Judas Iscariot: A character StudyThis is a featured page

30 pieces of silver

Judas Iscariot
Hebrew: יהודה איש־קריות‎ "Yehuda" Yəhûḏāh
ʾΚ-qəriyyôṯ was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve original Apostles of Jesus.
Among the twelve, he was apparently designated to keep account of the "money bag" (Grk. γλωσσόκομον),[1] but he is most traditionally known for his role in Jesus' betrayal into the hands of Roman authorities.[2] His name is also associated with a Gnostic gospel, the Gospel of Judas, that exists in an early fourth century Coptic text. Judas has been a figure of great interest to esoteric groups, such as many Gnostic sects, and has also been the subject of many philosophical writings, including The Problem of Natural Evil by Bertrand Russell and "Three Versions of Judas", a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. The term Judas has entered many languages as a synonym for betrayer, and Judas has become the archetype of the betrayer in Western art and literature. Judas is given some role in virtually all literature telling the Passion story, and appears in a number of modern novels and movies.
p1565:9 139:12.1 Judas Iscariot, the twelfth apostle, was chosen by Nathaniel. He was born in Kerioth, a small town in southern Judea. When he was a lad, his parents moved to Jericho, where he lived and had been employed in his father's various business enterprises until he became interested in the preaching and work of John the Baptist.

p1566:1 139:12.2 When Nathaniel met Judas at Tarichea, he was seeking employment with a fish-drying enterprise at the lower end of the Sea of Galilee. He was thirty years of age and unmarried when he joined the apostles. He was probably the best-educated man among the twelve and the only Judean in the Master's apostolic family. Judas had no outstanding trait of personal strength, though he had many outwardly appearing traits of culture and habits of training. He was a good thinker but not always a truly honest thinker. Judas did not really understand himself; he was not really sincere in dealing with himself.

p1566:4 139:12.5 Judas was a good business man. It required tact, ability, and patience, as well as painstaking devotion, to manage the financial affairs of such an idealist as Jesus, to say nothing of wrestling with the helter-skelter business methods of some of his apostles. Judas really was a great executive, a farseeing and able financier. And he was a stickler for organization. None of the twelve ever criticized Judas. As far as they could see, Judas Iscariot was a matchless treasurer, a learned man, a loyal (though sometimes critical) apostle, and in every sense of the word a great success. The apostles loved Judas; he was really one of them. He must have believed in Jesus, but we doubt whether he really loved the Master with a whole heart. The case of Judas illustrates the truthfulness of that saying: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death." It is altogether possible to fall victim to the peaceful deception of pleasant adjustment to the paths of sin and death. Be assured that Judas was always financially loyal to his Master and his fellow apostles. Money could never have been the motive for his betrayal of the Master.

p1566:5 139:12.6 Judas was an only son of unwise parents. When very young, he was pampered and petted; he was a spoiled child. As he grew up, he had exaggerated ideas about his self-importance. He was a poor loser. He had loose and distorted ideas about fairness; he was given to the indulgence of hate and suspicion. He was an expert at misinterpretation of the words and acts of his friends. All through his life Judas had cultivated the habit of getting even with those whom he fancied had mistreated him. His sense of values and loyalties was defective.

When Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, decided to betray Jesus, he went to the Sanhedrin to strike a deal. They offered him thirty pieces of silver to point out Christ. After doing so, Judas was eaten up with despair and returned the coins to his co-conspirators. The coins were then used to buy the field of Haceldama. Some say the coins became cursed, bringing misfortune to all who possessed them.
Interesting Trivia

"when light is not honestly received and lived up to, it tends to become darkness within the soul. Judas grew intellectually regarding Jesus' teachings about the kingdom, but he did not make progress in the acquirement of spiritual character as did the other apostles. He failed to make satisfactory personal progress in spiritual experience."

The origin of the surname Iscariot is uncertain. According to one theory, the name means "man of Kerioth", and refers to a town or area in ancient Judea. If correct, this would suggest that Judas came from southern Palestine, whereas the other disciples were probably Galileans from the north. According to another theory, the name Iscariot comes from the Latin word "sicarius", meaning "dagger-man". The Sicarii were a group of rebel assassins who were resisting the Roman occupation of the country. Thus Judas might have originally been a member of this group. (The released prisoner Barabbas also may have belonged to this group.)



In "The Inferno," Dante makes the fate of Judas abundantly clear. In return for betraying Jesus, he is eternally damned to the darkest, deepest circle of hell, devoured continuously by Lucifer and described as the soul in the greatest pain of all.

But what if someone came to the great traitor's defense in a trial to win his entrance into heaven?

Despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of historical fact about his motivations, Judas remains a fascination. "Certain traditions form around certain figures that appear in the Gospels," says Adam Becker, assistant professor of religious studies at New York University. "Those figures are tools for having conversations about certain issues. Later Christian conversations about him, which this play is an example of, use him as a tool to help us think. Judas is a tool for discussions of betrayal, free will, and providence."

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis agrees that Judas functions in his play as an "entry point" to explore themes of forgiveness and mercy. "In the end, it doesn't really matter why he did what he did," he says. "But I wanted a motive that made him guilty of something, not a divine pawn. What was most dramatically interesting was the notion that Judas tried to make God in his own image rather than the other way around."

And what do we know about this particular interpretation of Judas Iscariot?

"Very little is known about Judas Iscariot"
Gloria- The Last days of Judas Iscariot

In the script Mary Magdelene states that he was her favorite of the 12 disciples, and suggests that he was Jesus' favorite as well.
She says "I think that if someone were to say that Judas was good for Jesus that they would not be wrong."

Mother Teresa accuses Judas of making himself "deaf to the music of God."

Saint Thomas admits that he feels Judas is "A bit of a jerk off", but also tells a story of Judas treating him with great kindness.

In a flashback scene, his mother Henrietta confesses that, as a boy, he once sold the family fish to buy a spinning top. But we also watch the boy Judas give said prized toy to another impoverished child.

The one thing that is clear is that Judas is a puzzle, and that portraying him as clearly "good" or "bad" betrays the opportunity his character represents to explore these universal themes without preaching. He is a character whose motivations and role in the crucifixion of Christ are so complex, so open to interpretation and so mysterious that they will likely remain that way forever. But he is an excellent vehicle to examine the nature of faith and despair, and we are excited to take advantage of that opportunity.

"I'm not trying to make Judas sympathetic or appealing, and I'm not trying to vilify him, I'm trying to portray him three-dimensionally. I suspect that heavenly justice incorporates a great deal more mercy, empathy and understanding than our sense of what earthly justice does."
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis

So why cast Chris Kevill?

"Chris Kevill is a performer whom I've seen play broad, hysterical comedy and also dark, terrifying drama. He has played both the handsome leading man and the sinister villain. He has an easy-going attitude that makes him an excellent every-man type that people can identify with. He can be huge and brutal or delicate and subtle; he is articulate and attentive to the finer details of performance. I appreciate his versatility and his ability to go wherever a character or 'moment' might direct him. Our Judas is not an obvious villain. But as discussed, he's far from a 'good guy' type either, and portraying such a complex character with honesty while being sensitive to the delicate balance required, is paramount. And that's why I chose Chris; he was my first choice. I believe he has what it takes and I was thrilled when he said 'yes'."
Director Jordan Morris

Come and meet Judas Iscariot this October. He's not who you think he is...

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