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Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil Hardcover – May 31, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st American ed edition (May 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029195551
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029195550
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,456,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on January 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a Jew who has always retained a sidelong curiosity about Christianity, particularly Christian origins, I have found the works of Hyam Maccoby to be the most illuminating, of all the books on the topic I have read. It has always been a subject of intellectual curiosity for me how a religious community claiming to find its historical origin in my faith could have deviated so radically from the religious practices of Judaism and even become an institutionalized source of hostility against it. All those questions and more are answered in "Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil". This book is best seen as a concluding title in a sequence of books about Christian origins by Hyam Maccoby after "Revolution in Judaea: Jesus and the Jewish Resistance" and "The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Chrisianity". While I found Maccoby's writing to be stimulating and brilliant, I have no doubt there will be some pious Christians who take offense. One of the things I love about Maccoby's work is that unlike so very many other books I've read on the subject, Maccoby exhibits no apologetic reflex. As a non-Christian, Hyam Maccoby, is that rarest of rare birds: a brilliant, learned Biblical and Classical scholar who has no compunction about using that formidable intellect of his to dismantle the basic Christian story. How many books like that do you see on the market? Nevertheless, I can appreciate that what is so appealing to me may be very insulting to others. Dedicated Christians may not want to see their faith analyzed in so unsparing a way. At the last, Maccoby draws a red line between the character of Judas Iscariot in the Gospel Passion Play and the phenomenon of anti-semitism in history culminating with the Holocaust in modern times.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Hyam Maccoby here continues his analysis of the origins of Christianity and the roots of antisemitism. This volume is probably his weakest attempt at history, but it is worth reading at least for its remarks on the nature and importance of myth.

Maccoby's historical thesis is that the traitorous Judas of the gospels was a sheer invention -- but one nevertheless "spun off" from a real person: the Judas of history was the brother of Jesus. And yes, Maccoby has to perform some remarkable hat tricks in order to pull this off.

Whether or not one accepts his historical reconstruction, though, Maccoby has helpful things to say about the role of myth in antisemitism. He does make a strong case that the character of Judas has served (as his name suggests) as a stand-in for the Jews in Christian thought and culture. And he makes some extremely pertinent remarks about the "fundamentalism" of certain writers on the nature of myth (e.g. Rudolf Bultmann, Joseph Campbell), noting well that myths are not beyond criticism either.

Not Maccoby's best book, then, but still very much worth reading.
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Hyam Maccoby is obviously correct to state that Judas never "betrayed" Jesus. This view is eminently defensible from the New Testament itself.

1) Jesus obviously had foreknowledge that Judas was going to inform the authorities where to find him. First of all, if we assume that as the Son of God and the Second member of the Holy Trinity, Jesus is God and therefore knows everything, OF COURSE he then must know what Judas is up to.

2) The Gospels themselves say that Jesus knew. In Matthew, when Judas kisses Jesus and asks, "Is it I?" Jesus tells him, "Go, do what you must."

What kind of "betrayal" is it if the object of the betrayal knows exactly what is going to happen?

If Jesus didn't want to be "betrayed" then, after telling Judas to tell the authorities to find him in the Garden of Gethsemane, ALL JESUS WOULD HAVE TO DO TO THWART THE "BETRAYAL" IS SIMPLY NOT SHOW UP.

3) It is logical to suppose that Jesus actually SENT Judas to inform the authorities. Think about it. They've just had the Last Supper. This is Jerusalem in the 1st Century; not a lot of night life. After dining on a holiday, there was nothing else to do but go to bed inside the city, more or less where they had supper. But instead, Jesus and the disciples leave the city and go to the Mount of Olives. Question: How would the authorities know to look for Jesus there? For surely, Jesus WANTED the authorities to find him.
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In this book Maccoby makes some illuminating points on Judas (greek for Judah) as a stand-in for the jewish people, and somehow actually rehabilitates Judas. Bonus material includes: deconstructing the attonement myth that requires a betrayer or "black christ" in Judah, rehash of medevil passion plays and some interesting composites made from anomalous judas/brothers/apostles material in the NT.

I read this in a day, being only a ~160pg book. Some missed opportunities here that were a disappointment include: parallels to "the kiss" to the kissing of the Torah scroll (ie kissing you goodbye) and more elaboration of the role of evil and human sacrifice in Judaism. Maccoby really does not delve into this material where the Advarsary is considered helpful, including the "evil" inclination which can derive good. Obviously, these additudes have developed alongside Christian's identification of the Jews as evil anyway, a pariah people. A comparison between the nature or role of evil in Judaism vs. Christianity's switch against the Jews would have made the book more significant. The collective blood libel ('let his blood be upon us and our children' - Matt 27:22) of deicide and other remarks against Jews (such as Jesus accusing the Jews of devil worship John 8:44) does not begin with Judas. Judas was just an accessory character, probably a symbolic one.

Another thing is his exageration of anti-semetism today. In America in the 21st century, you have jews as vice-presidential nominations, senators, etc. in every civic and professional role. Great strides have been made in the judeo-christian dialogue since WWII, and the role of Judas has been made more innocous. Many Christians may even be shocked at the association between Judas and the Jews.
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