THE JUDAS FACTOR: TWO BOOK REVIEWS IN ONE By Andre Austin “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins”1Peter 2:24 Two new books about the infamous Judas Iscariot have been published this year. The almost polar opposite books: “Reading Judas” by Elaine Pagels and “The Judas Brief” By Gary Greenberg was necessary simultaneous reading for the full enlightenment of biblical narratives focusing in on martyrdom as a recruitment tool. Reading Judas, (based on the lost Gospel of Judas GOJ written before 180AD),explores the allegation that Judas died by stoning by the 11 disciples rather than suicide and charges Christian leaders with what he labels the sin of promoting martyrdom in the form of sacrificing even their women and children for the promotion of their cause. The Judas Brief takes on a new swing against martyrdom. Greenberg returned an email to me to say: “The traditional gospel story is completely at odds with what I have to say…in my version, there was no Jewish plot to kill Jesus and Jesus didn’t plan to die. Judas was acting as Jesus representative to protect Jesus and the other apostles from a Roman massacre”. So I see the two books alike in protesting against martyrdom/massacre but dissimilar with all the other details. Jesus was brought to us to be the final and sum total of all sacrifices. Thousands of animals were sacrificed over thousands upon thousands of years until Jesus the lamb ended it all with his cross death. Then why did the early Christians advocate the physical reenactment of martyrdom as a pillar of the faith? Pagels states: “The rite of baptism was-and is-for many Christians a reenactment of Jesus death and resurrection”p.48 (see 1 Peter 3:20-21). This appears to be a spiritual martyrdom while Paul appears to advocate a physical martyrdom in (Philippians 3:10-11) but was this part of his opinion or “my gospel” based on past guilt of being an accessory of murder of Christians he helped to put in prison (Acts 22:4)? Those who were thrown in prison were given the choice to retract their faith and sacrifice to Roman Gods or prepare a requiem for their body to be layed in repose. Paul overall letters and comments makes his stand on martyrdom unclear on whether or not it was his personal desire or Christians as a whole. When the Bible talks about taking up your own cross it may relate in part to the crucifying of sinful deeds and not your physical life. Paul states: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). If Christians thought you needed to physically die for Christ then originally Jesus didn’t die for their sins. The teachings of Christ himself may have perhaps countermanded and trumped any calls of martyrdom. Christ taught that killing in hot or cold blood is forbidden, killing ourselves, killing any other directly or indirectly. In this context Jesus is reported saying: “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison”(Matthew 5:25).Even Peter taught by letter to fellow Christians to be alert for your life to avoid the devil who was looking to devour you (1Peter 5:8).Lying to save your life under torture, fear or other circumstances of death is no sin at all because the omnipresent God knows what’s hidden in your heart. By avoiding prison you avoid death/martyrdom. Jesus knew that Peter, the foundation of the church, would deny him three times to avoid martyrdom and his keys weren’t taken away from him. What if John the Baptist would have taken the advise from Jesus. His criticism should have been more of a cryptograph speech against the powers and principalities. John blasted Herod Antipas for marrying his half brother’s wife and was beheaded for it. Greenberg contends that Judas agreed to keep Jesus under house arrest to avoid a Roman massacre. But Herod Antipas, the fox, learned of the negotiations and ordered Pilate to carry on with the crucifixion,(see Acts 4:27 and Luke 13:31) . My questions in conclusion is why would Judas kill himself if he was so bent against martyrdom? Why would Peter avoid martyrdom by abandoning Christ three times and then go back to Rome at Jesus request to be crucified upside down, a behavior inconsistent with his previous acts? Why were early Christians appalled at animal sacrifice above the human sacrifice of martyrdom? Martyrdom became a pillar of the church; a practice not all early believers embraced doctrines now accepted as being handed down from Jesus or early church leaders. The 21st century Christian is more lilely to be led to a financial sacrifice of leaving behind real estate and life insurance policies to the Church than actually being malign to death on a cross into today’s world.