It was Judas' apostasy, not his death, which caused this election of a substitute Apostle. In Acts 1:20b, Judas' actions were seen as a fulfillment of prophecy. The NT does not record another Apostolic election after the death of James (cf. Acts 12:2). There is much mystery and tragedy in the life of Judas. He was possibly the only Apostle who was not a Galilean. He was made the treasurer of the apostolic group (cf. John 12:6). He was accused of stealing their money throughout the period of Jesus' time with them. He is said to be a prophetic fulfillment and an object of Satanic attack. His motives are never stated, but his remorse resulted in his taking his own life after returning the bribe.

There is so much speculation about Judas and his motives. He is mentioned and vilified often in John's Gospel (John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2,26,39; 18:2,3,5). The modern play "Jesus Christ Superstar" depicts him as a faithful, but disillusioned, follower who tried to force Jesus into fulfilling the role of Jewish Messiah—this is, to overthrow the Romans, punish the wicked, and set up Jerusalem as the capital of the world. However, John depicts his motives as greedy and malicious.

The main problem is the theological issue of God's sovereignty and human freewill. Did God or Jesus manipulate Judas? Is Judas responsible for his acts if Satan controlled him or God predicted and caused him to betray Jesus? The Bible does not address these questions directly. God is in control of history; He knows future events, but mankind is responsible for choices and actions. God is fair, not manipulative.

There is a new book that tries to defend Judas—Judas Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen, Fortress Press, 1996. I do not agree with this book, but it is very interesting and thought provoking. However, it does not take John's Gospel comments about him seriously!

There are several theories concerning Iscariot (the word is spelled differently in various Greek manuscripts). It could refer to

1. a man of Kerioth, a city of Judah

2. man of Kartan, a city of Galilee

3. the leather bag used to carry money

4. the Hebrew word for "strangling"

5. the Greek word for assassin's knife

If #1 is true he was the only Judean in the Twelve. If #5 is true he was a zealot like Simon.

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