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Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot is the Apostle who betrayed Jesus. The name Judas is the Greek form of Judah means praised. Very little is told in the gospels about the history of Judas Iscariot, just the bare facts of his call to the Apostolate, his treachery, and his death. Unlike the other apostles who were all Galileans, Judas’ birth place, as indicated by his name “Iscariot”, is the city of Judah.

The origin of the surname Iscariot is uncertain. According to one theory, the name means "man of Kerioth", and refers to a town or area in ancient Judea. If correct, this would suggest that Judas came from southern Palestine, whereas the other disciples were probably Galileans from the north.

According to the gospels, he led a group of armed men to a garden where Jesus was praying and identified him with a kiss. After a brief scuffle, Jesus was seized and taken to the Jewish religious leaders. They put him through a long interrogation, then turned him over to the Romans and pressured the Roman governor Pontius Pilate into ordering his crucifixion.

The Jewish leaders paid Judas a bribe for his help. Matthew 26:15 says that it was "thirty pieces of silver", possibly referring to a silver coin known as a Tyrian shekel. But Judas didn't get any benefit from the money, because he died shortly after the betrayal.

Because Judas was a common name in ancient Palestine, the gospel writers usually added the surname Iscariot to make it clear who they were talking about. John 6:71 calls him "Judas Iscariot the son of Simon." He was put in charge of the disciples' money, keeping it in a special box and making purchases for the group as needed. John 12:6 says that he sometimes stole money from the box for his personal use.

Jesus was fully aware of the coming betrayal. He talked about it several times, and though he never mentioned Judas by name, he did identify him indirectly. This fore-knowledge has led some people to argue that the betrayal wasn't an act of free will, but was imposed on Judas as part of a divine plan for the atonement between God and humankind.

But most theologians believe that Judas did act in free will and should be punished for it. And in Matthew 26:24, Jesus says "woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Judas Iscariot replaced after his suicide by Matthias.

The New Testament contains two accounts of how he died. Matthew 27:3-5 says that he felt so much remorse over what he had done that he returned the bribe money and then hanged himself. And Acts 1:18 says: "with the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong." Because these accounts appear to differ, there is some uncertainty about how he actually died.

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