Judas Iscariot, Greek, Iskarioyes, inhabitant of Kerioth, is noted in the Bible (Matthew 10:4; Mark 2:19, Luke 6:16) as one of Jesus’ disciples, although nothing is known of his previous life. From the Biblical descriptions it would seem this man only had one main purpose in life, which to some seems unlikely.

Among the disciples he is recognizes as serving as the treasurer. He received offerings, took care of expenses, and gave to the poor; his duty as acting as steward is described in John 12:4-6; 13:29. Some scholars assume that when Judas, finding himself in possession of large sums of money, he became avarice.

This likely happened, as others theorize when Judas’ higher aspirations for Jesus and the group did not materialize. According to one theory, based on the deviation of his name sicarius, «terrorist,» is that Jesus disappointed his hope of direct action against the Romans.

Many feel that Jesus knew of or sensed Judas’ betrayal of him before it occurred. Prior to his betrayal some of the disciples no longer walked with Jesus, probably influenced by their own earthly expectations (John 6:66). To those remaining, Jesus asked, «Will ye also go away?» Those still there gave him assurance through Peter. Jesus answered them, «Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spoke of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve» (John 16:70, 71).

Previously the Bible describes Judas, although his motives not disclosed, going to the chief priests and captains ((Matthew 26:14 sq.) who he obviously knows wants to get rid of Jesus. He makes a deal with them so they may capture Jesus.

Judas afterwards attends the Passover feast with Jesus and the other disciples. Reclining close to Jesus he hear him tell the disciples, «One of you shall betray me.» Judas, with the others asked, «Is it I?» Jesus said to him, «That thou doest, do quickly.» Judas immediately rose and left (Matthew 26:20 sq.; John 13:26-30).

Judas carries out the betrayal by leading an accompaniment of Roman military to a garden where he supposed Jesus and some of the disciples would be. He approached Jesus and greeted him with a kiss; the sign he had previously said that would indicate the man they wanted to capture (Matthew 26:47-49). Jesus replied, «Judas, betray thou the Son of Man with a kiss?» (Luke 22:48).

After seeing Jesus being condemned, Judas realized what he had done; he ran to the priest in the temple, confessed his crime and hurled done the money that they had given him, which they refused to take (Matthew 27:3-5).

Perhaps feeling that there was no restoration for him, that indeed he was «the son of prediction» (John 17:12), «he departed, and went and hanged himself» (Matthew 27:5). For centuries Judas was regarded with a universal abhorrence in the Christian church, but recently poets have attempted to see him in a more kindly light. A.G.H.


Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 615-616
Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Philadelphia, A. J. Holman, Co., p. 169-170
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 514