Ah, the BBC is rewriting Christianity again, making Judas a good guy so we can “understand” him.

Frank Deasy…(said) “I’ve always had a problem with Judas in ‘Passion’ stories in that he suddenly and inexplicably betrays Jesus,” he said.”I was keen to develop a psychological reality to Judas’s portrayal.”

Nigel Stafford-Clark, who produced the BBC1 series, said he wanted to put the characters’ actions in context”so you can see it from their point of view and realise that what they did felt legitimate”.

Yup. So their context is very British: and the story is that of the British Empire, with honest rulers and honest religious leaders who tried to keep the peace by removing rabble rousers.

Excuse me, but this “explanation”, like most of the explanations just doesn’t convince me.

Now, I have worked in Africa, where priests who preached equality and social justice were targeted. So I see Jesus as a revolutionary preaching social justice, and getting whacked by the establishment for his big mouth.

But if Jesus was a freedom fighter, why did Pilate hesitate to condemn him? I mean, Pilate was infamous for executing people and riding roughshod over the feelings of the Jewish people, but he went out of his way to get Jesus off.
Well, after living here in the Philippines, where bribery occurs “over the table, under the table, and with the table”, could I suggest another scenario?

It wasn’t religion, and it wasn’t politics: It was simple corruption. StrategyPage explains how things have always been done in the Middle East:

Over two thousand years ago, Greek, and then Roman, conquers of the Middle East complained of the corruption endemic in the region, and how it even turned upright Greek or Roman officials into crooks and slackers. Much written discussion of these travails has survived.

Like a lot of stories, the obvious stuff that everyone knows is not written down. Judas is called a “thief” in the Gospel, and honest religious and historical commentators assumed that he merely diverted a percentage of the donations for private use (or that the writers of the Gospel were trying to blacken his reputation and the claim was a lie).
But put the story in one of today’s corrupt societies, everyone would instantly know that this meant Judas did a lot of stuff, like asking a kickback from poor people if they wanted to get help from the charity funds, or maybe asking for a small “gift” from those coming to hear Jesus. Listeners wouldn’t put it past him to have taken money from the priests or Roman authorities to do some spying…and when the time came, he could easily be blackmailed into helping them arrest Jesus..

No wonder the poor guy killed himself: He was a small fish who got in over his head and got eaten by the sharks. Making a little money on the side to spy is one thing: helping your friend get whacked by the first century equivalent of Tony Soprano is another thing altogether..

The clue in all of this is that Jesus threw the crooked traders out of the outer Temple court a couple days before he was arrested.

Why was Jesus so angry? Usually Jesus’ approach to low level extortioners was to convert them (e.g. Zacchaeus, Matthew)..

Small cheating and upping the price was probably normal business practice, so why the fuss?.

But did those selling in the Temple area pay a nice fee to those who ran the temple? And did the vendors pay a percentage of the profits back to the bigshots? (Think Luther’s rage against selling indulgences, and you see how such corruption upsets honest reformers)..

Could the missing link not be a simple overpricing by Temple merchants, but an entire system of corruption, where bribery and kickbacks by those supposedly representing the Lord?.

This could explain why Pilate hesitated to execute Jesus: he knew that the trial was about something else: and not just religion. Was Pilate also bribed? That’s iffy….but unless he were incompetent, he’d know what was going on, but probably figured that corrupt religious leaders were easier to control than honest ones, even if it did mean executing a few innocent whistle blowers.So to find the explanation for Judas, just follow the money.——————–

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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