Posted by: mattcolvin | January 28, 2012

Judas and Deuteronomy 27

Monday of the 4th week after Epiphany: Matthew 27:1-10.

27:3 – μεταμεληθείς – Judas “repented.” Does this mean that Judas was forgiven? See my earlier post on this issue. In the present post, I’ll pass over that question, and focus instead on the fact that as part of this repentance, Judas goes back to the priests and confesses his sin:

27:4 – Judas makes his confession in formal legal phrasing: to wit, he quotes Deuteronomy 27:25, which the NKJV translates as “Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.” The Hebrew is fuller and more poetic or picturesque than our sanitized English translation: “Cursed is he who takes a bribe to slay nephesh dam naqiy — the life of innocent blood.” One sign that Judas’ confession is cast in the language of Deuteronomy 27:25 is the use of the unusual adjective ἀθῳον, which appears in Scripture only in this chapter (Matthew 27:4 and 27:24, Pilate’s declaration of his own innocence). It is not a very common word, but it appears, sure enough, in the LXX’s rendering of Dt. 27:25: ψυχὴν αἵματος ἀθῴου.

Why should Judas use the technical language of this particular mitzvah? Because he is speaking to the priests not as co-conspirators, but in their official capacity. He is seeking their help in being reconciled to YHWH. That is what priests are for. But they disavow their job: “τί πρὸς ἡμᾶς;” “What is that to us?” or even “Why do (you come) to us?” Answer: Because you are priests.

It is only after the priests refuse Judas their intercession that he decides to kill himself.

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