Judas Iscariot[a] (died c. 30 – c. 33 AD) was a disciple and one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. According to all four canonical gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him and addressing him as “Rabbi” to reveal his identity to the crowd who had come to arrest him.[1] His name is often used synonymously with betrayal or treason. Judas’s epithet Iscariot most likely means he came from the village of Kerioth, but this explanation is not universally accepted and many other possibilities have been suggested.

Betrayal of Jesus

There are several explanations as to why Judas betrayed Jesus.[53] In the earliest account, in the Gospel of Mark, when he goes to the chief priests to betray Jesus, he is offered money as a reward, but it is not clear that money is his motivation.[54] In the Gospel of Matthew account, on the other hand, he asks what they will pay him for handing Jesus over.[55] In the Gospel of Luke[56] and the Gospel of John,[57] the devil enters into Judas, causing him to offer to betray Jesus. The Gospel of John account has Judas complaining that money has been spent on expensive perfumes to anoint Jesus which could have been spent on the poor, but adds that he was the keeper of the apostles’ purse and used to steal from it.[58]

Judas Iscariot is often shown with red hair in Spanish culture[84][85][86] and by William Shakespeare.[86][87] The practice is comparable to the Renaissance portrayal of Jews with red hair, which was then regarded as a negative trait and which may have been used to correlate Judas Iscariot with contemporary Jews.[88]

Judas’s epithet Iscariot (Ὶσκάριωθ or Ὶσκαριώτης), which distinguishes him from the other people named Judas in the gospels, is usually thought to be a Greek rendering of the Hebrew phrase איש־קריות, (Κ-Qrîyôt), meaning “the man from Kerioth“.[13][6][14]This interpretation is supported by the statement in the Gospel of John 6:71 that Judas was “the son of Simon Iscariot”.[6]Nonetheless, this interpretation of the name is not fully accepted by all scholars.[13][6] One of the most popular alternative explanations holds that Iscariot (ܣܟܪܝܘܛܐ ‘Skaryota’ in Syriac Aramaic, per the Peshitta text) may be a corruption of the Latin word sicarius, meaning “dagger man”,[13][6][15] which referred to a member of the Sicarii (סיקריים in Aramaic), a group of Jewish rebels who were known for committing acts of terrorism in the 40s and 50s AD by assassinating people in crowds using long knives hidden under their cloaks.[13][6]

A possibility advanced by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg is that Iscariot means “the liar” or “the false one,” perhaps from the Aramaic אִשְׁקַרְיָא.[17] 

The epithet could also be associated with the manner of Judas’s death, i.e., hanging. This would mean Iscariot derives from a kind of Greek-Aramaic hybrid: אִסְכַּרְיוּתָא, Iskarioutha, “chokiness” or “constriction.” This might indicate that the epithet was applied posthumously by the remaining disciples, but Joan E. Taylor has argued that it was a descriptive name given to Judas by Jesus, since other disciples such as Simon Peter/Cephas (Kephas “rock”) were also given such names.[19]

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Galatians 3:13