In the Garden of Gethsemane, as He was about to be arrested, Jesus said:

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53 KJV)

Earlier the same evening Jesus had said to Judas:

That thou doest, do quickly. (John 13:27)

For a few centuries now there has been a theory that Judas did not intend Jesus to die, but intended to put Jesus in a position where He would have to use His power--that is, Judas was engaged in a misguided attempt to aid Jesus' cause. This possibility has been given additional attention by the re-discovery of the Gnostic gospel of Judas, which includes the alleged statement from Jesus to Judas:

You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me (see here).

(To be sure, I am not suggesting that the gospel of Judas is a reliable source. Rather, I note that it has influenced contemporary thought)

This theory occasionally surfaces on this site. Is it supported by the text of the New Testament?

I struggle to see how this makes sense but I'm interested to understand if/why some hold this view. Did Judas expect Jesus to escape/be rescued by Divine power?

Related question: Does Scripture imply that Judas knew that the high-priests and elders' goal was to have Jesus killed?

1 Answer 1


Did Judas Expect Jesus to be Rescued?

There are several good reasons why we should dismiss such an idea. Two of them are as follows:

  1. Any extrabiblical source that, on the surface, might seem to shed light is invariably unhelpful (even blasphemous, e.g. Book of Enoch, and here: The Gospel of Judas).
  2. Throughout the texts, Judas is repeatedly referred to as "traitor," "betrayer," "thief," "one Satan entered" and so forth, every time his name is invoked. Try though I may, I cannot find a single reference where this is not true.

According to the link you provided, the text reads:

The gospel [of Judas] also includes an account of conversations between Jesus and Judas that took place, according to the opening passage, “during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover.” In these dialogues, Judas emerges as the close confidant of Jesus, who tells him: “You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” In this way, Jesus appears to ask Judas to help him liberate his spiritual self from his material body. Thus, the Judas of the gospel is not the betrayer of Jesus but his most important collaborator. (Encyclopedia Britannica excerpt, The Gospel of Judas)

With all due respect, this is preposterous. Christ spent all His nights directly in prayer to God the Father. There are 3 recorded occasions where the Father spoke to Jesus audibly, both to He and surrounding witnesses (baptism, transfiguration, the clouds (Jn. 12:28)). In John's Gospel, Christ stated:

John 10:18: "No one has taken [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."

Where does Judas fit into any of that?

Suppose we examine the sequence of events on the night of Christ's betrayal. Note that the following words spoken to Judas occurred before, when they were all reclining at the table:

John 13:27: " After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.'"

He then left the other disciples. In the text from Matthew:

Matthew 26:30: "After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Judas had already departed to carry out his deceitful enterprise. But we should never neglect the fact that if Jesus needed any special favors from anyone, he needn't look any further than God Almighty Himself. Indeed, as you pointed out, Christ exclaimed:

Matthew 26:53: "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"

Notice that this occurs as He is being arrested -- not before. Nowhere in the biblical record do we read that Christ spoke to Judas about "12 legions of angels," or much else. I suggest that whether Judas did or did not know that Jesus was being handed over to be killed is irrelevant. Christ was under no illusions as to the identity and character of this traitor. I propose that the Gospel of Judas is as rank a fraud as the man himself.

  • "So, where had Jesus "gone out?" Judas left - not Jesus!
    – Steve
    Apr 26, 2021 at 7:23
  • @user48152 Thanks for the heads-up. I confused John with Matthew. That should now be correct.
    – Xeno
    Apr 26, 2021 at 7:57

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