In continuing with the study in of the disciples and trying to figure out which one I (and hopefully you are playing along as well) relate to the most leads me to both Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot.
This week I figured would be easy to write. I could skate by on Thaddeus and spend the majority of the time on Iscariot, whom everyone knows. But then a mystery came up.
Matthew 13:55 – “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?
As I was reading through the synoptics I came across different lists of the apostles. In Matthew & Mark there is an apostle known as Thaddeus. In both Luke, and then later in Acts, there is no Thaddeus but instead the name was replaced with Judas son of James.
Luke 6:16 – And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
Thaddeus is an interesting guy with several different back stories that are not supported by Scripture. Allow me to explain.
As I was seeking information I went to the Liberty University stack exchange (basically the online library for seminary students) and started to look up Thaddeus, Jude, Judas son of James, and Lebbeus. Thankfully, the first part of the mystery solved when all the scholars agreed that Thaddeus, and all these other names, were the same person.
But then the mystery started to go deeper. Some scholars claimed he was a violent Nationalist, along the lines of Simon the Zealot. Other scholars claim he was a tender-hearted man. Some scholars believe he was martyred by arrows. Others say Thaddeus was clubbed to death. Some scholars say he was the son of James the Lesser while others say he was his brother. Some say that he wrote the epistle of Jude while others say he didn’t.
So let’s break down what Scripture says and turn away from the scholars for a little while. First, there is very little proof in Scripture that Thaddeus was associated with Simon the Zealot. There is no detail about how Jesus called Thaddeus to become an apostle. But in the books of Luke and Acts, when looking at the translation from the Greek, if we assume that Thaddeus is the same as Judas (not Iscariot), the original language simply says, “Judas, of James.”
While this would most frequently be translated as being James’ son, it can be used to mean James’ brother. This would then line up more logically with the epistle of Jude where the writer calls himself the “brother of James” and in both Matthew and Mark where he is called the brother of Jesus.
But then the mystery goes deep again. Judas is listed, along with James as a brother of Jesus. But John is not listed. And aren’t James & John related?
After all this is said and done, I am no closer to solving the mystery of Thaddeus than anyone else out there.
While the Catholic Church believes that Jude, brother of Jesus, writer of the epistle, son or brother of James is all the same person, I do not.
I believe that it is very easy to get confused.
One thing I notice in the epistle of Jude is that in verse 17, he speaks of the apostles but doesn’t associate with them.
Jude 1:17-18 – But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. Theysaid to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”
He also associates himself as the brother of James, where as the translation in both Acts and Luke is commonly meant to mean son.
I believe these are two different people.
Other than that, there is very little that Thaddeus, or Jude, did in Scripture.
Outside of Scripture, there is a lot of tradition about Thaddeus. He supposedly planted a church in Edessa and died a martyr.
Typically Judas is placed last in these lists of disciples because of his betrayal of Jesus. I wanted to place him at this point to show that there is a distinct difference between Thaddeus (or Judas or Jude) the apostle and Judas Iscariot, the fallen apostle.
Almost everyone knows the story. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
He is almost the biggest mystery of all the apostles. Why would anyone who is that close the Jesus, have that much understanding of Christ’s love, betray Him?!?
A couple of interesting points about Judas is that he was the only Judean in the group. Everyone else was Galilean. Judeans thought they were better than Galileans. He was also the treasurer of the group. His calling by Jesus is not recorded in Scripture.
Even in the midst of his betrayal, Judas called Jesus “friend.” The rest of the apostles have a lot to teach us about how common people with sin in our lives can still be called and used by Christ. Judas, as well, has a lot to teach us about how if we treat our spirituality carelessly, it is easy to draw close to Christ physically but forsake the Christ in our hearts and souls. He was intimately familiar with Jesus and His teachings and yet remained in sin and unbelief.
Many people call Judas a villain. Others call him a hero. Many say that his actions show his heart and because of that he went to the grave separated from Christ. Others say he was used in the master plan of God and because of that has a special place in heaven.
But what does Scripture say?
There are a couple of key points brought about in Scripture and I would ask that you give me the ability to explain my view here before coming to judgment.
I don’t believe Judas ever had Christ in his heart, until after Jesus’ condemnation. He was not a hero. He was a villain, but God knew beforehand that this would occur.
John 13:18 – I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
When we accept Christ in our hearts, the Holy Spirit takes up residence. This pushes the darkness out of us and makes us lights in this world.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
It is at this moment that evil can no longer enter us. It can influence us from the outside, but it cannot control us because we have the Holy Spirit within. We can choose to listen to evil, but we cannot do it without conviction because from the point the Holy Spirit takes up residence, we get convicted when we allow evil to win out over Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
So what does this have to do with Judas Iscariot?
Judas never allowed God into his heart and soul during his time with Jesus. This is evidenced by the fact that Satan entered into Judas.
John 13:27 – Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
If that is the case, then I would argue to say that Judas was not saved at the point of Jesus’ condemnation.
But God… (I say and write this phrase a lot)
We need to be careful where we “put” Judas. I don’t have a heaven or hell to place Judas in. I am not God. Only God is God. And an interesting thing happened after Jesus’ condemnation…
That’s right. Judas repented.
Matthew 27:3-4 – When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
The other important point about Judas is that when he threw the 30 pieces of silver on the ground, where he threw it is important. He threw it on the ground in the “naos.” The Naos is the “Holy Place.” This means it was in an area of the temple that human Jesus couldn’t even go into because only priests from the tribe of Levi could enter it.
So we have a Judean priest who betrayed Jesus and repented in the Holy Place of the temple, even going so far as to claim Jesus as innocent in front of the High Priesthood. Judas could have messed everything up by calling Jesus a blasphemer or something else.
But he didn’t.
He claimed Jesus as unblemished and spotless. Innocent.
A perfect Passover.
There is so much more to this, such as why he chose only 30 pieces of silver and the entire reason for the Potter’s Field, but that is for another article.
I believe that Jesus knew Judas would betray Him in the way that he did. But, all of the apostles betrayed Jesus in one way or another. I don’t believe that Judas truly believed in Jesus as the Messiah until the realization that he set an innocent man, a perfect Passover, to be condemned. At Judas’ repentance came the understanding that Jesus really was that Messiah.
Jesus always understands the heart of people. We might look at the drug dealer or alcoholic or stripper and see someone who is far from the gospel. That was Judas.
But God works into peoples’ hearts and brings about repentance. When is only known by God. Sometimes it happens before we bring about catastrophic problems. Other times it happens after.
God only knows.