Letter: Judas Iscariot and the roots of Christian anti-Semitism

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am painfully aware of the truth in Hyam Maccoby's account ('Was there a traitor at the Last Supper?', 6 April) of the shameful part Christianity has played in the history of anti-Semitism. What is debatable, however, is his argument that the gospel texts relating to Judas Iscariot were written with the intention of inflaming anti-Jewish sentiment. To my mind they are far too enigmatic to support such a clear argument. Take for example Matthew 26,24:

The Son of Man is going the way appointed for him in the scriptures; but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed] It would be better for that man if he had never been born.

Here Judas seems to have an essential role in fulfilling Scripture, and yet is to be damned for carrying it out] There is something inexplicable here, and I have yet to discover a wholly plausible reading of the text.

The best I can do is to suggest that the gospel writers, in later reflection on the events leading up to Christ's death, found themselves unable to account for Judas's actions. This is reflected in the mysterious references to him. The opaqueness of much human action should be a familiar enough theme to those living near the end of this century of horrors.

I believe that such inexplicability was part of what Jesus bore on the cross, in order that he might offer healing to future generations. That later commentators read anti-Semitic meanings out of texts about Judas that cannot support them is part of the reason why (as Pascal wrote) Christ will continue to be in agony until the end of time.

Yours faithfully,


Parish Church of All Saints

Kings Heath, Birmingham

6 April