XIX-1 - Scandaleux Judas (2014)

Revue des Facultés de Théologie et de Philosophie


Philosophie contemporaine et christianisme

From hell to paradise: Judas in 20th century Francophone literature

20th and early 21st century Francophone literature offers a certain number of works (novels and theatre plays in particular) which are centred on the character of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who, according to the Gospels, handed over Jesus. If the trend of the Christian tradition has always been to blacken this character, the seventeen literary works under scrutiny here attempt, on the contrary, to explain his act, even to vindicate it. There is reason to wonder on the motives and stakes of this inversion of perspective.

Despair stops Judas

Judas withdrew and went to hang himself: this brief statement, in Matthew's Gospel, puts an end to Judas's life, in a way implying that the weight of guilt was too heavy, preventing him from living. Indeed, despair is a major and potentially final obstacle, in the link to others and to God as it gives the impression that offence is more powerful than mercy. If the gospel reader can meditate on this despair and the hell it builds up for a conscience crushed by guilt, nevertheless he must not neglect the share born by the community in its happening. Judas is mired in despair as no other human being has accepted to stand by his side, not even to listen to him in his confession. If Saint Thomas has been able to consider despair as a form of error with regard to God's mercifulness, this definition must be made complete by the share of loneliness to which the desperate person has been condemned and which has contributed to the fact that he identifies his life with his fault, which leads him to withdraw from the world of the living.

Does Judas' gospel rehabilitate the disciple who delivered Jesus?

From the debates which have surrounded this recent paper, the article introduces Judas' Gospel. Relying on Irénée who very likely only knew the said Gospel indirectly, B. Barc contests the idea that Judas' Gospel would rehabilitate Judas. Indeed, to understand the hidden meaning of this text, it is advisable to use the ancient hermeneutic rules. This reading enables one to dismantle the rehabilitation thesis  and to show that Judas does not know the divine origin of Jesus; therefore, this text cannot be construed as the account of Judas' contribution to Jesus' mission. For the author of Judas' Gospel, the advent of Jesus was a failure.

« Is it I? » A narrative view of the character of Judas in Mark, Matthew and Luke-Acts

This paper proposes a logical review of the character of Judas according to Mark, Matthew and Luke-Acts. Each gospel exposes its own character sketch of Judas through his participation in the plot and the relations that the account builds up between him and other characters. Mark's Judas is summarized in one act, surrendering Jesus. This is counter to the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Twelve and, at the same time it paradoxically coincides with the accomplishment of the divine plan. Matthew presents a Judas who, because he takes his reference from the Law rather than from the Lord, cannot take upon himself the responsibility of his crime and therefore cannot live. In Luke, Judas walks along a path which betrays that expected of a disciple, that is to say forfeit his own possessions for a service taking place in a communal frame. These various portraits of Judas meet the Christological and ecclesiological perspectives which are the respective characteristics of each of the gospels. The Judas in the gospels is set up like a mirror turned towards the reader/listener so that the latter asks him/her self: Is it I?