Character Development: Judas Iscariot


On Easter Sunday, an (in)appropriate literary observation.  In “Tres versiones de Judas,” one of Jorge Luis Borges’ short stories first published in the 1944 book Ficciones, Borges asserts different versions of the true significance of the role played by Judas in the tale of Jesus of Nazareth.  Borges presents these different versions as an analysis and critique of the work of a fictional writer named Nils Runenberg.  None of the versions truly comports with the prevailing mainstream view of Judas as perhaps the most famous of all traitors.

The story suggests that Judas was in fact the one who gave the ultimate self-sacrifice by giving up honor, morality, and the Kingdom of Heaven.  It even suggests that perhaps Judas himself was the incarnation of God in man; it would be blasphemous to suggest that if God were to come to earth and sacrifice himself for man, that he would only limit it to an afternoon nailed to a cross.  Borges suggests that Runenberg could have been a Gnostic born too late.

Some thirty years later, the Gospel of Judas was discovered in Egypt.  Written by a sect of Gnostics in the early fourth century (or perhaps earlier), it stops short of naming Judas as the ultimate savior of mankind, but it does paint a very different picture of the man.  The Gospel of Judas tells us that Judas was in fact Jesus’ closest disciple and confidant, and that Jesus and Judas had agreed that the latter would turn him over to the Romans in order for Jesus to fulfill the task given to him by God.

So it looks like Borges was onto something pretty big, some thirty years before.  In Argentina.  In a work of fiction.

Happy Easter to All!


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