St Bob, ahead of the curve

by Chris Bertram on January 12, 2006

Bob Dylan, 1963 :

In a many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

The Vatican 2006 :

JUDAS ISCARIOT, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, is to be given a makeover by Vatican scholars. The proposed “rehabilitation” of the man who was paid 30 pieces of silver to identify Jesus to Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane, comes on the ground that he was not deliberately evil, but was just “fulfilling his part in God’s plan”.

{ 38 comments }

1

Robin Green 01.12.06 at 5:40 am

This just illustrates the ridiculousness of a religion which posits an all-powerful God. Under this way of thinking, being evil is entirely consistent with fulfilling your place in God’s plan – it’s not an either-or situation. (Islam has exactly the same problem.)

2

Contradictory Ben 01.12.06 at 5:50 am

3

Down and Out in Saigon 01.12.06 at 6:29 am

Has the Times gone downhill this fast?

In Dante’s Inferno, Judas is relegated to the lowest pits of Hell, where he is eaten, head first, by a three-headed demon with flapping bat-like wings

Not A demon, but The Demon: Satan, Lucifer, The Devil, etc. Not one of a flock but the big guy Himself. Funny how a lousy article makes the writer look that more ignorant.

4

Angus 01.12.06 at 6:32 am

See Borges’ ‘Three Versions of Judas’ in which a theologian ends up by arguing that it is in fact Judas, not Jesus, who is the saviour of humanity because it is he who makes the eternal sacrifice. More sublime than Bob.

5

abb1 01.12.06 at 7:11 am

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, he was merely the product of his environment, the victim of the social system.

6

John Emerson 01.12.06 at 7:26 am

Bulgakov, Master and Margarita. A well-known Russian heresy.

7

abb1 01.12.06 at 7:31 am

But IIRC in M&M Judas is just a punk, not even an disciple. Just some guy off the street who wants to make a few bucks.

8

Contradictory Ben 01.12.06 at 7:40 am

Abb1,

Nope. Matthew 10:1–4 lists Judas Iscariot among the disciples; Mark 14.10 and 14:43 calls him “one of the Twelve’.

9

Contradictory Ben 01.12.06 at 7:44 am

Abb1,

Oops. Sorry, I read that as Matthew and Mark.

10

chris y 01.12.06 at 7:44 am

One theory appears to be that Judas was a member of the Judaean Peoples Liberation Front or some such, who thought that Jesus was politically radical and then became disgusted when he started saying things like “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”. So he turned him in to stop him obstructing the revolution.

Splitter!

11

abb1 01.12.06 at 8:06 am

…member of the Judaean Peoples Liberation Front or some such…

isn’t this line used in libretto of Webber’s musical?

12

Mike 01.12.06 at 8:18 am

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, he was merely the product of his environment, the victim of the social system.

In my opinion this child don’t need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

Hey, I’ve got a social disease!

So take him to a social worker!

13

Jimmy Doyle 01.12.06 at 8:36 am

If we go by Benedict’s recent pronouncements, he’s liable to see the greatest obstacle to Judas’s rehabilitation in the fact that he kissed a man.

14

Seth Gordon 01.12.06 at 9:22 am

First they eliminate Limbo, now this. Sheesh! Some “conservative” this Pope is turning out to be.

15

Bro. Bartleby 01.12.06 at 9:23 am

And, lest we forget, Judas suffered remorse. Mt 27:3 “…whn Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver…” Is it possible to read the story without the overlay of two centuries of dogma?

16

Michael Kremer 01.12.06 at 9:32 am

The fact that Judas betrayed Jesus is not in itself an obstacle to his rehabilitation. Peter, taken by us Catholics (yes, I’m one of them) to be the first Pope, betrayed Jesus when he denied him three times. The real obstacle to Judas’s rehabilitation is that he killed himself. In other words, his remorse over his crime did not lead him to ask forgiveness but to despair over the possibility of forgiveness. A way out though might be that his suicide happened at a moment when he thought that the one of whom he had forgiveness was dead. I will be interested to see how this turns out.

17

Dan Kervick 01.12.06 at 9:34 am

This just illustrates the ridiculousness of a religion which posits an all-powerful God. Under this way of thinking, being evil is entirely consistent with fulfilling your place in God’s plan – it’s not an either-or situation. (Islam has exactly the same problem.)

The lack of warrant for belief in an all-powerful God aside, I don’t see the problem with this way of thinking. Unless one thinks that human action is a miraculous, non-natural process, and that moral evil is something other than one specific kind of natural evil, then I don’t see why one should have trouble with the idea that the all the moral evils in the world are caused.

18

Blar 01.12.06 at 9:41 am

I see I’ve been beaten to Borges (and you had to wake up pretty early in the morning to do that), but at least I can provide a link. Unfortunately, I haven’t turned up an English translation online other than Google’s translation of that page, which is somewhat less than satisfying as a literary work.

19

Bro. Bartleby 01.12.06 at 9:53 am

Bro. Michael,

Again, strip away two centuries of dogma and what do we have? Suicide? Alas, we have two differing accounts of the death. Hanging. Or … dare I say, lynched? And in Acts 1:18, “…falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.” Wow! Was that a ‘leap of faith’? Or a gentle nudge by someone, sending Judas flying headlong over the cliff …

20

bob 01.12.06 at 9:59 am

Wasn’t that the theme of Nikos Kazantzakis’s book The last temptation of Christ? 1960 (at least in English translation) — I don’t know if that was before Borges’s “Three Versions of Judas”.

21

Adam Kotsko 01.12.06 at 10:29 am

Seth, Nothing wrong with a little housecleaning now and then. (Maybe we can finally get rid of indulgences, too.)

22

ogged 01.12.06 at 10:59 am

Short, clear article on Judas revisionism.

23

Michael Kremer 01.12.06 at 12:24 pm

The article linked to by *ogged*, from the LA Times in 2000, ends with the exact line that *down and out in saigon* complained about:

“In Dante’s Inferno, Judas is relegated to the lowest pits of Hell, where he is eaten, head first, by a three-headed demon with flapping bat-like wings.”

So, the Times has “gone downhill” by simply repeating words written and published 6 years ago.

24

Barry Freed 01.12.06 at 12:26 pm

Has the Church embraced radical Protestant dialectical neo-orthodoxy? There is a very long footnote in Karl Barth’s magnum opus, the”Church Dogmatics,” where he posits as much, placing Judas as the very pivot of Chrirstian
(Barth would say World) Heilsgeschicte. I distinctly recall the radical death-of-God theologian and mad prophet Thomas JJ Altizer (with whom I had the great good fortune of studying some time ago) saying that he regarded that footnote as the very heart of the “Church Dogmatics.”

25

Mike 01.12.06 at 12:28 pm

So, the Times has “gone downhill” by simply repeating words written and published 6 years ago.

Certainly has, if its (presumably University-educated) writers have to crib semi-literate swill from Los Angeles.

26

Bro. Bartleby 01.12.06 at 1:02 pm

Of interest is that both Dylan and the Vatican choose the traditional translations of the Greek paradidomi as ‘betrayed’ whereas the same word is used far more often in scripture as ‘deliver up’ or ‘give over’.

“And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again.”

“And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again.”

A difference?

27

Barry Freed 01.12.06 at 1:29 pm

A difference?

Clearly. The latter is of a piece with the kenotic telos of the Passion (and of the Incarnation as well), foreshadowing it. whereas the former has no such depth and is rather more consistent with hatred and persecution of the Jews.

I remember hearing a rabble-rousing Irish folk song [NB Kieran: is this redundant? ;-) ]in which the singer declares his alleigence with Judas over and against those who would compromise in making peace with the opressors. It was great, does anyone know the name of the tune?

28

Kenny Easwaran 01.12.06 at 2:19 pm

I see I’ve been beaten to The Last Temptation of Christ, and I didn’t know the Borges, but this theme is also prominent in Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before. So it’s been a common heresy, though I guess it might not be heresy any more.

29

peter ramus 01.12.06 at 2:29 pm

30

Dan Nexon 01.12.06 at 2:33 pm

On how to reconcile God’s omnipotence with evil, see Augustine’s City of God (or, for that matter, the opening of The Silmarillion, which dramatizes – more or less – the same argument).

31

Barry Freed 01.12.06 at 2:45 pm

Peter Ramus: Thank you very much. I heard that song on Bob Fass’ inimitable ” Radio Unnameable” on NY’s Pacifica station WBAI and found it so stirring it has haunted me ever since. Should we ever meet I owe you a beer.

32

wcw 01.12.06 at 2:46 pm

The song for which you’re looking is “Stand Up For Judas,” written by Leon Rosselson. You probably heard the Dick Gaughan version, and if you heard the original instead, find a way to hear Gaughan’s. It is indeed fabulous, deserving of the same worldwide yuletide overexposure that “Silent Night” currently enjoys. Gaughan’s treatment is the atheist anthem I know we’ve all pined for lo these many cold years.

“…Now Jesus brought division where none had been before
Not the slaves against their masters but the poor against the poor
Set son to rise up against father, and brother to fight against brother
For he that is not with me is against me, was his teaching
Said Jesus, I am the answer
You unbelievers shall burn forever, shall die in your sins
Not sheep and goats, said Judas, But together we may dare
Shake off the chains of misery we share..”

My kind of carol.

33

Maynard Handley 01.12.06 at 3:26 pm

I tell you, it’s all the damn _Da Vinci Code_’s fault. Now the Vatican has to wiggle double-quick to try to create enough smoke and confusion to stop people remembering all the stuff that was said in there about Jesus not being divine.

I tell you, if they’d just ordered a fatwa against Dan Brown they’d be a lot better off.

34

Bro. Bartleby 01.12.06 at 4:17 pm

Again, know your translators before you place all eternity into the translator’s words. If only my grandparents knew (and all those who thought the King James Bible dropped out of the heavens, intact and inerrant) that it was Lancelot Andrews and his all too human company of translators who were responsible for endowing the KJV with the royal lexicon … to the delight of James I.

35

radek 01.13.06 at 6:39 pm

To continue with the literary connections, this also pops up in Catcher In the Rye where Holden Caufield gets into an argument with some nuns and says that “Jesus wouldn’t do that to ol’ Judas” (i.e. send him to hell). Or something like that.

36

Casey 01.13.06 at 10:17 pm

Theres a great Borges short story “Three Versions of Judas” that has a scholar posit at the end that Judas was the real secret savior as his suffering disgrace and humiliation was actually greater as the betrayer of Jesus then Jesus himself on the cross. The scholar announces this to the world and is ignored which confirms to him that his idea is right as god means for it to be kept secret. The scholar then goes mad and kills himself.

37

JoséAngel 01.15.06 at 6:33 am

St Bob, always ahead. From the same song:

“A push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side”

Such questions as “who’s REALLY got weapons of mass destruction”, I guess…

38

Bro. Ed, the Mad Monk 01.17.06 at 3:43 pm

What do you expect from a religion created by a committee? (Google ‘Council of Nicea’).

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