The story of Judas Iscariot is full of intrigue, betrayal and condemnation. Of the players in the New Testament, Judas, the fallen apostle, is recognizable to most Christians, but retired Bishop John Shelby Spong said he believes Judas, the man, never existed.
In Thursday’s Interfaith Lecture, Spong examined the case of Judas Iscariot through a historical and biblical lens. In his fourth lecture of the week based on the title of his recent book Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, Spong said Judas Iscariot was never a man, but a literary figure created decades after the crucifixion to represent non-Christ-following Jews.
To contextualize his argument, Spong opened his lecture with the story of the Jewish war with the Roman Empire. The war between the Romans and the Jews exploded in the year 66. Before the full-blown military engagement, Jewish Zealots, or “freedom fighters,” had staged frequent guerilla attacks against the Romans for decades, Spong said. In 70 C.E., the Romans embarked on a fierce offensive and seized the city of Jerusalem.