaning His disciples’ feet, Jesus told the disciples they were clean, but not all of them, specifically in John 13:10.  At the start of the Last Supper, Jesus proclaimed to His apostles that one of them would betray Him. Since Jesus was both fully human and fully God, we assume that through divine foreknowledge, He knew that Judas would betray Him, but since the Gospels aren’t written from Jesus’ point of view, we don’t get His perspective on why Judas betrayed Him. We know that Judas liked money too much, and maybe he was concerned about Jesus exposing his greed.

Aside from that, we don’t get any descriptions of Judas’ motives. Throughout the years, different writers have altered the Gospel story in ways that show Judas in different ways. Some play around with the thought that Judas has a specific idea of what the Messiah should be, and Jesus didn’t fit his vision.

How did Judas Iscariot die?

The New Testament shares two accounts of Judas’ death. In Matthew 27, we read that Judas regretted his decision to betray Jesus when he recognized that Jesus was condemned to die and tried to give his money back to the religious leaders. They told him his guilt didn’t concern them, so Judas threw the money in the temple and hung himself, as detailed in Matthew 27:5. The religious leaders decided to use his money to buy a field to use as a cemetery, which was called the “Field of Blood.”

In Acts, we get a different version of what happened. In Acts 1, we read that after Jesus’ ascension but shortly before Pentecost, the disciples talked about choosing a new disciple to take Judas’ place among the apostles. The writer says that Judas used 30 pieces of silver to buy a field, where Judas fell head first, and his body split open, as explained in Acts 27:18-19.

Satan might have thought he was hindering God’s plan through Judas, but the results show how impossible that was. Judas’ story reminds us that God is always in control. His name itself, “Let God Be Praised,” reminds us that God can use even the worst situations in powerful ways.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad