Part 1:Introduction | John Sanders 1 | Chris Hall 1 | Sanders 2 | Hall 2

Part 2:John Sanders 3 | Chris Hall 3 | Sanders 4 | Hall 4 | Sanders 5 | Postscript

Dear John,

How about your interpretation of Judas's betrayal of Jesus? I would argue that this narrative clearly demonstrates God's perfect and complete knowledge of the future. Jesus is not caught off guard by Judas's action. Rather, Jesus demonstrates a full awareness of what Judas is soon to do (Matt. 26:23-25). Perhaps even more telling, however, is the comment of Matthew that the purchase of the potter's field with Judas's blood money and its subsequent naming as the "Field of Blood" fulfilled a prophecy of Jeremiah made hundreds of years before the event (Matt. 27:5-10).

I find your interpretation of the Judas narrative [outlined in a previous unpublished e-mail] to be both selective and strained. First, you appear to base your explanation of Judas's actions on the highly idiosyncratic interpretation of William Klassen, a study you argue "demonstrates that Judas was not 'betraying' Jesus." Is Judas, as Klassen and you seem to believe, acting to bring the high priest and Jesus together so that they "could resolve their differences and bring about needed reforms"? When Jesus tells Judas to "[d]o quickly what you are going to do," does this instruction truly violate "a fundamental rule of Judaism" by telling Judas "to go out and deliberately commit a sin"? You appear convinced by Klassen, writing that "in this light it is clear that Judas is not betraying Jesus and that Jesus is not issuing any prediction of such activity." I remain unconvinced, especially because of the role Jesus assigns to Satan in Judas's activities.

Second, you argue that paradidomi "does not mean 'betray' to the temple authorities." Why not? Liddell and Scott [in Liddell-Scott's Greek-English Lexicon] provide clear instances in secular Greek sources where paradidomi does mean betray. If so, why can't it mean betray here?

Third, you write that "because Judas has come to symbolize villainy, we tend to think that Jesus' words are clear and that everything is working out according to some foreordained plan." I don't agree. Judas is almost invariably considered a villain in the history of interpretation because that is precisely how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John portray him. John, for example, gives us a glimpse into Judas's character when he explains the motive behind Judas's objection to Jesus' anointing at Bethany. "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." If such was Judas's character, it seems plausible to me to view his betrayal of Jesus as an opportunity for Judas to make a quick buck that goes terribly awry; I don't think Judas realized his short-sighted action would lead to Jesus' death.

While you don't see the Judas narrative linked "to some foreordained plan," Matthew clearly makes such a connection through his reference to Jeremiah's prophecy (Matt. 27:9-10). Peter also distinctly connects Judas's actions and fate to a prophecy spoken "through the mouth of David" (Acts 1:16). Neither Matthew's nor Peter's comments make sense if this predictive/prophetic element is drained out of the Judas narrative.

As I mentioned earlier, strikingly absent from your discussion of Judas is any mention of the role of Satan in the whole affair, while Matthew insists that "Satan entered Judas" the evening of the Last Supper, indicating that demonic motivation or inspiration lay behind Judas's thoughts and actions (cf. Matt. 22:3). Not only so, but John had previously informed his reader of the shady character of Judas. Jesus, it seems to me, clearly predicts Judas's betrayal in John 13, just as he predicted the exact number of times Peter would betray Jesus.

How, by the way, could Jesus possibly know that Peter would choose to deny him three times if God cannot know beforehand the choices of free individuals, a position held by many openness theologians? Was Peter not free? Did God force him to deny Jesus? Was he simply a puppet? If so, why would Jesus consider him morally responsible for his actions and call him to repentance and renewal in John 21?


John Sanders replies, next page.

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