Hugh Fogelman



In Christian folklore in the Middle Ages (1100 CE), the Church made great efforts to reach the masses through popular religious art and literature of all kinds. These forms of art and church literature were most successful in fostering anti-Semitism. The Encyclopaedia Judaica tells, “For Christians Judas Iscariot was considered the ‘typical Jew.’” The dehumanizing of both Judas and the Jews begins to be found in the art of Central Europe and Germany in the 13th century. The result was lowering the status of Jews to a subhuman level. Pictures of Judas bearing unmistakable characteristics of the medieval Jewish stereotype readily show that Christian art went out of its way to portray Judas as symbolic of the Jewish people as a whole. Church art contributed its quota of degraded appearing Jews both in pictorial representations in churches and popular illustrated Christian Bibles. This eventually helped pave the way for Adolph Hitler and the Nazi attitude of the Jews as evil beings.

The gospel of John is considered the most anti-Semitic book in the New Testament. The author of John goes over-board to show Judas’s greed by making him the corrupt treasurer of Jesus’ band of disciples. John’s picture of Judas carrying his money-bag was implanted in Christian thoughts with tragic results to the Jews as a whole.  John turns Judas Iscariot into a man associated with evil and money.  This expansion of Judas’s money-corruption was a most fateful development for the history of anti-Semitism as Christian Europe, later on, associated Jews with money-lending, forcing them, by the order by the Church, to make this their only permitted occupation.

The gospel of John tells another tale about the evil Judas in his story of Martha and Mary. Mary buys very costly perfume and pure oil that she anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair.  At this time, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, said; “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor?  Supposedly, not that Judas cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and wanted the money for himself (John 12:3-6).  Notice how John connects Judas with being associated to sharp business practices (a Jewish image carried forward to this day) while at the same time being evil and crooked.  This association helped to establish the derogatory meaning of the word “Jew” in popular usage by meaning people who “extort money ruthlessly, moneylenders, driver of hard bargains, to cheat by sharp business practices, uncaring for the helpless, and of charging extra high interest.”

Thus, the synonym Jew and money are linked together in semantics and popular Christian usage. The authors of the gospels tell a different story in which an unnamed woman pours costly ointment on Jesus’ head and was scolded, not by Judas Iscariot, but by some other disciples (Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 26:6-11; and Luke 7:37)  In Luke’s version, this woman was a prostitute. And it was not one of Jesus’ disciples that scolded her, but a Jewish Pharisee. Notice how Luke uses his story to drive home the thought of a Jew and his money, the Jewish Pharisees, even though the story did not originally concern Pharisees.  John transforms the same story into an episode in the Judas saga, while weaving it together with another quite unrelated story that of Martha and Mary.

The gospel of John portrays Judas as the corrupt controller of the moneybags, a thief whose greed is suggested by the fact that he sells Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Which gospel writer is telling the truth? Or perhaps none, since this is just another in a long line of New Testament fictions? Perhaps this was just an opportunity to show Rome that Christians also detest the Jews; that the Jews were enemies common to both of them.

Notice how Luke and John both link Judas with the devil (Luke 22:3 & John 6:70; 13:2 & 27), resulting now an evil triangle of “Judas ― Jew ― devil.“ Another synonym for the Jewish hatred found in the New Testament is linking the words ― “Pharisees, Jews and your father the devil” (John 8:44) ― together with “synagogue and the devil (Revelation 2:9 & 3:9 [supposedly written by John, but we do not even know who wrote John]).

By now the Judas legend was being told in the manner of folk-tales. The infamous “Passion Plays” sprung up all over Europe. These plays would show Judas, a Jew and money lender, being associated with the devil. Then other gospels were written, i.e. The Arabic Gospel of the Saviour’s Infancy, written sometime between 500-1000 CE, invents some fantastic details of Judas’s childhood by saying:

“Another woman was living in the same place, whose son was tormented by Satan. He, Judas by name, as often as Satan seized him, used to bite all who came near him; and if he found no one near him, used to bite his own hands and other limbs. The mother of this wretched creature, then, hearing the fame of the Lady Mary and her son Jesus, rose up and brought her son Judas with her to the Lady Mary.”

In the meantime, James and Joses had taken the child the Lord Jesus with them to play with the other children; and they had gone out of the house and sat down, and the Lord Jesus with them. The demoniac Judas came up, and sat down at Jesus’ right hand. Being attacked by Satan in the same manner as usual, he wished to bite the Lord Jesus. But instead, he struck Jesus on the right side, whereupon He began to weep.  Immediately Satan went forth out of that boy, fleeing like a mad dog. This boy who struck Jesus, and out of whom Satan went forth in the shape of a dog, was Judas Iscariot.  The same boy, upon becoming a man betrayed him to the Jews. And that same side on which Judas struck Jesus, the Jews (not the Romans) transfixed with a lance.”

This Arabic gospel was translated from Arabic into Latin and published in 1697.

The developers and theorists of Christianity, during the years in which the Judas saga was being invented, thought that Judas was a great symbol of all Jews. This is a favorite theme of Saint Jerome (340-420 CE), a great scholar of the catholic church, who translated the Christian bible from Greek into Latin. The death of Jesus began to be seen not as the unfortunate failure of another messianic claimant, but instead, it was a victory over evil. The death of a god demands an antagonist of equal status. This figure, according to Christianity, could only be Satan ― the devil. Thus Jews became the follower and helper of Satan. This identification had already been made in the Hellenistic world by the “Gnostics,” who regarded the Jews as people of the Demiurge, the evil Creator of the material world. All this is tied perfectly into a tidy package:  Jews ― Judas ― Devil.

The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (Vol. 6, p. 248) says that “According to a number of Christian scholars, such as Bruno Bauer and Volkmar, plus historians such as Randel Helms, have maintained that the story and person of Judas are not historical, but were invented in order to explain the ease with which the capture of Jesus was effected.” What a shame that the power of Christian myth and gospel fiction, demonizing the image of the Jews, have created an ignorant and errant widespread perception of the Jews as money-hungry, mean, miserly, traitors and people you cannot trust.

Often times when some disaster has occurred ― such as the Great Plague, or a defeat as in the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, WORLD War II or when a country’s economy lay in ruin ― whenever there is a need for a traitor who can be burdened with the guilt of an intolerable disaster ― the Jews are assigned this role and the name “Judas” is openly applied to them. In Russia today, Jews are being blamed for the pathetic Russian economy.

The Christians’ true feeling towards the Jews was unveiled by Pope Gelasius I (492–496 CE), when his words became current wisdom: “In the Bible, the whole is often named after the part; as Judas was called a devil and the devil’s workman, he gives his name to the whole race.”  This attitude set the example for over the next 1,400 plus years.

You can see how the name association of Jew ― Judas ― and the Devil lives on.

"I refuse to believe in a god who is the primary cause of conflict in the world, preaches racism, sexism, homophobia, and ignorance, and then sends me to hell if I’m ‘bad’." -Mike Fuhrman


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