What else was Judas Iscariot, in the end, but a Roman snitch?
The finally-released Gospel of Judas would recast the pariah disciple as hero - the ancient gnostic text, which has received tremendous press recently, portrays Judas' betrayal of Christ as an act of obedience and faith. According to this rendition, Judas Iscariot followed Jesus' instructions rather than subverting his cause.
I find that possibility fascinating - it would explain a lot. For instance, in the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus obviously knew ahead of time he would be arrested that evening, requesting that his heavenly father "let this cup pass from me." The prediction that Peter would deny Christ three times before the cock crowed could stem from divine pre-cognition, or it could be that Jesus knew the group would be targeted because he'd personally dispatched Judas to turn him in.
Let's say for a moment, just for argument's sake, that the latter explanation from the Gospel of Judas is true. Why might Jesus use a trusted disciple to arrange his own arrest? Here are a few thoughts on the subject, unproven hypotheses all, but at least a starting point for discussion:
- Jesus could have wanted to arrange his own martyrdom thinking it would cause the movement he left behind to rally and grow.
- Perhaps Jesus mistakenly believed the Jewish nation would back him with popular support. The scene where Pontius Pilate asks the Jews who they would rather free, the brigand Barabus or Jesus, may have been a pivotal scene where Jesus' plans went horribly wrong. Perhaps Christ actually arranged Judas' snitching hoping that, at that critical moment, the Jewish people would rally behind the cause. If so, he miscalculated.
- To put the most pro-traditional spin on the episode, assume Jesus knew he would literally rise from the grave, that he was supposed to do so. He might have intentionally provoked his own crucifixion - using Judas as his instrument - expressly as a means for providing redemption and grace for all.
That happens often with informants, even today. Police can never know for certain a person's motive for cooperating, while there are a million reasons why a snitch might lead authorities in directions that coincide with their goals - whether theological, political, or criminal - not the pursuit of justice. A prime example from the criminal justice arena was Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, leader of a South Boston gang who spent 25 years informing on his competitors in the Italian mafia while running his own massive crimnal enterprise. Sure his information led to convictions, but he was using the FBI for his own purposes, not helping them reduce crime.
If Judas was a snitch then he stands as an icon for why snitches to this day are treated with loathing and scorn - count Jesus' disciples, in that case, as early proponents of the "Stop Snitching" meme. But if Judas was really using the Romans for political purposes - if he was Christ's agent, not his enemy - then he becomes a different kind of symbol, a cautionary tale for how easily authorities relying on informants can be manipulated in ways that undermine the interests of the state.
See prior Grits posts on snitching.