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Judas Iscariot
by [?]

This demur, moreover, of obscurity was not the only one raised against the death of Judas: there was a separate objection–that it was inconsistent with itself. He was represented, in the ordinary modern versions, as dying by a double death–viz., 1st, by a suicidal death: ‘he went and hanged himself‘–this is the brief account of his death given by St. Matthew; but, 2d, by a death not suicidal: in the Acts of the Apostles, we have a very different account of his death, not suggesting suicide at all, and otherwise describing it as mysteriously complex; that is, presenting us with various circumstances of the case, none of which, in the common vernacular versions (English and Continental), is at all intelligible. The elements in the case are three: that he ‘fell down headlong;’ that he ‘burst asunder in the middle;’ and that ‘his bowels gushed out’–the first of these elements being unintelligible in the English expression of it, and the two others being purely and blankly impossible. These objections to the particular mode of that catastrophe which closed the career of Judas, had been felt pretty generally in the Christian church, and probably from the earliest times; and the more so on account of that deep obscurity which rested upon the nature of his offence. That a man, who had been solemnly elected into the small band of the apostles, should so far wander from his duty as to incur forfeiture of his great office–this was in itself sufficiently dreadful, and a shocking revival to the human imagination of that eldest amongst all traditions–a tradition descending to us from what date we know not, nor through what channel of original communication–the possibility that even into the heaven of heavens, and amongst the angelic hosts, rebellion against God, long before man and human frailty existed, should have crept by some way metaphysically inconceivable. What search could be sufficient, where even the eye of Christ had failed to detect any germ of evil? Still, though the crime of Judas had doubtless been profound,[Footnote: In measuring which, however, the reader must not allow himself to be too much biassed by the English phrase, ‘son of perdition.‘ This, and the phrase which we translate ‘damnation,’ have been alike colored unavoidably by the particular intensity of the feeling associated with our English use of the words. Now, one great difficulty in translating is to find words that even as to mere logical elements correspond to the original text. Even that is often a trying problem. But to find also such words as shall graduate and adjust their depth of feeling to the scale of another language, and that language a dead language, is many times beyind all reach of human skill.] and evidently to me it had been the intention of the early church to throw a deep pall of mystery over its extent–charity, that unique charity which belongs to Christianity, as being the sole charity ever preached to men, which ‘hopeth all things,’ inclined through every age the hearts of musing readers to suspend their verdict where the Scriptures had themselves practised some reserve, and (were it only by the extreme perplexity of its final and revised expressions) had left an opening, if not almost an invitation, to doubt. The doubt was left by the primitive church where Scripture had left it. There was not any absolute necessity that this should ever be cleared up to man. But it was felt from the very first that some call was made upon the church to explain and to harmonize the apparently contradictory expressions used in what may be viewed as the official report of the one memorable domestic tragedy in the infant stage of the Christian history. Official I call it, as being in a manner countersigned by the whole confederate church, when proceeding to their first common act in filling up the vacancy consequent upon the transgression of Judas, whereas the account of St. Matthew pleaded no authority but his own. And domestic I call the tragedy, in prosecution of that beautiful image under which a father of our English church has called the twelve apostles, when celebrating the paschal feast, ‘the family of Christ.'[Footnote: for the reader must not forget that the original meaning of the Latin word familia was the sum total of the famuli. Hence, whenever it is said in an ancient classic that such or such a man had a large family, or that he was kind to his family, or was loved by his family, always we are to understand not at all his wife and children, but the train and retinue of his domestic slaves. Now, the relation of the Apostles to their Master, and the awfulness of their dependency upon him, which represented a golden chain suspending the whole race of man to the heavens above, justified, in the first place, that form of expression which should indicate the humility and loyalty that is owned by servants to a lord; whilst, on the other hand, the tenderness involved in the relations expressed by the English word family, redressed what would else have been too austere in the idea, and recomposed the equilibrium between the two forces of reverential awe and of childlike love which are equally indispensable to the orbicular perfection of Christian duty.]