Saturday, 12 December 2015

Bart Ehrman - mistaken on Judas?

Bart has done a few posts on the crucifixion. In a recent one he doubts that Paul was aware of the whole betrayal incident by Judas (in fact he even goes so far as to say "It is worth noting that the apostle Paul knows nothing of the tradition that Judas betrayed Jesus or that he killed himself". Before I say why he thinks that and why I am not at all convinced, let me share first something he had already said that was very interesting.

Based on the work of Albert Schweitzer, Bart agrees that maybe what happened was that on a deeper level of betrayal, Judas spilled the beans about the Messianic secret, which tied in closely with being the "Son of God", a messianic title. Bart states: "But what do the Jewish authorities accuse Jesus of?  They accuse him of calling himself the messiah (Mark 14:61-62; note: the “king of Israel” was also called “the son of God” – see 2 Sam. 7:11-14).

And that is the charge Pilate tries him on.  Pilate asks him “Are you the King of the Jews,” and [...] this is the reason he had him crucified."

This makes more sense to me than the simple garden-kissing incident alone.

So that is where I feel Bart sheds some potential light. However, where I am much more sceptical (it's so refreshing being sceptical of a sceptic!) is his take on Paul and Judas. He argues that Paul knew nothing of this betrayal. He bases this on two points (I only take serious issue with the first)

1. The fact that the word the gospel writers use for "betray" can also be used to mean "hand over", and not only that, but Paul never uses the word to mean "betray", According to Bart, this means that when Paul writes PARADIDOMI in 1 Cor. 11:22-24,  “On the night in which he was betrayed”, he is very unlikely to be referring to Judas' betrayal, but more the "handing over" of God. 

2. 1 Cor 15:5-8, Paul recounts eye-testimony to the resurrection:  first he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, then he appeared to more than 500... 12 minus 1 = 11! Fair point. They were only restored to the number of 12, according to Acts, after Jesus had ascended to the Father.

This is my response to Bart Ehrman on his blog (I shall post any follow-up correspondence if interesting):

What is not so clear is that PRODIDOMI has to mean betray. In Romans 11:35 it definitely doesn’t. Bart may well be right (that Paul was not referring to Judas but instead to God handing him over), but the assumptions of clear-cut definitions as he puts them here failed to satisfy me today.

Another thing PARADIDOMI doesn’t mean betray?!
Bart does specify that PAUL doesn’t use it this way, but he also does not draw attention to the fact that all four gospel writers use this word EXTENSIVELY to describe Judas and his act. If Paul doesn’t focus on Judas in his writings (or the very few writings that WE have), what other occasion would he have had to use PARADIDOMI in a betrayal sense? Finally, (smaller point) when Paul (and “Peter”) use PARADIDOMI, it is a bit wider than simply God delivering his son; Jesus also gives himself up, people are delivered to their own depravity, it’s quite general and not specifically located in a narrative, unlike this one passage in 1 Cor. 11:22-24. 

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