For almost 2000 years, Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus, has stood convicted of betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. It is written that, in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas identified Jesus to the arresting detachment of soldiers and Temple guards by kissing him on the cheek. But is what is written the ‘Gospel Truth.’
When one examines this story, there are so many inconsistencies about the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. So, it is difficult to be certain what actually occurred that evening during and after the final supper that Jesus shared with his disciples.
First of all, how much was thirty pieces of silver worth in terms of purchasing power? It has been assumed that the coins given to Judas (if indeed any coins were given to him) were Tyrian Shekels, one of the currencies in use in the Temple of Jerusalem at that time. These coins were over 90% pure silver and weighed about 14 grams. However, over time, with constant handling, some of the precious metal wore off the surface of the coins so they were weighed rather than counted to ensure the ‘correct weight’ of the precious metal was transacted.
It has been estimated that, in today’s money, thirty of those coins had a purchasing power of around $US20,000. This is a large sum of money to pay for someone to identify the most popular person in Jerusalem at that time.
But, was it really necessary for The Temple Authorities (The Sanhedrin) to pay any amount of money to someone who could identify Jesus?
The answer is definately not.
This is because, just a few days earlier, Jesus made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey, an event which is now known as Palm Sunday. It is so named because people threw their cloaks and palm fronds onto the road ahead of Jesus and waved them around in the air as he rode past.
This means that a large crowd of people, which may have included Roman soldiers (if any) on guard duty at the city gates, would have been able to identify Jesus if they saw him again. Even the donkey would have been able to recognize Jesus again.
Also, Jesus entered the Temple and drove out all who were buying and selling commodities in the Temple grounds, overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those who were selling doves. By doing this, Jesus made many enemies (which must have included some of the Temple guards) who, after this incident, would have no difficulty identifying Jesus if they saw him again.
All The Sanhedrin needed to do was send out armed patrols to locate and arrest Jesus. This would not have been difficult. All the patrols had to do was go to where the crowds were gathering to hear Jesus speak. Jesus would have offered no resistance to being arrested because he believed it was part of his destiny.
So, why did The Sanhedrin need Judas to identify Jesus? And why offer him such a large sum of money? It does not make any sense!
There are also inconsistencies regarding who actually went to arrest Jesus. One version stated that Judas, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs from the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the Elders, came to arrest Jesus. Another version stated that Judas came to the grove guiding a detachment of Roman soldiers and officials from the Chief Priest. Yet another version stated that Judas came with a small detachment of Roman soldiers accompanied by The Temple guard.
Then there is the question regarding the disciples being armed and specifically mentioned Peter being armed with a sword which which he cut off the ear of on of the members of the detachment. Why was Peter armed? Would a pacifist like Jesus expect or allow his disciples to be armed? Also, Peter was a simple fisherman who may have been skilled in the use of a fish fileting knife, but a sword?
There is also the question of the ‘Judas kiss.’ One version of the story includes this incident but another version does not.
So, what might have occurred that evening in the garden of Gethsemane?
Let us speculate that sometime during that day, The Sanhedrin sent a messenger to find Judas to ask him to come to the Temple for a meeting. Let us suppose Judas told the messenger he would come to the Temple after supper. So when Jesus and the other disciples decided to walk to the garden of Gethsemane after supper to pray, Judas told them that The Sanhedrin wished to talk to him and he would join them in the garden after his meeting.
At that meeting, let us suppose Judas was advised that Jesus had made many enemies because of his rampage in the Temple and they were now plotting to kill Jesus. But if Judas would agree to take members of the Temple guard along with a small detachment of Roman soldiers to Jesus, they will protect Jesus and see no harm comes to him.
Judas would not have had reason to believe they were not telling the truth and agreed to The Sanhedrin’s proposal and took the detachment to the garden of Gethsemane. Why else would Judas accompany the detachment to Gethsemane? Would he have gone to face Jesus and the other disciples if he was going to betray Jesus? A betrayer would have taken the money and gone into hiding.
When Judas and the detachment arrived in the garden, Judas quickly went to Jesus and, what has been assumed a kiss, may have been Judas quietly informing Jesus the reason for him bringing the detachment to him. But when Jesus was arrested, Judas realized he had been tricked. How terrible Judas must have felt at that moment.
It is written that after Jesus was arrested, Judas returned to the Temple and gave back the thirty pieces of silver and went away to take his own life. But I do not believe that Judas received any money in the first place.
Would The Sanhedrin pay so much money in advance? I don’t think so. Would they pay Judas after Jesus almost immediately identified himself? Why would they? Was bringing the detachment to the garden worth any money in the first place? After all, at least some members of the detachment would have been selected because they knew what Jesus looked like and would recognize him on sight.
Also, Judas left the last supper immediately after Jesus accused him of betrayal so how did he know that Jesus and the disciples would be in the garden? And what would have happened to Judas if they were not in the garden when the detachment arrived?
And, what really happened to Judas after Jesus was arrested? Could it be that Judas was quietly taken away by a couple of the Temple guards before he had a chance to defend himself? Was Judas then murdered by strangulation then ‘strung up’ and his death reported as suicide?
This would have been relatively easy to do because there were no homicide detectives or forensics to prove otherwise. The Sanhedrin then spread the story that a remorseful Judas gave back the thirty pieces of silver he had (supposedly) received to betray Jesus and then taken his own life.
Now let us briefly examine what may have occurred during the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples.
As Jesus was preparing for his last meal with the disciples, he may have felt very sad and melancholy because he knew he was about to leave his disciples to go to fulfill his destiny. Did Jesus also have doubts about having the courage to face the ordeal that was to come?
Did Satan sense Jesus’ vulnerability and seize the opportunity to enter into Jesus not Judas? After all, for a long time, Satan had been trying to corrupt Jesus.
Could this be the reason for such a dramatic change in how Jesus behaved during the supper? What other possible reason would prompt Jesus to expose Judas as a betrayer and Peter as a denying coward in front of everyone present? This was completely out of character for Jesus.
We need to remember that Jesus was a very kind and forgiving ‘turn the other cheek kind of person so why would he name and shame Judas and Peter in such a manner? What did Jesus hope to gain by exposing Judas and Peter? Why would Jesus risk causing discord among the disciples just before he leaves to fulfill his destiny?
Could it be that Satan was influencing Jesus’ behavior to try and forestall Jesus from fulfilling his destiny?
Whichever way one views the story of the arrest of Jesus, it just does not make any sense. I also believe there is sufficient ‘reasonable doubt’ for Judas to be Exonerated by a modern court of law,