The primal source of liberalism?

Ed H. writes:

Your insights into Gnosticism as the origin of liberalism are stunning. Thank you for sharing these.

I would like to offer an even more primal source for liberalism. This would be the reasoning that Judas Iscariot gives when he decided to betray Christ. This act is the primal sin of the world and the reason Judas commits it is clearly stated and it is the reason behind every secular world view. When the woman with the jar of costly ointment pours it over Jesus’ head, the other apostles say, “That ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Jesus replies, “Leave her alone, she does this to commemorate my death. For you will have the poor always but me only a little while.” But Judas is incensed and cannot be reconciled. His sense of “social justice” is outraged and he cannot understand the transcendental vision that Christ is unfolding. The two ways of valuing the world are brought into direct opposition, the transcendent and the secular. Judas chooses the secular, “social-justice” value scheme and goes to the chief priest to denounce Christ.

LA writes:

In the initial posting of this entry, I replied:

Isn’t that amazing? The most famous single sin in the history of the world (other than Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit) was about a man valuing material equality and the sustenance of the poor over God,—was about placing secular liberalism over the transcendent—and this is never pointed out.

But I was incorrect. As Ken Hechtman pointed out in an e-mail, and as I should have remembered myself, in the Gospel of John, chapter 12, immediately after Judas complains, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?”, John 12:6 tells us: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money bag and took what was put therein.”

Now I’ve just checked through the four Gospels in the Bible concordance on my computer, and John is alone in having Judas complain about the ointment not being used to help the poor. The three other Gospels simply state that Judas decided to betray Jesus and that he did this for money (Matthew), or that he decided to betray Jesus, and when he went to the Jewish authorities to do this, they offered him money for his services (Luke). So, the synoptic gospels do not exactly portray Judas as a thief. Money is not his motive.

Also, I seem to remember other accounts—maybe Hollywood?—in which Judas’ motivation for betraying Jesus is his disappointment with him over his refusal to lead a political revolution against Roman rule. I don’t see any reference to that in my quick survey of the Gospels.

But any way we look at it, whether Judas was concerned about welfare for the poor, or lining his own pocket, or leading a political uprising against the Romans, he had a secular, this-worldly outlook that made it impossible for him understand Jesus. He betrays Jesus because he cannot see who Jesus is. He wants him to be something other than what he is.

LA continues:

The thing is, Judas is the most mysterious figure in the Gospels, the references to him being so brief and incomplete, and it’s not at all clear why he did what he did. There is even a basis for believing that he was Jesus’ agent, as Jesus says to him at the last supper, “What you’re going to do, do quickly.” This makes sense, as it was Jesus’ mission to be arrested, tortured, and killed, to die a perfect death and to rise again, and Judas by giving the Jewish authorities Jesus’ location was helping Jesus carry out that mission, and, according to this theory, in doing so, thus dooming himself, Judas was enacting his own sacrifice.

Ed H. writes:

We also know that money wasn’t the real reason for Judas’ decision to betray Jesus because the Gospels later say Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver away when he realized what he had done, and went and hanged himself. Thus the Gospel goes out of its way directly to contradict the interpretation that Judas did it for money.

Also the transfigured meaning of the “jar of costly ointment” poured over Jesus’ head manifests itself in the many pounds of aloe and incense laid over his face in the tomb, and becomes proof, against naysayers, that he was really dead and that the Resurrection did occur.

LA replies:

Excellent point. I knew there had to be a better reply to John 12:6 than what I was coming up with.

Except that here’s a possible reply to your point: When Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities, he did not realize that Jesus’ arrest would lead to his crucifixion. So when Jesus was crucified, Judas was overwhelmed with guilt and committed suicide. This theory does not contradict the pecuniary motive theory.

But the problem with that theory is, how could Judas NOT realize that the Jewish authorities wanted Jesus dead and would stop at nothing to accomplish that? Jesus had challenged the System is the most in-your-face way imaginable, and it was known that the priests and authorities wanted him dead.

Further, we cannot forget that Jesus’ mission was to be killed. Therefore Judas and the Jewish authorities in getting Jesus killed were helping carry out his very purpose. Which further means that the centuries-long Christian persecution of Jews because “the Jews killed Jesus” was based on a gross misconception.

Ken Hechtman writes:

If you want to get really obscure and historical about this, there’s the Gnostic Gospel of Judas.

The Roman Gnostics really did claim Judas as “their” apostle but not for the reason you’re suggesting. They believed he betrayed Jesus on Jesus’ personal order and that Jesus died not as a sacrifice for our sins but simply to return to the “good world.” They also believed that Judas and only Judas had received Jesus’ secret teaching, that salvation comes from knowing the God within.

Unfortunately for your theory, there’s no chain-of-custody for the Gospel of Judas. It had disappeared by the Middle Ages and there’s no evidence any of the Medieval Gnostics had anything to say about it. Certainly none of the modern or early-modern political-apocalyptic radicals did. The text was only rediscovered about five years ago.

LA replies:

It’s not my theory, and it’s older than five years ago. P.D. Ouspensky in A New Model of the Universe (1931) argues that Judas was carrying out Jesus’ orders and that Judas had the hardest job of any of the disciples, because his job required him to act like a criminal.

Ken Hechtman continues:

You wrote:

“Yet I seem to remember other accounts in which Judas’ motivation for betraying Jesus is his disappointment with him over his refusal to lead a political revolution against Roman rule.”

The account may have had Judas Iscariot confused with a different Judas:

Judas of Galilee or Judas of Gamala led a violent resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province. The date is uncertain. One source claims it to be around AD 6. However, according to the Bible in Acts 5:36-37, Judas rose up after the revolt of Theudas, who some claim was killed around 46 AD. The revolt by Judas was crushed brutally by the Romans. These events are discussed by Josephus in Jewish Wars and in Antiquities of the Jews.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 18, 2011 09:47 AM | Send

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