Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

. (page 61 of 77)
Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 61 of 77)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Judas to have been entered into at the
country-house of Caiaphas, the ruins
of which are still shown upon the sum-
mit of the Hill of Evil Counsel. The
tradition is not ancient ; but it is men-

tioned as a singular fact that the mon-
ument of Annas, who may have had a
country-seat near his son-in-law, is
found in this neighborhood." Williams,
II. C, ii. 49G, quoted by AndrewB.



allowed to go by, that the crowds of visitors to the metropolis on
this festal occasion should be permitted to depart, and that then
the Sanhedrim should contrive to do away with Jesus, without
noise, without calling attention to him. It never seemed to have
entered their minds that this end might be gained by the treason
of some member of the circle of Jesus. What they were resolv-
ing should be after the Passover, Jesus was predicting should
take place on that very day.

We can fancy the surprise and diabolical delight of the San-
hedrim when suddenly one of the Twelve, one of the most inti-
mate friends of Jesus, found access to them and
offered to betray him to them, so that they might th
avoid the difficulties of his apprehension in pub
lie. This was Judas of Kcrioth. The reply of Jesus to his criti-
cism of Mary's waste of the ointment seemed to convince Judas
that things were not going forward on the path he had marked
out in his own mind, and
so he took the resolve to , 4*^^ V ^c\}

Judas comes to

precipitate the work by a
bold movement. lie went

back from Simon's house
to Jerusalem and sought
the ecclesiastical authori-
ties. They were glad, and covenanted with him "for thirty
pieces of silver." These pieces are supposed to be the silver
shekels, each of which was worth a little over two English sliil
lings, or fifty American cents, so that the whole sum offered Ju-
das was a little more than .£'.'] English, or $15 American. A re-
ference to Exodus xxi. 32 ; shows that this had more anciently
been the price of a .-law.'- It has been suggested by Langc that
when the Sanhedrim made this offer to Judas it was with cunning
irony. Judas accepted.

The case of Judas is a study. Wo may as well enter upon it
here, anticipating so much of the remainder of his history as the
New Testament writers record. No historical

lie, T7 -c *i The case of Ju-

character has had so hard a late. fc,ven it the tlaa
ingenuity of those who please themselves in mak-
ing theories which Bhall expose the falseness of long-received
conclusions, or the pleas of those whose amiability i- in excess,

* Compare the remarkable passage in Zechariah xi. l'J.



shall do something for poor Judas, there will still remain the fact
that for more than eighteen centuries his name has been a horror
in all lands where it has been known, his fame the blackest among
men, his portrait in the gallery of historical personages the most
deeply draped, and his whole character considered the most infer-
nal of all that have been mortal. Poets, painters, and preachers
have united to damn him from generation to generation.* He
has been the one culprit who for long ages had not a single hu-
man brother to say one word in his behalf. This itself has been
a terrible doom.

Of late years examination of his character, his motives, and his
conduct has gone far to mitigate the verdict of the past. Every
examination of the career of Jesus involves an ex-
amination of the case of Judas, and the very
unanimity of opinion in past ages has so aroused
the suspicion of modern criticism, that some writers who have
not concerned themselves with Jesus have found a fascination
in the unique historical position of Judas, attracting them to
an analysis of his natural characteristics and of his motives in
this most unfortunate and fatal betrayal of his Teacher. The
German critics first suggested that the story of Judas had been
misread and the man misunderstood ; that appearances were so
frightfully against him at the first as to put him under a cloud,
which his sudden death, quickly following his betrayal of Jesus,
prevented him from dissipating, and which no one subsequently
had any interest in removing, while partisanship for Jesus gave
his followers a reason for making that cloud as dark as possible.

Fresh examina-

* I have been told by a friend that in
South America aa image of Judas is
submitted, on certain days, to the pop-
ular execration, and that he himself had
given Judas a kick in the streets of Rio.
There was not much of Judas left at the
close of a day of such treatment.

In the Prince of the House of Da-
rid, a romance founded on the facts in
the life of Jesus, the author, Rev. Mr.
lngraham, gives his ideal of Judas in
the following description, which shows
how this ideal was constructed by the
natural dislike to Judas caused by the
historical position he sustains towards

Jesus : — " He was low in height, was
ill-featured, and his attire was mean :
but he had a suspicious air, combined
with a cringing deference, that made
made me think he must be a hypocrite.
He smiled with his mouth and teeth,
but at the same time looked sinister out
of his eyes. An air of humility seemed
to be put on to conceal the pride and
wickedness of his character. He looked
like a man who could artfully deceive
to gain his selfish ends, and who would
kneel to you to overturn you. The
60und of his voice confirmed my first
impression of him."


De Qninccy sums up the reasonings of the Germans along- this

line of thought with suggestions of his own, the amount of which

is that Judas was not in the had sense a traitor,
... t • i • -r> , De Quincey's

that his movements during this 1 assover week tbeory

were not intended to crush, nay, nor even to re-
tard, hut rather to advance the cause of Jesus. He may have
had some self-seeking in all that he did, hut not hase treachery
and certainly not petty avarice. His reasoning was fallacious,
as sid (sequent events have shown, but it was just such as an aver-
age intellect would have pursued before the catastrophe, in view
of such facts as are now known to have been before the mind of
Judas, and specially operative upon such a mental and moral con-
stitution as that of Judas.

Quite lately this theory has been taken up by Mr. Story, an
American sculptor residing in Rome, and worked into a poem of
considerable dramatic force, entitled The Roman
Lawyer in Jerusalem, first published in Black-
wood, and afterward in a small volume. In this poem the theory is
such an advance on that of the Germans and De Quincey as to
make Judas, upon the whole, the very best and noblest of the
Twelve Apostles, most believing, most daring, yet most delicate.
Of all the Apostles he was the only one who so believed in the
Godhood of Jesus that he felt that no power could kill him, and if
In' could put his Master in just such relation to human power
that ho would be compelled to let his Godhead break through his
humanity, theu should be brought to pass, what they all desired,
the immediate inauguration of the Messianic kingdom. It might
be a personal disaster to Judas to do it, but none of the other dis-
ciples had the faith in Jesus and the daring to make the venture.
Judas had. Hut when he saw his dire mistake", and that Jesus
did not burst out into undeniable Messianic splendor and power,
Judas was 80 delicately constituted that his heart broke. This is
the argument of Mi'. Story's poem.

Let u- See how much of all this has ground in history and
• n.

originally selected Judas from a company of at least
of his followers to be of the number of the Twelve who
should be «>n his "staff" and Bhould he charged with the .-•
duty of propagating his doctrines. Judas, then, was no worse

and QO beiier than the re-! of them. lie was an average man,


of average moral and intellectual endowments. But he was

drawn to Jesus, and by Jesus selected to the Apostolate. lie was

religious above the average. Through his whole

Judas compared connection with Jesus, up to this point, he does
with the other , . , . . , . . , r

A DOSt j es nothing and says nothing which draws a reprooi

from Jesus. He behaves better than the rest.
He never had said or done anything to make Jesus say to him as
he had to Peter, " Get behind me, Satan." He was a better-tem-
pered man than John, who is the admiration of painters and
romancers, for never, like John, had he desired to call down fire
from heaven to consume his fellow-men. He never was such a
profane liar as Peter proved to be, nor so ambitious as John and
his brother James, who desired to share the Messianic kingdom
with Jesus, and sit one on his right hand and the other on his
left, ruling over their brethren.

The only occasion when even acuteness can discover anything

that can be tortured into a reproof is the supper in the house of

Simon the Leper, when Judas suggested that the

„ money which had been spent on the ointment by

proor. J L J

Mary might have been better expended on the
poor. If any candid reader will forget that it was Judas who
made this remark, and notice that what Jesus said was not in
opposition to the remark of Judas, a remark which Judas himself
had learned from the very teaching of Jesus, — if the reader will
only fancy that John might have said the same thing, and Jesus
might have made to him the same reply, then all sign of reproof
will disappear. It is to be recollected by those who will be criti-
cal that when we read the account of that supper in John's twelfth
chapter, we arc prejudiced by the statement that it was Judas
Iscariot who made the suggestion of economy in the matter of
the ointment, and that John takes pains to inform us that it was
he rt which should betray him," and then he adds the damaging
parenthesis : "This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but
because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bore what was put
therein." If we had only the narratives of Matthew and Mark we
could never have had any suspicion that Jesus was reproving the
suggestion of giving the money to the poor, but was rather, with
his usual lofty yet tender courtesy, protecting the woman who
loved him and was anointing him.

It is to be considered, then, that John's saying "he was a thief "


does not prove that Judas had ever committed an act of theft or
showed any signs of a proclivity towards peculation. lie certainly
'had not been a thief up to the time of his elec-
tion for the Apostolate. lie was a man of execu- ,.

1 tion.

tive ability surpassing them all, and supposed to be

a man of honesty equal to them all, else he had not been made their
treasurer. That they had an insignificant exchequer is not proof
that they would therefore be careless as to the person who should
manage it : quite the contrary. Poor people who invest their sav-
ings a dime at a time, need to be more careful than men who would
not be embarrassed for an hour by the breaking of a bank in
which they have deposited ten thousand dollars. These disciples
were scrupulous and careful. There must have been frequent
auditing of the accounts of Judas, not from any suspicion of
foul dealing on his part, but to know how far their little fund
would meet their pressing wants. A widow whose toil brings
such weekly wages as that the most rigid economy must be exer-
cised to keep her outgo from exceeding her income, counts over
her little store more frequently and carefully than the Roths-
childs count their ample assets. The disciples would have de-
tected the leakage if Judas had purloined. Jesus would have
found some method of reproof, or at least of warning. But
nothing of this kind ever occurred. No suspicion against Judas
arose; among the disciples until after the betrayal of Jesus.

John wrote this verdict after Judas had betrayed Jesus. The
other disciples must have been unspeakably outraged. It was
natural. They would not have deserved to be the friends of
Jesus if they had not felt the utmost horror at the betrayal. That
would naturally lead them to believe any evil thing of the be-
trayer, and as Judas certainly did receive money for his services
in this transaction, it was most natural to suppose that he was so
avaricious that lie would have stolen, that he who would "sell his
Master," for so they regarded it. for thirty shekels, the price of a
slave, would not hesitate to Steal, being at heart a thief; and that
he who had not tenderness enough for such a Blaster .-is Jesus as
to make the earth, even if it were a solid chrysolite, no tempta-
tion as a bribe for betrayal, could nol have had any care for the
This i- all that the words of John do really prove, namely,
that his follow- Apostles regarded the act of Judas as «> horrible
as to put him beyond the pale of Christian charity j in which


they might have been as much mistaken as John was when he
wanted lire from heaven to burn up the Samaritan village.

Judas had the "worldly" part of the work of the Apostles to
attend to. lie made the little purchases, and thus, as De Quincey
suggests, came in contact with the " petty shop -
keepers," or, as I should say, mingled with that
class from whom he gathered the popular opinion of men and
measures. lie was not confined to the spiritual influence of the
inner circle of the friends of Jesus. lie went out frequently
into " the world," and coming back Judas believed, as they all
did, that Jesus was going to establish a temporal kingdom. The
difference between the eleven and Judas, as it seems to me, was
simply this, that their's was a vague belief and expectation, influ-
encing them more as a dream than as a vital power shaping their
lives. Judas was no fanatic and no poet. I think Mr. Story not
quite right when he speaks of him as a man " who took his
dreams for firm realities." lie studied all the phenomena of the
case as a man of affairs, as an astute politician, lie had more
knowledge of the world and more practical sense than the other
Apostles. lie believed in the desirableness of throwing off the
Roman yoke. lie believed the time had come to do it. The
people had grown into an impatience that was passionate. If
a proper leader could be found and a proper time to strike,
the work could be accomplished. lie found that leader in

It would seem probable that more than the other Apostles ho
believed in the Messiahship of Jesus, and in a loftier and at the
same time more practical way. Let us suppose that he brooded
over this thought for three years, not as a dreamer, but as a prac-
tical working man. lie would naturally come to see it in a light
in which the other Apostles could not study it. The capacities of
Jesus for such a leadership would be a question of profound in-
terest, lie saw in him prodigious power, power to work mira-
cles, to escape through the heart of a mob as if he bore a charmed
life. lie was capable of overawing men. A crowd of merchants
had rushed out of the Temple before his eyes of rebuke. There
was a majestic augustness about him which made Judas feel that
this was a King of Men. Devils bowed before him, while children
were attracted to his side and were petted when they came, and
women absolutely adored him to the very kissing of his feet. II a


could raise the dead with a word ; could he not slay the wicked
with a look ?

Jesus had all the personal dignities and graces for a king of
kings ; hut there was one defect : he had no policy and no
" push." So it must have seemed to Judas.

r „ Judas s opinion

Jesus never took advantage or his personal pop- of Jesus#
ularity to consolidate a party. lie fed thousands
of people and got nothing back. lie confounded the ecclesiasti-
cal leaders, and yet would not found a church, and now, when his
affairs seemed to be reaching a crisis, he was making no move-
ments ecclesiastical or political. This behavior, in the eyes of a
politician, was simply absurd. Judas, no more than the other
Apostles, recognized the interiorness and throughness of the
kingdom which Jesus was preaching and trying to make them
understand, how that it was like that ether which pervades the
atmosphere, and glass, and all transparent substances, and is where
there is neither air nor sdass, — a kingdom which did not need to
displace any existing kingdom or church, — a kingdom which
could as well subsist in political anarchies as in empires, in re-
publics as in despotisms, a kingdom which had no need of any
outward and visible State, or any outward and visible Church, but
could and would subsist in all forms of States and all forms of
Church, and without all States and all Churches, a kingdom which
did not exist, but subsist and persist, that did not stand out but
fill through, that was not a j>henomenon but a noumenon.

Hooted and grounded in the belief that a temporal, sensuous,
visible, Hebrew kingdom was to cover the earth and subdue the
nations, nothing else would satisfy Judas. And

he must have believed that Jesus expected such a He lon £ ed for a

k-, , i , . . temporal k i n

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 61 of 77)