Discussion Questions for ‘Iscariot’ by Mark Worthing (Morning Star Publishing, 2018)

A Biblical and Theological Reappraisal of the Forgotten Apostle

Iscariot by Mark Worthing | Essay: Judas Iscariot: A Biblical and Theological Reappraisal of the Forgotten Apostle


Iscariot is a novel of biblical historical fiction. While many of the details are created to fill in gaps in the story, the narrative never strays far from events that are well known to readers of the Gospel accounts.  For this reason, reading and discussing Iscariot can also serve as an opportunity to revisit key stories from the Gospels, and to look with slightly different eyes on the story of Jesus. The novel also raises questions about misunderstanding, betrayal, depression, suicide, grief, forgiveness and hope. So while a discussion of the novel within any group will constantly be revisiting Gospel themes and accounts, it will also never be far from a wider range of questions that touch each one of us still today.

For groups who would like more information about what is known of Judas Iscariot from the biblical texts and other early sources, and what assumptions some of the conjectures made in the novel are based upon, as well as the theological significance the character of Judas Iscariot has come to represent, it is recommended that a copy of the paper by the author, ‘Judas Iscariot: A Biblical and Theological Reappraisal of the Forgotten Apostle,’ be downloaded from the publisher’s website and made available to the group.

Chapter One: Pox Romana

  • The Romans brought peace, prosperity, better roads, improved irrigation and sanitisation, political stability and economic prosperity to the lands they conquered. So why did so many despise them? Why did many see the Romans as a plague (pox) rather than bringers of peace (pax)? Why, particularly, were so many in Jewish Palestine eager to rid themselves of the Romans?
  • The Roman occupation and rule of Palestine loomed large in the background to all that Jesus said and did. How might many of his contemporaries have interpreted Jesus’ talk of the coming of God’s kingdom against this background?

Chapter Two: The Galilean Storyteller

  • How did Judas become one of Jesus’s twelve key disciples? Did Judas seek Jesus out, or was he, like the others whose callings are recorded in the Gospels, sought out by Jesus?
  • Do you think Jesus would have known from the beginning what Judas would one day do, and what the result for both of them would be? If so, why would Jesus have sought out Judas as a disciple?
  • The Hebrew/Aramaic name that Jesus was known by was Yeshua (or Joshua in English). Our modern English ‘Jesus’ comes from an Anglicising of the Greek form of Joshua, which is ‘Yesus.’ Does reading about Jesus using the less familiar, original pronunciation of his name have any impact on how he is perceived in the story? Is it easier or harder to see ‘Yeshua’ in a new light?
  • Much of the power in Jesus’ teaching was found in his ability to tell simple stories that had strong and unexpected applications. Certainly, he told many more stories than the parables that are recorded in the Gospels. What was it like meeting Jesus within the novel first as a storyteller, rather than a miracle-worker or religious teacher?
  • How does Jesus come across when we first encounter him in the novel? What kind of person is he? Does he seem like someone people would drop everything to follow?

Chapter Three: House of Iscariot

  • Jesus often stayed with relatives and friends, and those of his disciples, when travelling. Yet he had only one Judean disciple, Judas. Is it conceivable that he would have stayed with Judas’ family when in Jerusalem?
  • Why does Jesus stay with this one family, in a small village outside of Jerusalem, whenever he visits the city? What was his connection to them?
  • We know that Martha, Mary and Lazarus were siblings. From the role that the sisters played in a dinner hosted by Simon the Pharisee and former leper in Bethany, we assume that they must have been close relatives. How plausible do you find it that Judas’ father Simon could have been Simon the Pharisee from Bethany, who was most likely the uncle to these three famous siblings?
  • Whether this was Judas’ actual family or not, he certainly had family – had people who cared about him and about whom he cared. How does our reading of the character of Judas in the novel change when we see him as someone who had a family?

Chapter Four: The Twelve

  • Why do you think so many of the disciples chosen by Jesus were from Galilee? Was it simply that this was his own home territory, or was there more to it than that?
  • Being the only Judean in the group of twelve would have made Judas something of an outsider from the beginning. What role might this have played in his relationship with the others and his understanding of Jesus?
  • Jesus was a carpenter and several of the twelve were fisherman. Apart from Matthew (a former tax collector) the Galileans seem to have been manual labourers. Judas likely worked in some sort of business, possibly with his father. Hence he was the obvious candidate to be treasurer. What cultural differences might this have brought up between Judas and most of the others?
  • John has more references to Judas than any of the other Gospels. John also has the harshest condemnations of Judas. If the Gospel was written by the apostle John himself, as many believe quite likely, what might this indicate about John’s relationship to Judas?

Chapter Five: Good and Bad Samaritans

  • The status and role of the Samaritans, and well as their future, were fraught subjects among the Jews at Jesus’ time. Yet Jesus embraced the question, and provocatively so, especially in his story of the Good Samaritan and his conversation with the woman at the well. Why do you think Jesus did this?
  • Read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Different stories told by Jesus often appear in slightly different versions within the Gospels. What are some of the differences between the version in the novel and that it Luke? Why do you think the author of the novel made these changes?
  • In the version of the Good Samaritan found in the novel, there is some friendly banter and even humour between Jesus and his disciples as he tells the story. What do you think Jesus’ story-telling, when alone with his disciples, would have been like? Would he have laughed and joked with them?
  • Judas and the others would have been quite concerned about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. What are some of the reasons why this would have been so?
  • How hard is it for us today to picture God being on the side of those we view as enemies? How hard is it to hear a story in which the hero/heroine belongs to a group we do not feel comfortable with or distrust?

Chapter Six: Galilee

  • Jesus was from Galilee and spent most of his ministry there. Why do you think he did not spend more time with his disciples in Jerusalem?
  • What would it have been like for Judas as the only disciple not from Galilee to spend so much time there, away from his family and friends?
  • Discuss a time when you went somewhere unfamiliar, where you didn’t know anyone, and the landscape and lifestyle was very different to what you were used to. How did it feel? Was it exciting? Frightening? Or a bit of both?
  • In the novel, Judas is surprised to meet Jesus’ family. Do you find it hard to imagine Jesus having siblings and a mother at home and having spent his early adult years working in the carpentry shop?
  • Read Matthew 5:1-12, 21-30, and 43-48. Jesus’ most famous talk was the Sermon on the Mount. It is familiar to us now, but how radical might it have seemed to those who first heard it? What must his disciples, including Judas, have thought, when they heard Jesus saying these things?

Chapter Seven: Syrian Holiday

  • Tyre was one of the most famous port cities of the region. Visiting it must have been quite an event for the disciples. For many, it would have been their first visit to a truly foreign city. Do you think they would have felt like tourists, and went to see the sights?
  • Read the reports of this encounter in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. What are your reactions to this story? Does Jesus appear to be putting the woman down?
  • In the end, all Jesus does in Tyre is meet with this one woman and heal her daughter. Can you understand Judas’ question: ‘Is this why we came here? Just for this one woman and her daughter?’ Was this a good use of Jesus’ time?
  • What does Jesus’ interaction with the woman from Tyre tell us about his priorities?
  • Does Yeshua, in the novel, strike you as the kind of person the biblical Jesus actually was? Why or why not?

Chapter Eight: Home Again

  • As Jesus heads to Jerusalem for his final Passover he is aware of what is coming. In the novel he tell Judas that this will be the end for both of them. But Judas hears something very different. Does it seem that Jesus is often misunderstood? Why did he so often speak in ways that were obscure, or that only made sense later?
  • As the member of the Twelve who bought all the supplies, Judas would have met people that the others did not. What kind of things do you think Judas heard from the local shopkeepers that he dealt with as they travelled about? How might this have influenced his own perspective on who Jesus was and what Jesus was trying to accomplish?

Chapter Nine: Missed Opportunities

  • Why did Jesus turn some people away? Didn’t he want everyone to follow him?
  • Read the account of the rich ruler in Mark 10:17-31 (see also Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30). What would the disciples have felt when they saw important people like the rich young ruler sent away?
  • Barabbas plays a key role in the final act of the story of Jesus’ life. Do you think it likely that he would have met him, or at least went to hear him speak before that day on Pilate’s balcony?

Chapter Ten: Return of the Centurion

  • Read Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8:5-13. The story takes place in the Roman military stronghold of Capernaum, along the shores of Lake Galilee. In the novel, the story has been moved to late in Jesus’s ministry, and placed near Jericho. Why do you think this was done? Do you think the impact on those witnessing the encounter would have been much the same as in Galilee? Would the disciples still have recalled this event of healing at a distance for the servant of a Roman when Jesus declined to go immediately to Lazarus?
  • Many were convinced that the Messiah would come to liberate the Jews from Roman rule. In this light, what would the crowds, and the Twelve, have thought of Jesus’ healing of the Centurions servant?
  • Why do you think Jesus doesn’t go to the servant? He has also done this in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman, whose story appears in chapter seven. Both are non-Jews, and both show remarkable and unexpected faith.

Chapter Eleven: Lazarus Lives

  • Read John 11:1-44. This is one of the longest accounts of an episode in the ministry of Jesus. Why do you think so much detail is given by John to Lazarus’ death and his restoration to life?
  • We know that Jesus does not have to be present to heal a person, so why does he not heal Lazarus from a distance when he receives the request for help?
  • Why do you think that only Martha first came out to meet Jesus, and not Mary? (see John 11:29)
  • If Lazarus is very young, as in the novel, and as many biblical scholars believe, how might he have responded to his sudden fame?
  • Read John 12:9-11. Why is Lazarus’ life in danger once Jesus raises him from the dead?
  • Sometimes it is said that Lazarus was ‘resurrected’, but is this actually what happened to Lazarus?
  • In the novel, at the very time Judas should be feeling happy about Lazarus’s restoration to life, he is also troubled. What are the reasons for this?

Chapter Twelve: Feast at the House of Iscariot

  • Read John 12:1-7; Matthew 26:6-15; Mark 14:3-10 and Luke 7:36-50. In Matthew and Mark the anointing takes place at Simon the Leper’s house in Bethany by an unnamed woman, and in both versions, the event immediately triggers Judas’ act of betrayal. In Luke the anointing takes place, apparently much earlier in Jesus’ ministry, by an unnamed sinful woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house. In John’s version the event also takes place in Bethany, but at the house of Lazarus and it is his sister, Mary, who anoints Jesus. Are each of the Gospel writers describing the same event, or are there three separate parallel events? If, as is most likely, they are versions of the same event, then much can be learned from these stories about Simon, Lazarus, Mary and Martha and their relationship to one another.
  • Read Luke 10:38-42. Mary is always praised for her choice to sit and listen to Jesus, but can you see Martha’s side of the story? Didn’t someone have to serve the food?
  • There are several versions of the story of the anointing of Jesus’s feet. In John’s version it is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who does the anointing. Could Judas’ strong reaction be explained, in part, if this took place in his own household?
  • Why was what Mary did seen as embarrassing or even shameful?

Chapter Thirteen: Donkeys and Palm Branches

  • Read John 12:12-19 and Luke 19:28-40. Many think that Jesus, through one of his disciples, most likely Judas, the purse holder, may well have paid for the colt beforehand and ‘the Lord needs it’ was the message to be given to confirm these were indeed the people who had hired the colt. Does such an interpretation seem likely? Is the triumphal entry any less remarkable if there was some preparation involved?
  • Why did the crowds get so excited when Jesus entered Jerusalem?
  • There were no palms at the time of Jesus that were able to grow at the elevation at which Jerusalem stood. The palms must have been brought in. Do you think this means the triumphal entry was more carefully planned and staged than we sometimes think?
  • If you were a part of the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem, what sort of things might you have expected him to do upon arrival? How might you have felt when these things didn’t happen?
  • Why would Jesus get so upset with the money changers? They were, after all, just doing their job. The religious leaders are the ones who had set the rules about which coins could be used.
  • Does it seem out of character that Jesus gets angry?
  • Of all the times Jesus could have become angry during his ministry, why at this time and place?

Chapter Fourteen: Business with the Sanhedrin

  • We often think that Judas sought out a chance to betray Jesus, but is it more likely that he allowed himself to be talked into it? In the story, can you see how Judas might have been persuaded that he was doing the right thing?
  • Who were the Sanhedrin, and why did they have so much influence?
  • Why would the ruling council gather at the home of the high priest?

Chapter Fifteen: The Upper Room

  • Read John 13:1-19. Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet, including those of Judas. What might this act have symbolised?
  • Read John 22:14-23. Judas, like the others, was freely offered and freely partook of the last supper. What is the significance of this?
  • Some churches and pastors turn people away from the Lord’s Supper if they are not of the right denomination, or if they feel they are openly in some sin. Why did Jesus not send Judas out before the meal? What did he allow him to partake of his body and blood in the form of the bread and wine?
  • Read John 13:25-30. Have you ever wondered why Judas went out to arrange the turning over of Jesus after Jesus let him know that he knew what he was going to do? Do you think that the view taken in the novel could be right, that Judas somehow took these words as confirmation that this is what he was supposed to do?

Chapter Sixteen: The Betrayal of Judas Iscariot

  • Read John 18:1-14. In verse 4 we read, ‘Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward …’ Why do you think Jesus made no attempt to evade arrest? Why did he let Judas know where he was going? Why didn’t he tell Judas not to do this thing, rather than to go and do it quickly?
  • The title of this chapter can be taken two ways. Can you see how Judas might have also (even if wrongly) felt betrayed?
  • Have you ever persuaded yourself to do something, or convinced yourself that you were in the right, even when deep down you knew it was wrong? What do you think the little voices in the back of Judas’ head were telling him?
  • What did the Sanhedrin have Jesus taken to Pilate?
  • Why did the crowds who had welcomed Jesus at the triumphal entry now turn against him? What had changed?
  • Have you ever wondered how Barabbas felt when he was suddenly released? Do you think he would he have tried to find out who this person was who took his place? (The 1950 novel, Barabbas, by Pär Lagerkvist, explores this very question.)

Chapter Seventeen: Death of Judas, Son of Simon

  • In this chapter we find a description of the despair and depression that Judas felt. Have there been times in your life when you have felt a little like this? Times when it seemed that you were trapped and that there was no way out?
  • If Judas had lived to hear reports of the resurrection, how might he have responded? Do you think it would have changed anything?
  • Read Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:16-20. These are two very different accounts of Judas’ death. Some have suggested that the version is Matthew has more the feel of a report of actual events, and that the version in Acts might be more of a symbolic or metaphorical description. Others have tried to find a way to make both accounts fit together as one. What can be made of these two very different accounts?

Chapter Eighteen: The Two Trees

  • Judas and Jesus die at about the same time. What do you think the symbolism of this coincidence might be?
  • Read Deuteronomy 21:22-23 and Galatians 3:13. In the novel, Lazarus notes the irony of two cursed deaths on two trees. The deaths have similarities and are linked. But what differences to you see in these two deaths?
  • No matter how alone we might feel, there are always people who care. Are you surprised to find anyone mourning the death of Judas?
  • Both Judas and Jesus weep for Lazarus. What is the significance of the novel’s ending, with Lazarus weeping for Judas?

Biblical-Historical Note

As with any work of historical fiction, some aspects are based upon what is known, others on reasonable conjecture, and others simply filled in on the basis that we know some things must have happened and been said which led to the events that are recorded. We just don’t know what.

  • To what extent do you feel that the novel followed the biblical sources?
  • Where did it depart?
  • Did you find the story of Judas as portrayed in the novel plausible?

Is there hope for Judas?

The Scottish poet Robert Buchanan thought there was hope for Judas. Read the last three stanzas of his poem Judas Iscariot at the end of the book.

  • What symbolism does Buchanan use?
  • What message is he trying to convey?
  • After having read the novel, it is easier to sympathise with the hope for Judas portrayed in Buchanan’s ballad? Why or why not?


The Sacred Life of Words

The Sacred Life of Words is an inspiring and comprehensive introduction to the background and practice of poetry and prose. The origins of words, structures of classical poetry and poetry games will inspire even ‘non poets’, while prose wisdom is delivered with Worthing’s inimitable storytelling style and humour. To realise that we as writers are participating in something sacred when we work with words is both sobering and exciting. The Sacred Life of Words will inspire, challenge and transform the practice of writers at any stage of their career.’ – Rosanne Hawke, author of Riding the Wind: Writing for Children and Young Adults

Unlikely Allies

In Unlikely Allies: Monotheism and the Rise of Science, Mark Worthing investigates the claims of religious traditions that they played a unique role in the rise of the natural sciences. The author argues that monotheism in general, more than any particular manifestation of it, was significant in the development of modern science. Certain key features of monotheism provided fertile conditions for the rise of the natural sciences and Christianity, while not solely responsible for producing these conditions, played a significant role. Given these historical links, the view that religion—especially monotheistic religion—is the natural enemy of science must be rejected. Contrary to popular perception, the natural sciences and belief in one God have been unlikely allies for over two millennia.

Judas Iscariot

A Biblical and Theological Reappraisal of the Forgotten Apostle

Iscariot by Mark Worthing | Detailed Discussion Questions


by Mark Worthing
Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church, North Adelaide


In the small English village of Moreton, in Dorset, the local Anglican congregation remained deeply divided for thirty years. The renowned artist, Sir Laurence Whistler, had created for them a series of engraved glass windows. But the last window in the series, they could not bring themselves to install. It featured Judas Iscariot hanging from a tree, the silver coins falling from his purse to the ground, and a beam of light shining down on him from heaven. It was titled, ‘The Forgiveness Window.’ The parishioners and their priest could not come to terms with the idea that Judas could be the object of any hope of grace. So the window sat in storage for thirty years, until a new generation of parishioners, led by a progressive new priest, finally agreed to have the window installed – in an obscure alcove of the church facing the cemetery.[1] The story of Whistler’s ‘Forgiveness Window’ typifies much of the Christian reaction to Judas Iscariot.  The grace of God might be open to all – but that ‘all’ certainly could never include Judas.  Our traditional reaction to Judas not only misses many important biblical clues to the complexity of this much maligned character, but it also overlooks many important theological questions. But before these can be addressed, we must first survey what is known of Judas from the biblical accounts, and where there are discrepancies or points of unclarity within these accounts.

Part One: Who was the biblical Judas Iscariot?

 Judas Iscariot is one of the most ambiguous and perplexing figures in the Bible. This much can be agreed upon by nearly everyone.  Almost nothing we learn about Judas from the gospel accounts quite adds up.[2] Judas, for obvious reasons, has been expunged from the gospels apart from the role he played in the betrayal of Jesus. No account of his calling, or record of any of his words or deeds, outside of that final week, are recorded.[3]  Yet a surprising number of clues remain about the man who for centuries has been the most reviled figure in religious history.

While there is no account of how Judas became one of the twelve, it is reasonable to assume that, like the others, he was chosen by Jesus. Also, Judas was the only member of the inner circle who appears not to have been from Galilee. This would have made him something of an outsider from the beginning. Yet he served as treasurer, which indicates he had some financial ability and a significant degree of respect and trust among the others.

Judas’ family connections

Judas’ father, Simon, is also called Iscariot, and possibly originated from the southern Judean village of Kerioth, hence the name ‘man of Kerioth.’[4] The fact that Judas’ father is named, including his ‘surname’ Iscariot, suggests that he was a well-known member of the early Christian community. This also means there is a possibility he is mentioned elsewhere in the gospels. The only realistic candidate is Simon the Pharisee and leper of Bethany. We know Simon was likely a close relative of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, for the two sisters served Jesus and his disciples at Simon’s house when Jesus was in Bethany, and only close members of the family would have taken on this role. And in John’s account, the house is not said to be Simon’s, but the home of Lazarus. So they were likely part of the same extended family. The surprising, and most plausible conclusion, is that Judas may well have been Simon’s son. This means he would have been a close relative of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were most likely his cousins.

This simple deduction also explains another mystery of the gospel accounts. Jesus appears to have stayed with this one family whenever he and his disciples were in the vicinity of Jerusalem. In Galilee Jesus often stayed in the homes of his own relatives or those of his disciples’ families, and also made use of their boats. His pattern was to seek lodgings where he and his disciples already had strong connections. If Simon, Lazarus, Martha and Mary were part of the household of one of his disciples, this would explain the situation. But there is only one disciple from that region, only one disciple not from Galilee, and that is Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon Iscariot. He is the only possible candidate. It is not a link that any of Jesus’ followers, either in the first century, or in the centuries that followed, would have been keen to acknowledge.[5] But there are enough hints remaining to suggest that that a familial relationship between Judas and the Bethany siblings is at least plausible.

Judas’ strong reaction to Mary’s pouring out of expensive oil to anoint Jesus during the meal at the home of Simon the Pharisee suggests that Judas exercised the right to speak out about a matter of family resources that would have been both unexpected and inappropriate by anyone outside the family.  The impact upon Judas of being so strongly rebuked in his own home, before his own father, just days from his famous act of betrayal, would have been profound. In fact, in the synoptic accounts, Judas goes out immediately after this event to make arrangements to betray Jesus, suggesting that the authors of the synoptic gospels believed that this event somehow explained Judas’ actions. But as Judas didn’t confide in any of the other disciples, and as he took his own life shortly after his betrayal, it is difficult to imagine how the writers of the synoptic gospels would have known when Judas made the arrangement to ‘hand over’ Jesus.  But if he was the son of Simon from Bethany, then their supposition that this event was the trigger for his actions would make sense.

But why, if such a familial relationship existed, is Judas not clearly named as the cousin of Martha, Mary and Lazarus?  The answer is simple. Not only are there no non-essential references to Judas in the Gospel accounts, so as not to highlight the role of the betrayer, but out of deference to his family and their strong links to the early Christian movement, his relationship to them would have been downplayed. The early community of Christians would not want to dishonour such key early followers of Jesus as Martha, Mary and Lazarus by pointing out that Judas was their relative.

If we accept the possibility that Judas was a cousin to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and the son of their uncle Simon, the events in the last week of Judas’ life take on a very different look.  According to John’s Gospel, Jesus declines to go immediately to Lazarus when Mary sends word, then raises him from the dead, making him a target of those who wished to kill Jesus (John 12:9-11). We know little of Lazarus apart from his sisters, and Jesus’ love for him. It is quite likely that he was a very young man. This would explain why he has no ‘speaking roles’ in the gospels and why he appears to be living with his sisters and uncle. It would also mean that a protective older cousin like Judas would be very concerned first with Jesus not going to him immediately, and second, about the danger he is put in when Jesus raises him from the dead. Almost immediately after raising Lazarus from the dead, Mary pours expensive oil over Jesus’ feet. When Judas objects, he is put in his place in front of his whole family.  This sequence of events would have had a significant impact on Judas’ mental and emotional state.

Judas and John

The Gospel that is harshest in its judgment of Judas, John’s Gospel, also reveals the most about him. The naming of Judas as ‘a devil’ (John 6:70) and as a ‘son of perdition’ (John 17:2) convey very strong and emotive language unique to John, who ironically gives us more information about Judas than any of the other Gospels. John is not only able to reveal the most detail about Judas, but he also harbours the most anger towards him. The best explanation of both of these facts is that John had been close to Judas. It makes sense that Judas would have had at least one close friendship within the inner circle of the twelve, and that that person would have not only had more information about Judas, but would have been more hurt and angry at his betrayal.

Judas as a Zealot

It is widely assumed that Judas was sympathetic to a group known as Zealots. There is no direct biblical evidence for this, but the assumption, commonly held, follows from one of the most common explanations for Judas’ motivation for betraying Jesus, namely, that his actions would force Jesus to show his hand and call down the forces of heaven (or at the very least the masses) to rise up against Roman rule. This theory first comes in vogue with the publication of Thomas de Quincy’s Judas Iscariot in 1852. De Quincy sought to find an explanation for Judas’ act of betrayal, and suggested that he most likely wanted to provoke a confrontation with the authorities, and ultimately the Romans. If this were his motivation, which is more credible than many other suggestions, then it also seems likely that Judas would have been sympathetic to the Zealot cause. The fact that one other disciple, Simon, was also known as ‘the Zealot’ indicates that such a stance would not have disqualified him from being part of the Twelve.  Even though the idea that this was Judas’s true motivation was not widely taken up, the assumption that he was a Zealot has become commonplace.

The theory goes a long way toward explaining Judas’ expectations of Jesus as Messiah and his famous act of betrayal. The Zealots were a political group who wanted desperately to see the Roman occupiers overthrown and Jewish independence restored. They were quite willing to spill blood to see this happen.  They did not seek religious reform so much as political revolution. If Judas were sympathetic to the Zealots – then he would have heard Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom in a physical rather than a spiritual manner. He would have been deeply disappointed at Jesus’s continued failure to challenge Roman occupation and its Jewish collaborators – especially after the promising start of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Was Judas a thief?

For most Christians, the answer to the question, ‘Was Judas a thief?’ is a simple one. The Gospel writers call him a thief, therefore he was a thief. But there are difficulties with this view, and problems arise from information provided by the very writers who label Judas a thief. As Judas received thirty pieces of silver from the authorities, the suggestion that he was motivated by money would have been very appealing to the other disciples in providing some sort of an answer to their questions about his motive.  This suspicion, passed on by John in his account of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, is not, however, without its problems. If Judas was a thief taking money from the common purse, why would he bring such a good thing to an end for such a relatively small reward. Thirty pieces of silver, biblically a very symbolic amount (Zechariah 11:4-14), is a relatively paltry sum for what Judas was being asked to do. One who was motivated by greed would likely have asked for, and received, much more. Even A.B. Bruce, who took a very traditional view of Judas and his betrayal, finds this assumption problematic. He asks, ‘Would it not have been a better speculation [for Judas] to have continued purse-bearer, with facilities for appropriating its contents, than to sell his Master for a paltry sum not exceeding five pounds?’[6]

Also, in an age with no banks and in which money was usually in coin or some other valuable commodity, a thief would have needed a home or hideout for his stash. But Judas was away from home travelling with the bare necessities for months or even years with Jesus and the other eleven. So where was he hiding all of this money during this time?  Finally, if it was well-known that Judas as treasurer was stealing from the common fund, why did none of the disciples raise this point with Jesus earlier so that Judas might be rebuked, and another given this responsibility?

Judas may well have acted inappropriately with common funds, and therefore have been technically a thief. But theft as his driving motivation for betrayal, or as his major preoccupation while following Jesus, simply does not add up.

The Last Supper and Betrayal

The account of Judas and Jesus at the last Supper also raises many questions. If Judas is a thief and now a traitor, why does he proceed with his plan when it is clear that he has been caught out by Jesus?  If Judas’ motivation is monetary gain, or simple betrayal, his actions make little sense.  Perhaps Judas felt something needed to happen to force a showdown in which Jesus would have to act. When Jesus says to him to go and do quickly what he must do, Judas may have taken this as an affirmation that this was indeed the role Jesus wanted him to play. The paltry sum offered by the high priests would have been of little consequence.

Judas’ error, in all probability, was not his love of money, but his failure to understand the kind of Messiah Jesus was. De Quincey argued that Judas’ crime, though great, has been much misunderstood. He writes: ‘It was the crime of signal and earthly presumption, seeking not to thwart the purposes of Christ, or to betray them, but to promote them by means utterly at war with their central spirit. As far as can be judged, it was an attempt to forward the counsels of God by weapons borrowed from the armoury of darkness.’[7]

If this was the case, then it was the mother of all miscalculations. His subsequent actions support this interpretation. A thief motivated by greed would not have so quickly tried to return the money, and then taken his own life. A man, however, who thought he was setting up his friend and teacher to call down power from heaven to overthrow the current rulers would have been devastated when Jesus was arrested, then prevented his disciples from defending him, and finally was sentenced to death. Such a man would have desperately tried to take back his actions by returning the thirty coins. Such a man would have been in utter despair at this turn of events. Judas hangs himself when he learns of Jesus’ death sentence.  We see the deep despair of a man who realised just what he has done.

The view that Judas did exactly what Jesus wanted, and was misunderstood for it, comes from the early Gnostic tradition. While hints of this view have been around (through comments and citations from early church fathers) for many centuries, it was only the discovery of the second-century ‘Gospel of Judas’ in 2006 that gave a clearer picture of this view, in which, as with all Gnostic accounts, there is a secret message given to only a few, or in this case, one disciple. But the view never gained any traction within the orthodox Christian tradition.[8]

There is also an issue over just what Judas’ betrayal consisted of. Although we are told (John 11:57) that the Jewish authorities sought information on where they could find Jesus, it has been suggested that this is hardly credible. It seems almost everyone knew where he was. And if they wanted to find him at night, alone, they could have had spies follow him discretely.  Bart Ehrman, in The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, suggests that what the authorities really needed was credible evidence against Jesus that would carry weight with the Romans. If one of the inner circle were to confirm that he had said that we was the coming king of the Jews, the charge which actually hung above his head at his execution, then they would have all they needed. So perhaps there was more to Judas’ betrayal that an identifying kiss.[9] But the fundamental problems of motive still remain.

 Satan enters into Judas

The comment that Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3) is often used to dismiss any attempt to find a motive for his actions. This not only causes difficulty for how God works with human beings and the free will we possess, but it mistakes this saying for an explanation of Judas’ actions. Some have seen the statement simply as one of the earliest signs of the demonising of Judas within the Christian tradition. Peter Standford has argued that the statement is the fulfilment of Luke’s statement in the account of Jesus’ temptation that Satan left him and would return at an ‘opportune time’ (Luke 4:13). This return attack, however, was directed not at Jesus, this time, but aimed to get to him through one of his disciples.[10] But there is probably a simpler explanation. The expression is akin to our modern ‘the Devil made me do it.’ Remember, Satan was also said to have been the cause of David’s numbering of the people (1 Chronicles 21:1). In this context, the statement would be seen as an expression used to explain what is an otherwise inexplicable act of evil by a seemingly good person. That fact that this is said of Judas is an indication that the other disciples did not see his betrayal coming, were perplexed as to his motives, and were struggling for an explanation after the event, when the only person who could tell them, Judas himself, was no longer living.

Judas and Peter

There is an interesting parallel between Judas and Peter which merits more attention that it is often given. Both men speak their mind, often without thinking, and act impulsively. Together with John (John 18:15f) who seems to have gotten Peter access and may have stayed with him, that are the only two of Jesus’s disciples who we know for certain went to the house of the high priest after Jesus’ arrest (Cf. Matthew 26:69-27:3). Both men denied/betrayed Christ in different ways. One took his own life, the other went on to receive forgiveness and lead the early Christian community. Judas, we often forget, was not the only disciple to fall short in those final hours. Judas betrays Jesus and receives thirty pieces of silver, which he tries to return. Peter denies Jesus three times in order to escape being arrested as one of his disciples.

The death of Judas

The New Testament contains two very different accounts of the death of Judas.  The one is an account of death by hanging that is clearly a suicide. It is the most straight-forward of the two accounts. The other is an account of death by bursting open that may or may not be a suicide. In fact, it has even been argued that this account is perhaps one of accidental death, or even murder.

While some have tried to harmonise these accounts, with almost bizarre results (e.g. Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible and some of the more pious Life of Jesus movies), others have opted to view them as two separate traditions about the sad end of Judas Iscariot. There is a third possibility, however, first put forward clearly in the nineteenth century. That is that the Gospel account is meant to be an actual account of Judas’s death, while the account in Acts, is a symbolic account.

Thomas de Quincey, one of the first scholars to undertake a serious examination of the mysteries surrounding the biblical accounts of Judas, states the case as follows:

To burst in the middle, is simply to be shattered and ruined in the central organ of our sensibilities, which is the heart, and in saying that the viscera of Iscariot, or his middle, had burst and gushed out, the original reporter meant simply that his heart broke. That was precisely his case. … He fell into fierce despair, his heart broke, and under that storm of affliction he hanged himself. Here, again, all clears itself up by the simple substitution of a figurative interpretation for one grossly physical. All contradiction disappears; not three deaths assault him, viz., suicide, and also a rupture of the intestines, and also an unintelligible effusion of the viscera, but simply suicide, and suicide as the result of that despondency which was figured under the natural idea of a broken heart.[11]

Part Two: A theological reflection on Judas

 The role of Judas in salvation history

In his 1948 novel Christ Recrucified, Nikos Kanzantzakis penned the thought-provoking words: ‘For the world to be saved, Judas is indispensable.’ Of course, much of the Christian tradition in the two thousand years since Judas’ act of betrayal has wished very much to dispense with Judas. He was the failed disciple, the traitor, the thief. How much better, we often thought, if Judas had not been among the twelve. But he was one of the twelve, and we have every reason to believe that, like the others, he was there because Jesus specifically chose him. Surely Jesus knew what Judas would do – how it would all end. So why did he chose Judas, presumably knowing what would happen?

For the world to be saved, Jesus needed to suffer the abandonment and God-forsakenness of the cross. But for the suffering of Jesus to embrace and redeem all human suffering, his cross had to be more than physical pain. Jesus needed also to experience the rejection of the people whom he came to save. He needed to experience the abandonment of loyal friends, such as Peter. And he needed to experience the pain of betrayal. But therein lies the dilemma. Betrayal can only occur at the hands of a trusted friend.  Being handed over by strangers, disappointed crowds, angry Pharisees, or even a mole in the ranks who had long been working for his own enrichment, is not true betrayal. For Jesus to experience the full pain and suffering of the cross, it had to be a friend. A loyal disciple who until that moment had loved him and trusted him.  And that man, for good or ill, whatever his own motivation may have been, was Judas Iscariot.[12]

But could Judas, it is sometimes asked, have done anything else? The answer has to be both ‘no’ and ‘yes.’ It is the age old question of human free will and divine providence. But in this case, God is immediately and dangerously implicated through the direct action of Jesus choosing Judas to follow him, and finally calling upon him to ‘do quickly’ what he has in mind to do.  If Judas was always meant to be the one who would betray Jesus, then did he truly have a choice? And is Jesus in any way culpable for choosing Judas when he knew what the end result would be?  Again, the answer must be both ‘no’ and ‘yes.’ As a man under the Law, Judas had free will, and was accountable for his decisions. There are no excuses. At the same time, there is an inevitable necessity of the role that he played in Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. And Jesus, as God in human flesh, surely knew what this role would be. Certainly he knew it at the last supper.[13]  So Judas freely chooses to do what it was inevitable that he would do. And Jesus loves him and lives with him for three years, giving him every opportunity to follow the right path, while knowing the whole time that he would not. It must have been heart-breaking for Jesus from the moment he called Judas to follow him, until that final kiss in Gethsemane.

Judas was never not going to betray Jesus. The arrest and crucifixion were never not going to happen. Yet, in the midst of all these seemingly necessary human actions, there was human free choice in, with and under each moment. So we are left with the mystery and tension between human freewill and God’s providence. We are left with the awful inevitability and necessity of a willing betrayal by a trusted and loyal friend.

 Judas Iscariot at the boundary of Law and Grace

There is a telling observation in Friedrich Ohly’s The Dammed and the Elect. He says: ‘Judas dies without ever being aware of his place in the divine plan of salvation, just before the saving death of the Redeemer. He is perhaps the last man to die under the Old Law, before the dawning of the Age of Grace.’[14] Ray Anderson has put it even more sharply.

An astounding irony in the biblical story of Judas is the tragic coincidence of his death and the death of Jesus. At the very moment that Judas is enacting the human drama of sin and death, Jesus is enacting the divine drama of redemption and atonement. As Judas carries the terrible logic of sin to its ultimate conclusion, as though there were no grace and no forgiveness, Jesus contradicts it by taking sin upon himself and dying the death that will perfect the logic of grace and forgiveness. The first man dies without receiving what the second man is dying to give him.[15]

More radically still, this thought was picked up in an old Irish sermon, at which time the belief was held that when Jesus died, he emptied hell. The preacher says: ‘And unhappy Judas, after the betrayal of Christ, fell into despair, and put a noose round his neck, and in desperation hanged himself in his misdeeds, so that his soul was the first on which hell was shut after the Captives had been rescued from it by Christ.’[16]

It is more than an intriguing thought, that Judas and Christ die within moments of one another, and that Judas becomes the symbol of those who die, before the death of Christ changes everything. It is an idea pregnant with theological symbolism. The time-frame given in the gospels suggests that Judas’ death must have occurred very near in time to that of the death of Jesus.  Until Jesus died on the cross we were all under the Law, a path to God that had proven over and over again to be a dead end because it relied on what we could do.  From the moment of the sacrificial death of Jesus a line was drawn through human history. Someone, God himself in human flesh, stood in our place, and suffered with us and for us. The age of grace had begun. But Judas did not live to see it. He was, quite possibly, the last person to die before Jesus drew that line through human history.

Pope Leo the Great (395-461), speaking as if to Judas who is about to take his life, wrote: ‘If only you had waited for the completion of your crime until the blood of Christ had been poured out for all sinners, you would have put off the gruesome death by hanging.’[17]

That Friday afternoon in the vicinity of Jerusalem two men who had been friends hung on trees, dying ‘accursed’ deaths. One man put himself on the tree. The other was put there by the rest of humanity. One man’s death took place in a vacuum of hope, the other man’s death became the foundation of hope. One man’s death brought an end to life, the death of the other brought life to all people. Two men, on two different trees, died that Friday on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  Their deaths were linked, indeed intricately interconnected.  Jesus died when his friend betrayed him. Judas died when he learned that Jesus would go the cross and he could not bear to live with the consequences of his own action. And the sky darkened over both of them as the Father in heaven wept.

If Jesus can be portrayed in the New Testament by Paul as the ‘last’ or ‘second Adam’ then Judas is certainly the last in the line of the first Adam. He represents all who live under the Law. He closes out a chapter of human salvation history that was built upon the false hope of human works and self-righteousness. Judas’ death brings to a sad end a long history of relying on our own merits and our own actions to find favour with God. Judas acted in a way that he thought was right. He took matters into his own hands when his friend and teacher did not confront the Roman and Jewish authorities, did not openly claim his kingdom when the opportunity was there.  He was the last person in history to seek his own salvation, and that of his people, via his own efforts. And it ended as the whole process had begun, with Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit and Cain’s murder of his brother. It ended in disaster and death. The death of Judas is the punctuation mark at the end of a very long history of failed attempts at achieving our own salvation.  But all that changed in the very moments after Judas took his last breath, it all changed with a new sentence and new history that begins: ‘Jesus Christ died that we might have life.’

Is there hope for Judas?

The question as to whether or not there is hope of redemption for Judas is seldom asked. We believe we already know the answer. If there is anyone who is condemned, who is without hope of reconciliation, surely it is Judas Iscariot. In fact, many theologians have felt compelled to make precisely this argument. Cardinal Avery Dulles, for instance, arguing that there must indeed be a hell populated by human souls, insists that Judas is the one person we can say with certainty, from a biblical standpoint, is condemned to this eternal separation from God.  He argues that John’s calling Judas a devil and the son of perdition (John 6:70; 17:12), and Matthew and Mark suggesting that ‘it would have been better for that man if he had never been born,’ (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:12) could not be true if Judas were among the saved. From this starting point, Dulles builds his case for hell.[18]

But we cannot forget that the very person who Dulles and others want to exclude from hope, took the bread and wine from Jesus as the Last Supper. Jesus could have told him to go out before washing his feet, before sharing with him his body and blood, but he did so only afterward. If it is in the bread and wine that we receive the visible sign of forgiveness, what is the symbolism of Jesus giving the bread and wine to Judas, before encouraging him to go and do what he planned to do?

If Judas is necessarily and irrevocably condemned to hell, then there is much at stake. Precisely for this reason the question is important. If there is hope for Judas, then there is hope for everyone. The significance of this issue for the Christian community, that is, the community of those who proclaim the power of the forgiveness offered to all people in Christ, was put forward by Thomas de Quincey in his powerful yet little known booklet, Judas Iscariot. De Quincey wrote: ‘It must always be important to recall to the fold of Christian forgiveness anyone who has long been separated from human charity, and has tenanted a pariah grave. In the greatest and most memorable of human tragedies, Judas is a prominent figure. So long as the earth revolves, he cannot be forgotten.’[19]

The question, ‘Is there hope for Judas?’ is important for a faith based upon forgiveness and reconciliation. If there is no forgiveness possible for Judas, then who else is excluded?  We all betray Christ in a thousand little ways. Are we all in danger, therefore, of exclusion?

Pastoral implication of the Judas story for survivors of suicide

The question has been particularly poignant for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. So certain have some been of Judas’ necessary eternal condemnation, that his mode of death had been used to justify and reinforce this conclusion.  Suddenly, in order to reinforce and ensure the condemnation of Judas, we readily condemn hundreds of thousands who have fallen to the darkness of despair and taken their own lives. But there is no biblical justification for this. Judas is never condemned in the biblical accounts on the basis of the mode of his death, as tragic and symbolic as it is. Suicide is never listed in the Bible as an unforgivable sin. In fact, it is not even clearly and specifically proscribed as a sin, in part because it is not a topic the Bible specifically treats. Apart from Judas, there is only one other clear act of suicide reported in the Bible, that of Ahithopel (2 Samuel 17:23), the grandfather of Bathsheba and, therefore, also a forebear of Jesus.[20] And this death is not judged, simply reported. But, we are often told, suicide is not forgivable because it is a grievous sin and the guilty party, by the very nature of the act, has no opportunity of repentance.

The Bible, of course, does not make such theological distinctions about sin. While some acts might have more severe earthly consequences than others, all sin separates us from God and is therefore of the same quality and nature. So the suggestion that some sins lead to eternal damnation while others do not is a biblical and theological nonsense. The idea that the special problem concerning suicide is that the victim of suicide is not able to seek and receive forgiveness, undermines the entire theology of grace. We do not receive forgiveness on the basis of repenting for each individual sin (something we do) but on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death (something God has done for us). If repentance is a prerequisite of final forgiveness, then we must all live in fear that we will die of a heart attack or traffic accident with some unconfessed sin still hanging over us.

One wonders to what extent all this bad and hurtful theology has been the product of a misguided effort to ensure the exclusion of Judas from any hope of salvation? What would be the impact, we wonder, if the Christian community made every effort to find room for hope such that even Judas might find forgiveness and peace with God? It matters, therefore, very much that there is hope for Judas. For if there is no hope for Judas, then is there hope for any? As Aiden Kimel wrote: ‘The gospel becomes the gospel when we dare to hope for the salvation of Judas.’[21]

The Scottish poet Robert Buchanan wrestled with this issue of grace for Judas in his ‘Ballad of Judas Iscariot’. His final stanzas paint a beautiful image of grace and hope.

For months and years, in grief and tears,
He walked the silent night;
Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
Perceived a far-off light.

For days and nights he wandered on,
Pushed on by hands behind;
And the days went by like black, black rain,
And the nights like rushing wind.

‘Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot,
Strange, and sad, and tall,
Stood all alone at dead of night
Before a lighted hall.

‘Twas the Bridegroom stood at the open door,
And beckoned, smiling sweet;
‘Twas the soul of Judas Iscariot
Stole in, and fell at his feet.

“The Holy Supper is spread within,
And the many candles shine,
And I have waited long for thee
Before I poured the wine!”

The supper wine is poured at last,
The lights burn bright and fair,
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom’s feet,
And dries them with his hair.[22]


[1] Peter Stanford, ‘Was Judas – Christianity’s great traitor – wrongly condemned?’ in The Independent (Sunday 5 April 2015).

[2] In fact, Thomas de Quincey, in his ground-breaking 1852 treatise ‘Judas Iscariot’, opened with these words: ‘Everything connected with our ordinary conceptions of this man, of his real purposes and of his ultimate fate, apparently is erroneous.’  Thomas de /Quincey, ‘Judas Iscariot,’ available at fullread.com/essay’jusda-iscariot, accessed 12.07.2018.

[3] One possible exception is the famous ‘Judas (not Iscariot)’ text in John 14:22. John never uses the name Judas for Thaddeus, so this occurrence is odd. Some have speculated that it is reference to a comment by Judas Iscariot, but that early copyists added the qualifier, convinced that this could not be the case. The fact that there are variations if the form of the qualification in early texts may point to ‘not Iscariot’ being an addition. Given that John has more to say about Judas than any of the other gospels, if a reference to something Judas said or did that was not related to his betrayal were to be preserved, it is in John’s gospel that we might expect to find it.

[4] There are a number of theories about what ‘Iscariot’ means, and many of them have to do with the role of Judas himself. For example, the idea that it means an assassin. But the fact that it is also the name of his father suggests that it must be a name that makes sense for the entire family, and not simply for Judas. Hence the ‘man of Kerioth’ interpretation remains the most likely.

[5] Samuel Laeuchli, ‘Origen’s Interpretation of Judas Iscariot’ in Church History. The American Society of Church History (vol. 22, no. 4, Dec 1953) p. 253 has written: ‘The post-apostolic generation was not interested in the person who, according to all four gospels, betrayed Jesus the day before his death. This whole episode remained a rather dark spot for the young church … It is not astonishing, therefore, that the apostolic literature of the second century carefully avoided the subject.’ Cf. also Susan Gunbar, Judas. A Biography (Norton and Co. London, 2009) which documents the demonization of Judas through Christian history.

[6] A.B. Bruce. The Training of the Twelve [1877]. Fourth ed. (New Canaan Connecticut: Keats Publishing, 1979), 373.

[7] Thomas de Quincey, Judas Iscariot, [1852] at http://fullreads.com/essay/judas-iscariot, p. 5. (accessed 12.07.2018)

[8]Cf. The Gospel of Judas, 2nd ed. Ed. R. Kasser, et al. (National Geographic, 2008).

[9] Bart Ehrman. The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot. A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed. (Oxford University Press, 2006) 153ff.

[10] Peter Stanford, Judas, pp. 47f.

[11] Thomas de Quincey, Judas Iscariot, [1852] at http://fullreads.com/essay/judas-iscariot, p. 7. (accessed 12.07.2018)

[12] The most radical suggestion concerning Judas’ role in salvation history has been put forward by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges in his fictional account of the writings of a Scandinavian theologian Nils Runeberg in his 1944 short story ‘Three Versions of Judas’. Borges argues, through the voice of Runeberg, that to limit the agony of God incarnate to ’one afternoon on the cross is blasphemous.’  It is more powerful and fitting that God should suffer the centuries-long rejection endured by Judas. ‘God became a man completely, a man to the point of infamy, a man to the point of being reprehensible – all the way to the abyss. In order to save us, He could have chosen any of the destinies which together weave the uncertain web of history; He could have been Alexander, or Pythagoras, or Rurik, or Jesus; He chose an infamous destiny; He was Judas.’

[13] Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching (London: Allen & Unwin, 1925) has argued that, ‘not till the very last did Jesus recognize in him that bas character which made him a traitor.’ Cited in Susan Gubar, Judas. A Biography, n. 8, p 398.

[14] Friederich Ohly, The Dammed and the Elect. Guilt in Western Culture, trans Linda Archibald. (Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 29.

[15] Ray Anderson, The Gospel According to Judas, p. 92.

[16] Leabhar Breac XVIII, cited by Aidan Kimel, ‘Pascha and the Apokatatasis of Judas Iscariot,’ Eclectic Orthodoxy. Afkimel.wordpress.com/2016/11/07pascha-and-the-apokatatsis-of-judas-iscariot… (Accessed 1.9.2018).

[17] Cited in Susan Gubar, Judas. A Biography, pp. 315ff.

[18] Avery Dulles, ‘The Population of Hell,’ in First Things (May 2003)

[19] Thomas de Quincey, Judas Iscariot, [1852] at http://fullreads.com/essay/judas-iscariot, p. 2. (accessed 12.07.2018)

[20] Intriguingly, Jesus appears to allude to Ahithopel at the last Supper when warns of his coming betrayal.

[21] Aidan Kimel, ‘Pascha and the Apokatastasis of Judas Iscariot’ in Eclectic Orthodoxy (posted 7 Nov 2016). Attps://afkimel.wordpress.come/2016/11/07pascha-and-the-apokatastasis-of-Judas-iscariot

[22] Robert Buchanan ‘The Ballad of Judas Iscariot’ by Robert Buchanan (1874)

Three Dummies in a Dinghy

Three Dummies in a Dinghy is the third instalment of the Stories of Life series.

In it, ordinary Australians share their extraordinary stories of faith and life. Some tales are humourous, others are entertaining and upbeat. But not all are happy stories. Many writers describe how they were found by a loving God in the midst of doubts and great suffering, and the circumstances don’t always get easier. But the message still comes through loud and clear that God is faithful, near and active in the lives of ordinary people.

We discover that there are unsung heroes of all kinds among us. With their encouragement we can open our eyes a little wider, see more clearly, and trust more deeply in the boundless kindness of our Lord.


Judas Iscariot is the most infamous and most perplexing character in religious history. He accepts the offer to follow Jesus, hoping he might be the long-awaited Messiah who will liberate his people from Roman rule. But in the end, his actions seal both their fates. What led Judas to betray his friend and teacher, then fall into complete despair? If Judas’ father was Simon the Pharisee of Bethany, then Judas was likely the cousin of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. A very different picture suddenly emerges of the events in the last weeks of the life of Judas Iscariot.  It is a story as tragic as it is compelling.

God and Science

This book will assist in creating a conversation on how to discuss the issues of science and faith, especially creation and evolution, in an open and honest way.

Controversies about science and faith – especially debates about creation and evolution – continue to engage Christian teachers and pastors. How do they deal with such questions and respond with answers that are both informed and intelligent?

This book acknowledges that science can be an uncomfortable topic in Christian schools and churches. The authors recognise that teachers and pastors need a framework for thinking through the hype surrounding these topics so that they can identify the genuine core concerns of people of faith. Written by three highly respected and experienced educators and pastors, the book will assist in creating a conversation and dialogue on how to discuss science and faith in an open and honest way. It will also help teachers and pastors in their ministry of shaping the minds and hearts of members of the Christian community.

The Gecko Renewal

In The Gecko Renewal and other Stories of Life, ordinary Australians share their extraordinary stories of life and faith. We find people encountering God through falling snakes, women’s roller derby, a prison riot, a broken down car, an unexploded bomb and even a humble gecko. The stories included in this year’s collection take place in far-flung corners of the world, the outback, a prison and suburban backyards. Some recall great adventures and life-threatening experiences. Others describe profound encounters with a gracious God through seemingly ordinary events. But all of them show that there is something truly extraordinary to be seen when God works in the lives of ordinary people.

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Rev Dr Arnold on Martin Luther

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Rev Dr Mark Worthing has released a new book entitled Martin Luther: a Wild Boar in the Lord’s Vineyard which explores his passionate and fiery character and introduces us to a colourful cast of friends and enemies, explaining the complex politics of church and empire.

Here is what Rev Dr Lynn  Arnold, former Premier of South Australia, had to say about it.