Иуда из Кириафа

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When Yeshua is taken before Pilate for the first time, he asks him if he knows a certain Judas from Kiriath. And yes, the evening before last Ha-Nozri made the acquaintance of this young man, who had invited him to his place in the Lower City. "A good man, a very good man and an inquisitive one", he says about him. Judas showed the greatest interest in Yeshua's thoughts and received him very cordially. "And he lits the lamps..." Pilate says. Yeshua is slightly surprised that the procurator was so well informed. "Yes", he says, "'and he asked me to give my view of state authority. He was extremely interested in this question." And when Yeshua had explained his opinion, men ran in, bound him, and took him away to prison.

Judas only returns in chapter 25, when the procurator is talking about him with Aphranius. It seems to be a very handsome young man who would have received thirty tetradrachmas for his betrayal, and he would work in the money-changing shop of one of his relatives. Pilate entrusts Aphranius just received information that Judas is going to be killed that night.

A little later a young man with a neatly trimmed beard, wearing a white kefia falling to his shoulders and a new pale blue festive tallith with tassels at the bottom is walking in the Lower city. Judas is clearly all dressed up for the great feast. He enters the palace of the high priest Kaifa to leave it a bit later. Then he meets Niza, which excited him so much that his heart started leaping like a bird under a black cloth. She lures him to the olive estate but he will suffer for that. He's robbed of his tetradrachmas and stabbed down. The whole garden of Gethsemane was just then pealing with the song of nightingales.


Bulgakov's Judas is quite different from Judas in the Bible. In the New Testament Judas is one of the twelve apostles, and he knows Jesus much longer than just two days. The apostles accompanied Jesus of Nazareth for three years. In the Bible Judas is not killed, he commits suicide, driven by remorse and regret. After his death he is replaced in the group of 12 apostles by Matthias. Bulgakov made him a spy, driven by money and somewhat by love too.

With his observation on "litting the lamps" Pilate wanted to tease Yeshua because he had not understood that litting the lamps was a sign. A sign for the men waiting outside to arrest him.

There exists a Gospel of Judas too. For a long time was thought that is was lost forever. The Church Father Irenaeus of Lyon (140-202) refers to the Gospel of Judas in his pamphlet Against the Heretics in the 2nd century. The title of this pamphlet says it all, and gives us an idea about the reasons why the Gospel of Judas was hidden for such a long time. In contrast with the other gospels, it's not the resurrection nor the messianic aspect of Christ which are highlighted here, but Jesus' doctrine, and the way he clarifies it to the apostles, especially to Judas. "Come, so that I elucidate secrets nobody has behold yet", Christ said to Judas, to initiate him in the knowledge of the origin of the universe, and the divine power present in some mortals.

Further the Gospel of Judas shows a much more relaxed Christ who often laughs and even scoffs at the apostles who never understand. The content of the dialogues are simple but explosive material for the ecclesiastic inheritance. "You will surpass them all", Christ said to Judas, "because you will sacrifice the man who dresses me." Judas, so it is implied in the text, was just following his master's orders with his betrayal so that Jesus, after the crucifixion, could resurrect. So his sacrifice was the highest possible, not only because, without it, there would not have been a resurrection - and as a consequence no remission of sins, but also because Judas' name would be stained forever in history.

Thirty tetradrachmas

In the gospel of Matthew Judas receives thirty pieces of silver for his betrayal, and he threw his blood money in the temple afterwards. 27:3 - "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders." Thirty pieces of silver was a rather small amount of money. And it's not a very original idea which Matthew describes here. Both the amount as the gesture to refund the money come from the Book Zacharius of the Old Testament, which was already written in 520 BC. Zacharias 11:12 - "And I said to them: If it be good in your eyes, bring hither my wages: and if not, be quiet. And they weighed for my wages thirty pieces of silver". 11:13 - "And the Lord said to me: Cast it to the statuary, a handsome price, that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and I cast them into the house of the Lord to the statuary".

In Bulgakov's novel Judas get paid much more. He's talking about thirty tetradrachmas. The tetradrachma was the currency in the city state of Athens, it was a silver coin worth four drachmas. Because of its stability the tetradrachma is often called the dollar of ancient times. The tetradrachma was not suitable as an instrument of payment for daily purchases. Those were paid with oboloi. One tetradrachma was worth 24 obeloi.

In The Master and Margarita Judas does not return the money to the high priest himself. His murderers do it, but the blood on the bag is the blood of Judas of Kiriath.

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