Fortress Press

Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?


Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?

William Klassen (Author)


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This fascinating books sifts the evidence and startlingly concludes that in the earliest sources Judas was not a traitor. While the name Judas Iscariot evokes horror among many people, Klassen argues persuasively that Judas may have meant no harm in handing over Jesus to the religious authorities. The book traces the ways in which Judas is portrayed by the four writers of the gospels, showing how the picture was increasingly demonized as the later gospels were written.

This is the most important study in English of Judas within the context of first-century Judaism. Klassen shows by rich reference to literature of both the ancient period and later times how the concept of Judas as traitor emerged.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800637347
  • Pages 252
  • Publication Date December 1, 2004


"A courageous book that calls for a fundamental reassessment of one of the main characters of the New Testament story. Most persons assume they know what there is to know about Judas; the strength of Klassen's study is that, after having read everything that has been said about Judas, he shows how little basis there is for most views, both popular and scholarly. His most telling and substantial argument is that paradidomi ('hand over') has been knowingly mistranslated as 'betray,' a meaning it has nowhere else in Greek literature. If the notion of Judas as 'betrayer' falls — if instead he is understood simply to be 'handing over' Jesus to the authorities, perhaps in accordance with Jesus' own wishes — a new picture of Judas emerges. This is a book that will excite much discussion and will require everyone who reads it to think afresh. It will be the standard book on Judas in English for the next generation."
— Peter Richardson, University of Toronto

Table of Contents


  1. The Name of Our Sources
  2. The Name and Its Identifying Role
  3. The Act of Judas: The Traditional Point of View
  4. Judas as an Informer
  5. Judas as Seen through the Eyes of Mark
  6. Judas as Portrayed by the Gospel of Matthew
  7. Judas Iscariot in the Writings of Luke
  8. The Fourth Gospel
  9. The Death of Judas
  10. Theologians and Judas Iscariot
  11. Judas as Seen by Jewish Interpreters

    Suicide Note from Judas Iscariot, ca. 30 C.E.
    Scripture Index
    Index if Apocrypha and Other Ancient Writings
    Modern Author Index
    Topical Index