. ern critics lay great stress on the apparent discrepancies between this passage in the Acts and the account given by St. Matthew. For St. Peter’s words taken by themselves seem to imply that Judas himself bought the field with the price of his iniquity, and that it was called field of blood because of his death.But St. Matthew, on the other hand, says: Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. But they said: What is that to us? Look thou to it.
And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed: and went and hanged himself with an halter. After this the Evangelist goes on to tell how the priests, who scrupled to put the money in the corbona because it was the price of blood, spent it in buying the potter’s field for the burial of strangers, which for this cause was called the field of blood.And in this St. Matthew sees the fulfillment of the prophecy ascribed to Jeremias (but found in Zach., xi, 12): And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was prized, whom they prized of the children of Israel. And they gave them unto the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed to me (Matt., xxvii, 9, 10). But there does not seem to be any great difficulty in reconciling the two accounts.
For the field, bought with the rejected price of his treachery, might well be described as indirectly bought or possessed by Judas, albeit he did not buy it himself.And St. Peter’s words about the name Haceldama might be referred to the reward of iniquity as well as the violent death of the traitor.
Similar difficulties are raised as to the discrepancies in detail discovered in the various accounts of the betrayal itself. But it will be found that, without doing violence to the text, the narratives of the four Evangelists can be brought into harmony, though in any case there will remain some obscure or doubtful points. It is disputed, for instance, whether Judas was present at the institution of the Holy Eucharist and communicated with the other Apostles.But the balance of authority is in favour of the affirmative. There has also been some difference of opinion as to the time of the treachery. Some consider that it was suddenly determined on by Judas after the anointing at Bethania, while others suppose a longer negotiation with the chief priests.
But these textual difficulties and questions of detail fade into insignificance beside the great moral problem presented by the fall and treachery of Judas. In a very true sense, all sin is a mystery.And the difficulty is greater with the greatness of the guilt, with the smallness of the motive for doing wrong, and with the measure of the knowledge and graces vouchsafed to the offender. In every way the treachery of Judas would seem to be the most mysterious and unintelligible of sins. For how could one chosen as a disciple, and enjoying the grace of the Apostolate and the privilege of intimate friendship with the Divine Master, be tempted to such gross ingratitude for such a paltry price? And the difficulty is greater when it is remembered that the Master thus basely betrayed was not hard and stern, but a Lord of loving kindness and compassion. Looked at in any light the crime is so incredible, both in itself and in all its circumstances, that it is no wonder that many attempts have been made to give some more intelligible explanation of its origin and motives, and, from the wild dreams of ancient heretics to the bold speculations of modern critics, the problem presented by Judas and his treachery has been the subject of strange and startling theories.
As a traitor naturally excites a peculiarly violent hatred, especially among those devoted to the cause or person betrayed, it was only natural that Christians should regard Judas with loathing, and, if it were possible, paint him blacker than he was by allowing him no good qualities at all.This would be an extreme view which, in some respects, lessens the difficulty. For if it be supposed that he never really believed, if he was a false disciple from the first, or, as the Apocryphal Arabic Gospel of the Infancy has it, was possessed by Satan even in his childhood, he would not have felt the holy influence of Christ or enjoyed the light and spiritual gifts of the Apostolate. At the opposite extreme is the strange view held by the early Gnostic sect known as the Cainites described by St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., I, c.
ult.), and more fully by Tertullian (Praesc. Haeretic., xlvii), and St.
Epiphanius (Haeres., xxxviii). Certain of these heretics, whose opinion has been revived by some modern writers in a more plausible form, maintained that Judas was really enlightened, and acted as he did in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Christ. For this reason they regarded him as worthy of gratitude and veneration.In the modern version of this theory it is suggested that Judas, who in common with the other disciples looked for a temporal kingdom of the Messias, did not anticipate the death of Christ, but wished to precipitate a crisis and hasten the hour of triumph, thinking that the arrest would provoke a rising of the people who would set Him free and place Him on the throne. In support of this they point to the fact that, when he found that Christ was condemned and given up to the Romans, he immediately repented of what he had done. But, as Strauss remarks, this repentance does not prove that the result had not been foreseen.
For murderers, who have killed their victims with deliberate design, are often moved to remorse when the deed is actually done. A Catholic, in any case, cannot view these theories with favour since they are plainly repugnant to the text of Scripture and the interpretation of tradition.However difficult it may be to understand, we cannot question the guilt of Judas. On the other hand we cannot take the opposite view of those who would deny that he was once a real disciple. For, in the first place, this view seems hard to reconcile with the fact that he was chosen by Christ to be one of the Twelve. This choice, it may be safely said, implies some good qualities and the gift of no mean graces. But, apart from this consideration, it may be urged that in exaggerating the original malice of Judas, or denying that there was even any good in him, we minimize or miss the lesson of this fall.
The examples of the saints are lost on us if we think of them as being of another order without our human weaknesses.And in the same way it is a grave mistake to think of Judas as a demon without any elements of goodness and grace. In his fall is left a warning that even the great grace of the Apostolate and the familiar friendship of Jesus may be of no avail to one who is unfaithful. And, though nothing should be allowed to palliate the guilt of the great betrayal, it may become more intelligible if we think of it as the outcome of gradual failing in lesser things.
So again the repentance may be taken to imply that the traitor deceived himself by a false hope that after all Christ might pass through the midst of His enemies as He had done before at the brow of the mountain. And though the circumstances of the death of the traitor give too much reason to fear the worst, the Sacred Text does not distinctly reject the possibility of real repentance. And Origen strangely supposed that Judas hanged himself in order to seek Christ in the other world and ask His pardon (In Matt., tract.xxxv). Bibliography Judus is the person who killed Jesus with a kiss.