Judas Iscariot is an infamous name. He is famous for and associated with betrayal. In the four Gospels, he is said to be the evil and loathsome man who betrayed Sayyiduna ‘Isa ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus). Let us take a deeper look into this persona, his deeds, and his end according the contradictory gospel accounts.
What was the reason for betrayal?
The Gospel of Mark states that Judas Iscariot received money, i.e., his betrayal was based on greed for wealth.
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
In Luke, there is an indication that Judas Iscariot betrayed Sayyiduna ‘Isa ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus) because Satan had entered into him.
Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
This means that Satan made him do his evil deed.
On the other hand, in John, Judas Iscariot himself is referred to as a devil.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
So, we have three different reasons behind the betrayal. Which one is correct?
What happened to Judas Iscariot after his act of betrayal?
The gospels of Mark and John are silent on this. However, the Book of Acts, the second volume to Luke speaks about this issue. The Gospel of Matthew also discusses this. However, the two differ in many ways, leaving the reader confused and mixed up.
According to Matthew, Judas Iscariot hanged himself.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
The chief priests took the money and bought a field, a potter’s field.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
In Acts 1:18-19, we are told that ‘this man’, i.e., Judas Iscariot bought the field. So, who bought the field, the priests or Judas Iscariot?
Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
The contradictions continue…
We also understand from the above text that Judas Iscariot did not hang himself, but he fell headlong and his bowels gushed out. What actually happened?
How did the potter’s field become ‘the field of blood’?
Did the blood of the person who hanged himself spill on the field? But how does that happen? Did the rope snap, causing him to fall? Wait a minute, how does a hanging person fall headfirst?
We are still left with how the potter’s field became the field of blood.
Critical to Christian theology is the issue of Jesus’ alleged death. As Muslims we know this never happened and that Jesus ‘alayhi as-salām was never killed, as mentioned in the Quran. But the point is, how can Christians trust the Biblical narrative to be correct when it fails to give a consistent story about some of the critical elements of the plot to kill Jesus?
Jesus, Interrupted, Bart Ehrman pp.45-47